New Guidebook: J-Tree Bouldering

by dpm | 03/26/2012

New Guidebook: J-Tree Bouldering


Wolverine publishing has done it again with another comprehensive guidebook to one of America’s best climbing areas. This time they enlisted Joshua Tree aficionado Robert Miramontes to tackle the daunting task of documenting the endless maze of J-Tree bouldering. It’s a job I don’t envy. How could you possibly create a book that will get people to a single problem nestled within “30-square miles of rock piles, hundreds of formations, and literally millions of boulders.” I don’t know how Robert managed it but he did, and flawlessly.

The Lynn Hill Memorial Face Problem (V4). Lynn Hill established many problems throughout the 'Stone Master era.' The late 70's and early 80's represent the golden age of bouldering development at J-Tree. Along with Hill, John Long, John Bachar, John Yablonski, Tobin Sorenson and others began to put J-Tree on the map as a destination bouldering area. '

The first thing that stood out as I opened the book was the attention the author paid toward creating a ‘feel’ for the book. It captures the atmosphere of J-tree perfectly; the open spaces, bizarre landscape and vegetation, and endless boulders. You can almost hear the yip of coyotes in the dark of the night. Each chapter opens with a beautiful landscape photo by the author and meticulously laid-out text and imagery in a Wild West font.

The maps are the best I’ve seen in a guidebook and deservingly so. Navigating J-Tree could be a nightmare unless the maps are perfect. Miramontes utilized satellite imagery to create perfectly detailed maps of the areas that show boulders, vegetation, washes, and large landmark formations.

The route descriptions are what you’d expect from a Wolverine guide. Simple and effective for most problems with more attention paid to the classics or hard to find problems. You might notice that some problems utilize a ‘Yabo-start’ which is J-Tree speak for a sit-start. According to the excellent history section of the book, bouldering pioneer John Yablonski may have actually invented the sit-start in Joshua Tree as the focus moved away from just soloing formations (big and small) to pure difficulty.

Aside from the thorough history of bouldering, the intro section of the book also includes detailed info on the history and geology of the park, climate and weather, tips for camping and showering, when to go, and everything else you need to know for a smooth vacation. It also offers some tips on preventing some potential problems like rattlesnakes and killer bee attacks!

The Road to Perdition (V4) climbs the clean arete formed by the crack of the Broken Egg boulder. J-Tree granite can be disasterously blank and sometimes grainy. Many of the boulder problems climb distinct lines and features like the one seen here. 

The beauty of Joshua Tree bouldering lies in the adventure. The boulders and cliffs seem to whisper their long history as you wander among them; from the earliest years before man, to the establishment of the region as a world-class destination by the Stone Masters and others. Perhaps more significant than the info found in the book are the adventures that escaped documentation. Only the landscape has seen the untold adventures of tiny humans scrambling among the rocks, not for the joy of ticking off and naming problems but for the sheer enjoyment of being in such an incredible place. Miramontes’ book may just inspire you to leave it in the car and head off with nothing but rock shoes and a small bag of chalk.

From the Foreword by Robert Miramontes: The soul of this place lies in its purity and in its boldness: an uncompromising ethic of minimal intervention woven into spontaneous execution. To succeed on the chopping blocks of Joshua Tree takes more than just strong fingers. It takes a strong spirit.

Joshua Tree Bouldering can be purchased at Wolverine Publishing.  Robert Miramontes also wrote a select guide to the route climbing of J-Tree that can also be purchased at Wolverine Publishing. 

Click the image for video of bouldering in Joshua Tree's Hidden Valley.

In 2004 the Iron Resolution boulder dislodged from the cliffside to create a perfect overhang that harbors J-Tree's hardest problem. Iron Resolution (V13) was first climbed by Chris Sharma. The third ascent fell to visiting Frenchman Guillaume Glairon-Mondet early last year. Click the image for video or read an interview with Guillame here