A podcast about history

That's not stuck in the past


It would be easy to overlook the significance of Indian Rock and Mortar Rock, two relatively modest outcroppings located in the Berkeley Hills. Unlike the towering cliffs of Yosemite, which dominate the landscape, these boulders are partially obscured by the homes and trees that surround them. But for nearly a century, some of America’s most influential climbers have used these rocks as a training ground to test new techniques and technologies. The guidebook “Golden State Bouldering” calls these rocks “the heart and soul of Bay Area climbing.”

In a recent Berkeleyside article titled “How Berkeley’s famous boulders took rock climbing to new heights,” reporter Ally Markovich explored the history of these influential outcroppings and the loyal community of climbers who have spent decades scrambling around on them. Her article uses these Berkeley boulders as a lens for tracing the emergence of modern climbing, the rise of “dirtbag” culture, the relationship between outdoor climbing and the current proliferation of indoor gyms, and sport’s growing diversity. To hear our conversation about all these topics and more, listen to the new episode – available via Apple, SoundCloud, Spotify, or wherever you get podcasts. [Note: Another article in Ally’s series on Indian and Mortar Rocks explores these sites with a focus on Indigenous history; you can find that piece here.]

East Bay Yesterday can’t survive without your donations. Please make a pledge to keep this show alive: www.patreon.com/eastbayyesterday. You can also support East Bay Yesterday by purchasing the official t-shirt or hat from Oaklandish. Don’t forget to follow East Bay Yesterday’s Substack newsletter to stay updated on upcoming tours, events, and other local history news.

“The climbers who have scaled these walls are now the stuff of legend: David Brower, who went on to head the Sierra Club; Dick Leonard, sometimes called the “father of California rock climbing”; and free soloist Alex Honnold, who climbed there as a student at UC Berkeley, to name a few.” -Ally Markovich [Image credit: Mortar Rock climbing route illustration from “Golden State Bouldering”]

Special thanks to the sponsors of this episode: UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospitals Oakland and the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive. I encourage you to learn more about UCSF Benioff Oakland’s new program BLOOM: the Black Baby Equity Clinic, and to visit BAMPFA’s current exhibit “What Has Been and What Could Be.”

“Climbing was all I had”

A history of bouldering in the Berkeley Hills
Recent Episodes