Sitting around on a rainy late December weekend inevitably brings back memories of what happened at one of the finest bouldering areas on Earth almost 8 years ago now. The Swimming Hole sported 300+ problems in an unbelievable concentration of perfect stone, superb boulders and an idyllic setting. It was nothing short of a dreamland and if I may paraphrase a quote from my own book, I wrote something like "You could not climb, not get drunk, not get laid and still have the best day of your life out there, it's that good." (also interesting is my priority list of what my best day was considered).
|Tar Creek, January 5, 2005. Very high, very muddy water. photo: colm fitzgerald|
In mid-January, 2005 I left for a surf trip to Costa Rica. Three weeks later I returned to the U.S.A. and walked off of a jet at LAX and turned on my telephone. After being gone 3 weeks I had exactly one voice-mail (shows you how popular I am). I'll never forget the message. It was Jeff Johnson and he said, "Bob, The Swimming Hole as we know it no longer exists. It's gone dude, everything's gone. All of it. I was walking around in a daze, I still can't believe it."
Our crew went in as a group in March and had a sort of "eulogy" for the place we all spent so much time in and had so much fun. I still agree with what I said in Ocean's 11, you don't have to climb, get drunk or get laid...it's a magical place no matter what. But to be honest, since it was swept away I have returned a total of twice. In eight years. It's too weird to see it the way it is now and the rest of the old crew is no different than myself.
To finalize: This post is relevant 8 years later for another reason. Rumor has it that the Tar Creek access is being slated for closure because of overuse and vandalism. This is sad. Back when we were going there all the time there was no trash. People came in, partied, camped, left their shit and we'd take it out. Trash was never there for more than a week. EVERY ONE of our crew carried a trash bag. When a few complete shithead fuckwad cocksmokers tagged a few boulders in the late 90s, Johnson bought supplies and went out and cleaned it off himself. He even contacted Fillmore police to see if they recognized the tags. We fucking loved that place so much and I feel bad that we haven't been there to watch over her in the last 8 years.
But the stewards have to be the current users. Climbers don't frequent The Swimming Hole like in the old days, but they do frequent other areas and something can be learned. Carry a trash bag everywhere you climb. That fingertape in the dirt, pick it up. The cigarette butt your buddy just flicked into the dirt or the bottle cap he popped off into the bushes, make the sorry fucker look for it and put it in his pocket. Take care of these places. Period.
I made this video back in 2005 and compiled all the footage I had of as many boulder problems as I had recorded and made this for The Swimming Hole Crew. I didn't tote a video camera down there much and when I did it was usually on solo missions which explains why there's so much footage of me. I never had a problem putting a camera on a tripod and shooting myself, but rarely was able to stick a camera in someone else's face. Talk about narcissism! But I'm glad I did what I did because there's something of a historical log now. In homage to Jeff and Paul and and the rest of the crew, no ratings are given in the video. Some problems are very easy, some are very, very hard. They were all great, every one.
Every single problem shown in this video no longer exists.
Post-script: The ultimate irony of The Swimming Hole comes from the closing pages of Ocean's 11 when I quoted Jeff Johnson who said, "These boulders are like tombstones, they'll be here long after we're gone." He actually said that and we actually believed it. But in reality, we are the tombstones.
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