Monday, March 14, 2011

Conan's Corridor aka "Heart Attack Rock"

Rest stop

I gots the desert fevah.

A little over a month ago, I drove out to Jumbo Rocks Campground in Joshua Tree National Park for a short weekend with The Hike Guy, Kolby Kirk, and a few of his friends (including photographer Matthew Laine Nall). I considered staying in town, to do esoteric things like "cleaning the house" and "catching up on stuff," but Kolby promised not only an ascent of Ryan Mountain, but also an exploration of Conan's Corridor, an off-trail slot canyon, so the lure of adventure strong, I knew "stuff" could wait.

We rallied the troops and wound our way slowly up a gently thigh-busting trail to the tippy top of Ryan Mountain. What the path lacked in foliage, it made up for in gargantuan views of the park far below, rendering the desert into never-ending waves of speckled beige.

Up the mountain


Heave ho

Ryan Mountain high

Arriving back at our campsite, the wind was a-rippin', so we huddled around the picnic table, refueled, and hopped across the road to set off for Conan's Corridor. Scrambling up and around giant boulder blocks, we were at the entrance of the slot canyon within a few minutes, and once we squeezed out the other end, we stood in a small ampitheater, flanked by tall rock walls.

A pair of climbers were working their way up a crack to the left, as our group began to quickly disperse up the rock. Confused, I asked Kolby what the plan was.

"Oh - we're going up and over."

Hm. I didn't know how I felt about this up and over business. I thought we were coming to smoosh ourselves through a cute little slot canyon, admire our handiwork, then force ourselves back out the same way.


I approached a chunky area next to the climbers as half of our group went over some slabby stuff. This appeared the better route, but not three steps up, I was questioning its doability. Or, rather, my own "do" ability.

With the patience of a patron saint of the trepidatious, Kolby reaffirmed my steps, offered suggestions on hand holds, and gently coached me to victory, as I stood victoriously on top of the scramble, surveying the desert below. My inner wuss had been shushed, stomped out not just by the plain necessity of getting over this thing, but also by the sheer awesomeness of it all. My heart was ready to take flight out of my chest, but damn - that was AWESOME.

Into the canyon

So awesome, in fact, that within a week of this trip, I signed up for a rock climbing series at Rockreation, and started exploring the scrambly, wiry little world of bouldering (sent my first problem last week!!).

To my sheer surprise (and utter joy), I love it. Super love it. Super duper duper love it. Like love it so much that I'm going to go ahead and buy the excessively expensive shoes because it is that fantastically awesome.

Once again, score one for the desert for showing me not only what is, but also what's possible!

I spy...

What Would Ed Do?
Ed would encourage my pursuit of the safe mechanisms by which to propel oneself up a mass of rock. Ed would then free solo El Capitan in 24 hours, barefoot.



  1. Congrats on solving your first bouldering problem. Joshua Tree is a great place to be if you have a new found love for climbing.

  2. Shawnté, I feel honored to have been there to witness (and foster) your new romance with the rocks. Happy climbing!