Matt Niswonger

Castle Rock in the Santa Cruz Mountains holds some of the most aesthetic and challenging boulder problems in the world.

Castle Rock, nestled in the Santa Cruz Mountains, holds a special place in my heart as one of the first locations where I began my climbing journey. Returning here, reuniting with old friends, and revisiting some of the classic routes we once conquered feels like coming full circle. The joy of sharing this experience with those who have been part of my climbing story is immeasurable. It’s a reminder of the roots that shaped my passion for climbing.

The day was perfect for reconnecting with the rock and with friends like Jesse, Sterling, and Paul. It’s astonishing how some climbing problems remain as challenging as they were two decades ago. Sterling and I reminisced about the first ascent we attempted over 20 years ago. Even after all this time, the climb demands the same level of skill and determination. As we tackled the routes, the physical and mental challenges were just as intense, reminding us that some problems never get easier, no matter how much time passes.

The atmosphere at Castle Rock was electric, filled with the sounds of encouragement, the click of carabiners, and the familiar grunts of effort. Every successful move was met with cheers and applause, a testament to the camaraderie that climbing fosters. It was a day of reliving memories and creating new ones, each climb a blend of nostalgia and new challenges.

The moment of reaching the top, fingertips gripping the edge, was exhilarating. It’s those instances when every muscle strains, every ounce of focus is honed, and the summit is finally within grasp, that make climbing such a unique and rewarding pursuit. The view from the top, the sense of achievement, and the shared triumph with friends are unparalleled.

Being back at Castle Rock bouldering wasn’t just about climbing; it was about reconnecting with the essence of my climbing journey. The landscape, unchanged yet ever challenging, the routes familiar yet demanding, and the company of friends old and new, made this return special. It was a time to reflect on how far I’ve come and to appreciate the foundation that places like Castle Rock have provided in my climbing career.

The day concluded with a deep sense of fulfillment. Sharing stories, laughing about past exploits, and planning future adventures underscored the bond we all share through climbing. As the sun set over the Santa Cruz Mountains, casting long shadows over the rock faces, I felt a profound sense of gratitude for the experiences that shaped me and the people who have been part of this journey.

Climbing at Castle Rock bouldering after so many years was more than just a physical challenge; it was a pilgrimage to a place that holds a treasure trove of memories. It was a day of triumphs, both old and new, and a celebration of the enduring spirit of adventure that drives climbers to keep pushing their limits. Returning to these roots has reignited my passion and reminded me of why I fell in love with climbing in the first place.


Castle Rock is a little gem in the Santa Cruz mountains. Its a beautiful forest filled with sandstone boulders that’s often compared to Fontainebleau . It was so great to come back and visit old friends and show my buddy Pol Roca where I got my start almost 25 years ago.


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