Friday, January 31, 2014

Endless Summer

The pieces of life are falling into place and our dream of living an endless summer has become a reality. Since I was a kid I dreamed of escaping the Canadian winter months every year, in search of warm sunshine. And having someone to do this with is even more blissful.

Happy, warm desert Sanuk feet.

Home sweet desert home

Kyle and I both fell in love with the desert, with sunny California, the dry desert air, endless sunshine and rocks of all shapes and sizes. The bonus is that Kyle's parents are a hop and a skip away from Joshua Tree, California. JTree has become like a home away from home for us, and whether we are climbing there or just enjoying the atmosphere, JTree always puts everything into perspective for me. Cleansing my soul in nature you could say. It has always been the dream to leave a trailer/van/vehicle in Cali, and fly out every winter. Back to Josh, back to the desert lifestyle.

Summit loving in Joshua Tree

This year we hauled out "Trilly", the new addition to our vagabond lifestyle for half of the year. This 1973 Trillum is a gem, the perfect little home that we can amazingly tow with our Subaru Outback. We plan to leave her out here, leaving us one step closer to that California Dream. Cali is the perfect home base for us and within a stones throw of countless desert climbing destinations.

The perfect desert rat set up.

JTree for life

The icing on the cake is that I will be guiding climbing courses for On the Rocks in Joshua Tree this year. Dream goal #2 was to guide rock climbing adventures and courses in some of my favourite climbing destinations throughout North America, while we travel. I am so happy to have this dream become reality this year.

 We just took a much needed couple months off of climbing, and anything pull/overhead related for that matter. We made our usual comeback in Joshua Tree, and I took the opportunity to scout out a lot of the more moderate climbing for guiding at the end of February. I came across some gems, thanks to some exploring and recommendations from my good friends at Cliffhanger Guides. I am really stoked to share this place with the Canadian's that are meeting me out here. Crossing my fingers for no government shut downs.

After our Joshua Tree exploration mission, we set off on the wide open road to check out Arizona. We had no plans to crank hard for a little while, so we took the opportunity to have some adventures and explore some new rock climbing. Tucson was a cool spot and actually exceeded my expectations. We had an amazing time exploring Mt. Lemmon and Cochise Stronghold, two of the climbing hot spots outside of Tucson.


Mt. Lemmon

Not too sure why they called it Mt Lemmon, I should google that. I think Mt. Cacti may be more appropriate. The Cactus Forest you drive through at the mountains entrance was a highlight for me and the approaches to the climbing are full of a variety of different cacti species.

Beautiful climbing vistas at the Lower Highway portion of Mt Lemmon.
Entrance to the Mt. Cacti forest

The camping was kush. Quiet, beautiful views, inexpensive. The climbing was fun too. There's such a variety of aspects, elevations, styles and grades for anyone to have some fun at any time of year. We explored the single pitch stuff in the "Lower Highway", Tucson is just a 25 minute drive away and it seems like a nice city, loaded with Trader Joes and all other living necessities.

We gathered most of our climbing beta from It is a great resource for all climbing in the Tucson area.

And then we set off to Cochise Stronghold....
Cochise Stronghold

I'd heard several things about Cochise Stronghold before we inevitably bit the bullet and went there.

"Expect great epics and adventures."
"Its like Joshua Tree 20+ years ago."
"Amazing climbing, free camping and not a person in sight."

Seemingly endless granite

After catching wind that our road tripping pals Chris and Pam were heading there, we finally set out to Cochise, taking this as our sign. It started out epic, just as expected. After receiving a broken phone msg from Chris, we had a very vague idea of where they were. Once we drove 2 miles on the first gravel road, we nearly lost the door to the trailer, everything in the fridge and beer had exploded all over Trilly and our belongings. We argued about a plan of action for 15 minutes until we eventually decided to bandage her up and venture deeper into Cochise. Deep down I think we both like to epic, otherwise we would not of continued to continue on, over and over. We eventually got to a point of no return, and the last place to check: the West Stronghold camping at the entrance to a bunch of climbing in the West. After being warned to not take our trailer in, we barely made it there by dark, taking over an hour to drive 10 miles. At this point we were praying that Pam and Chris were there, anything to make that hair splitting experience worth while. And they were! Thank goodness. 

Trilly was not impressed.

It was all up from there. We got out of the deep depths of Cochise with the support of Chris's truck, White Lightning, on deck in case of emergency. We decided to just end the epic right there and enjoy some casual cragging for the 2 days we had. We found a nice campsite, beautiful skies surrounded us and we were within walking distance of world class granite climbing. The routes that we climbed on the Trad Rock, Rad Rock, Glad Rock and Sweet Wall were exceptional. It was euphoric. Some of the climbing was so beautiful, thought provoking and looong (150ft pitches at times!) that I was giddy with excitement, smiles from ear to ear. The rock feels so crisp and clean, unscarred from high traffic climbing.

In fact we liked Cochise so much that it was really hard to leave, and we hope to go back again this trip and return again after that. There is a lifetime worth of rocks, and climbing, in this majestic landscape.

Trippy Cochise skies
Starting up the engaging Desemboque 5.11

A euphoric moment on Desemboque 5.11a.

Team Ontario then formed a train, which headed towards Hueco Tanks Texas for a week. After the great mental and technical training in Cochise, we were all ready to stock up on some power at one of the best bouldering destinations in the world. We have since enjoyed 4 memorable climbing days in Hueco; although making the adjustment from the freedom of Cochise to "the system" of Hueco Tanks was surely difficult. It has been worth it yet again. None of us are here to project, just to climb new problems and explore different areas that we haven't seen before. We have totally lucked out with guided tours and we are having a great time.

Chris and Pam in Hueco

Endless summer continues... I feel like this is the first year in which it doesn't feel like we are on a road trip, but more like just living life in our moving desert home. We have a home out west now! And Trilly will shelter us wherever we decide to roam in the winter months. Living just as we'd hope to, warm and happy, with eachother in the desert sun.

I wish for everyone a chance to live out their dreams. Seize the day. Live the life you love. Love the life you live.

xo Les

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