By Eric Nakano.
A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of meeting up at Castle Rock State Park with a group of young climbers from the Recreational Team at Dogpatch Boulders. This was the first time any of the climbers or parents had been on an outdoor bouldering outing, and I believe everyone in attendance gained a new perspective on the sport.
My coaching partner Tiffany and I arrived at 7:50am expecting to wait around for a few minutes for everyone to show up. When 8:30 rolled around with no sign of any familiar faces, we realized there must have been some major wayfinding issues. As it turns out, Google Maps and Waze actually have no idea how to get to Castle Rock. One of our groups ended up in downtown San Jose before I had enough cell reception to call and give them verbal directions to the park.
If you thought Mapquest was dead, think again. I would advise printing out those directions at home like you did in 2006 and keeping them under your passenger seat for your first trip out to Castle Rock.
Around 9:00am we got everyone rounded up in the parking lot and made our way up to the first set of boulders near Castle Rock proper. Upon arriving at the boulders the kids looked up in awe at the towering sandstone formations with both excitement and trepidation. After a demo on proper pad placement, spotting, and a glance at the guidebook we decided to warm up on a juggy V0 and then transition to a climb requiring a bit more technical finesse. It was impressive to witness the boldness displayed by each of the kids as they battled their way to the top of the boulders. At one point a few kids asked to try The Swim (V3), a problem known for its notoriously difficult sloper topout. Despite major height disadvantages, the young climbers remained tenacious even as a group of taller adult climbers threw themselves at the boulder problem.
Around midday we took a break for lunch and hung out by the Magoo boulders. When I looked around to see what everyone was eating, I saw a sizable amount of leftover pizza and raw veggies. It seems kids have a natural understanding of what makes for good climbing food.
Throughout the day I heard questions like, “Where is the finish hold?” and, “Where do I put my feet?” While I found these comments to be rather charming, they also hint at a broader quality of outdoor climbing, which is the experience of exploration. For the kids, this took the form of exploring different hold possibilities based off their respective heights and climbing styles, examining the topout features before pulling onto a problem so as not to “epic” at the top, and crawling around the many cave features on nearby boulders. While I didn’t end up doing a lot of climbing that day, I left satisfied knowing these kids had discovered what many many seasoned climbers already know: Not only can climbing take you to beautiful locations, it’s also an amazing way to hang out with friends outdoors.