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Black President

5.11a, Trad, 120 ft,  Avg: 3.7 from 19 votes
FA: Craig Fry, Dave Evans & Dave Bruckman, December 1984
California > Joshua Tree NP > Wonderland of R… > Wonderland South > Central Wonderland > Elephant Arches


This is simply a great route and well worth the hike. The fact that several other fine routes are found nearby (and the now historically prescient nature of the route name) should put this on your "Must Do" list.

This face and crack route begins just right of center of the formation, on the face just right of a recess/crack (Vice President). There is a large patch of cactus near the base.

Moderate, but unprotected face climbing leads to a bolt which protects moves (easy 5.10) into a shallow crack system. Follow this crack to a horizontal break. Above here, a second bolt protects thin face moves up and right (5.10d -- height dependant) to reach a series of left leaning cracks (5.11a) which provide challenging climbing to the very end.

Belay at a two bolt anchor on the dike.

You can make a 115 foot rappel (single 70 meter rope just makes it) from the belay anchor. Beware of the cactus around the base when pulling your ropes if you do rappel.

Alternatively, downclimb the south shoulder (down and right; 5.6).


Bring a nice variety of mostly thin nuts and smaller cams, with a few up to perhaps 2 inches.

Photos [Hide ALL Photos]

Barack Obama
[Hide Photo] Barack Obama
Sam on Black President
[Hide Photo] Sam on Black President
black president
[Hide Photo] black president
Thank you to CF/DE/DB for a fantastic route.
[Hide Photo] Thank you to CF/DE/DB for a fantastic route.
The Prez from the approach...
[Hide Photo] The Prez from the approach...
Black President. <br>
The spicy downclimb prompted the addition of a two bolt anchor at the top. 120 ft. rappel.
[Hide Photo] Black President. The spicy downclimb prompted the addition of a two bolt anchor at the top. 120 ft. rappel.

Comments [Hide ALL Comments]

[Hide Comment] The first crux seems somewhat height dependent, the taller you are the easier it is. The upper crux definately seemed harder than the first. Dec 4, 2003
[Hide Comment] OK, OK, BP is three stars!! I'm more of a 5 star guy. This 3 star system is *way* too restrictive to me. I don't think there should be many 5 star climbs ( obviously ), so only the very best would have the max. I'd give BP 4 of 5 and 3 of 3. Dec 5, 2003
Adam Stackhouse

[Hide Comment] I agree with the idea that the three star system is less than desirable. The use of a 5 star is "mo betta." Jun 4, 2004
Yucca Valley, CA
[Hide Comment] My take on the star system. Randy V. uses a five star system. Mike M uses three. Each in my eyes gets the point across. I think I will put my own guide together and my own star system. I am going to use a 30 star system. Jun 7, 2004
tony grice
[Hide Comment] Is it called black president because its soooo funky? Or just because the crux seems improbable.
cool route kinda stout for 10 plus eh. Apr 19, 2006
Will S
Joshua Tree
[Hide Comment] Single 70m rope will just reach on rap. Agree with Murf, the first crux is height dependent, if you're under 5'8" or so, this would be really rough. Beware the molina if you're belaying, I impaled myself on the thing. Great climbing, long pitch for Josh at 35 meters. Dec 4, 2007
Kristian Solem
Monrovia, CA
[Hide Comment] I did this climb day before yesterday, 12/13/08. Actually I was out there mid week as well with Ryan Mattock, but I hosed myself by plugging the last jam with a red camalot thinking I was going to pull the exit on face holds. Bad idea. Went back and hiked it on Sat. Best to just gun the exit with solid gear below. Especially with 120 feet of rope hanging below, that one last clip could be a deal breaker.

I do think that pushing the grade above 5.10d is a bit inflationary. Some Josh .11a’s which I think are a bit tougher are Bendix Claws, Crime of the Century, Coarse and buggy, Natural Selection and Winds of Woopee… And is The Importance of Being Ernest (at .10c/d) any easier? The first crux is definitely height dependent though…

The last time I did this one previously was about 10 years ago, with Jim Bridwell and Rachel McCollum. A day to remember for sure. It looks to me like this place sees less traffic today than back then… Dec 15, 2008
[Hide Comment] So after hanging you go back a few days later and send it and grade it .10d? I don't know, sounds like an .11a onsite grade to me, especially since the crux for you (like me) seemed to be the upper crack. Dec 15, 2008
Kristian Solem
Monrovia, CA
[Hide Comment] Hi Murf...

What happenned to me didn't have as much to do with the difficulty as my own foolishness. Anyway, we all know how subjective these things are. What do you think of my comparisons though? Dec 15, 2008
[Hide Comment] Pretty good... lets spray about it here… Dec 16, 2008
[Hide Comment] Is the most expedient approach made through the vegetated wash south of Diarrhea dome and southwest of the Elephant Arches formation itself? It was definitely one of the harder approaches I've experienced in Joshua Tree. Also, prickly pear cactus: 1; Rope: 0. Feb 18, 2010
Adam Stackhouse

[Hide Comment] Drewsky,

having done it both ways, I'd suggest turning in around Gumby Dome, which when heading towards the Elephants would be on your left. Beyond an initial mini scramble at the beginning, the approach is fast and flat. Feb 18, 2010
[Hide Comment] I named the Route the Black President from inspiration from Fela Kuti form Nigeria, and his album named Black President

Super great album, afro-beat, which is African Reggae Jan 28, 2011
Simon H
Oakland, CA
  5.11a PG13
[Hide Comment] What a great route in a beautiful place, we had a blast on this thing. A bolt at the perfect spot for the thin middle crux and an exciting gymnastic finish that is a rarity in Joshua Tree.

I graded it .11a as I thought it was harder than Raked over the Coles, Physical Graffiti and even Swept Away. About equivalent to Coarse and Buggy. Agreed a tad easier than Bendix Claws. Jan 12, 2017