The Fellers Climb in Holcomb Valley

Holcomb Valley, about two miles from Big Bear City, is one of my new favorite hangouts.

In my 20s, I went climbing with my brother; we did some top rope. It was really fun but we didn’t get that far. Years went by, I stopped climbing, got a little fat, kids left home, and I was hiking so much I thought, “Man, I want to push a little harder up the mountains. I want to start climbing again.” So I started going to a climbing gym, learning mostly from scratch. Wes, Liz, and Courtney all got into it, then my wife started climbing with us. So, this was one of the first days we all went out climbing as a family.

Holcomb Valley is about two miles from Big Bear City. It has lots of crags and some routes that are 80 feet. There are no multi-pitch routes, but there are bolted single-pitch routes, over 400 in the area. The bolts are pretty close together, so you don’t need to worry about hurting yourself, even if you haven’t been lead climbing for some time.

We started out on a sunshine face; Wes led with a 5.6, and we all followed and did some top rope. Then I led with a 5.8, my first time leading one in a while, and I felt good. I never felt that pinch of fear when you’re past your capabilities. I felt like I was well within my comfort zone. The weather also helped — the skies were blue with some wispy clouds, and the high for the day was probably 70.

Even though there were a lot of people on the rock, everybody migrated from climb to climb, so it never felt crowded. After our first set of climbs, we had lunch back at the car, then came back for round two in the afternoon. Courtney led the second round; she had never led a climbing route before, so she started on a 5.6, which was perfect for her.

We finished up the day around 4 pm, and had some unexpectedly fantastic hamburgers at a place in Big Bear. Big Bear isn’t known for great food, but this place was pretty darn good. I think we were hungry from the climb. By the time we got back home, we were dead on our feet. What a day, climbing with Bec, Courtney, Wesley, and Liz all together. It was one of those few days in your life that you can reflect on and say, “All is right with the world.”

Epilogue: I got up the next morning and couldn’t feel my left leg. I didn’t realize that I’d hurt my back doing CrossFit the previous week. I pushed myself too hard doing some bent-over rows with free weights. Since then my back had been pretty tight, and I guess the climbing didn’t stretch it out the way I’d been hoping. I ended up going to the doctor and getting on Prednisone because I literally couldn’t walk by Tuesday. As of writing this blog, I am still recovering and hoping to get back to CrossFit and the rocks soon. Such is life. If you aren’t hurting, you aren’t trying.