The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

    Going Up

    Aaron Vehling

    Driving 36 hours to camp in the desert after suffering a week’s work of strenuous physical activity probably wouldn’t appeal to most students as a spring break trip.

    But that’s what a dozen UW-Eau Claire students are looking forward to in the upcoming week.

    Junior Kali Pace is finalizing the last details for a trip to California’s Joshua Tree National Park. She, along with another Eau Claire student, will be guiding a rock climbing trip over spring break.

    “J-Tree is an awesome place to go,” she said.

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    The environmental geology and physical geology double major, who is in her sixth year of climbing, said the group is composed of a mixture of new and experienced climbers.

    Four people climb a lot and two people work at the ropes course, she said. Everyone else is fairly new to climbing.

    The group plans to pack a 15-passenger van full of gear and people and leave Friday after classes to begin the road trip to Joshua Tree.

    The itinerary, according to a brochure describing the trip, is fairly simple: Climb daily until exhaustion, sleep, then repeat the next day.

    Preparations for the trip included meetings to discuss which types of food the group wants to eat while camping, such as fresh fruits and vegetables from local markets in the area. But the major concern was making sure potential safety issues had been addressed.

    Sophomore elementary education major Becky Hughes will be climbing during the trip.

    The first group meeting, she said, was designed to meet the others and make sure everyone knew how to belay.

    Climbing is done in tandem. One person climbs while the other belays, or takes the slack out of the rope as the climber advances the wall.

    The majority of the climbing would be done in the morning before the afternoon heat would make the climbing uncomfortable, Pace said.

    She continued, saying that students won’t be limited to merely climbing on the trip, although it will be the essence of the trip.

    One afternoon during the trip, the group plan to collect stray garbage to help The Access Fund.

    The Access Fund is a national organization that helps keep local climbing “clean and in good shape, and to buy areas threatened by closure,” Pace said.

    She added that day hikes and photography of sunrises and sunsets provide ample other activities during the week.

    “There’s a lot of absolutely gorgeous stuff to see out there and we’re going to try (and) see as much as we can in a week,” Pace said.

    The trip will come as a welcome change of pace from the academic grind at Eau Claire, Hughes said.

    In an e-mail, she said, “I can’t wait to get in some good climbing in the outdoors. The wall (in McPhee) is nice, but nothing compares to climbing in the outdoors.”

    She shouldn’t have a problem finding any at J-Tree. Pace said the guidebook for climbs at J-Tree is about three times the thickness for the Minnesota and Wisconsin guidebooks combined.

    Sophomore Eric Zacher, a McPhee wall employee, also is headed along to Joshua Tree. He said he’s looking forward to “the sun, stone and wicked cool company,” along the road trip.

    Hughes said she hopes to catch up on some lost sleep from the semester, listen to some good tunes on the road and relax in natural hot springs near the campsite.

    Warmer weather and a week without school is something Pace said she’s looking forward to.

    People headed to California were required to pay $400 that covered transportation, any gear rental from the university climbing wall and food for the nine-day voyage.

    Over the nine days, some members of the group are concerned about Joshua Tree’s sharp granite rock being harsh on their fingers.

    Zancer said it wouldn’t stop him from his “climbing rampage.”

    Hughes said, “My fingertips are a little raw as it is … but even though my hands may get ripped to shreds, it will still be worth it!”

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