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Indian Rock Park: North Berkeley (Slideshow)

Historic spot popular for meditating, mountaineering and making out

Established in 1917, this rugged 1.18-acre park is three blocks above the commerce of Solano Avenue. It serves both relaxed visitors and serious mountain climbers as a refuge where one can savor nature and test one's strength.


With its swooning views, Indian Rock is a favorite make-out spot for couples, many from Berkeley High School. Family picnics, marijuana smoking, meditating and sunset-gazing are also popular pastimes.


The rock is composed of Northbrae rhyolite, a beautiful composition high in quartz that was deposited by volcanic eruptions 9 million to 11 million years ago. Common in the neighborhood, it is often used in garden walls.


The land was donated by Duncan McDuffie, a real estate mogul, Sierra Club president and mountaineer. McDuffie developed the Northbrae and Claremont neighborhoods in Berkeley and St. Francis Woods in San Francisco. His name was given to the rarely climbed Mount McDuffie (13,282 feet) in the Sierra Nevada.


Dick Leonard, the "father of modern rock climbing," developed his mountaineering skills at Indian Rock in the 1930s. He introduced the "dynamic belay" technique that is still used to catch falling climbers, and he led over 100 ascents, many on peaks previously regarded as unscalable.


Two paths of winding steps leading to the summit were carved into Indian Rock during the 1930s. Don't wear high heels.


In bouldering jargon, a "problem" is a specified route that has a series of holds on a stretch of rock. An estimated 1,000 problems exist at Indian Rock and nearby Mortar Rock, many with colorful names like White Men Can't Jump.


Galen Rowell, the famed mountaineering photographer, was regarded as a master of Indian Rock in the 1960s. His climbing team made the first ascent of the Great Trango Tower in Pakistan in 1977.


Climbers here use thick, foam bouldering mats called crash pads to cushion their falls. Broken ankles and wrists are the most common injuries.


Indian Rock is near Nut Hill, famed in the early 1900s for its residents with eccentric lifestyles. Bernard Maybeck, an architect, was a prominent Nut Hill dweller.

This article also appears in the Bay Area edition of The New York Times.

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