Our Story..

And Were Stickin to it!

Our Story

Seth and Sabra Rock ClimbingCliffhanger Guides is a culmination of the work and life experiences of Seth Zaharias, Sabra Purdy, and our amazing staff.

We are the only rock climbing guide service in Joshua Tree to have a brick and mortar presence located in the heart of the community on Park blvd directly across the street from the JTNP visitor center. We have built a upcycled Conex shipping container building that is 70% recycled materials, solar powered, all art project on the outside and all business on the inside. Please see the above image.

At Cliffhanger Guides we believe that anybody can rock climb. We play with kids age 6-106, all shapes, sizes, and ability levels. We are dedicated to expanding people’s horizons and giving them a chance to connect with the natural world and all that it has to offer.

Rock climbing is a great medium for discovering the outdoors, building strength and flexibility, and cultivating life-long friendships. Rock Climbing is exciting, rewarding, and highly adventurous; all attributes we believe contribute to happy, satisfied people.

This is a good thing.

Seth Zaharias

Seth Zaharias


My Name is Seth Heydon Zaharias. I have been lucky enough to call Joshua Tree my home and community since 2000. I live there seasonally (Oct. to April) with my amazing wife, partner, and best friend, Sabra Purdy at the internationally famous destination, The Sethspool. I was first introduced to the sport of rock climbing in 1990. I loved it!!!!! The adventure, the chess game of working out a sequence of moves, the exhilaration of a highly physical day in the mountains, the open community–almost immediately I was hooked.

By 21, I knew that I wanted to work in the field of outdoor education. Over the years I have worked for many different schools, programs, and guide services. 20+ years later I have approximately 2500 guide days and counting. If you think about it, that translates to almost 7 full years of working with people on the rock every single day! I have worked in a whole bunch of different climbing areas including Joshua Tree, the Eastern Sierras, Devils Tower National Monument, El Choro, Spain, Montana and beyond. In 2002 I spent a summer working for the elite Yosemite Search and Rescue team. I am also a Professional Climbing Guides Institute certified Multi-pitch Guide and Mentor. This means that I have completed the highest level of training that the PCGI offers and teach new and aspiring guides the highly challenging trade of professional rock guiding. You would have to work very hard to find a more dedicated or experienced guide than me.

I chose this profession because it is more than just a job. It is a lifestyle that I have immersed myself in completely. I love guiding because on a day to day basis, I never know who is going to walk into my life and what lifelong friendships may be forged. I get to introduce people to the most important thing (besides my wife) that ever happened to me and show them the wonders that an outdoor life can provide. People spend their vacations with me! I am truly thankful for this. I do my utmost to show my clients the most amazing adventure I can offer. I am not just some tour guide, I have dedicated my entire life to helping people experience the best vacations possible!

For tall tales of high adventure, you will have to ask in person and I will make you buckle over laughing and gasp in fear with absurd escapades and feats of strength and courage. When you hire me, I give you my word I will work hard to help you realize your goals. I look forward to meeting you, learning something from you and sharing, with you, my love of rock climbing!!

Sabra Purdy

Sabra Purdy


I’m Sabra Purdy, the other half of Cliffhanger Guides. I’ve been knocking around the mountains of California since birth. My family came to the California gold country around Yosemite during the gold rush in the 1850s and they’ve been hard pressed to get rid of us ever since. I grew up scrambling on the crazy limestone boulders exposed by placer mining in Columbia State Park. Apparently my parents thought solo rock climbing was a better occupation for a 6 year old than hanging out in the local watering holes drinking booze with all the pickpockets and loose women, so I spent most of my formative years crawling on rocks.

Early on, I realized that the eastern Sierra was where I wanted to be. I liked big landscapes, big views, and big old pieces of stone. I learned to climb on the rocks of Tuolumne Meadows and its environs, and realized that this messing about on rocks made me happier than anything else in the world. I love rocks, rivers, road trips, and have an especial fondness for ill-conceived journeys into third-world countries (a formative travel book in my youth was titled I should have stayed home).

Around 2005 I met one Mr. Seth Heydon Zaharias, mad Greek, inspired adventurer, climber of off-widths, and hands down, the funnest person I’ve ever known. I’ve never had a better partner and we recognized in each other kindred spirits. So much so that I hauled off and married him. Now that was an adventure! We’ve spent many wonderful days together on the rock, adventuring, causing scenes, and rallying our 1984 Toyota Chinook down some seriously questionable 4wd roads. Somewhere along the line in my checkered academic career (it took me 8 years to get my undergrad because I kept running off to the mountains), I got hired by a private school in Missoula, Montana to take the kiddies climbing at the local crag for their PE classes. That was so much fun, I hired on with a local organization that got kids outside fooling around in dirt and climbing. Eventually, I ended up at UC Davis where I spent the next 6 years working for their highly developed outdoor program, Outdoor Adventures, while pursuing a Masters in Restoration Ecology. At OA, I managed the climbing program, teaching classes, and training guides while occasionally slipping over to the dark side and moonlighting as a rafting guide. In more recent years I’ve taken courses through the Professional Climbing Guides Institute and started Cliffhanger Guides with Seth.

I realize that people have a deep seated need for adventure in the outdoors. It allows us to refresh our minds and spirits, gets us away from the grind of over-scheduled lives running a deficit of fun. I have seen firsthand how transformative a fun and exciting day in the outdoors can be. We feel like it is our personal duty to get people back out into the woods. It feels so good to see someone’s face light up when they reach the top of a climb, the happy camaraderie of a day well-spent in the mountains, the amazing transformation that occurs as stress and the everyday concerns fall away. I have worked hard all my life to seek out the road less traveled and hopefully get lost even from there. We’ll make you laugh with our off-color stories and our hare-brained schemes. I’ll tell you more than you ever wanted to know about bugs and snakes and weeds and things. We will eat and be merry. I invite you to come adventuring with us.

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Why We Chose Joshua Tree

There are many wonderful places to rock climb around the globe. California alone has thousands of amazing climbing areas ranging from world class bouldering to 3,000 foot granite monoliths. We’ve sampled a fairly good portion of these offerings, not just in California, but around the world.

After all our travels, we decided to make Joshua Tree our winter home base and the International Headquarters for Cliffhanger Guides. The desert of Joshua Tree National Park is an amazing place full of surprises. At first glance it can seem desolate, but with a little deeper exploration, the Mojave desert becomes magical, particularly with a bird’s eye view from one of the many rock summits in the park. Joshua Tree National Park is one of the premier rock climbing areas on the planet, with some 9,000 climbs to choose from.
From October to April, Joshua Tree becomes an international rock climbing destination and the scene of many a fine adventure.

We also believe that just because we’re out adventuring, we don’t have to suffer unduly. Just the right amount.
All Cliffhanger Guides trips come with gourmet food, hot or cold beverages, and tall tales. Come rejuvenate your spirits, sweat, grunt, and laugh with us. We hope that you choose to have your Joshua Tree rock climbing adventure with us and we hope to share our love of this beautiful national park with you!

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