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My First Real Bouldering Attempt

“Those must be them,” I think as I spot a pair of boulders at the entrance to the nature trail. We pull into the parking lot at Robbers Cave at Robbers Cave State Park and park the car. One of the boulders looked like the one I saw on the Mountain Project website while researching the area.

While planning our camping trip, I wanted to climb the “Parking Boulders” at some point during our stay at the park. I remembered from previous crag searches that they had low grades. I thought these would be good to try bouldering on. So, I looked for information on Mountain Project about these boulders.

The Search for Parking Boulders

The location of the Parking Boulders on the Robbers Cave map.

However, during my search, it wasn’t clear where they were. All I could find was that they were in the Robbers Cave parking lot and you couldn’t miss them. Well, which parking lot? There’s many of them. It wasn’t until I could get my hands on a paper map of the park that I could get the location of the boulders.

After figuring out where I needed to go, my husband and I plan to try bouldering one of the mornings of the trip before it gets too warm. So, the second day we’re there, we decide to attempt bouldering in the morning then hike afterward. When we do find them, I think, “okay, this is it.”

“Boulder 1”

My crashpad next to the Handicap Parking problem.

We grab my gear and walk to the boulders. As we approach the boulder called “Boulder 1” (such an original name) to the right of us, the front doesn’t appear to be climbable. More like one would scramble up it to reach the top. The base is wide and opens toward the right. One could scale it easily.

I walk around to the backside of the boulder. The face is flatter but has pockets all over it. This side is more of what I think I’m looking for to climb. I let my husband know I’m going to try climbing here. I lay down my crashpad and grab my shoes from my backpack.

“Handicap Parking”

Looking and checking for handholds.

As I rub chalk on my hands, I realize I have no idea what I’m doing. I’ve never been bouldering outside until now, but I’m not backing out. From what I could remember from Mountain Project, the problem called “Handicap Parking” is about where I’m standing, in the middle of the backside face. I don’t see any chalk markings to guide me. I’m going into this blind.

I stand up on my pad and start feeling the rock for holds. Here, hard sandstone and gritty textures slide under my fingers. There’s lichen all over, and I see cobwebs in many of the pockets of rock. Yuck! I step back because I see three daddy long-legged spiders nearby. A lesser-known fact about me: I have a little bit of arachnophobia. I know these are harmless, but I’m creeped out by them.

I try ignoring the spiders by moving a little more to the right so I can start climbing. However, I’ve come across a problem; I don’t know where to start. I admit to my husband out loud that I don’t know what I’m doing. I feel around the rock some more and find holds I can use.

Trying to lift myself up.

Real Bouldering, Maybe?

Once I can stick my feet onto holds, I pull and push myself up. I get a little way up then jump off because I’m not sure where I can grab next and don’t want to fall. I try the problem three or four more times, getting a little higher each time.

At some point, I’m halfway up the side. Unfortunately, I stumble upon slopers that I can’t hang on well. I don’t see anything else to use around them and am uncomfortable falling from that height. Consequently, I downclimb back to the pad. Then I say to my husband I’m done with bouldering for the day.

I think I'm bouldering.

After packing up my stuff, we climb up the right front face of Boulder 1. It’s easy to do and kind of fun. We drop off my gear and head out to hike around the cave for the rest of the afternoon.

Better to Have Tried Than Not Tried at All

Thinking back about my attempt at bouldering, I did let fear get to me. I was concerned about falling from the boulder and I know I have a fear of doing so. Granted, that is why I bought the pad for protection, and my husband was there to spot me.

Sitting on the top of Boulder 1.

On the flip side, I’m not kicking myself that hard because I attempted bouldering without knowing what I was doing. Maybe if I had stepped back and re-evaluated the problem, I could have sent it. But that’s hindsight.

Hopefully, I’ll be able to go back and try again. Overall, it was fun, and I can say I tried. Until next time, happy bouldering!