Skull Rock CS
Jumbo Rocks CS
The Headstone
The Manure Pile CS
John Yablonski Rock CS
Cap Rock CS
Peewee Rock CS
Chimney Rock CS
Outhouse Rock CS

Jan 15, 2024

With: Iris Ma
Tom Grundy

Chimney Rock
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 GPX


We had one last day before heading home and decided to do some rock climbing/scrambling in Joshua Tree, tagging a bunch of summits found on LoJ. The LoJ collection was taken from hundreds that can be found in Randy Vogel's Rock Climbing Joshua Tree. The trick would be to see if we could find a scrambling route (almost never described in the guide book), occasionally pulling out the rope and gear when it seemed necessary. All of these are very short hikes from the various pullouts and parking lots along the main park road, and we found them all quite enjoyable. Today we drove both vehicles in from the Twentynine Palms entrance because we planned to exit through the exit to Yucca Valley at the end of the day.

Skull Rock

This is found just southeast of the park road between Live Oak Picnic Area and Jumbo Rocks Campground. The feature resembling its namesake is a popular photo op. We were there first thing in the morning, before 8a, so there were only a few people around. The easiest ascent is up the west side via a groove, or mantling up just to the left. There is then some class 3-4 slab climbing on the two highest boulders to reach the small summit perch.

Jumbo Rocks

This named feature on the topo map is a collection of granite blocks and boulders sandwiched between the park road and the Jumbo Rocks Campground. We simply walked the 1/3mi from the roadside parking for Skull Rock. We approached the highpoint from the northwest, going up, around, or over large rounded boulders that get ever larger as one ascends. A bit of class 3-4 is needed to reach the summit.

The Headstone

The Headstone is located east of the Ryan Campground, a one-minute walk to reach the base. This was the hardest of the day's collection, definitely not a scramble. Iris and Tom had been up it previously, so they were throwing me a bone, but they also thought it was super-fun and worth a repeat. I would agree, though I was initially nervous. We scrambled up boulders on the southwest side to reach the base of the massive block forming the headstone. We would use the easiest route, the 5.6 Southwest Corner. The lower 20ft looks nearly vertical and intimidating, but the holds are good. There are two bolts below the cruxy step, and two others above. Tom went up first in fine style, then belayed myself and Iris in turn. I'd have been a wreck trying to lead it, but it was quite fun with a toprope. We rappeled off the South Face and scrambled back down the way we'd ascended. About an hour and a quarter from, and returning to, the campground.

The Manure Pile

We next walked to this small formation on the south side of the Ryan campground. This is an easy class 3-4 scramble up the north side, taking all of 15min to get up and back down.

John Yablonski Rock

These next two features are found near the intersection of the park road and Keys View Rd. John "Yabo" Yablonski was a prolific climber in Joshua Tree, Yosemite and elsewhere, one of the original Stonemasters and, sadly, a tortured soul who ended up taking his own life. There is some good reading about him to be found on the Supertopo forums. We approached the rock from the north and found lots of fun scrambling on that side. Iris and I changed into rock shoes for a cruxy class 4 slab just below the summit.

Cap Rock

This is another iconic photo rock, much like Skull Rock, but way taller and more serious. We found what seemed the only reasonable route up from the west side, through boulders to reach another cruxy slab section. Tom soloed this and explored some above to determine it was the crux, but Iris and I balked at following him. He came back down and we retreated to the cars for rope and gear, then back up for a second effort. Once past the crux, it's class 3 up to the cap and then a low tunnel under it to the back (east) side, where it's easy to get atop the cap. We rapped off the west side using one of the available anchors, then worked our way back to the east side and to the parking lot.

Peewee Rock

We next headed to Hidden Valley where these last three are located. Peewee Rock is a small pile of boulders just west of the park road's junction with Barker Dam Rd. Approaching from the west, we noted a ramp on the west side rising to the left, but first circled the feature (and finding no easier way) before giving it a try. This was one of the easiest on the day, all class 3. There are two boulders vying for the highpoint, though the eastern one appears higher than the other.

Chimney Rock

Found at the southeast corner of the Hidden Valley CG, this is one of the more vertical features in the area. It is named for the huge chimney found on its west side. It looks like it might be a scramble via the chimney, but a few sections looked hard from below. We walked around the feature and found another possibility on the north side. Tom went up to "check it out", reaching the summit in less than five minutes. He then came down to help Iris and I work through the class 4 sections that made this quite enjoyable.

Outhouse Rock

This formation is located at the north end of the campground. We visited it after Chimney Rock, but had to return to the vehicles for rope and gear after finding no scrambling route. There are two 5.4 routes on the feature. We chose to go up the Northwest Chimney. The chimney grows steeper higher up, and there are two bolts to protect the face climbing above the chimney. Tom led up it, then belayed Iris and I in turn. I had my back against the right wall and chimneyed my way up in this fashion until it was time to exit - a fun exercise. The summit is a short walk from the rappel/belay anchor. We sat at the summit for a while as the sun started to get low on the western horizon, mostly hidden behind thin clouds. We rapped off the west side, collected our gear and headed back to the cars, finishing up by 4:20p.

We said our goodbyes before starting for home. I would get about three hours of driving in to get me near California City off SR58 where I spent the night. I then finished up the remaining five hours of driving in the morning to finish an enjoyable week in the Mojave...

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