posted by dpm on 08/24/2011
The best crag is the one that is a stone’s throw away from your door. Yes, climbers beg, borrow, and steal to place themselves in the midst of the scene of some of the planet’s meccas, but it is that local crag that you will always fall back on. Some might say that these are the musings of a washed up, disgruntled sensationalist who is stuck behind a desk and using this diatribe as an escape. They might be right, but the game changes with time. When you were new to the game and a gummie of sorts most of your weekends were most likely spent driving 12+ hours to find “good stone” and boulder problems that were featured on several prominent DVDS. Local crags that were 20 minutes door to door were ignored for 4 hours of climbing and10 hours of driving and the insomnia/sleep deprivation that followed.
Visit your local gym if you need a constant reminder of those days when the local crag was not even considered a destination. Just come face to face with the newest, double-digit seeking member of the bouldering community and ask them about their plans for the weekend. Twenty to one they will be working till close and then making the 6-8 hour drive to the state's hot spot to get their piece of the action while they down 5-hour energy drinks and try to keep it on the road. Monday, you might find them half asleep in the gym parking lot waiting for the desk staff to open the door to let them properly crash in the comfort of the setter’s closet or on a gym mat. When you breeze by, completely rested from visiting your local spot and being back by supper, simply shake your head and smile.
When they finally wake up and spray you down with their “epic” trip where they opted to pee in a bottle instead of pulling to the side of the road and slept in a Wal-Mart parking lot you can crack a nostalgic grin. Those days were good while they lasted, but how do they compare to a 20-minute drive, a warm bed, and that sunset that you do not have to rush away from in order to be at work the next morning, while you grab a cold one out of your handy travel cooler.
Some might see the local crag as an old man’s refuge, but the local crag can yield some great gems even compared to highly popular Meccas because what local crags lack in size it generally makes up for in atmosphere. Gone are the massive amounts of cars in the parking lot, Ipod speakers, dozens of strewn chalk bags and beta spewers. In their place can be found the simplicity of a handful of “good” boulder problems and a bit of peace and quiet. This is not to say your local crag will always be without these disturbances, however but they will be absent from such nuances. It is a fine balance that can be a good or bad, it all depends on who you ask.
However, local crags are not without their own downfalls. The general consensus is that the local crag really lacks a depth of problems and if you are new, even if it is your local crag, you will be confronted by the locals. But, then again, it is in eyes of the beholder much like a 4-star local problem could be a 1-star elsewhere, it is all in your perception just like the greatness of your local crag. Quality of problems and the friendliness of the locals will differ from crag to crag. It is true that those that visit their local crags are in an exclusive club, but the secret is out. That club generally welcomes new members weekly to explore old lines and add new eliminates to established climbs.
For now perhaps lamenting about the good old days of 4am arrivals and a gut full of cheap coffee can be a mental substitute for that easy 20 minute drive and 5 minute hike in, not really missing the lack of sleep. Local crags everywhere are proud areas that are generally overlooked by those who will not understand this article. To be able to see the greatness of a local area is much like the ability to read a tricky sequence or unlock the beta on a hard boulder problem, it might not be apparent to everyone. For now, after typing this out and hitting send I might be so inclined to grab the pad, walk out the door and be at a boulder problem in less than 30 minutes, because such is the benefit of visiting your local crag.