Well, it is summer again and Tram season is once again in full swing. I got my Tram pass on the last week of May and I have gone every weekend since. For those that have never been, Palm Spring’s Aerial Tramway is one of the best summer outdoor destinations. It costs about 20 bucks for the tram ticket and it takes you up 8500 ft where it is 70 degrees in pristine alpine forest. For regular climbers and hikers, I recommend getting the Summer Pass which is $60 and you can take the Tram as many times as you want from May 1st to August 31st.
My usual Saturday usually entails me and my climbing buddies meeting up in Monterey Park at around 9:00 am. We go pickup baguettes from Lee’s Sandwiches. My usual routine is 2 baguettes. One for breakfast while we drive along the 10 East for approx. 1hr 45min and another baguette for lunch. I always bring a bottle of water, a bottle of gatorade, and a bottle of red bull/coffee for a pick me up. If you plan on bouldering, I highly recommend the Tram Bouldering guidebook by Robert Miramontes.
We usually arrive at Tram around 11:30 am, park our cars and take the 12:30 pm tram up to top. The tram ride takes 8-10 minutes and the tram platform rotates 360 degrees while you ride up. The tram ride is awesome and you will enjoy the views as you feel the temperature change from 100+ degree at Palm Springs to around 70 degrees up at the top of the tram. Once you exit the tram you will be in the top visitor center where there is a restaurant, bar, gift shop, and information center. On the top and middle floors, there are great outdoor patios for you to hang out and take pictures. You will want to walk downstairs to the bottom floor where you can start onto the switch backs into Long Valley and head to the Ranger Station.
Once you arrive at the Ranger Station, you will need to sign in to let the rangers know how many people are in your group and where you are headed to go bouldering. I usually write that I am headed to the Beach area as that is one of the more dense bouldering area. Keep the copy for you and remember to return it at the end of the day.
As you follow the trail pass the ranger station, you will come across the first set of boulders on the left of the trail.
These are my favorite warm up boulders. I’ve pretty much come to the conclusion that if I don’t warm up here, I’m pretty much screwed for the rest of the day. I tried to warm up at Frank’s Boulder last weekend and I ended up working Frank’s Roof v3 for like 15 tries and completely tearing up my fingers. So in my opinion, the Ranger station boulder is the essential warm up spot.
After getting warmed up, I start to map out my day of bouldering in the Tram Bouldering book. I have a couple circuits that I like to go through depending on what problems i’m looking to do.
Most recently my obsession was to send My Infested Destiny v7 this season so I mapped out a nice circuit into My Infested Destiny which is a problem that sits entirely by itself in the Unknown Territory. It is my favorite climb I have done to date and also the hardest climb i have done. This problem is unique for me because it is a sustained v7 with a variety of moves from a heel hook sloper start to a knee scum finger lock to the final dyno to a pinch. Everything you can ask for in bouldering is all in this one problem.
Ok back to circuits…
Undiscovered Territory circuit leading to My Infested Destiny.
To get to My Infested Destiny, I will first hike through to Black Cauldron. Black Cauldron is a great v4 sloper problem. After sending Black Cauldron and the v3 next to it, we will continue hiking uphill and hit boulders along the way. Ebonic Women v3 is along the way and as you move uphill you will eventually pass Soul Caliber, a cool looking v9. Definitely worth stopping at if you climb at that level and love crimps. After Soul Caliber, the only boulder left is My Infested Destiny and it sits up the wash to the left of Soul Caliber.
Kung Fu Canyon to Shangri-la to Dance Floor to the Beach and finally to Boardwalk Circuit (add the Icebergs if you are expecting to catch the 9:45 pm tram)
Ok so this is the main circuit to go through if you want to see as many boulders and problems as you can. After the Ranger station warm up boulders, Kung Fu Canyon 0.20 mi down the trail on your right hand side. You can jump on Jet Li, a fun v0, or get crazy on The One v6 or Paper Dragon v10. These problems mark the beginning of Kung Fu canyon. As you stroll through you should eventually hit Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, a soft v7 that has tricky beta. To the right of Crouching Tiger, you should find The Wave, a pretty line on a short overhang boulder. After the Wave, I would continue uphill till I get into Shangri-La.
Once you get into Shangri-la, the hike eases up as the terrain flattens out. You should see two big boulders leaning on each other and on the left boulder there is Like A Virgin, a v3R high ball crack climb that tops out on a scary looking flake. Continue into Shangri-la by following the wash and you will get to another classic Tram problem called the Cube v5. The Cube boulder has the cube problem, the v4 sloper on the left side of the same boulder, the v2 mantle to the right of the Cube. Behind the cube you will find Byron’s Roof/Mosquito Cove v9/v10. To the left of the cube, you will also find The World’s Hardest v2 which is actually a v1.
Directly behind the cube for another 500 ft you should come to the Dance Floor. Another dense bouldering area with a wide selection of problems from the classic Swing Dance v7 to Square Dance v4. Also all around swing dance you will find a dyno problem, a sloper arete problem. Swing Dance was one of these classic tram problems that took me forever to get, but this season I discovered the mini-jib smear along with the inside heel hook for the send.
After the Dance Floor, you should head further uphill behind the Dance Floor Area and make your way into the upper parts of the Beach area…namely the Blue Flame Boulder. The Blue Flame boulder is an incredibly cool low over hang boulder with some of the hardest problems at the tram. Blue Flame v7 is the obvious crimper problem that leads to a dyno into a sloper. To the right of that is Black Mamba v12, Stretch Armstrong v10, Black Flame v9, and all the way to the right is Red Spark v6. I’ve only mustered up enough gusto to get Blue Flame and Red Spark, both of which took me all of last season to send. If you get tired of these tram classics, you can descend into the main area of the Beach where there are literally endless problems. First boulder you hit should be Outcast v5/v6. Behind Outcast is the Methane Boulder, which has the Methane problem v5, Propane v2, along with the super long traverse that adds up to a v9. Opposite methane is Paul’s Rock which has fun problems at either ends of the boulder. The Sharma Boulder is also in the beach and it is a great difficult climb just uphill from Methane.
Last stop on the circuit is the Boardwalk boulder. The Boardwalk boulder hosts a number of classics including the Boardwalk v9, Left Hand of Darkness v9, Soul Shine v10, Over the Boardwalk v7. I’ve only been here a few times because I get caught up trying other problems along the way, but this area is definitely a classic tram area.
The extra area for the truly dedicated who managed to save some skin can venture off into the Iceberg area. The Iceberg is also a fun are to go to but it is incredibly tiring to hike to. If I do go all the way up to Icebergs, I always end up staying till it is dark just because it took so much effort to get to and I never want to leave a project undone there.
Well I hope this gives you a general idea of bouldering in Tramway. I am a huge fan of the area and I definitely feel that it is one of the best summer bouldering spots in southern california. I hope you enjoyed reading this rant on Tramway bouldering.
PS: Most of the photos are taken from WestCoastBouldering.com . Here is the link to there Tramway Bouldering Area guide. They do an incredible job of showing all the boulders as well as GPS coordinates of said boulders in Tram. Also if you have the funds…go buy yourself a copy of Tram Bouldering by Robert Miramontes and help out those that helped develop this wonderful bouldering haven.