Our quick stop in Albuquerque done, we headed north through skinwalker country towards Durango, arriving late, sleeping on the floor, up early for coffee and cold sunshine. It’s a relief to be back in the cool weather and thinner air, a relief to be back in a place I lived for so long, the place I started climbing.
I moved to Boulder six or seven years ago thinking I was more or less done with the San Juans, but every time I come back down here I find a new project to do in some quiet arm of some brushy canyon or woody ridge. The walking and the looking are such a great part of the experience of climbing around here- the sense of untrafficked exploration. The secluded locations of many of the boulders and the revolving population fed by the college here have led to the history of this area being rewritten many times over. First ascents two, three, or six times over, names changed or given outright to the nameless lines of ten years or more ago. The newest crop of locals seem intent to begin to try and set down the record for the area, a huge messy task that will someday change the nature of this place a bit.. Perhaps not for the worse, but who can say. I come here and climb, with and through nostalgia, with the added weight (or support) of climbing in what I still think of as my home area, and I guess I just want to preserve the feelings I remember starting with, the things that attracted me to climbing in the first place. At the same time I remember scribbling out my own pencil drawn topos for nearly everything I found and did out here, thinking that someday I’d be the one to bring this place to the rest of the climbing world, but after a pretty fair tour of a number of areas, I’m pretty okay with this place just being quiet. To crash through brush to a single gem lost in an anthill of chossy rock. To walk up horse trails for two hours to a short cliffband of something different. To ride dirt bikes for hours to crags that will never see a crowd. I suppose it’ll never be crazy down here, not like the Front Range- it’s too far removed from the big highways, and the rock is good in spots, but not like the huge areas we all hear of, though that makes the problems all the more special (though I look back at some of the problems I put up back in the day and shake my head a bit).
Anyhoo, this trip was no different than most- a new line got climbed that was really special to me, and the experience was nothing less than a delicate adventure with friends in a secluded area. And as always, I saw something I’ll need to come back for.