Wilderness Travel Course 2017 Joshua Tree Rock Scrambling & Navigation

  • Updated: February 11, 2017
  • Post By: Matthew Hengst

February 11th & 12th, 2017
Peak 4377 (4,377')

This was the second weekend outing of the 10 week Sierra Club Wilderness Travel Course (aka WTC).  Previously the group had joined us for a long dayhike designed to give everyone an idea of the fitness level required to complete course and now we would be spending the weekend scrambling around on rocks in Joshua Tree and practicing navigation using compasses and topo maps.

And since we're Kaweah Group (one of the three groups in the Orange County area of WTC) we like to throw a theme into the mix for our summit shot and potluck.  Themes are suggested and voted on by the class and previous years have run the gamut from simple to elaborate and we carry the costumes with us to the summit of the peak.  This year the winner was a combined theme of enchanted forest / animals the result of which you can see above.

For more information on what WTC is and how to take the course see the official site here. More posts on WTC by me can be found here.
Myself and several other staffers came out the night before while students and the remainder of the staff were bussed out from Orange County early in the morning.

The bus arrived at Indian Cove a little after 8 and we got people moving right away.  No setting up tents just drop everything and get ready to hike.

Once helmets were on it was time to move.

The first activity was rock scramble instruction at a site near the group camps.

We introduce several scrambling techniques, give feedback, and generally get a feel for how comfortable everyone is on rock.

We spend a little less than an hour on this and then it's time to put those skills to use in an actual peak scramble.

On our way out we passed Modjeska group as they were introducing the activity.

Our goal for the day was Peak 4,377' (on the right side of this picture) which we access through Gunsight Canyon.  We do it this way because there's a lot of fun scrambling on the way up

This is what we call the advanced chimney section since it can be a little tricky to boost up and transition out the top.

It's also really fun to climb.

Moves in the canyon vary from tricky to just awkward as Gracia demonstrates here.

Jackie demonstrating proper outdoor attire.

At the top of the canyon we were in the Wonderland of Rocks proper and swung around to approach the peak from the back.

4,377' doesn't look like much but there's an interesting 3rd class scramble at the top.

And since we're doing out theme summit shot some people choose to climb in costume vs carry it up there.  (Only when it's safe to wear of course)

Staff is positioned at key points along the route so we can always assist if there are any difficulties.

And then of course we're on the summit which means it's time to strut...

WTC Kaweah Group 2017 in costume on 4,377' above Indian Cove




Pixies & insects!

Horny gentleman!

Totally worth one day shipping from Amazon

After enjoying the view it was time to keep moving as we had Modjeska Group waiting below to do the peak after us.

As we left Modjeska was just starting to move people up the crux.

Instead of retracing our steps we loops around and joined the Boy Scout Trail to the west of the peak.

With occasional minor vegetation encounters.

Plunge stepping practice just before the groups split up to travel back to camp.

Back at our campsite we had music thanks to the very talented Bill Payne, a massive potluck, and a nice sized fire.

I was briefly kidnapped by Modjeska Group in the next camp over.  However they soon returned me mostly unharmed.

People started to wander off as it got later and we shut the fire down sometime after midnight.

Sunday morning we got started early.  The breakfast crew headed by Paul Warren was up pre dawn starting breakfast burritos for the entire class.  When they were ready we gently serenaded the class awake.  Like this except slightly more from the heart...

Today's main focus was navigation and we started with an exercise where the students drew their own maps from a diorama Laurent and helpers had been preparing.  We provided graph paper and guidance as everyone went to work.

Next up we headed out into the field for map and compass work.

And after running through a few set stations we divided into smaller staff led groups and headed off in various directions.  Students were given a point on the map and had to navigate us there.

This wrapped up in early afternoon as the buses arrived to take everyone home.

And with that the class outing was over.  Myself and a few of the staffers that had driven up separately went for dinner in town as our favorite mexican food hangout and they all went home.  Since we had the campsite I decided to stay for the night and come back early Monday morning.  So I enjoyed a sunset, campfire, and a few hours of sleep before waking up at 4 in the morning to drive back to Orange County.

Next up for the class: Snow!  And we have a lot of it!

You Might Also Like