Climbing at Castle Rock

It has been a long time since I last went climbing outdoors. Castle Rock State Park used to be my weekend hangout when I just started climbing a couple of years ago. I stole this picture from my friend Gui’s website. The photo was from their first climbing trip to Castle Rock in Jan. 2001. Today we went to the same rock depicted in the photo-California Ridge. It was a sunny (rare) rock in this forest park. The belay station below was cool and shaded by trees and there was a fantastic cave that you can see from the photo.

On top of the rock, there was an expansive view of Santa Cruz mountain ranges, which were covered with coastal redwoods, Douglas-firs, live oaks, and mandrones. The army of trees were like green waves marching toward the horizon, where the sparkling Pacific ocean awaited. Sitting atop California Ridge was intoxicating at times, especially at sunset time. One tended to feel rich beyond measures. Being there, being surrounded by the serene forest, looking out to the endless beauty of nature, and listening to the wind always made me at peace and feel lucky. When such a place exist, within reach of my grasp, then life can never be that bad.

It was an unusually hot day, even in the usually shady and cool forest. We set off later than we had liked and only had time to setup one route on the ridge. It was a 5.9+ start plus a 5.10d crux route. We¡¯ve come here often, so the route map was a familiar piece of drawing. This time, however, Gui pointed out the names of the routes on this ridge: ¡°Ayatollah¡±, ¡°Mullah¡±, ¡°Case Dismissed¡±, and ¡°Guilty As Charged¡±. That¡¯s funny. How come we never noticed that before?

When we just arrived at the rock, we could hear another group of climbers down below, their voices were amplified. It sounded so close to us, yet we couldn¡¯t see a trace of them. All we saw were trees, yet we were hearing clear and loud every word of their conversation as if they were sitting next to us. We were guessing they were either at the waterfall or ¡°Underworld¡±. Halfway through our climb, their voices were suddenly gone. The forest turned dead quiet.

¡°What happened to them?¡± Gui was wondering.
¡°Maybe the bear got them, or the mountain lions, or the FB-Eye!¡± I chipped in. She burst out laughing.
¡°Okay, what¡¯s so funny? I¡¯m ready to checkout Mullah, would you belay me?¡± I was showing her my neatly tied figure 8 knot.
M corrected me, ¡°It has to be the Homeland Security people. You got the department wrong.¡±
¡°Haha!
¡°What¡¯s a Mullah anyway?¡± Gui asked again.
¡°A priest of some sort?¡±
¡°And Ayatollah?¡±
¡°Donno.¡±
¡°A leader, I guess.¡±

Programming monkeys are not very bright. As you can see. 🙂

California Ridge was situated halfway on a sloppy mountain. It is easy to be distracted by the gorgeous panorama surrounding you as you climb. If you are afraid of height like I do, then you would have to keep reminding yourself not to look down, stay focused on the rock. I couldn¡¯t explain this conflict within me¡ªfear of height and love for climbing. ¡°I guess it is nature to have the urge to climb, consider our ancestry.¡± I said to Gui on our way back. ¡°It is in our blood, calling to us! Thou Shall Climb¡± ¡°Ha!¡± She laughed, ¡°Especially trees¡­¡± There was a cool cavethat¡¯s accessible from the top of California Ridge. When those photos on Gui¡¯s site were taken my co-worker Janet wanted to show us how to get there. I was the only person refused to go. One must walk on top of the thin ridge for five feet, then climb down to the cave. Looking over the ridge and seeing the rock face falling forty feet down to our belay station, then the mountain continues to descent under the cover of trees, probably all the way to ¡°Underworld¡±, I balked. I wouldn¡¯t even imagine walking there without protection, even for merely five feet. Later Gui and Matthew called out to me from the cave, ¡°Come on, it is a really cool cave! You¡¯d love it!¡± ¡°You can do it. It is really not that bad.¡± I just stood on the far end of the ridge and shook my head. Nop. Not gonna happen.

Then I thought of my blind trust for the rope. Only if there was a piece of webbing or a rope tied around me, I would be more adventurous. The choice was between 1) to trust the rope whose other end was secured around a rock or a tree. 2) to trust myself walking a straight line without falling on a thin ridge that was forty feet above the ground. I trusted the rope, the rock, or the tree more than myself.

Why is that?

(Underworld: *the group of climbable rocks at the bottom of the valley. It was harder to get to and was always always damp and cold down there. It was known within the climbing circle as the Underworld. Every time I was in the park, hearing that name often reminded me of Greek mythologies. Thus I always loved that name. The routes within Underworld have names like Cerberus, Anubis, Thoth. But the apparently later routes took on a different theme: Drug Lord, Hit Man, Gestapo Priest, Psycho Killer, Black Market Babies, etc. etc. )

3 thoughts on “Climbing at Castle Rock

  1. I think it’s not so much that we trust the rope or whatever but that we just need a tiny bit of support or encouragement to pursue the adventure call. Maybe it shifted the responsibility for us and that’s the thing we are afraid of. “Now it’s the responsibility of the rope to make sure I do not fall!” and everything seems all right. Which is kind of funny, since we can’t even sue the rope if we fall. I remember how unworried I was when I jumped out of the plane with a skilled skydiver on my back; and how much faster I can rollerblade if someone just holds my hand. It’s always nice to be able to rely on something, however insubstantial it is. Hmmm, now I think I can understand religion better….. 🙂

  2. Hmmmm… That’s one point of view I haven’t thought of. What i had in mind was our suicidal tendency. I’m afraid of height because whenever I stand on the edge of a tall structure, I often mentally picture myself jumping off. Having a rope attached to me can save me from myself, because a rope is rational, it doesn’t have a mind of its own. It is not blessed with all the crazy ideas filled a human head.

    Is that just me?! :O

  3. Yes, that’s just you — a suicidal nut! And I guess whatever I said was just me — an irresponsible idiot!

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