A Needle through the Clouds

Like any classic boulder problem, the North Face of the Aiguille de Joshua Tree—an easy 5.6 boulder problem on a 30+ foot free-standing pillar—sums up the essence of rock climbing in a neat, compact little package. It is highly efficient, giving you maximum experience with minimum investment. Rock climbing “Lite.”

But not too “Lite.” There’s a reason for the “X” appended to the 5.6 rating. While the highly exposed route up the North Face gets a head start almost halfway up the pillar, the landing is rocky and jagged. And if you were to slip and fall a couple of feet to either side, you’d catch big air as the much more difficult and overhanging South Face tumbled by your view and you finally slammed into more jumbled rock, 30+ feet from the top.

North Face of the Aiguille de Joshua Tree

A Needle through the Clouds.

Yes the route is easy, but can also be very intimidating—especially the down climb. Commented my old friend Darell on his first time up the route, “This is easy … so why am I so f*&#ing scared?”

It’s short, it’s sweet, and it’s almost over before it starts. It’s maybe 10 moves, including the mantle at the top, and then you’re standing precariously on an approximately two foot by two foot square, slightly sloping quartz monzonite platform covered with bird crap. Yes, the view is magnificent from the top, whether you’re a climber looking for a quick thrill, or an owl looking for an awesome place to take a dump. But be careful up there. Even on calm days in Joshua Tree, sudden strong winds can kick up without warning and freak you out just enough to possibly make you lose your balance. And you probably shouldn’t even think about how close you are to Landers, epicenter of that 7.6 magnitude earthquake about 20 years back …

Because it requires 15 to 20 minutes of hiking from the parking lot, you’re not likely to see many other people around, except maybe on a busy holiday weekend. The place has a remote feeling to it that you obviously don’t get in some of the more popular and easily accessible areas of the park.

While you are in the Jimmy Cliff area of J-Tree, be sure to check out some of the other good boulder problems, especially those found on the Marley Boulder, and the wrist-wrenching 5.11a route Palomino on the Pinto/Palomino boulder. If you still want more, wander over to the classic Turtle Rock bouldering area across from the Real Hidden Valley parking area, where there are more than 70 quality boulder problems.

The Aiguille de Joshua Tree, 5.6 X. A neat little climb, for sure, but is it a true classic? That depends on your definition. But for me and every person I’ve ever taken to it, there is no question. The Aiguille de Joshua Tree is a fun, unique, thrilling little climb that you’ll remember for a very long time.

North Face of the Aiguille de Joshua Tree

A precarious topout…always a thrill.

Getting There
In Real Hidden Valley, park in the lot near the start of the nature trail. Southwest of the
nature trail start is a smaller use trail marked for the first few hundred yards with
Access Fund posts. Follow one of the many threads of this trail southwest and then west along the southern boundary of the Real Hidden Valley outcrop. You’ll walk right past the classic route Loose Lady (5.9+ ****), one of the most popular routes in Joshua Tree National Park. After half a mile, you should see the Aiguille de Joshua Tree thrusting skyward from a small outcrop between the northern boundary of the Jimmy Cliff area and the southern boundary of the Real Hidden Valley area.

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