Women's Rock Climbing Seminar - Joshua Tree National Park 


Women's Climbing Seminar - J-Tree

Area: Joshua Tree, California

Routes: Various

Dates: October 16-19, 2014
Custom dates also available



Cost: $995 per person (3:1 ratio)

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Cost Includes
Guide Fee, guide's expenses, group climbing equipment and camping gear.
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Cost Does Not Include
Transportation to/from the course area, personal food, personal climbing equipment, park entrance fees.

Client to Guide Ratio: 2 guides per 6 participants

Expedition PDFs 


Equipment List ยป

Women's Climbing Seminar - J-Tree
Women's Climbing Seminar - J-Tree
Women's Climbing Seminar - J-tree
Women's Climbing Seminar - J-Tree
Women's Climbing Seminar - J-Tree
Women's Climbing Seminar - J-Tree
Women's Climbing Seminar - J-Tree
Women's Climbing Seminar - J-Tree
IFMGA guide Olivia Cussen hosts an all women's rock climbing seminar in Joshua Tree National Park. Modeled on successful winter women's climbing programs (Chicks with Picks for one), it seemed natural for Olivia, the third woman in the US to gain IFMGA certification, to offer a women's rock climbing program that draws on her experience as a female guide in a predominately male sport. An all female climbing program provides a comfortable, lighthearted, and relaxed atmosphere to work on improving your rock climbing technique. This program is suitable for experienced climbers and those new to the sport. Olivia will be assisted by other female guides handpicked for their ability to teach rock climbing while keeping things fun.

This program takes place in the Mojave Desert paradise of Joshua Tree National Park. "J-Tree" is a wonderland of rock that is known worldwide for its excellent moderate crack and face climbing. The rock climbing here is so good that a pilgrimage to Joshua Tree has become a rite of passage for North American rock climbers. There is no better location to soak up the sun, climb beautiful rock formations, and ease into the lovely, slow pace of the desert.

Each day starts from our central campsite (usually Hidden Valley Campground) and involves a short hike to various crags within the park that will serve as that day's rock climbing venue. Typical top roping clinic locations include: Echo Rock, Real Hidden Valley, Lost Horse, Atlantis Wall, Dairy Queen Wall, Hemmingway Buttress, Old Woman, Shorter Wall, and a variety of other sites with a nice density of moderate climbs.

The course is structured in a way that allows women who are interested to get out and do longer routes and classics like: Double Dip (5.6), SW Corner of Headstone Rock (5.6), Overhand Bypass (5.7), Stichter Quits (5.7), Walk on the Wild Side (5.7+), Dappled Mare (5.8), Stick to What (5.9), Touch and Go (5.9), Bird on a Wire (5.10a), Solid Gold (5.10b) and many others. There are over 4000 named routes in Joshua Tree, so there is no chance you will ever hit all the routes in your grade.

For those that may not want to climb a full day every day, there are a variety of good local hikes and places to relax for a few hours.

October is the perfect time of year for a trip to Joshua Tree; temperatures are warm during the day and cool at night. By climbing in small groups we can tailor each day's climbing sessions to a variety of skill and interest levels. Beginning rock climbers will learn the basics of belaying, rappelling, anchors, and rock movement skills. Climbers with more experience will be able to focus on longer and harder routes or on working on their own leading skills.

One of the highlights of a trip to Joshua Tree is the amazing camping. At night we will all come together for cooking and relaxing by the campfire. Olivia brings everything including the kitchen sink in order to prepare relatively lavish meals in our group campsite. With most campsites accessible by car we are able to bring extra tents, chairs, firewood, coolers, and other comforts absent on our more backcountry trips. Enormous rock features surround each campsite and provide great climbing close to camp. If camping is not for you, there are hotel options in the nearby towns of Joshua Tree and Yucca Valley.

The general plan is to camp in the park, with occasional nights dedicated to visiting the town of Joshua Tree (about 30 minutes away) for showers and restaurant meals. At night the star-gazing opportunities abound. There is even a local hot springs we might visit to soothe the muscles we have been working during each day of climbing. Joshua Tree is located about 1 hour from the Palm Springs airport (PSP) or about 2 hours from the Ontario, CA airport (ONT).

J-Tree Women's Climbing Seminar Itinerary 

If flying to Southern California you will want to arrive at the airports in either Palm Springs (PSP), Ontario (ONT), or Los Angeles (LAX). We usually shoot for PSP first, then ONT, and finally LAX as Palm Springs is closest to the park, and LAX is farthest.

Sample Itinerary for Joshua Tree Women's Rock Climbing Seminar:

Day 0: Fly to PSP, ONT, or LAX or Drive to Joshua Tree National Park
Day 1: Breakfast followed by group orientation and climbing
Day 2: Morning Clinics Folllowed by Afternoon Cragging
Day 3: Backcountry and Multi-Pitch Climbing Day
Day 4: Climbing Day with afternoon departure.

J-Tree Women's Program Qualifications 

You do not need any previous climbing experience to participate on this program. As we anticipate climbers with different climbing backgrounds and abilities we will offer a variety of destinations and climbing options each day. You will probably get more out of the course if you show up in good shape for climbing. The best possible training is to get into a climbing gym during the few weeks before the course. If this is not possible, then activities such as yoga, and some training to strengthen your forearms, back, and hands is advised.

Additional Notes: 

Full logistical details will be sent to you once you apply for the program. When we have a handle on who is coming we will attempt to put everyone in contact with one another so that we can all carpool form the airport, etc.

Why run all female climbing programs?: 

I have often asked this question myself. My intention in running all women's programs is not to imply that women don't climb or learn well with men. In my experience, long expeditions involving both men and women tend to be more stable and enjoyable. I have seen plenty of all women's expeditions on big mountains like Denali actually degenerate into trips that probably would have benefited from less of the baggage that comes all female trips. Rock climbing, however, is not expedition climbing and I have noticed over time that most women are introduced to rock climbing (and ice climbing) by men. Once experienced, I find that it does not really matter whether I climb with men or women, but is rather the individual that matters. At the very beginning, however, I think that men and women approach climbing from very different places. Early on, men tend to use their upper bodies more, and often "bulldog" their way up routes. Their strength, simply put, is there physical power. This generally does not work for female climbers, whose strengths generally include balance, thoughtfulness, and flexibility. It is really important that women not try to "climb like a man" as it generally leads to frustration and slows the learning process. My husband John and I climb at very similar grades, but we have found over time that his style and mine are very different. When focusing on developing new skills, it seems that for some women, these trips allow them to progress faster and learn more in the end.

Women Rock! Clinics 


  • Belaying and Rapelling Techniques
  • Crack Climbing vs. Face Climbing
  • Footwork and Efficient Climbing
  • Chimney and Off Width Climbing
  • Belay Station Management
  • Improvised Self-Rescue
  • Anchors for Belaying and Top-roping

Joshua Tree Reading List 


  • Rock Climbing Joshua Tree, 2nd Edition by Randy Vogel
  • The Trad Guide to Joshua Tree: 60 Favorite Climbs from 5.5 to 5.9 by Charlie and Diane Winger
  • Classic Rock Climbs No. 01 Joshua Tree National Park, CA by Randy Vogel
  • Rock Climbing: Mastering Basic Skills by Craig Luebben
  • The Rock Warriors Way: Mental Training for Climbers by Arno Ilgner