I’m just returning from a fantastic trip out to the West Coast. It was an amazing experience, and I’m thrilled to have had the chance to take advantage of the Bay Area.
The premise of the trip was not climbing-related. I’m in the process of applying to PhD programs for next Fall, and one of my top choices is UC Berkeley (this is for more reasons than just climbing!). I came out to San Francisco to visit Berkeley, to meet with professors, and to get a feel for the program and the school. None of that disappointed, and I’m extremely excited about what Berkeley offers me academically. The challenge now is completing my application and getting accepted to the program. Fingers crossed.
Luckily for me, I was able to get some climbing in as well. I have several friends at Berkeley who I know through climbing, so it wasn’t hard to find people to connect with.
I stayed with my friend Jessica’s boyfriend, Casey, the head of Cal Climbing (Cal’s student climbing team/club). Through him and Jessica, I met some other awesome climbers from Cal (Steven and Ben). I also got the chance to spend time with a good friend from Earth Treks, Nick, who is a freshman at Cal this year.
Friday, after visiting the school and meeting some faculty and staff, Berkeley Ironworks hosted the first comp in the Touchstone Bouldering Series. Touchstone has several gyms in the greater Bay Area, and each one hosts a comp in the Series. Standings from each comp determines the finals, which is held as an individual event at the end of the Series.
Ironworks is a great gym, and I really enjoyed the climbing there. The setting was creative, and the community was supportive and strong – things I definitely pay attention to when visiting different gyms. At first, I was determined to climb hard and push myself, but with the rest of the weekend in mind and a nagging injury in my wrist, I opted to take it easy and not enter a scorecard. It was a tough call to make, but in the end, it was worth it. I still got to hang out with good people in an awesome gym and climb cool problems. It was a lot of fun, and that’s what it’s all about!
The rest of the weekend was dedicated to real rock. And oh, what an awesome weekend it was. Saturday, Jess, Nick, Casey, Steven, Ben, and I all headed out to Jailhouse, a few hours east of San Francisco. Jailhouse boasts massively overhung sport climbing, with the easiest climbing clocking in at 5.11d and the majority falling between 5.12+ and 5.14+. The climbing is pumpy and powerful, yet technical and sequence-focused. It was definitely like nothing I had ever climbed before!
I got on a handful of routes, but two really stand out: Supreme Being (5.12c) and Fugitive (5.13a). Supreme Being is a very cool route that features body tension moves and a really difficult drop-knee crux. I put together a few good links from the ground, but I never was able to send. Fugitive is a classic for the grade and a bit of a Jailhouse test-piece. I was a bit intimidated by the line at first, and I had never worked a 5.13 outside before. I put off trying the route until the end of the day, which in retrospect was certainly a mistake. The moves on Fugitive are powerful, long, and reminiscent of something from the gym – and I loved them. Once I worked through them, I realized that it was a very doable route for me – but not on this trip. Despite making fairly rapid progress on the route, I left without the send, and it remains on the top of my project list.
It was certainly inspiring and motivating to be surrounded by a handful of really strong local climbers. They had the Jailhouse dialed and made things look so easy – no small feat, I assure you. I really loved the climbing there, and I can’t wait to go back (hopefully a little wiser and with a little more endurance!). Following our day at Jailhouse, Jess drove back to Berkeley, and the rest of us continued on our way to Yosemite Valley.
We arrived in Camp 4 later that night, set up camp, and immediately crashed. It was quite cold, and there was snow all over. Luckily for us, we woke up to a beautiful day, with the sun shining, the temperature rising, and our stoke quickly growing.
On Sunday, we all spent the day bouldering on the amazing problems in and around Camp 4. We got on a lot of problems which made for a fun but busy day.
In particular, I was very stoked on Hammerhead (V5) and Bruce Lee (V8). I got to the last move on Hammerhead on my flash attempt, but the huge throw and sketchy landing gave me pause and eventually caused me to downclimb. I got to that last move consistently, but I couldn’t bring myself to commit to the move. I’m still kicking myself over it, and I’m a little disappointed that I couldn’t just go for it (more to come on that later).
As for Bruce Lee, I was already familiar with the climb from Louder Than 11’s “Park Life”. In it, Natasha Barnes easily dispatches the crimpy V8. The first move was a tough body tension move, compressing between a decent sloper on the arete and a good sidepull crimp with a bad foot. After a few tries, I got the move easily, but the next move was at my very full extension, and I couldn’t stick the next crimp.
The others in the group had solid days, with several impressive sends going down, including Casey and Ben on King Cobra, a V8 highball.
That night, we enjoyed some delicious food and drink around the fire and spent the evening talking about climbing. I always enjoy those conversations about training, climbing philosophy, and the like. Luckily, the night was nowhere nearly as cold as the previous one, so it was a much more comfortable experience overall.
On Monday, Casey, Ben, and Steven grabbed their rack and ropes and headed out to climb the Moratorium on Schultz’s Ridge. Nick and I strapped on the crash pads and continued wrestling some pebbles.
I focused on three problems: Battle of the Bulge (V6), Bruce Lee (V8), and Midnight Lightning (V8). I had some success on Battle of the Bulge, falling right before the top-out. I unlocked the moves fairly quickly, but I could not muster the send. On Bruce Lee, the opening move was still fairly low-percentage, but I got it a bit more consistent. Additionally, I was able to stick the full-extension crimp and get my right hand up the arete. Unfortunately, that was as far as my efforts (and raw skin) would take me on this trip. If I had another session or two, I’m confident I would have sent. And finally, I just had to feel the holds on Midnight Lightning. If the climb was hard to begin with, the extremely polished nature of the holds makes it even harder. I made a move or two, but I just didn’t have enough left in the tank to put anything strong together.
So, at the end of it all, I left California without sending anything of note. I did, however, put together a nice little list of projects to get back on and crush whenever I return to the area (which will hopefully be sooner rather than later). More importantly, the trip was excellent for me mentally and physically. It helped me reconnect with what it is I love about climbing. It certainly got my stoke level up again, and I’m more excited than ever to train and improve. Whenever I return from a trip with few or no sends, it rarely gets me down – more often than not, it just motivates me to keep working hard. I know if I put in the effort, the results will show.
Thank you California for yet another fantastic adventure. Until next time.