By Frank Bixler
On September 17, 2011 the ESU Outings Club embarked on its second trek into the Pocono wilderness this semester, intent upon bouldering within the wild confines of the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. For those of you not in the know, bouldering is a form of rock climbing where the climber crawls his/her way up the tallest rocks he/she can find without the safety of a rope. It’s free, exhilarating, and occasionally dangerous, which is probably why the ESU Outings Club took on this unique challenge with a surprising amount of zeal and gusto.
Their high spirits came in handy early on. While all within the group were eager to try their hand at ascending the hulking boulders that supposedly littered the mountainside, they soon discovered that their information was not entirely accurate. Their knowledge of this bouldering spot was gleaned from Rock Climbing and Bouldering Pennsylvania, Secrets of the Keystone State, a climber’s guide book by Rob Holzman which, while accurately describing the boulder’s size and general location, did not specify their precise location. So Chris Irwin and this reporter scoured the hillside searching for the massive chunks of quartzite that, according to Rob Holzman, were nearby, but obviously were not.
Unfortunately, the forces of nature were against us. Vicious wire-like thorns protruded from the steep hillside, ripping through our clothes and flesh. Poison Ivy blossomed from every inch of fertile and infertile soil alike, climbing high into the trees before cascading down to form wide curtains of glistening green blister inducing leaves for the two of us to pass through as we slipped and crawled our way up the cruel hillside, rocks tumbling and crashing around us with every misplaced foot.
Finally, we found the elusive boulders. Towering twenty feet high into the smoke colored
sky they presented a venerable challenge to experienced and inexperienced climbers alike. Little clear crystals embedded in the quartzite rock face glittered beautifully in the weak sunlight as their sharp edges were grasped with vice-like strength by the eager climbers whose sore and sometimes bloody fingers pulled their weary bodies up and over the cold hard stone. Occasionally a climber would lose their grip and tumble down into the thick safety padding of a crash pad, or be caught by the upraised arms of their fellow climbers, thus thwarting serious injury.
But as the day wore on the boulders appeared taller, calloused fingertips grew sore, and the damp chill that cut through our thick clothing decided for us that we should make our way back through the dense brush to our waiting vehicles. As the fourteen ESU Outings Club members present that day packed their gear back in the cars and slowly took their places for the group photo, sore, scratched and exhausted from the climbing and brutal hiking, all members were nothing but smile’s, for all were eagerly looking forward to their next climbing expedition up the rock faces of the Delaware Water Gap this coming Friday, as well as many more adventures to come.