Sunday, April 29, 2012

Having never lived in a city, I don't have much to compare Oakland to. It's been a huge adjustment for me, learning to preserve my happiness in a place that quietly seethes with as much energy and chaos as this city does. My most reliable method of self-medication, seeking solace and solitude in the mountains, has been basically unavailable to me since moving here, and I'll go weeks without stepping foot on anything more natural than the tiny plot of grass in my front yard.

My friends here all insist that there are spots nearby that would satiate my need for a nature fix, but so far I haven't taken anyone up on the offer to show me these mythical places. I know that there's a bounty of beautiful secluded places within an hour or so of a car ride, but I'm so spoiled from living in Boulder and having the Flatirons minutes from my doorstep that the commute just isn't appealing. I'm still working on finding a way to nurture that part of myself that needs trees and dirt and fresh air to survive, here amidst the concrete. (By the way, what it lacks in terms of nature accessibility, the Bay Area far makes up for with culture, diversity, art, music, and community). 

A spring storm rolls over the Flatirons at the top of the street I grew up on
For my spring break, I returned to Boulder for the first time since having moved last fall, in order to dose myself with as much time in the mountains as possible. The effect was incredible. Upon driving into Boulder Valley, I felt the peaceful quiet of the place surround me like a diver submerging into a placid lake. The mountains, so familiar in their silhouette, stood solid and serene above the small city, and I could feel their protective presence like an embrace. 

After adjusting to the altitude, I spent a sunny afternoon climbing in Clear Creek Canyon, where I tried Ten Digit Dialing, 12c, a great route. 

Clear Creek
 Afterwards, Jonathan Siegrist and I went to Estes Park to spend a few days climbing at even higher altitude. Altitude always makes me have the craziest dreams, and Jonathan had to wake me up one night while I was supposedly laughing in my sleep and exclaiming "Puppies!!" delightedly.

We decided to climb a multi-pitch on the rather stiff and (in my opinion) unforgiving Lumpy Ridge. I believe that the route we did was 11b and called something like Paralandria. Even though I started the day in high spirits, the route still brought me to tears, as it seems almost every multi-pitch does. After getting two pieces of gear stuck and becoming so tired that I was grunting like an enraged safari animal, I reached the final belay stance and had a mini meltdown. Jonathan has seen this little routine of mine so many times that he just waited for it to pass, trying his best not to laugh.

Jonathan leading the first pitch- he's the small blur towards the top under the shadow
...long way down..

this picture doesn't do it justice, but that's what we climbed.
We also went climbing at the undeniably classic crag The Monastery, a place infamous for it's sandbagged routes. I tried Psychatomic for the first time, a pristine 12d that feels much harder than many 13as that I've been on. I can't wait to get back and try it again later this summer.

one of the best 12ds in Colorado, if not the nation

After Estes, I spent the rest of my time hiking in the Flatirons, climbing Bear Peak and other favorite trails of mine that I've wandered since I was a little kid. 

view from the top of Bear Peak
Boulder from the vantage of the summit
When I returned from Boulder back to Oakland, I felt grounded and renewed in a way that  haven't experienced the whole time I've been here. As I get to know the area more thoroughly, I'm sure that I'll find secluded spots with trees and silence that can offer me at least a hint of the respite that I find in the Rocky Mountains. I hope so, at least.

so true.

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