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From the Cactus to the Clouds

Well it only took six years as a climber, but I finally made my first trip to one of SoCal’s great local bouldering sites, Tramway!  Home to hundreds of problems on mostly-steep granite boulders, Tramway gets its name from the Palm Springs Aerial Tram, which brings visitors 2.5 miles from the Coachella Valley floor, to the top of San Jacinto Peak. 

Though I’ve heard so many great things about Tramway over the years, and always wanted to go, it is, unfortunately, one of SoCal’s less accessible sites.  Parking is at the base of the mountain and though there is a trail to the top, it takes nearly a full day on it’s own, making it ill-suited as a climbing approach. Tram tickets run $25.95 and besides service dogs, the trams are not dog friendly, which can make it difficult to organize a group of dirt-bag, dog-loving climbers to head up there.  A few weeks ago though, desperate to get out of the 120 degree heat down low, my friends and I finally committed to a day at Tramway! 

I’m so glad we finally made the trip!  From the fun ride on the tram, to the great views, beautiful trails, and high-quality climbs, it was a fantastic day.  

We pulled into the parking lot at 9am, and already the heat was lifting off the pavement in glittering waves, so it was with great relief that we boarded the tram and headed for the cooler weather on the peak!  The tram was a great experience in itself, rotating 360 degrees and offering incredible views of the canyons and the valley below.  On the peak, beautiful hiking trails make Tramway a great place to visit for climbers and non-climbers alike. For anyone who plans to venture beyond the immediate vicinity of the tram station, a wilderness permit is required.  This is free of charge, and can be obtained by checking in at the Rangers Station just below the Tram. 

My group checked in with the Rangers, then began our climbing day right next door at Ranger Station Rocks.  After warming up there, we spent the rest of the day on a grand tour of Tramway bouldering classics.  Finding the boulders can  be a bit of a challenge, so we were lucky to be accompanied by a friend who had been there many times before.  He introduced us to a great range of problems, from V0-V7, from nerve-wracking highballs to extreme lowballs, where you had to get really acrobatic just to avoid dabbing the ground. Here is the list of boulders/routes we sampled: 

  • Ranger Station Rock 3: 
    • Tourist Trophy (V-Easy)
    • Tourist Zone (V0)
    • Trailside Tango (V4)
  • Ranger Station Rock 2
    • Slab Problem (V1)
  • Frank’s Boulder
    • Frank’s Problem (V2/V4)
    • Frank’s Roof (V3)
  • Flash Gordon Boulder
    • Flash Gordon (V3)
    • Buck Rodgers and Variation (V2/V3)
  • Moon Boulder
    • Sea of Tranquility (V1R)
    • Oceanus (V-Easy PG13)
  • Abba Boulder
    • Mantle Problem (V1/2)
    • Dancing Queen/The Cube (V5)
  • Swing Dance Boulder
    • Swing Dance (V7)
  • Bitch Slap Boulder 
    • Waltz (V1)
  • Hueco Boulder
    • Hueco Shuffle (V1)

This was one of my first climbing trips since beginning my Rock Warrior’s Way training, and it was really cool to see that I could already put some of these tools to use.  There were two distinct times during the day when I found myself struggling mentally. The first instance occurred on Sea of Tranquility, a v1R highball, and the second on The Cube, a V5 with dynamic moves and sloping hand holds.  When attempting both of these problems, I found myself getting anxious and frustrated, sort of fumbling around and unable to focus on my climbing. In the past, such feelings have often been difficult for me to overcome, and I tend to walk away frustrated and disappointed.  

Through RWW, however, I’ve been learning how to to manage frustration and lean into stressful situations, rather than avoid them.  There are physical tools we use, such as tactical breathing or focusing attention on specific parts of the body, as well as mental tools, such as approaching situations with a mindset of curiosity. Though it sounds and is rather simple, I’ve found this last one to be so helpful! Rather than letting my frustration get the best of me, I’ll sit myself down and really inquire as to why I’m struggling? 

At Tramway, after some introspection, I realized that on both problems I hadn’t even been focusing on climbing, but rather on the large groups of people watching. I was scared of “failing” in front of them and this really took away from my ability to enjoy the climb and dedicate myself to the movements. Understanding that it was really just my ego talking, I was able to shake off the frustration, jump back on both climbs, and send!  Of course I was happy with that outcome, but I was even more happy that I had been able to gain some situational awareness and have a more enjoyably and productive day! 

After getting my head back in working order, the rest of the day up at Tram was awesome.  Besides climbing several more problems, my friends and I also got to participate in a crag clean up and win some fun prizes from the clean up organizers! 

It was a perfect way to end a fantastic day!  Though it isn’t the most convenient SoCal crag, Tramway is certainly worth the trek and the cost! If you plan to go more than once per year, you can also make things cheaper by purchasing either a summer pass ($80.00) or an annual pass ($160.00).  Either way, I would definitely recommend checking it out! 

Finding peace of mind on Sea of Tranquility, V1 PG-13.
Shutting down my ego and my doubts on the send of The Cube, V5.
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