Trip Report
Weak Sauce in Joshua Tree ( A TRIP REPORT )
Thursday May 6, 2010 5:45pm
Credit: micronut
"Dude, have you seen today's avy report for the Mammoth high country? Its like 14 degrees there right now......and gusts up to 80mph on the crest."

"Thats ok man, that's why we call this trip Winter Mayhem. We're gonna totally hit a window of bluebird and corn......we're golden. See you Thursday after work."

Its four O'clock on Tuesday before the annual Project Winter Mayhem trip. I throw up a post on The Taco...Headin' to the Mammoth Crest High County This Weekend. We wanted to ski the high bowls around the crest, climb Crystal Crag, and flex our alpine skillz in winter style. "YER GUNNA DIE!!!!" is the most popular response. True enough, The Sierra's are getting pounded with a late series of wet, cold systems that just won't give up. There is no corn to be had. There is not to be any rock climbing at 11,000 feet. The only thing that awaits us in the Sierra backcountry is nasty white death.

Two hours later.....
A text crawls across the screen of my phone. It's from Shep.
I reply quickly....

You see, this is Project WINTER Mayhem. Three days dedicated to pitting our daring strength and cunning against the savage wind, ice and wetness of Jack Frost in the alpine crucible. The goal: Climb and ski and skin and epic and battle our way up a proud winter summit. We live for this stuff. We read lots of Twight and Bonnington. We hang on every thread of The Vertical Carnival Dispatches. We quote Extreme Alpinism. I have a T-Shirt from Gym Jones. I have never been to Gym Jones. I only made it 16 days of P-90x but in my minds eye I am a hard, hard man. My black Gym Jones T-shirt says "There is a fine line between salvation and drinking poison in the desert." It is the motto of my life. I have no idea what it means. We will not go to sunny Joshua Tree and car camp and eat steaks and get fat and sleep in and climb moderate cracks that lead to silly little "summits" on the top of pebble piles. I have never been to Joshua Tree. I'll go there when I'm old and weak and thin and can combine it with a golfing weekend in Palm Springs. We will not go to South. We got much stronger sauce than that.

Credit: micronut

Credit: micronut

Credit: micronut

We roll into the very last campsite in Ryan campground only to find out that we left the keys to the THULE box with my wife in Fresno. Anybody here ever try to pick a THULE lock. It aint easy. It has a magical system of sliding bars an holes that belong in a Houdini act. Shep makes it happen with his trust Swiss Army Knife....gettin' all MacGyver on it!
Credit: micronut

The stars sing us to sleep while the wind hums a soothing lullaby through the flapping of the tent walls. "Welcome" it whispers......."Welcome to the Desert."
The next morning, we are startled by the vastness of the desert. We are gonna tear this place apart. We will crush these pithy stones with our fists. We will stand tall among its squatty routes. We will walk with puffed chests in the footsteps of the Stonemasters . Winter Mayhem awaits!

Credit: micronut
The coffee and donuts conspire against our lofty plans.
Credit: micronut
We lethargically start to sort gear while the donuts settle lower and lower..."oh man....I gotta RUN....look out, look out, outta my way man!!!!" Hidden Valley Campground is an amazing place made even more amazing by the fact that we have an outhouse 30 yards from the fire ring. A thing of beauty. By the way, many of you know this was my first trip since the theft of my entire stock of climbing gear. Well, my insurance company came through so I got to go on a bit of a shopping spree right before the trip. Many of you donated gear to me and I am forever grateful. You may notice some of your gear in these photos!
Credit: micronut
Credit: micronut

The dounut coma subsides and we resign to gettin out climb on. J TRIZZEE here we come. Hide the women and children cause the Hardmen are here to pillage your goods!
Credit: micronut

I whimper and shake and yell "you got me!" four times as I cross the opening unprotected traverse. I back off the second pitch, thinking we must be off route, making Shep lead the thuggy slot. I pant and quiver and follow the pitch in quite possibly the sketchiest style in history. A free soloist passes us as we rap off the summit. Weak Sauce. Weak....Sauce. This is Nate's first climbing trip. He is just a kid. He's a bona fide, bad to the bone tele skier with a new found thirst for alpine action. He knows two knots and pretty much knows how to rappel. He has crossed the Sierras in Winter via a tough route, but has very little rock climbing under his belt. He thinks Shep and I are gods. I fully intend to maintain that image, but its getting hard.
He does great. But we don't let him come to the summit cause...."That second pitch is like 5.10 man."
Credit: micronut
Credit: micronut
Shep heading for the summy.
Credit: micronut

Once on the ground, we toprope the .10b offwidth to the right, Shep cruises it, I leave some elbow skin 19 feet up and quicly declare the route lame. I lower off, defeated but talkin' smack. "That route is ghey. I'm not even gonna waste my time. What a dumb route. Toproping is for lightweights anyway."
Credit: micronut
With our first summit in the bag, we saunter over to The Ol' Woman to get a taste of Toe Jam. A lowly 5.7 that looks pretty but will probably be so easy that we'll simul it as a party of three.
Here I am stylin the transition into the right slanting crack.
Credit: micronut
I am motoring up the thing when all of the sudden, my feet feel insecure and my right forearm starts to loose strength. I can't figure it out. I must have stepped in some more weak sauce somewhere. Its all over my shoes and I even have some on my hands. With weak sauce dripping all over my hands and feet, I shamefully downclimb and lower off the route. I was twelve feet from the top. I slump to the ground, a shameful little man with a quivering lower lip. I was afraid of falling. I couldn't get myself to commit to the last move. A FIVE SEVEN MOVE WITH GOOD GEAR AT MY FEET. Say it with me...."WEAK SAUCE."
Credit: micronut
Shep leads on through, Nate walks it and they rap off right at happy hour. I lead the way into the chips and salsa and we refuse to let my two back-offs spoil our chips and dip fest.
Credit: micronut
The salsa feeds my veins. I can feel the hardness coming back. I wonder how cold it is 200 miles north at 12K and I am gratefull for the sun on my back. Why would anybody go into the mountains when its snowy and cold and hateful up there. An epiphany hits me. Steve House has it all wrong!

I sink lower in my lazy chair, the sun is beginning to set when I spot a glimmer of action over by the gear stash. Shep is putting on his harness!
ME: "What are you dong man?"
SHEP: "Uh...we're climbing in fifteen minutes dude....we didn't come here to eat hummus and pita chips all day."
ME: "no way man...I'm stuck in this chair...I still have a pump in my right forearm....I just opened a Sierra feet hurt....Nate is out of Chalk....We better put the fly on the tent.....I have to update Facebook..."
SHEP: "you have five minutes to get your gear."
ME: "Aw're lame....and bossy."

We stroll a full 100yards over for a sunset climb of "The Eye 5.3" on the Cyclops.
Credit: micronut
Credit: micronut
I feel an urge coming from deep within me to lead this route in style and redeem myself. I will tame the beast within. I will get back on the pony. I will smash this 5.3. John long will be proud. Turns out his is not The Only Blasphemy. Backing off a 5.6 and a 5.7 within one hour surely must qualify.
ME: "Gimme the rope Shep."
SHEP:"No way man....we don't have time for you to back off this thing then have me lead it again for you. Maybe Nate wants to lead."
ME: "Don't make me fight you in front of the kid. I'm about to get sum 5.3 and you ain't stoppin me."
SHEP: "ok, I kid you not if you stop long to place pro I will physically pull you down. Now Go!"
Credit: micronut
Credit: micronut
Credit: micronut
Credit: micronut
Massive, incut holds becon me deeper within the rising chasm. A warm wind ruffles my super cool Marmot shell, making me feel tough. The ghosts of J Tree Past float with me, empowering me. Accomazzo whispers like a vapor..."you can do it..." Harrison is there too, "Dude, you are wicked strong. You own this 5.3. You are now one of us....kind of."
I belay it the Eye itself. The desert spreads out west like a well set tablecloth, a feast for the eyes.
Nate and Adam come up, giving me props for a steep lead. I let them adorn me with compliments. I burp up some chips and salsa. It stings a bit, but all is well again in climberville.
Credit: micronut

Credit: micronut
Credit: micronut
Look, I love Mark Twight, but you know something....summits do matter. Even little ones. We just spanked that 5.3 like a momma bear swats a cub. We owned that thing like a bad mortgage. We will celebrate.
Credit: micronut
The last light of the day splashes upon the golden stone that stretches for an eternity. Shep hasn't gotten enough stone so he scrambles around in the playground for a few more minutes. My shutter cant click fast enough.
Credit: micronut
The desert comes alive, somebody flipped the happy hour of photography light on.
Credit: micronut
Credit: micronut
We head back to camp. Dinner awaits. There will be no Mountain House Dried Curry. There will be no Power Bars. We will not pump from a water filter nor melt ice. No Light my fire Sporks. We will need proper forks and knives for this.
That is ACTUALLY light from Heaven shining on those steaks.
Credit: micronut
Credit: micronut

DAY 2:
We don't want to climb around people, so we head off into the desert. We hear Wonderland is cool. Its windy but warm and the day is our oyster. Its a mile or so out there and it feels good to go get lost.
We quickly enjoy the fruits of our labor by being treated to the splendors of the desert. God's creation blooms everywhere in full glory. Reds and greens and blues so so bright you gotta squint.
Credit: micronut
Credit: micronut
Credit: micronut
Credit: micronut
Shep leads a cool right facing crack...not sure what its called, but it's tasty. Nate moves like a natural. I follow with a grin and the warm morning sun on my back. Better than getting avalanched any day. Will I ever go to the snow again? Maybe not.
Credit: micronut
Credit: micronut
We head over to the right and spot a spicy looking finger crack with a left trending roof.
SHEP: "You're leading this thing."
THE KID: "Yup, you need to lead it."
ME: "Gimme the rope."
It pains me to type what happened next. My fingers ache with each tap on the keys. I got 15 feet up and the demons started whispering dark, acidic thoughts into my brain. "You're gonna fall, Dude....its gonna're gonna rip that yellow TCU, and you know there's no real pro below got lucky on Snake Dike, and Royal Arches, and Tenaya, and Cathedral and all those other routes you did last're gonna fall and fall hard if you try to go up have no idea whats up there....maybe that crack just peters out, maybe your new shoes wont stick......Shep should lead this so you can just get on with this......GO DOWN!!!!"
I cant believe it, but I down-climb, ill at my decision. I yank off the shoes and sit in the sun, wondering what's up. Why do I do this to myself? I dunno, good days and bad days I guess. I sit at the base and take photos, trying not to get weak sauce all over my camera. Shep leads on in style and the route is super fun. I'd love to come back someday for it again.
Anybody know what its called?
Credit: micronut
I wave from the lip, but we all know top-rope photos are kinda lame.
Credit: micronut

So....We only took a litre and a half of water. INTO THE DESERT!!!! What were we thinking? I'll tell you what we were thinking. We had a long and entertaining discussion about Bear Grylls right before we left the car. Bear would have taken less. But by 1:00 we were having visions of that episode where he drinks his own urine. The thought briefly croses my mind, then I remember what I have had to drink in the last 24 hours: One Grande Cafe mocha, three Hansen's Pomegranate Natural soft drinks, one Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, one New Belgium Brewing Flat Tire Ale, one half glass water, four swigs of Tropicana Orange juice and three cups of campfire cowboy coffee. My urine is just one big kidney killing mai tai. Who wants to drink a combo of IPA and Pomegranate anyway. So we bail to the car where we have little water but lots of frosty drinks on ice. On the way, we find this little guy.
Credit: micronut
My sixth grade daughter says they can shoot blood out of their eyes as a defense

We hydrate at the car, I send flowers to my wife (its her birthday weekend.....ask me later) and we fight the urge to go back to camp. We head over to this thing. It looks like Tehipite Dome and I get further dehydrated thinking of Leversee's route way back there in Tehipite Valley. Someday I'd love to have a go at that thing. I should probably get in better shape though eh? They got a 5.3 on that thing?
(The real Tehipite Dome)
Credit: micronut
Credit: micronut
We spend the next couple hours redeeming ourselves on some .10c finger crack pin scar action. The topropes were due west of the Tehipite Thing on a nice grey wall with top-rope anchores. Shep and I take no falls, Nate gets up his first .10anything only falling a couple times. Well done young lad. Shep runs laps to build strength for tomorrow. He will need it. The sun sets on another thorny day in the desert.
Credit: micronut
Credit: micronut
Credit: micronut

Before dinner, I scramble up the backside of the Cyclops and catch a sunset. I sit there with two dues from Colorado and we swap tales of epic ascents and failures as the sun sets over Hidden Valley. Man, I love this place.
Credit: micronut
After our opening night of steaks, mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese with fresh Ceasar salad, I dare Shep to step up and top my dinner skillz.
(Please read this next part to yourself like a quiet golf announcer)
The gong sounds and The Iron Shep goes to work.....What's that there...oh, great call, looks like he's using some preseasoned shredded that cilantro...I think it he's...what? Stirring fresh frijoles into the mix...Outstanding...It looks like some salsa has made it into the picture....and Oh my....YES! A real Avocado! What do we have here? A full bag of shredded cheddar! Ladies and gents he's giving last nights steak feast a real run for its money.....and shut your face! Its real sour cream from the ice chest! This is going to be amazing! He's now individually heating tortillas over the open flame! Tijuana look out...Fresno may be home of the Nation's meth labs, bad air and teenage pregnancy, but thes boys know how to bring Mexico to the desert!
BAM! Dinner is served.
Credit: micronut

Shep is feelin real climbey. He spotted a route in the guide called Fresh Squeezed .10a over on Reggie Dome. We bee-line it to the dome and have the place to ourselves. There is not even the slightest odor of weak sauce in the air. Today we will triumph over mediocrity. Today will do Bachar justice. Today we will back off nothing.
Credit: micronut
Credit: micronut

Here is Shep gettin a full glass of Fresh Squeezed...
Credit: micronut
He charges up the thing like a mad man. One of the coolest leads I've ever seen him on. Well done Brah. Well done.
Credit: micronut
Credit: micronut
Credit: micronut
I'm up next. I'll show this thing what its like to get squeezed! Shep made that thing look light. I'll have a quick lap myself.
By the second bolt I'm not TOTALLY pumped, but my hands won't work. They've swollen overnight from abuse and fully will not cooperate. All I can think of is my first patient on moday and how I wouldn't want to be him. I cant even untie my harness after lowering off. The Weak Sauce has found me again. Maybe I still have some on my shirt from yesterday. Or maybe Nate spread some on my second burrito last night. Anyway, Shep is still on top, so we third class up to the summit and enjoy a 360 view of the desert. The top spot is always a good place. Its wind and cold and kinda alpiny and it suits us just right. In the desert it seems, even the short summits are big. Man, I love me a good summit. Even if I get there the easy way. The journey is the payoff. The friendship, the sweat, the laughs, the back-offs, the successes, the failures...they're all good stuff. It's the moment where 5.3 = 5.11. Where memories of past and present and future are made and sustained. For a moment we sit there and soak it all in. The sun has just enough warmth and the open exposure seeps into our bones. Project Winter Mayhem 2010 is in the books. Its time to go home. Weak Sauce never tasted so good.
Credit: micronut
Credit: micronut
Credit: micronut
Credit: micronut
See you around Supertaco. Thanks for tuning in.
Micronut. Out.

  Trip Report Views: 6,367
About the Author
micronut is a trad climber from fresno, ca.

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Comment on this Trip Report
Nate Ricklin

San Diego
  May 6, 2010 - 06:00pm PT
hahaha! Well done!

Trad climber
Prescott, AZ ~
  May 6, 2010 - 06:11pm PT
Cool guys!!! Hey, weak sauce is ok the first time in Josh. I took a friend who is a solid 10 climber from the Eastside and he got totally spanked, must be the desert or something....too much oxygen?

Looks like you guys had fun and that's what counts!

Food sure looked good:)

  May 7, 2010 - 04:46am PT
Love it, well done! Heading there tonight. I hope I can avoid stepping in any weak sauce, but that stuff seems to search me out too.
Josh Higgins

Trad climber
San Diego
  May 8, 2010 - 02:32am PT
Nice work guys!

Trad climber
Upland, CA
  May 8, 2010 - 07:44pm PT
Very, very funny! That's for taking the time to write it. Phyl

Social climber
olympia, wa
  May 15, 2010 - 06:32pm PT
fun and funny
nice photos too!

Social climber
Santa Cruz
  May 17, 2010 - 12:26pm PT
very nicely done.
the wonderland route looks to me like Mom for the Road, a 1 star 5.7 on Outward Bound Slab in North Wonderland.
nice job on Fresh Squeezed, a stellar route.

gotta love j tree magic
laurel arndt

Trad climber
  May 19, 2010 - 12:42am PT
i'm so laughing...good job guys, you captured it all..loosing a alpine weekend for that sketchy, slabby, wrong shoes, wtf, i climb harder than this in _"fill in the blank" j tree weekend
yeah it happens
mike m

Trad climber
black hills
  Nov 2, 2011 - 03:44pm PT
Pretty funny stuff and good pictures.

Social climber
flagstaff arizona
  Nov 2, 2011 - 04:08pm PT
That's what it's all about!

  Mar 12, 2012 - 09:32am PT
Missed this one the first and second times around. . . . glad I found it this time!


YOU CRACK ME UP. . . and I love it!


Russ Walling

Social climber
from Poofters Froth, Wyoming
  Mar 12, 2012 - 11:08am PT
Good stuff!

Trad climber
Douglas, WY
  Mar 12, 2012 - 11:59am PT
A fun read!

Trad climber
Fresno CA
  Mar 12, 2012 - 01:40pm PT
Great fun to read. Thanks for whoever revived this TR, because I missed it the first time. Well done all around.


Trad climber
  Mar 12, 2012 - 02:03pm PT
As usual...a great read (about a great place)! Thanks!

  Mar 12, 2012 - 02:37pm PT
great bump...and greater tr...those food shots had me drooling and the 16 days of p90x workout comment is hilarious. somebody was just telling me about it -- having noticed I could use a good workout -- muscle confusion, eh? sounds horribly painful and unfun.

Lake Tahoe, Nevada
  Mar 12, 2012 - 02:40pm PT
funny and well written, kudos!

Big Wall climber
santa cruz, ca
  Mar 12, 2012 - 03:32pm PT
Cool read tfpu. Funny how the weak sauce finds you on somedays and not others. Btw.... Bring back the mullets!!!
wee man

Trad climber
truckee ca
  Mar 12, 2012 - 10:27pm PT
thanks for a great trip report ,read it before i went to work, had me laughing all day awesome!

Trad climber
CA Central Coast
  Mar 12, 2012 - 10:50pm PT
great TR as always. clever shots!

got me to thinking, what would one drink if they wanted to have somewhat tasty pee later?

Social climber
Krakow, Poland
  Mar 22, 2012 - 04:50pm PT
Love it! I'm a firm believer that J-Tree does have more than its fair share of the weak-sauce on its rocks. Although after climbing there for a bit one learns how to avoid getting it on their hands and feet.

Trad climber
Oakland, CA
  Apr 18, 2012 - 06:18am PT
Ha! Great TR. Attack of the Weak Sauce. You'll get 'em next time.
Stephanie Bergner

Trad climber
Planet Send
  Apr 18, 2012 - 09:25am PT
Great voice and imagery! Gimme one of them tacos!

Vision man...ya gotta have vision...
  Apr 18, 2012 - 10:10am PT
That's awesome. Bravo! Been there, done that.

Ezra Ellis

Trad climber
North wet, and Da souf
  Apr 18, 2012 - 10:18am PT
Dude way to own 5.3
I once went climbing on my wifes birthday and am still paying for it!
Cost at last $800.00 in extra gifts

Trad climber
Culver City, CA
  Apr 18, 2012 - 11:43pm PT
Great TR - I really enjoyed reading it!

Gym climber
  Apr 18, 2012 - 11:56pm PT

Just livin' the dream
  Jul 8, 2016 - 06:12pm PT
This is hysterical!
Just remember: Weak Sauce is food of the gods when it's drenching the Pebbles of JTree.
Thanks for the chuckles and great photos.

Trad climber
Santa Clara, CA
  Jul 8, 2016 - 07:31pm PT
Top notch, as usual, brah!

Josh really is a weird, magical place, man. Could just be because it's desert too. Still rad.
Jon Beck

Trad climber
  Jul 8, 2016 - 07:53pm PT
Great bump, damn I love JTree, even when drenched with Weak Sauce
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