Raise your hand if you know where Redlands is? Keep it up if you’ve ever been here? And keep it up again, if you’ve ever stopped by the Five Ten store here for some hot ticket items? This is the unofficial beginning of free climbing as we know it today. Think about it…Sticky rubber. Joshua Tree. Charles Cole. Boo-ya.
I’m here for one week on a work/play trip. The work part involves meeting with some of Five Ten’s sales reps, shoe designers, web designers, and marketing guru’s. It’s a rad place to be right now. Hot and sunny, blue skies and green pastures, girls in bikini’s, dude’s in convertibles, it’s Cali with a capital C. In regards to play, I’m trying to climb as much as possible up at Joshua Tree and I even have my eye on a line called Stingray, with a suggested rating of 5.13d.
Yesterday my friends Dave and Kevin hiked out and around looking for it. We heard rumors that it was an epic one hour hike, somewhere in the Wonderland area. So, we brought just enough for a SCOPING mission. After more than two hours of canyoneering and boulder hoping we reaching the very end of the domes (which looked more like the end of the world) and we saw some pretty excellent rock formations, but not the line we were looking for. Not even close. Tail jammed between legs, disappointed, out of water, sun burnt, hungry and scratched all to shit by the thorn bushes, not to mention my little run in with a fresh batch of quick sand, we decided to retreat. The only problem was that we didn’t know which way the car was.
On our way back we stayed high, (no not like that) we often rounded the summit of high features to look for anything familiar off in the distance. We scratched our heads more than a few times. Until after about 40 minutes, Kevin stumbled upon a thin crack that he recognized from a photograph. How, I don’t know, but he did. We scrambled up to it and it was the legendary ladder crack, or something like that. 5.11b A0 if you use the metal later, 5.15b if you don’t, (F/A John Bachar I believe), perhaps the worlds first?
From there, we were able to get our barrings, and we explored the area some more, until we literally stumbled upon Stingray. The funny thing is, it’s no more than a 30 minute flat walk from the car. Like EEEEZY PEEEEZY walking. You’re grandmother could make it, no troublems. We laughed so hard at our epic mission, only to realize we over shot it by about an hour and a half. Here’s what it looks like and if anyone is pumped up to come try it, I’ll be going back this weekend to throw a rope on it. As the story goes, Hidetaka Suzuki made the first free ascent of this vicious looking fissure in the late 80’s or early 90’s. At some point, it was on the cover of Climbing Magazine (I’m pretty sure) and then it soon drifted off into the far off unfashionable land of obscurity. Or so that’s what I’m assuming. I don’t know anyone who has any beta on the climb, or even how to get there.
But we found it. And now we’re going back to get crushed by it. I want to bleed. I want to bruise. I want to try so hard I might even lose a doigt. It’s such mysterious climb and done my such a mysterious climber. It may be easier than expected, but most likely, given the nature of the era and the area, it’s going to be sandbagged (meaning it’s going to be WICKED ASS hard) it certainly looks harder than 5.13d. Suzuki is a tiny and talented climber originally from Japan. Rumor has it he’s got digits that make Beth Rodden’s look like bbq’d German sausages. All we could see was 00 C3’s. We may be in over our heads. There is probably a reason why this slender splitter has never had a second ascent. Eh?