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Climb On: REI Employees Add to Their Gear Savvy at Joshua Tree

Today's guest blogger, REI employee Emily T. (shown below), shares her recent experiences at an REI training event for climbers.

It’s practically a job requirement that REI employees have a lot of fun. One of the best ways we do this—and learn how to serve you better—is to use our products out in the real world.

Recently, a group of about 60 REI employees from all over the Southwest (I work at the REI Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., store) came together for a 2-day climbing and camping event at Joshua Tree National Park in Southern California. The event was organized by REI Outdoor School, whose classes and trips you can enjoy in your local REI market.

Blog author Emily T

I wasn’t sure what to expect from the camp. I am already an experienced rock climber with opinions about my favorite gear. What more I could learn from such a broad-reaching event?

The answer: a lot!

The experience was invaluable for all of us, no matter what level rock climber or outdoorsman we were. Here are some of the reasons why I was so impressed:

The Vendors

The world’s top climbing gear vendors came to the event equipped with some of their most popular gear. They let us try out highly reviewed shoes, harnesses, helmets and accessories. The reps were at the base of the routes all day to answer questions and offer feedback about what products were best for each climber and situation. I ended up loving a harness that wasn’t at all what I thought I’d want, and tried out Mammut’s new liquid chalk which I’d never seen before.

Liquid chalk

The Routes

Joshua Tree National Park is a climber’s paradise, but it can also be a frustrating place to climb. The rock is rough on hands, and the routes are spread across a huge area. It’s generally not easy to get a lot of climbing done in a day.

Thanks to REI Outdoor School instructors, we were able to get a climbing experience like no other. They knew of some great locations that included a wide variety of routes for every level climber, whether they had never touched a rock before or were a true professional.

The Pros

On top of all the hands-on experience, we attended several talks and clinics. I was totally starstruck when I saw Lisa Rands (that's her climbing, below), a professional rock climber known best for winning many bouldering competitions, standing around the campsite at dinner. I got a chance to speak to her about the Evolv climbing shoes she helped design, but wimped out when it came to asking for an autograph.

Lisa Rands on a Joshua Tree route

Brittany Griffith, a lively climber for Black Diamond, inspired us with a slideshow about her recent climbing trip. The next day she was out on the ropes climbing the same routes as us.

I attempted to climb a route that she practically flew up just before me, and got some good coaching from her that helped me through the hardest move. I failed at finishing that route but was proud of myself for trying in front of a master. She said I have strong fingers!

The Education

Through all the fun, there was lots of learning to be had as well. I now feel better equipped to discuss climbing gear with any customer. I not only know more about my own preferences, but have an understanding of what works best for a lot of other climbers with different body types and skill levels. I’m excited to get back outside with new friends, and I can’t wait for my next training session.

Have you been on any adventures with REI Outdoor School? How did your experience inspire you?


The national park's namesake trees silhouetted at dusk.

Posted on at 11:00 AM

Tagged: Joshua Tree National Park and Rock climbing

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Never been out with REI Outdoor School, but I'd be interested to if ever in southern New Mexico area. Joshua Tree at dusk is a beautiful thing.

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Brynne Staff Member

Great piece Emily!!


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