3 Days, 3 Nights in the Desert: New Jack City | Part II - Sender One Climbing

Words and photos by Don Burton

Read Part I Here

We both decided to head to bed early because it was getting quite cold even with the fire. The next morning while eating breakfast Todd checked the weather and saw that the low temperature for nearby Barstow was 22 degrees Fahrenheit! As we shivered over our breakfasts, I suggested we pack up and move to a site that was in the sun. Todd said he was thinking the same thing. We moved over to site 4 which is right next to the White Face wall so we decided to get in a few pitches before Vall showed up. We started with the far right route named White Flight, rated at 5.7. “Great beginning lead route,” said the guidebook. I thought it would be a fun way for me to start the day. Wrong! About three fourths of the way up I was stumped. I didn’t see any good holds and it was too early to take a fall, well at least for me. Even up to that point I never really felt secure so I tucked my tail between my legs and down climbed just below the fourth bolt. “Take!” “Lower.” It wasn’t like any other 5.7 I had climbed outside before. Todd tied in and started climbing. I sure hoped he would finish it so he could clean my quick draws. I didn’t want to leave any gear on such an easy route. When he was finished he said it

Vall and Todd scrambling down from Cliffs of Insanity.

was definitely not rated correctly and suspected some holds had pulled off making it much more difficult of a climb. Phew, I thought I would have to update my Mountain Project profile to “Leads 5.5 Sport.” We climbed the neighboring route, which was fun and seemed to be appropriately graded. Afterwards we headed back to camp to eat lunch and wait for Vall.

Once Vall arrived we quickly hopped in my car and headed to the trailhead that leads to the Cliffs of Insanity wall. It is one of the few areas that require any sort of approach. Still, it only took about 15 minutes to reach with the help of the recently published New Jack City guidebook by Jordan Robbins. This is a really thorough guidebook with an overview, approach directions and even coordinates for each wall. There are also short descriptions of each route along with the number of bolts and the type of anchors plus plenty of pictures.


Once at the base of Cliffs on Insanity you need to scramble up a short distance to reach the belay station. I was most excited to climb this wall because it has the longest routes in New Jack City at 120 feet high. Two of the routes, Inconceivable and Uncle Funs Basement have mid-point anchors if you want to climb it in two pitches. This is especially nice if you wanted to practice multi pitch climbing. Note: It is necessary to climb it in two pitches if you are using a 60m rope though. Todd led first and made it to the mid point ledge fairly quickly but soon after he started to slow down. He said a lot of the holds seemed suspect and as he steadily made his way up pebbles periodically fell towards Vall and I. It wasn’t surprising though because this wall isn’t very popular so it is not as clean as some of the others. As he reached the last bolt, he only had one quick draw left. He paused for a bit and I could see him getting a little gripped and I imagined pumped too. He had a few options at this point. One, he could continue climbing to the top and rappel down which meant there wouldn’t be a top rope anchor for me to climb if that's what I wanted to do, which I did. Two, I could have lowered him and he could have back cleaned two more quick draws to build an anchor. Three, he could bail and lower off his highest quick draw and clean the rest on the way down. Todd opted to bail, which I don’t blame him. It is unfortunate he didn’t have a bail biner and ended up having to leave a quick draw behind. On his was down, he built an anchor at the mid-point bolts so Vall and I could do a couple of short pitches. Vall even cleaned her first sport anchor, which Todd had taught her how to do earlier.

Don leading Cupid’s Fever on the Valentine Wall.

With only about 1.5 hours of daylight left we decided to head back to camp and check out some more routes next to our site. We decided on Valentine Wall, which had a couple of 5.8’s. I decided to lead Cupid’s Fever, which had a tough start for the grade. It was kind of thin until I reached the fourth bolt, then it was pretty easy the rest of the way to the anchors. Next it was Vall’s turn. She cruised up the route, which to me was really impressive because she had 1.5” long painted nails! The sun was setting so it was time to get back to camp for dinner. Vall had a subway sandwich, Todd had cold spaghetti and I pulled out a rib eye steak. What can I say? I backpack a lot so when I car camp I like to splurge a little. As my steak was sizzling away, Todd shouted and pointed to the horizon. There was an amazing glowing streak across the sky.

Space X Launch

Growing up in Southern California you see this type of thing every so often. We figured it was a missile launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base but we later found out it was SpaceX’s Falcon rocket launch. Thanks to the much warmer night, we spent more time catching up around the campfire before heading to bed.

Part III Here!

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