Rockin’ Outdoors

I went rocking climbing outdoors for the first time since the summer of 2002 on Saturday. Though I climb indoors at a gym on a regular basis, for some reason I never made it out last season. This weekend I headed to the Castle Rock State Park area to do some climbing with my friends Rob and Brad.We met up just outside the entrance to the Castle Rock parking lot at 10 AM, then made the short hike to Indian Rock, which we had never climbed before. As we looked around at what was available, it became evident why we were the only ones there: pretty much all of the routes were rated at a 5.10 or higher. I’m currently climbing 5.10’s and 5.11’s in the gym, but routes outdoors tend to be more difficult for the same rating. There wasn’t much available at Indian Rock for the casual climber. The routes were also fairly short, so that may also persuade people to climb at nearby Castle Rock and Summit Rock.We set up a top rope and spent the morning re-acclimating to real rock on a pair of 5.10c/d routes. It was nice to be outdoors again. The weather was perfect… sunny and about 75 deg F. The first time I would try a route I found myself struggling and falling off quite a bit. But after watching Rob climb the routes after me and thinking about the hand and foot sequences, I was able to do the routes again without falling every time.Around 12:30 PM, we collected all of our gear and hiked approximately 1.2 miles along the Skyline Trail to Summit Rock. We ate lunch in the shade of a nearby tree up on the rock itself, which is accessible without ropes from the southwest with moderate effort. The view of the South Bay from there really is amazing. It’s fun to try try to name the various expressways, locate various landmarks (downtown San Jose, SJC, Moffett Field), and identify the peaks of the Diablo Range across the valley. It’s unfortunate that the location also seems to be frequented by late-night revelers who smash bottles and spray paint graffiti on the rocks.After lunch, it took us a while to set up a top rope at Summit Rock. There were quite a few people already climbing there and the options were limited. We initially started to prepare an anchor at the top of a climb with no bolt clips, just looping a runner around a large mass of rock. However, we decided we wanted to do a different route altogether and therefore needed to pack up all of the gear and move it to the top of the other route. The anchor bolt clips there were a little hard to get to since they were on a rounded edge. Brad clipped into one of the bolts just in case he started to slide down. It became apparent that equalizing and tying-off the anchor runner was going to be a challenge because the carabiners that the rope was going to run through lay below where Brad could reach. So I suggested we unclip the anchor runner, lay it on the flat rock beside us, estimate where the carabiners were going to be, equalize and tie-off. This worked surprisingly well and we were finally in business. Unfortunately at this point we had spent a considerable amount of time just setting up the anchor and it was well past the time I thought that we’d be finished! We each climbed once or twice more on an unfortunately named 5.10c, hiked 20 minutes back to the Indian Rock parking area and called it a day.My shoulder muscles were pretty sore the next day, which was surprising considering I don’t think I did much more climbing than I usually do in the gym. Perhaps I was just pushing myself more. Regardless, I think the hike between rocks actually helped loosen up the rest of my body, as Eric and I ran 6.25 miles Sunday night – the farthest distance we’ve run at one time since about October.Update [2004.06.16]: Photos are now available.

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