Friday, December 16, 2011

Spring Break in Columbia, California

After reading the article in Climbing magazine, Amy and I knew we needed to spend our spring break in Columbia, California.  Even though Dean Fleming mentioned that Columbia is one of the few places "that 'adventure' and 'bouldering' are used to describe the same climbing area..." we didn't expect the experience we had.

The Beginning
After driving 12 hours we reached our camping site at the Marble Quarry RV Park as it started to rain. We all quickly set up camp and went to bed. The next morning woke up to several puddles as well as a couple of flooded tents. The guide book for Columbia is only sold at Sierra Nevada Adventure Company in Sonora (about 4 miles from Columbia). We made a trip monday morning to pick up the book and check out what else Sonora had to offer while things dried out. During our outing Amy left her purse by a bench. We drove back to the campsite not knowing this until we decided it was warm enough to climb. Frantically we drove through Sonora slowing down whenever we saw a bench. We parked by the bench we had sat at last and enter all of the near by businesses to see if anybody had turned the purse in. After a couple of businesses thinks we looking grim. The bank was the last place on the block, nervously Amy asked one of the tellers if they had seen a purse by chance. She had and turned it in to the police department. Amazingly nothing was missing.
By the time we made it back to camp all of our pads were dry.  Earlier in the day we had decided to begin climbing at Columbia's State Historical Park. When we arrived, a group of elementary school kids were learning to pan for gold. Even though the majority of the climbing is within the historic town a group of college students with crash pads on their backs is still an interesting site. After climbing the two problems that weren't flooded with water we moved on to the Diggins area and climbed some cool high-ball problems. With plenty of day light left we navigated the rest of the state park area to discover that everything else was wet, but not all was lost because we discovered a foot trail from our campground to the state park.
We visited Sonora one more time that day to do some grocery shopping and stumbled on an artisan pizza restaurant. While we were eating it started raining again so we all fled to our tents when we arrived back at camp.

Columbia College
Tuesday morning we packed up the crash pads and headed to the local community college, Columbia College. We purchased our parking pass and started hiking towards the forest behind the college, on our way we were stopped by security. We were told to make sure that we didn't do any climbing on campus and to do so we would have to climb on someone else's private property.  I don't know if we broke this rule... because we never came across any of the landmarks mentioned or any signs. We wound up in the Miner's Bane area and spent a lot of time exploring the corridors between the walls of the boulders. Very surprisingly we found a lot of trash especially beer cans around the area. I don't know if they were from the college students( the campus has a dry campus rule, maybe this is the hip hideout?) or the local climbers, but its was really disappointing. Once we explored as much as we could we decided to buckle down and get some climbing in. In the Miner's Bane we climbed the tallest problem we came across the entire trip. My estimate of the height is 25~30 feet.
After climbing the dry routes in the Miner's Bane we tried to spend some time in the Waterway area. We should have guessed that it would we be filled with water and none of us were desperate enough to get in the water (yet). So we headed back into town to by some more groceries and some dry fire wood.
Back at camp it was already raining, so we tried to build a shelter that we could build our fire under. Unfortunately when we moved to our sunnier campsite we sacrificed an earlier abundance of trees so our shelter wasn't very tall. We started our fire but the wind shifted and blew all the smoke in towards the shelter. We didn't stay up very late that night and woke up to the ditch behind our campsite full of water.


"Clubhouse Fever"
Feeling bad for us Wednesday morning, the camp hostess offered to let us stay in the RV park's clubhouse the rest of the week since no one had it scheduled the rest of the week. Being the hardcore group we are...we gladly accepted. After moving into the double wide trailer equipped with small kitchen, billards table, and workable tv (don't worry we didn't use the tv) we decided that this would be the perfect day. A little while later we could sense the symptoms of "clubhouse fever" setting and went on a hike to the marble quarry that our campground was named after and then on to the historic town. We wandered around the town sipping on sasparilla taking in the sights, a small group of us decided to splurge having their "old time" photos taken and receiving lessons in gold panning. The rest of decided to run around the boulder fields and attempt to be parkour stars. We finished the perfect rest day by returning to Sonora and dining on Thai food. (I know we spent a lot of time in town, but it was only 4 miles away.)

Adventure Time
As a result of our restlessness we were determined to go climbing on Thursday no matter what.  We were once again at the state park but only for a moment as we hiked towards the Labrynith area. We choose this place because our guide book mentioned it is usually the driest area. On the trail there was a huge pond/river in the way... we sucked it up, took off, are shoes and waded through the water and then hike another 20 yards and got back in the water. Being the Labrynith we got a little lost but finally found our way. On top of the Labrynith was very warm and we quickly got down to climbing.
This had to be my favorite area of the entire trip. There are so many problems in one area and the features are unreal. Due to mining in the area and the large rock formations, the miners decided it would be easier to excavate by flooding the area instead of digging around the rocks. All this water created the coolest wave-like formations. The rock had plenty texture but not a whole lot of holds, requiring a lot of body tension movements which are uncommon in Southern Utah. The opportunity to climb all day was rare earlier in the week so we climbed til we couldn't lift our arms above our heads. Hiking back we had our fingers crossed that it was warm enough to evaporate the ponds we crossed early, but alas we had no such luck. Once again the shoes came off and we went into the water.  
Travellin' Day
The plan was to stay until Saturday but the forecast predicted rain for the majority of the day so we decided that leaving early would be for the best. We packed up the car the next morning and hopped in for the 12+ hour journey back to Southern Utah.

All in all this was an awesome trip and an awesome place to visit. Amy and I are seriously considering moving to Sonora once we're done with the whole school thing and plan to make another bouldering trip this coming Thanksgiving (we're hoping the weather will be kinder to us).

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