As we approached the end of the dirt road we were met with an “Authorized Vehicles Only” sign.
The van’s high beams illuminated the road past the sign that seemed to go on for miles and we could see headlamps in the distance directly to the left of us. We pulled over to a trailhead parking lot we had seen earlier on our drive and began packing our things. Nick had mentioned the Aiguille De Joshua Tree to me earlier that week and with very limited service we were able to find some vague directions online, accompanied with some tips from climbers in the park. Our plan that night was to find the Aiguille so that we could shoot it for sunrise the following morning, so with that goal in mind we began walking in complete darkness.
According to the directions we had found, we needed to hike as if we were going to Atlantis then hang a right instead of going into the rock formations on the left, like so many climbers do throughout the day. We had been told that once we were on the trail we “couldn’t miss it” which boosted our confidence to try to do this at night. Unfortunately for us, this only applies if you set out looking for the Aiguille in broad daylight because at night everything looks exactly the same. With a long day of climbing under our belts the search for this ONE rock in the park seemed pointless so late at night. For about an hour we walked through Atlantis before both Nick and I called it quits and headed back to the van for some overdue sleep.
The next morning we woke up and packed our climbing gear. Like little kids on Christmas morning we were stoked for what we had wished for the day before. We figured we’d do some climbing in Atlantis and run into the Aiguille De Joshua Tree at some point during the day. A few minutes into our hike towards Atlantis both of us face palmed as we looked out into the distance. There it was standing tall in the sky shadowing all the other boulders around it. We had missed it when it was sitting right in front of us the entire night. Considering it was late in the morning we decided to make it our last stop that day for sunset before we left the park that night.
With this new plan in mind we continued over to Atlantis and climbed a couple of routes over the next couple hours. The sun was unrelenting most of the morning as we climbed in direct sunlight until about 11am. By around noon we were in the shade and Nick was even up to free-solo a couple of routes on the wall before we headed back to the van to repack.
At 5:30pm after a much needed shower and very late lunch we made our way to the Aiguille De Joshua Tree. The sun was starting to set and we could tell it was going to be a magical sunset; a photographer’s dream. We both quickly dialed in our cameras to the perfect settings and Nick climbed what is also known as The Finger Of Hercules. While Nick made his way up the formation I bounced back and forth between boulders trying to get the perfect shot.
To this day I’ve seen Nick stand on cliff edges in Yosemite, free solo climbing routes and rappel thousands of feet off the ground and still cannot comprehend his non-existent fear of heights. He stood up on top of the Aiguille with very little hesitation and as the wind blew I could only imagine how much I’d be freaking out if I was the one standing in his shoes. As the wind picked up and the sun was beginning to hide behind the giant boulders in the distance I snapped the picture that we had been waiting for all day long. Camera in hand I signaled to Nick who was still casually just hanging out at the top of the Aiguille to come down.
Success! An easy down climb, a short hike to the van and an hour drive later we found ourselves inhaling food at a Denny's right outside the park. If you ever find yourself in Joshua Tree the Aiguille De Joshua Tree is a must do…even if you don’t feel like standing on top of it like Nick did.