Ohio hates rock climbing. There aren’t many rocks, and the parks criminalize climbing them anyways. Northeast Ohio’s climate is generally wet and cloudy. When you aren’t shredding your skin onto the crux sloper because the air can’t decide whether it should rain or not, it is unbearably cold. If the air feels crisp and there isn’t a lake effect snow warning, make sure your project isn’t seeping from the previous two weeks of continuous rain. Okay, I should stop complaining because these annoyances will make me stronger. Right?
Ahhh, it is finally perfect. This only happens maybe 4 weeks out of a whole year. Psyche is high. After pulling into the Chippewa Creek parking lot, I quickly scan the area. There are people hiking, kids playing on a swing set, and a picnic being setup in the nearby pavilion. The coast is clear. Random park go-ers observe my odd looking “backpack” and grungy appearance as I rush to get from my Civic to the forest in fear of getting deported back to a sedentary lifestyle of boredom. Finally! I made it to the warm-up, Sauna Boulder. Right as I am topping out the right V3 variation, which is more like cleaning a bunch of caked mud and sticks off of hidden jugs, I look up, and my body freezes mid-mantle.
My eyes were locked on the park ranger, who was staring directly back at me and standing a few yards away from the edge of the cliff. I collected myself and casually finished the mantle. Though I had heard horror stories about gear confiscation and hefty fines being issued, I was simply asked to leave. I knew that I should have gone across Chippewa Creek to warm-up where no one would bother me, but I just love warming-up on that beautiful crimp rail! The pudgy, middle-aged ranger would have never dared to walk down the hill and cross the river via slightly sketchy rock hop. I also wondered how many times in the past month he would have had to walk over 10 yards off any trail. Chippewa Creek is part of the Cleveland Metroparks, which our taxes dollars pay to exist. I should be able to enjoy our parks as long as I don’t harm anyone else or the environment. I might as well give up now and just watch TV on this beautiful day because that is what normal people do… Despite this wonderful interaction with the park ranger, my ingrained disdain for authorities left me ranting for days and reinforced my beliefs that Ohio’s park regulations suck and I need to get out of this state if I actually want to rock climb.
I guess the reason that I am so bitter about climbing in Northeast Ohio is that it has the potential to be so much fun. Access and weather definitely get in the way of this, but there are some opportunities for high quality rock climbing. The majority of people in the area view rock climbing as a very foreign activity, and there is only a small community of climbers to support it. Ohio rock climbing is also shadowed by the fact that most people, including myself, would rather drive a few hours Friday evening and spend a weekend crushing at the Red or New River Gorge. While these two world-class sandstone crags never disappoint me, the local sandstone is definitely a fun medium. Though, on several occasions, I have found myself driving back from Coopers Rock State Park in West Virginia, and saying, “I sort of wish I had been bouldering at Brecksville today…”
I love bouldering at Chippewa Creek because it is the center of the Northeast Ohio climbing universe. Around 400 million years ago (if you don’t BELIEVE scientists, skip this section and reread the first couple chapters of Genesis to reinforce your naive view of how our planet came into existence as the world we see today then never try to have a conversation with me about anything that involves the physical world ever again…oh and you can’t use vaccines because scientists created it with their lies about evolution) most of Ohio was underwater, but the eastern portion of the state was a river delta. The rivers originated in the Appalachian Mountains, which were forming at this time as continental plates were colliding to eventually form Pangaea. These rivers carried the sediments from the mountains to the edge of the ocean that was covering Ohio. After a few millions of years of being compressed in the ground and cemented together, these silicastic sediments experienced a magical transformation. The Berea Sandstone was born.
My perception of Chippewa Creek is truly unique. It was the first place that I explored when wanted to find real rock climbing. On that first time out, I barely found any of the established problems that were worth climbing. I climbed up some V0 choss without a crashpad and then almost fell right off the top while trying to grab some poorly-rooted plants. The better quality problems that I did stumble upon left me in a state of amazement. I didn’t understand how it was possible to climb these problems. There was chalk, and I tried to grab where the chalk was. It just didn’t work. My experience with rock climbing at the time was minimal: I had climbed in a gym for about 2 months, I had my own pair of Five Ten Coyotes, a homemade Crown Royal chalk bag, and I knew how to toprope belay (oh yeah).
My excitement to climb outside jumped to another level after this initial tasting, and I constructed a mythical image of the local bouldering developers who I had only heard brief stories about. Later, I would meet and climb with these people. The sensation was unreal because they are heroic figures to me. I know this is quite ridiculous because they were simply some guys that wanted to find some boulders to climb, but they opened the door to a whole new world. I am eternally grateful for everyone that has done a first ascent, cleaned a route that I have climbed on, climbed outside with me, climbed in the gym with me, taught me anything about climbing, given me a belay, given me beta, not given me beta, given me a place to stay, given me a ride, let me borrow their lighter in the Miguel’s “people port”, invited me to go on a trip, invited me to your home climbing wall, set a route in a gym, given me an opportunity to work in a gym, and simply shared their excitement for life. Over the past four years, I have learned an unbelievable amount about climbing, myself, and our world. I have thoroughly enjoyed every second (even if there is a bunch of complaining about shitty weather or not sending), and I want to continue to do this for the rest of my life.
Stay psyched! I know I am even though I am entering my second to last finals week at Oberlin.