December 23-24, 2012
After thirty-six hours of driving with only a short break in Colorado, we arrived in New Jack City, near Barstow, California. I set up my tent and was happy with our decision to skip Moab because we had two full days of climbing ahead of us without having to drive or take down camp.
New Jack City isn't a city at all. It's a sport climbing area of metamorphic basalt rock a few hours outside of Los Angeles. There are no houses in New Jack City and the only semi-permanent resident is the camp host who works for the Federal Bureau of Land Management. Camping is free and while I imagine the high desert of southern California is oppressively hot during the summer, we were blessed with temperatures in the fifties during the day when we were there.
A friend of Gokul's named Tony drove up from L.A., and we were ready to climb by late morning. But first we spent a lot of time walking around and checking out the interesting rock formations, eventually settling on a wall nicknamed “Grandpa Simpson.” I was really happy to be climbing outdoors, and even wandering aimlessly through the park felt great after a long drive. We climbed until dusk and had a nice pasta dinner at our campsite.
We spent the next day climbing at Boy Scout Wall, which was only a five-minute walk from camp. We climbed routes ranging from 5.7 to 5.10a, which is right in the range I feel comfortable lead-climbing in. It was another fun day capped off by a slightly scary climb by headlamp in the dark. I spent quite a while trying to work up the guts to go for a bolt that was twelve feet above me without being able to see the rock very well, but then I noticed another bolt only six feet up and was relieved to have the good protection (12 feet between bolts means a potential 24-foot fall). I didn't know yet that many of our future climbs would be bolted much more sporadically, sometimes with twenty feet of separation.
It was Christmas Eve, and two of our fellow climbers named Julie and Michael invited us to their pop-up camper for drinks. A wave of heat blasted us when we walked inside, and we got a tour of the king-size beds, kitchen, and dining areas. At this point in my life I wouldn't want to haul a camper around the country, but I will admit it was nice being in the relative luxury of a heated environment with abundant lighting and plenty of space. Michael and Julie were wonderful hosts and we enjoyed several hours of engaging conversation with them, making New Jack City a memorable part of this trip.