As a climber, most of my weekends are spent in the mountains where the rock is prime and the views are unbeatable. Local crags like, Castle Rock, Indian Rock, are my playground on days where I can’t make the 3+ hour drive out to the Sierra. Sometimes it’s hard to give up that play time, and sometimes, the stars align and I have that opportunity to give back to the places where I play.
With visiting family in town this past weekend, I had to stay local. It just so happened that Reel Rock was also in San Francisco putting on events and clinics over the weekend. They teamed up with the Bay Area Climbers Coalition for a stewardship project at Castle Rock State Park, a plethora of sandstone slopers and soul crushing projects.
Castle Rock is a place near and dear to my heart. I grew up 20 minutes away. It was the place of my first outdoor climb at the wee age of 13. I’d backpacked through it in my teenage years. It was my place to escape when I needed to sort out my thoughts. I was psyched and promptly forked over $40 for Josh and me to get dirty and do some manual labor. I guess pizza and hanging out with Conrad Anker, Daniel Woods and Brette Harrington helped too.
We arrived early on Sunday morning, anxious to get started. There was a bunch of graffiti on some boulders in the areas we frequented and we wanted to get rid of them. The president of the BACC rattled off a bunch of different projects: trash clean up, non-native plant destruction, trail building, and graffiti removal.
The BACC provided pretty much everything volunteers would need from tools to protective wear. We were set on graffiti removal, ghostbusters suits and all. The rangers had put Elephant Snot on some graffiti the night before to let it sit. We put on our hazmat suits—respirators for the scrubbers and SARS masks for the sprayers, grabbed our spray cans and jugs of water and set off into the forest. Our eye sore was in the Magoos, big black and ugly.
Unfortunately, all the scrubbing and spraying and Elephant Snot didn’t even make a dent on the black paint on sandstone. We threw in the towel. It was something that would need more snot and more elbow grease. Even then, the paint might not be completely removed. We reunited with the rest of the graffiti cleanup crew; they didn’t have much luck with their paint either.
It’s easy to get caught in constantly being on the go, sending new climbs, bagging peaks. I’m super guilty of it all the time. I’d rather be ticking off the next thing off my list. But the areas we play in aren’t going to be around in the condition we know and love forever. They need some love and care.
Sometimes taking a day or a weekend to give back can be rewarding. By assisting in local stewardship projects, you show that climbers aren’t just a bunch of hootin’ and hollerin’ chalk gnomes. You help strengthen the bond between dirtbags and the local community. You show you care.
Maybe my graffiti removal wasn’t immediately impactful, but people wondered what we were doing and why we were wearing funny costumes. It was a brief moment of education for other park goers and I’d like to think that little bit goes a long way.
Thanks to the Bay Area Climbers Coalition for putting on the crag cleanup! It was a short and sweet event that required manual labor, but not too much. It’s something I’d definitely love to make a more regular thing in my life, even if Conrad Anker isn’t there furiously hammering away and being a dad. And maybe if pizza wasn’t involved at the end. It felt awesome being able to leave a small mark on a place I frequent.