Cliffhanger 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.
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!
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. 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!!
We met Andy when he first arrived in Joshua Tree in 2010, and were immediately drawn to his delight and enthusiasm for all things climbing related. Many of you will recognize him from his years of working at the local climbing gear store, Nomad Ventures, where he was by far one of the most helpful and knowledgeable of the team. He is always eager to share his love of climbing, knowledge of the Park, and give excellent advice on any and all climbing gear. He loves to teach and is genuinely dedicated to showing people a great time (a Cliffhanger Guides Must!). Andy became the Cliffhanger apprentice in 2014, and after continuously increasing his guide certification levels in now one of the Master Guides on our guide team. He has a considerable amount of training and certification under his belt starting with AMGA single pitch instructor and more recently completing his Multi Pitch Guide certification and Rescue courses through the Professional Climbing Guides Institute. Rest assured that a day spent climbing with Andy will be an unforgettably fun adventure. He will always do everything in his power to give you the best day ever.
Jessy Ware is full of ambition and curiosity. Born and raised here in Joshua Tree, California, he grew up skateboarding and wrestling, both of which ignited his love for movement and self-expression and developed the mindset that mastery comes with making something a true study. Climbing is a dance, a fight and a meditation (with a touch of engineering) all in one- and for Jessy, it is an incredible vehicle not only for his physical, mental and spiritual composure, but also for finding community, camaraderie and purpose in his life. Jessy took on Cliffhanger’s Apprentice Guide role during the 2018/2019 season, and impressed us all with his genuine passion for climbing and natural teaching ability. Using climbing as a platform to teach is a dream come true and he continues to take courses and further his education and development as a guide. We are excited to see him flourish as a fully fledged guide and teacher. If you are lucky enough to climb with Jessy, you will be charmed by his warmth, engagement, and commitment to creating a magical day for you.
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).
About 15 years ago 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 this past October. 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.
Kelly was practically born trad climbing. From the tender age of two, Kelly was out exploring and scaling mountains with her family all over the country. Kelly’s real passion has always been for traditional adventure climbing and she has an impressive list of accomplishments and first ascents to her name. At 18 Kelly ran from the concrete jungle to the hills of West Virginia to begin an apprenticeship with the highly respected Seneca Rocks Mountain Guides. It was there that Kelly found her calling as a climbing guide. In 2011 Kelly started Chicks With Nuts, a series of women’s only climbing events designed to help women advance their skills together on the rock. We met Kelly in the winter of 2015 when she traveled cross country to complete her continuing education through the Professional Climbing Guide Institute with Seth here in Joshua Tree. After spending the week in Joshua Tree, Kelly decided on a seasonal migration to the desert to fulfill her dream of guiding year round. Kelly now lives the dream guiding for half the year on the east coast and the other half for us in Joshua Tree. She is always seeking to advance in the field, and became the first female guide to attain the Multi Pitch Guide certification through the PCGI in 2019. When she is not guiding, climbing, or hunting for first ascents Kelly can sometimes be found indoors working on completing her bachelors degree in Business Administration. We love Kelly’s quick and quirky sense of humor, her most excellent technical climbing skills, and her dedication to her craft. If you’re lucky enough to climb with Ms. Fields, you’ll feel exactly the same way.
Sarah Dudley grew up right here in J Tree, running barefoot through the desert and scrambling on top of rock piles at an early age. Climbing has always been second nature to her. It’s been 6 years since she was first introduced to climbing, and is now Cliffhanger Guide’s official apprentice, working her way up the PCGI certification ladder. She has a background in teaching kids climbing classes, and has worked with children ages 3-15. Getting them outside, connecting them with nature, and helping them explore through climbing brings her joy. She loves anything movement based that allows her to connect the mind and body, especially if it happens outside. Her aspirations of one day becoming a yoga teacher are inspired by that same practice. In the summer months she can be found chasing cooler weather and playing in the mountains. Though Joshua Tree is her home, getting out and spending extended periods of time on unfamiliar land is really exciting. If you get the opportunity to climb with Sarah Dudley, you’ll be delighted by her gentle teaching style, patience, and love of climbing.