Bouldering Therapy 101
Conquering Thriller (and myself) in Yosemite National Park
I’d finally cut ties with my corrupt, evil, horrible, poisonous boss and was eager to rid my home-office of negative juju. I wasn’t entirely sure how I had gotten myself into that situation, but “the mindful life” it was not. My days had been full of angry phone calls. My mistake was viewing the job as a challenging project to take on; their mistake was hiring me to serve as a scapegoat for their relative incompetence.
Putting in my notice relieved me of the elephant sitting on my chest, but there was a good bit of residual dung to be cleaned up. I rearranged my furniture, flung the windows open and blasted jazz through my stereo speakers in hopes of shooing away the memories. In a last ditch effort, I wandered around my house waving smoldering sticks of incense through the air like an orchestral conductor. Still, I felt contaminated. The aftertaste had not only seeped into my living room, but settled into a corner of my soul.
So, desperate, I opted for self-help therapy—the kind I know best. I booked a flight to California, to go bouldering in Yosemite National Park.
I’ve been climbing rocks for a dozen years now. I’m a boulderer, specifically—I climb short and powerful routes, or “problems,” on boulders without a rope or harness. Climbing has been the portal through which I’ve experienced this Earth, exploring 15 countries sprinkled across five different continents, traveling for 100 weeks over the last decade in search of big rocks. This quest has had me slurping noodles in Thailand, napping in French forests, imitating monkeys on a two-month solo journey to South Africa (that one was tough).
Inexplicably, however, my explorations hadn’t led to Yosemite—the birthplace of American climbing. A cleansing of the soul seemed to be as good an excuse as any to go—so I packed my climbing shoes and, before I knew it…was setting up my tent in Camp 4.
Within minutes I set out into the forest. Armed with a map, I spent days wandering through the trees, looking for particular boulders and feeling their handholds. If the problem looked appealing, I’d lace up my climbing shoes and give it a whirl. Sometimes I would make it to the top, often I would fail miserably.
On climbing days, I would search out to a new spot, sampling as many different areas as I could. On non-climbing days, I took scenic hikes to Upper Yosemite Falls or found a sun spot in a meadow to do yoga or read my book.