For the past 3 weeks I’ve been forced against my will to stay in the South Bay Area! I have no responsibilities until school starts on Sept 26th except for one… dog-sitting. My parents went to Europe (as soon as I got back) and I was deemed the most suitable candidate to watch my dog, Scottie.
Despite my pessimistic tone, Scottie is my favorite creature on the face of this Earth and I missed him dearly during my stay in Europe, so I was honestly quite happy to take a break and hang out with my dog alone in my parents house in the ‘burbs. It was a nice change from living in a cramped apartment in the middle of Barcelona. Instead of hearing garbage trucks taking out my trash at 3 AM or drunk people stumbling through my street I hear sprinklers, crickets and birds chirping. I wake up every morning to a newspaper rolled up on my driveway. My kitchen is not tiny, nor do I have to share it with 4 other people. I have a garbage disposal and a bike that doesn’t weigh 70 lbs and have a huge mega-chain as a lock. I can run in perfect Bay Area weather and not have to dodge a million and a half residents or tourists, or have to stop every five seconds at a stop-light after sprinting my ass off to try to catch it. I get to listen to KQED at normal hours instead of getting the 2 AM news. Farmer’s markets. Nice climbing gyms. GRASS! Parks. San Francisco. Beaches that aren’t packed with orange tanning Europeans. Tahoe. Yosemite. Pine trees. Whole Foods.
Okay, okay I really do miss Spain, but I don’t think I’ve been gone long enough to really start to yearn for the contagious urban buzz that hums through Barcelona. Right now, I don’t mind drowsily living in slow motion before having to start school in 2 weeks. I don’t quite miss sitting in a plaza at midnight eating dinner or wandering through the hoard of people in the metro, but I will- I know I will.
I sure as hell miss the sport climbing in Spain, though.
Here in California we have a lot of good climbing, but the problem is it’s not nearly as dense or as concentrated as Spain. Almost all of Spain’s premier sport crags lie within 2 hours from Barcelona, and some only 1hr from each other. You also have Montserrat which is only 30 minutes away from BCN as well as other local crags that aren’t as good as top destinations but are definitely REALLY nice crags to have close to home.
Here in San José my backyard crag would be Castle Rock State Park. As a state park, it’s gorgeous. It lies within the Santa Cruz Mountains that separates San José from Santa Cruz and is only a 30 minute drive away. It’s home to redwoods and some really nice hiking. It is connected to Big Basin State Park, California’s oldest state park, and if you wanted to you could hike from Castle Rock through Big Basin and to Waddell Beach on the Skyline to the Sea trail- a 31 mile trail you can backpack or just do it in a big one day push. I’ve never done it but I’ve done pieces of it and from what I’ve heard (and experienced) it’s not a particularly strenuous hike (not a lot of elevation gain), it’s just really long.
Castle Rock is also home to some pretty good bouldering. In fact, the entire place is littered with sandstone boulders that have some of the most aesthetic shapes and formations I’ve ever seen. In addition, Castle Rock will always have a special place in my heart because it was the first place in which I went climbing (Well, bouldering) outside.
The first time I went to Castle Rock I was a fresh gym-rat climber who had been climbing 2 or 3 times a week in the gym only for maybe 5 months. I was hooked and met some local climbers at Planet Granite Sunnyvale when I moved back home for the summer after my first year at Davis. My new friend Jonathan (who is still my friend today, oh hayyy!) took me to castle rock with his friends and they watched me huff and puff my way up V1s while they worked on way harder stuff. I thought it was awesome and came back a few times that summer with the same crew, despite getting so, so many mosquito bites. (If you go to Castle Rock in the summer BRING BUG SPRAY!)
The style of bouldering at Castle is allll about friction. The rock is a soft sandstone that features a lot of slopers and a whole lot of smearing on basically nothing. It’s an interesting style; in fact, Castle Rock has been called the “Founteinbleu” of the US, referring to a bouldering destination in France that has a similar style and has been called the best bouldering area in the world. It’s not my favorite style, but it’s fun, humbling and doesn’t take your skin off.
Fast forward a year or two. I was able to lead climb but wasn’t very confident in it. I returned to Castle Rock a few times to lead there, though was never really that impressed. The sport climbing yields the same type of style as the bouldering.. but the climbs are all really short. Like, 2 or 3 bolts short. Sometimes there are taller stuff but it tends to not be too great. Basically, I wouldn’t go out of your way to sport climb at Castle Rock, though I haven’t tried the classic 11d at California Ridge just yet, a winter sport that apparently is pretty decent.
I have sport climbed at The Platypus, Shady Rock, California Ridge and the Underworld. Nope, I have never gone to Goat Rock, which is one of the more popular destinations. It’s especially popular with lots of outdoor schools because it is a top-roping paradise… the top of the rock is easily accessible and it’s really easy to set up TR anchors if you long slings. Maybe the popularity of the place with guides is why I’ve never been.. well, I digress. Goat Rock looks like a lot of fun and the next time I’m stuck here for 3 weeks I’ll have to go check it out.
Some beta on going to Castle Rock:
Get there early, otherwise all the free parking will be taken.
If you really want to go sport climbing, be wary of the bolts. Some of them are really suspect looking and sandstone is not the most bomber rock in the first place.
Bring a brush, a lot of this stuff is really, really dirty.
If it’s hot, go to Shady Rock or the Underworld. If it’s cold, go to California Ridge.
The climb next to Castle Rock falls is techy, slabby and really run-out. Bring some bravery for that one if you’re going to lead it.
I also happen to know a place right on Saratoga that makes the best breakfast burrito ever- Rose’s Cafe. It doesn’t look like it’s going to be the best café ever, but trust me the burritos are bomb. You can thank me later.