I escaped the SoCal June Gloom today by going to Joshua Tree to rock climb. The only climbing with ropes and carabiners I've done in the last couple of years is scaling some 60-80 foot trees to install and maintain a weather station and webcam. We did take my future ex-wife climbing a few years ago - she had gear and had done a fair amount of climbing, and claimed to enjoy it, but her form of enjoyment that day was to complain about the rocks and her shoes and her butt the whole time. Hindsight is 20/20 :)

Anyway, today I was huffing and puffing way too much at the tops of the routes. Man am I fat and out of shape! I've been riding my mountain bike 30-45 miles a week lately, and I was glad of it today, but clearly I have a long way to go. Only a couple of scrapes on the shins and right now my body feels stiff and tired all over. Luckily, my climbing partner is an ex-climbing guide, so I got lots of good refresher tips. One route was up a big rock called 'The Headstone', at the top of a big pile of Josh rocks. It was a fun, relatively easy climb up an outside corner and rappelling off the top was mostly hanging in mid-air. It felt very adventurous and had all the things I like about rock climbing. The second route up it was on another corner, and my partner did it easily, but with some grunting and long pauses. I barn-doored off the crux move 6 or 7 times, swinging out into thin air; my forearms were wasted and my fingers were getting raw. I decided I was getting too sloppy, and more climbing wouldn't be prudent.

The park was deserted, but it wasn't that hot, only in the 80s. The quiet and serenity was very much worth the long drive. It is fun to have other climbing groups around though. One group was finishing the Headstone just as we arrived - perfect. One cool thing was that I had marked waypoints in Josh using my Topo! mapping software in the morning and had uploaded them to my new GPS (Garmin Geko), so we diverted ourselves with navigating and finding distances, though in Josh you hardly need such gizmos. Having complete topographic maps of California on CDs (and general maps of the entire country) and being able to transfer information back and forth to the GPS is a modern technical convenience that I really marvel at. It's real handy for planning bike rides, keeping track of speeds and routes too. Downloading hang glider flight tracks is a real source of enjoyment, though there are specialized units that are much better suited than the Geko to that application. The mapping software plots tracks on the surface of the maps, and you can see all the little circles done while climbing in thermals. Soon I'll buy some software that will plot tracks in 3D, so climbs and descents in the air can be clearly visualized.

Over breakfast we had ended up talking about the state of the United States Hang Gliding Assn., various new gliders, how to attract more new pilots - basically shop talk for me, since I work for the world's largest (though quite small, as a business) hang glider manufacturer. Later, after some climbing, a couple asked about the racks on my truck, and they were intrigued about trying hang gliding, so we answered a lot of questions and told some stories for half an hour. I enjoy that, but given that when I fly for fun on the weekends (most every) I end up talking shop a lot on my off-time, sometimes I like to get away from all that. Oh well.

All in all, a pretty fun day. We made something of a pledge to get out and climb at least once a month. Onward and upward!