As a quick sypnosis: my name is Natalie Duran a climber from the Riverside, CA community. My first noob climber day in the gym was July 31 2009 at Threshhold Climbing Gym. I went with a close group of friends to Thresh for the first time that one summer evening. I had the best time climbing, and decided to continue exploring this new world of rock climbing on my own… then got a membership. I will admit and with no shame that I was a frequent flyer being a “gym rat” at the climbing gym. Being a gym rat is how I got stronger, learned, met the greatest people, get in sketchy gym relationships… end sketchy gym relationships and it wasn’t until early 2011 where I realized there was much more to the sport that what I knew in the gym.
It was December 31 10′-January 2nd 11′ where I had my first trip to Joshua Tree National Park, CA. It was (and still is) the greatest new years Ive ever had in my life. The scenery, vibe, climbs of this scenic desert wonderland captured me. Ever since my first trip, I decided to purchase my first crashpad at REI and drive out to Jtree at least twice a week. I would even make day trips after I get out of my Organic Chemistry Lab at UCR every Tuesday.
My first “project” for a boulder problem in Jtree was Bachar Cracker aka Pig Pen [V4]. For numerous trips that climb made me frustrated & profusely bleed, but for some reason I loved the struggle. Even though its half-assed crack climbing, Pigpen is the single climb that started my interest in crack climbing.
Lunch time in Jtree always signaled the bouldering group to work Caveman [V7] in Hidden Valley Campground. While the cave turns into a claustrophobic area of shirtless climbers, I scramble to the top of the Caveman boulder. Have lunch and watch trad climbers make their way up Intersection rock on my left and up The Old Woman on my right. I admire their tremendous confidence in a barbaric looking piece of metal as their sole piece of protection from death. I knew I wanted to do that some day, now I just had to find someone to get me up on that.
I will forever be grateful for Kevin Riley for being my first trad partner, taking me up my first trad route: Taxman [10a], and my first trad lead (which went horribly wrong, leaving a piece of my shin flesh behind on Heart of Darkness [11a]… but that is for a later story). Also, Mike Conley for taking me up my first multipitch climb Bird on a Wire [9+], and so much more.
I knew I eventually wanted to lead these amazing lines. Having my own gear would give me the utmost level of confidence. Investment in interest for trad quickly followed by investment of my entire bank account. After saving, saving, and more saving I finally obtained my 1st trad rack. Compromised of a full rack of Black Diamond Camlots 0.3-5 with doubles from 0.5-3, set of Metolius Curve Nuts, Metolius Master Cams from 0-4, and the rest odds and ends of a trad rack. The irony of the situation was my cam shipment from Black Diamond was delivered as I was packing my car to leave for a night bouldering trip to Jtree. Its meant to be.
The trad rack was set and ready to be placed, but its summer of 2011. Jtree, my climbing home, is too much of a hot fiery pit of hell to do any climbing during the day. So off to Idyllwild (socal’s mini-yosemite: Suicide Rock & Tahquitz) it is. My partner that day was too uncomfortable to lead any trad, so I was forced to rope gun all pitches that day…. and I was TOTALLY fine with that. Moreover I was ecstatic to rope gun all the pitches. First multipitch was Yours [5.8] 3 pitches of bomber placements on flakes. Once I would get to the belay stations I would look down on the route. Quickly seeing that I have a tendency to run-out some areas 15-30ft never realizing it. The climbing was so easy and awesome, placement phased me as I just wanted to keep on going and going.
Following that, I wanted to get on Flower of High Rank [5.9] a CLASSIC line up in Suicide Rocks. It can be done in one long pitch, but I did it in two at the tree because I needed more pro for the roof section on the 2nd half of the line. The first 100ft consisted of a perfect splitter vert crack of perfect jamming. I was in heaven, then following a flake traverse up to a little roof. Finished up desperately and collapsed at the peak. This defiantly is not sport climbing. This is where I learned why I struggle so much in sport. Bolts were the struggle. It is what obsesses me when I climb sport. I clip, make a few moves and desperately try to clip the next bolt because I’m so worried about where my last bolt is. But with trad climbing I feel in a state of deep concentration with the climb. You place where you want to place, and not get mentally interrupted with obsession of clipping pre-placed bolts. In which my bad habit is making a clip a move. BUT then again, knowing I haven’t attempted mega heinous hard grades in trad (yet), so I cant really speak too soon. I’m still psyched, so we’ll see how this goes…
UPDATE: btw, couple days ago did Open Book… the FIRST 5.9 put up! 1952 line by Royal Robins. Up in Tahquitz, lead up the 2nd money pitch… engaged in my first off-width type climbing. Defiantly felt like I was dying and wanted to shat my pants the whole time but I LOVED every second of it. yea real rock climbing.