I’m not back yet. Give me a second. Hold on. HOLD ON, I said. Don’t talk to me right now.

(eyes closed. rock formations ahead. belaying at the top of Double Dip with 360 degree view of Joshua Tree National Park. Then down to campfire, s’mores and snuggly feeling of new friends.)

*sigh*

OKAY. Now I’m back to civilization. Just relishing in the last lingering moments of the Joshua Tree Tweetup. It’s Sunday, Nov. 15, at 7:19 p.m. now – 24 hours ago, I was sitting in Crossroads Cafe in Joshua Tree with Jeremy, Nina, Darren, George and Randy, recapping the day, the week and drooling over the very tasty Crossroads food and a Dead Guy Ale.

Not really sure how to write this post. I’m still reeling in the post-first-date-feeling – the glorious uplifting cozy warm happy zone where you don’t want to let go of what happened the previous 24 hours – or previous four days in this case.

Through the wonders of Twitter, @rockgrrl, Eileen, with the help of Nina (@nsmonkeygirl) and Katie Beth (@katiebeth), organized the first ever Joshua Tree Tweetup, with an amazing turnout of nearly 20 folks from all over North America, from as far at Montreal and Philly to British Columbia and Washington State, down to the locals from Cali. Nearly all of us who showed up had never met before and had only communicated via Twitter. The fascinating thing is that when we all showed up to camp, there was no weird ice breaking needed. No weird warm up conversation to ease into environment. It was as if we’d all climbed before together. It turned out to be a wonderfully amazing socialogical experience.

Sooooo … on to the climbs … (if you don’t climb and don’t care much about the technical notes ahead, scroll to the bottom)

For Randy and I, we weren’t really sure what to expect when driving through the park, given we’re coming from forests of tall cedars and firs and very green and wet. The “forests” of Joshua Trees are fascinating, as are the sporadic rock formations that are as far as the eye can see. And the rock texture is so sticky, I (gleefully) have the scars on the my calves and knees to prove how gritty and sticky it is. I came into this trip knowing it was probably going to be a crack climbing trip, something I don’t do often (mainly face and bouldering), so I was keeping the mind wide open. Goal, though, was to hit classic climbs.

Day 1:

After driving from Ontario, where we flew in with @dloo, we met up with Elieen, Nina, Kelly and friends at Hidden Tower in Real Hidden Valley. Jumped on ropes as fast as we could to get an idea of what this J-Tree rock was all about.

Sail Away (5.8) – classic J-Tree climb! Great intro to crack climbing in the park.

Then over to The Thin Wall for  Butterfingers Make me Horny (5.8) and Count On Your Fingers (5.9 – didn’t finish this one as it was getting dark and progressively above my climbing difficulty – sure enough, book notes it’s diffcult for short people closer to the top; to me, the wall was just blank to my unexperienced hands).

Dinner: Indian pizza and Indian food at Sam’s Pizza and Indian Food. Strange but amazing combination!

Day 2:

Woke up feeling a little discombobulated and probably didn’t really wake up until 1:30 p.m. The morning climb was at Headstone Wall, a short hike from our camp in Ryan Campground. The bouldering/scramble approach to the base of the wall screwed with my head for some reason. But got to the base of the wall and did the 5.8 route, Cryptic, on the east face of the wall – crimpy and ledgy with exposure to the right – thrilling!

That afternoon, we all headed to The Blob, where I followed on The Bong, a 5.5 crack climb – harder than it looks but definitely fun. I was finding that most crack climbs require me to shove in my entire forearm and hand, where I flex it and then find the next places for my feet. No pulling on my arms necessarily to get me up – fascinating technique. What I get a kick out of (and find slightly unnerving at the same time) is that I can fit half my body in some of these cracks.

Dinner: Crossroads Cafe, Thursday Night Special – chicken tacos with chicken risotto soup and a nice hot cup of tea. All of us crowded on the patio under the heater and relished in the day’s climbs.

Day 3:

Heading back to Hemingway Buttress after bouldering

We caravaned over to Hemingway Buttress, which is just one long, extended wall of very, very, very tall one pitch climbs. While our trad leaders jumped on routes to set topropes, Katie Beth, Katie (@adventuregrrl), myself, and eventually Randy sought out bouldering problems. We scrambled on a couple piles of rocks before settling on two routes, one that Randy and the two Katies established, while I kept working on one around the corner that involved mantling up on to a slope. Wasn’t comfortable with topping out but was very happy to be establishing the moves and developing muscle memory. Also, got pictures of the three of them trying their new problem, of which Randy finally sended.The whole valley cheered for him. (Noise travels well there).

Oh yes, and I got to try out a new (to me) pair of bouldering shoes – Five.10 Anazazi’s. Didn’t have women’s size but they had a men’s that fit perfect. And, OH how they edged well and worked so nicely!

After sufficient tearing up of our fingertips, we headed back to the wall for some lunch and rope climbing. I jumped on White Lightning (5.7) – I struggled getting up over a mini roof at the bottom, wondering what I was doing here. After that, the route seemed awfully big for me to use crack technique, so I face climbed it, while pulling on huge flakes that were inside the crack. Closer to the top, the forearm technique worked as the crack narrowed. A few more heaves up over some jugs and I was at the top!

Just before dark, Luke (@lstefurak) and Lizzy (@lizzy_t) took us over to Gunsmoke, the ULTIMATE of incredibly fun boulder problems.

KatieBeth and Randy trying out Gunsmoke

It is one long travrse problem, plus some crimping and moves through a corner, but overall – massive endurance. Lizzy has been working on it for four years and did it ALL in one shot that night! That was the absolute highlight of going over there, watching her do it with such grace! The video of her can be found here.

Day 4:

Final day – headed over to Echo Rocks for some fun slab climbing. The idea of doing a mock lead with some trad gear was intriguing, so I borrowed Randy’s gear and rope and climbed Double Dip, a 5.6 that took both cams and quick draws. Much to my surprise, after I got to the top, the guy belaying me said, I’m headed down, you can belay the next person. I was a bit thrown off by that as no one’s ever put me in that situation before. At the same time, I knew what I needed to do and could easily set it up and be safe for myself and my climber. So I happily took over the belay station and got Katie up to the top, then lowered her.

Following the morning session, the group split up and Randy wanted to go do something called Super Roof. Not sure if I would follow or not, I went anyway to give him the belay.

The SuperRoof

I got to the bottom of the route, took one look and said no flippin’ way I’m toproping that. I’m not ready for it. I knew I could do it, but the mental mojo wasn’t there. After Randy climbed it (beautifully I must add), I attempted to climb it but thought the better of it and my mindframe and stepped off. I scrambled to the top via the walkoff and we set up a belay so I could belay him from the top while he cleaned gear. We headed back down to the parking lot and sought out our friends for one last meal in town and one last campfire circle. It involved S’mores, a big group picture and free gear!!! Thank you (ClifBar, Action Wipes, Inner Passage, Joshua Tree Products & Mountain Khakis!)

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While writing about the climbs is all good and fine, it’s hard to capture the feelings we all had while climbing together, figuring out routes, deciding where we wanted to go, where to eat, taking in the views, and learning more about each other’s personalities and quirks. It definitely makes communicating on Twitter different than before the trip and I have a feeling a few of us will be seeing more of each other in the future.  I’d love to see it as an annual get-together.

I feel like I have so much more to say but I can’t really put it in words; they’re all mixed up in my head of memories that are so physical, if that makes sense.

I mean, how does one capture in words the feeling of the adrenaline pulsing through the head and body while shoving arms in cracks, gingerly placing feet on quarter-sized shelves, crimping ledges, palming slabs and pawing for more?

How does one capture in words sitting at the top of the climb by yourself while top belaying under cloudless blue skies with murmurs of laughter from your friends below, or the climbers across the valley calling out commands to each other?

How does one capture the wonderfully safe feeling that envelopes you while sitting around the campfire as 10 different conversations take place (just like twitter), everyone bundled up in puffys and hats, beverages in one hand and desserts in the other?

It’s hard. And part of the struggle is to retain those memories that are so vivid, because I know that while they will be there forever, they won’t be as vivid as they are right now. It’s all part of the post-trip funk, but that’s why we have pictures and more trips to plan together.

I think I’ve made my point, as much as my head is able to squeeze out right now. Just about every climbing trip is fantastic, but for some reason, this one was incredibly special.

OK, one more thought:

Maybe this one sticks out more than usual because we took a tool that tends to isolate us and keep us in front of machines instead of each other, and actually made that human connection. We have all these social media/networking tools that have practically taken over our lives and yet, how often do we really follow through with making that in-person connection? I understand that we’re all busy and that we rely on these tools to help us stay connected to our friends.

But in this particular event, what is mind-blowing, to me, is that nearly none of us had ever met before in person. And it turned out to be amazing.

Last evening in J-Tree

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