I’ve been raised on a steady, well-balanced diet of sandstone. Usually when rock climbing is mentioned, images of perfectly-sculpted slopers on immaculate boulders in the Southeast, endless pockets up an overhang at the Red River Gorge, and water-streaked crimpfests up a blank headwall at the New River Gorge cloud my thought process while I can almost feel the distinct, clastic textures of the different holds. Sandstone is one of my favorite mediums to climb, and it is also what I have most experience on. Before and after my recent trip to Bishop, I was climbing in an enchanting forest full of mossy, sandstone boulders on top of the Santa Cruz Mountains. The area is often compared to the mythical forest of Fontainebleau. But this isn’t France, and to avoid any confusion/embarrassment by association with a place that is so un-American, most people call it Castle Rock.
Immediately upon reaching the Parking Lot boulder after an extremely long and strenuous approach, I knew I would love Castle Rock. Everything felt, looked, and even smelled vaguely familiar. The texture of the rock was perfect : gritty yet fine-grained. The large and well-featured boulders were nestled in a lush forest. The combination of leaves, pine needles, dirt, and loose sand was a subtle yet intoxicating scent. My senses were alive, and I was also amazed to learn that Castle Rock used to be the local stomping ground for climbers like Chris Sharma.
Within the first few days of climbing at Castle Rock, I had sent many of the easier classic problems, and I had got to play around a little bit on some of the harder ones. If I had more pads/spotters, I would have really liked to spend more time on one of the most classic lines in the park, Ecoterrorist V10. Unfortunately, I did not, but the brief time that I spent on it was fun. Unsurprisingly, I found myself more attracted to the crimpy and purely powerful problems like Collin’s Problem V10 and Deforestation V10. Both were short and easy to work problems, but I didn’t send either of them. Regardless, I felt gains simply by trying those problems, and I made improvements during my sessions.
Simply being at Castle Rock made me happy. The weather was beautiful almost everyday, and I don’t think I will ever get bored of wandering through a forest to find boulders to climb. Even when I was frustrated with a project, I would quickly drop any negative emotions the moment I laid down on my crash pad. Though after coming back from my week at Bishop, I was feeling quite good and sent some projects in the forest. The first to go down was the sit-start to Bates Problem V9. The start to this problem requires quite a bit of core tension to pull off the ground with bad feet and a slopey undercling. After bearing down on a rounded crimp and some heel-toe cam trickery, you arrive at the stand start to the problem, which is V5/6 single move dyno to a nice sloper. I had done the stand start before, but sticking the move with the added low start made it feel quite a bit harder. After piecing together the strenuous opening sequence and doing the beginning of the problem perfectly about four times in a row only to fail on the last move, I finally stuck the dyno and quickly moved on to more unfinished business.
Right before leaving for Bishop, I had spent a whole bouldering session aggressively attacking and getting thoroughly destroyed by this peculiar problem called Static Reach V8. I had spent about 3 hours trying to wrestle this awkward compression problem to death. It was quite stupid to spend so much time beating myself up, but I could not figure out how to do the last move to grab the top of the arête. The problem starts sitting directly below the arête, and the first few moves are typical of a sandstone compression problem on slopers and pinches. However, you get to a point where you can’t really ascend any higher with the holds, and there is nothing but air between you and the ground. I tried throwing for the top, but generating any power from my position was quite hard. I was determined to finish up the problem that day, and I had new beta that I hoped would allow that to happen. The new and not very obvious beta involved thrutching my right heel over to the center of my body then placing my right knee as a foothold in the center of the arête. Even while wearing pants, my knee got scraped up each time I tried to use it. After a few burns on the problem, I found myself statically reaching to the smooth ridge with my left hand. Despite the ridiculous amount of self-inflicted physical pain from this boulder problem, the next thought in my head was “maybe I could try the V10 lower roof start a little bit”. Fortunately my body saved itself from any further harm by doing this thing called being tired. Ideally when my body becomes a climbing machine, there will be no such thing as tiredness, but with my hand skin suffering from road rash, achy elbows, cut up knee, sore groin, and torso muscles that were too weak to give a hug, it felt good to finish the day of climbing.
My time at Castle Rock came to an end when I had to fly back to Ohio to start my last semester at Oberlin. As expected, I was greeted with a massive amount of snow. My hopes of getting back to work on an open project at Brecksville were crushed. I had been spoiled by the ideal weather for the past month spent in California and Nevada, and it was a reminder to appreciate my opportunity to travel and climb. For now, I am studying/practicing away for my last classes and senior recital while getting ready for the spring season of sport climbing at the Red and the New. Vive le Grès!!!