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Guidebook Review: Classic Joshua Tree, Routes & Bouldering; Randy Vogel

Submitted by epoch on 2011-05-20 | Last Modified on 2012-01-13

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by Jay unknown

Every climber loves guidebooks. Most of them are the same. Well, the majority of them anyway. As a climber they become as important as the gear we depend on to make our ascent of the precipices that call to us. I buy a guidebook to give me an idea as to where I am going. They are useful for planning, or to find your location along a cliff face. Sometimes they don’t leave the bag, other times they are in your hand along the approach. If you’re like me you own many, and upon quick glance to the bookshelf memories come back when you see them.

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Classic Joshua Tree Routes & Bouldering
Randy Vogel photo:Jim Thornburg

When I received my copy of Classic Joshua Tree Routes & Bouldering it felt like any other guidebook, and I was wondering exactly how I would go about giving it a review. However, when I cracked the spine on this green guidebook I was introduced to a wonderful addition in the new standards in guidebooks. For those familiar with Jerry Handren’s guide to Red Rocks, this book by Randy Vogel book is on par with that. The history any climbing area as told by someone who is of the ‘old guard’ is always worth sitting down for; Randy Vogel opened up my eyes to Joshua Tree climbing not only in an informative way, but in a way that inspired me to seek out the climbs described in this book. As I dove further into the guidebook, I was rewarded with excerpts and stories behind areas and of routes.

Every modern guidebook has pictures, and this one is no exception. Where I think things stand out are those of the actual routes. Care and consideration has been brought forth to include color pictures for the routes. This is something that I have rarely seen before and impressed I was. I haven’t been in Joshua Tree for ten or so years – not due to a lack of want, but because of scheduling. I made my first trip recently, and with the help of this book I had no problem getting to climbs.

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An overview topo of the Lost Horse Road.
Randy Vogel

Included are detailed topographic maps and pictures of landmarks on the approach. Interspersed throughout the book are wonderfully detailed photos and a few hand drawn topos detailing where the climbs are. Everything is in color which helps nail out the intricacies when finding a certain place or route.

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Full color route topo.
Randy Vogel

Knowing that this is a ‘Selects’ book, don’t be discouraged by the overall lack of routes included. What is missed by the sheer volume found in the other guidebooks is made up with better route descriptions, great approach beta, and some stories behind how the routes came into existence. What also made this stand out above the other guidebooks is how everything is organized. I like that it is separated by regions within the park. I could park at a spot along the road and pull out the guidebook and be able to see what areas are around me and go to the climb simply. Unlike others, where wonderland is covered in one big section and it is up to you, the climber, to discern where you are at, this one describes the areas based on whereabouts in relation to the area you will access it.

As a recent transplant and in planning on moving back to the west coast I acquired loads of guidebooks, and this one initially wasn’t going to be on my list, primarily to its $43.95 cost. I am certainly glad to have acquired it now. While it doesn’t cover the breadth of climbs that the Falcon Guides cover, it does reveal higher quality climbs that a local would recommend to people showing up to Joshua Tree for the first time; and it references you to the Falcon guides where applicable. If you’re passing through on a road trip, or exploring the area for the first time, this book would be worth the investment. It augments the other guidebooks out there well, and is a meaningful addition to any climber’s library.

Classic Joshua Tree Routes & Bouldering. R. Vogel (2011). ISBN 978-1-4507-4398-3 can be purchased at or at local Southern California climbing shops.

Full Disclosure: The publisher of this guidebook provided it free of charge to and then provided it as compensation to the reviewer for his or her review.

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SOLID guidebook. One of the best out there.

Cheers to Randy, and a big thanks for all the work he put into it. Its a labor of love, and always much appreciated. Building a community of climbers helps the park to work with us.

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