Bouldering the Big Sur Coast by Larry Arthur c 1988
Big Sur bouldering is a celebration
of climbing, the rugged coastline and the areas abundant wild life. In
a minimum of time - the odd hour or afternoon - one can be transported
to an entirely other world filled with adventure and beauty. Located in
the heart of the California Sea Otter Preserve, conditions are ever-changing
and present a new challenge each day. All the elements: sun, rain, fog,
wind, sand and the tides are key factors that keep things entertaining
and also make some climbs real "sporty". The route you had "wired"
yesterday, last month or last season may require a whole new approach
on your next trip. If you accept this challenge, climb all months of the
year and in all conditions - you'll become a better climber and be better
prepared for climbing in the mountains where conditions are always uncertain.
Persistence and strategic planning will pay off - those who will make
the effort to pursue these fine routes will be well rewarded. "Remember,
the hardest move is out the door."
FIRST ASCENSIONISTS AND AREA EXPLORERS
THIS AIN'T NO GYM CLIMBING!
INFO & CORRECTIONS
MILEAGE FROM RIO ROAD & HIGHWAY 1 SOUTH
0 mile RIO ROAD Traditional rendezvous for climbers is at The Bagel Bakery in Carmel Rancho Center near Albertsons (turn left onto Carmel Valley Road and then Right onto Carmel Rancho, turn right at the signal light).
CARMEL RIVER BRIDGE (park south of bridge)
.8 miles CARMEL MEADOWS - Turn right off Hwy 1 onto Ribera Road - park at end) Porphyritic granite slabs and faces overlooking Whalers Cove and Point Lobos State Reserve. Nice views! Several bouldering problems and a few top ropes are worth doing. Watch your landings for poison oak and broken glass from environmentally insensitive bottle tossers. Don't step on plants... and be nice to the neighbors.
NORTH CLUSTER (poison oak at
Undercling Flake BS9 R Undercling start, lay away & jam to the top. Exit move is dicey. Try direct face start (harder) or climbing up and left from undercling (easier).
AQUILLE du CARMEL (desend to
base at south side)
MONKEY TRAVERSE ROCK (desend
between upper rock and Main Slab)
Monkey Traverse BS8 PG - arm building traverse right around corner of previous route - stay low, then follow edges and ledges up and right to top of first groove. Keep climbing! Now drop down and right, turn another corner and crank to the top. If you get pumped you can bail out to a chimney-stem position. Do as many laps as you can.
MAIN SLAB (Wedding Rock)
Main Slab BS4-8 Climb left
center and right (bail out). TR recommended due to friable dice-size crystals
and serious road rash potential! Slab steepens at top where smearing become
crucial. Start up white dike, take the direct route or make up your own
- several variations. Good face and slab practice.
PT LOBOS STATE RESERVE - several rocky
outcroppings of dubious quality exist here. Rock climbing is prohibited
within the Reserve - plan a bike tour (on pavement), a quick hike in the
forest or exploring the dramatic coastline. Admission fee if you park
on the highway.
WILDCAT CANYON BRIDGE has had various glue on and bolt on routes.
At one time this bridge was "fully equipped" but rumor has it
that vandals stripped the bolt-on holds. The underside of this bridge,
in the shape of a Gothic arch is slightly overhanging at the bottom (40
ft traverse) and ever steepening to it's peak (20 ft high). Lead bolts
go to the top - climb then lower or reverse climb. Park discreetly - north
of the bridge or "around the corner" - either Spindrift Way
or up Peter Pan Rd to the dirt turn out. If you're not quiet or
irritate the neighbors in any way you could get busted. Have respect.
Full stealth mode required!
MAL PASO CREEK BEACH (access trail
from north side road) - rock quality poor to fair. Some traverses just
south of creek mouth. Cobble beach is very nice.
5.1 miles CRAB TOWN Just past the beginning of Garrapata State Beach (sign). Park @ "No Overnight Camping" sign just past road cut immediately beyond last house in Otter Cove development. Walk 50 meters south on the old coast highway (dirt) past small stand of Pines and turn right following a trail (avoid Poison Oak) to the Main Rock. Granite rock with wild dikes form low angle slab to upside down heel hooking routes with uneven, hard, rock landings. Problems from BS1 to BS11 with opportunity to practice clean aid and hooking (use fixed rope or top rope belay to keep you off the ground and out of the hospital).
UP TOWN (North Area)
Lieback Problem BS10 R/X - technical, keep focused. Start in scoop facing ocean. Wiggle up until you can grab a good edge. A good spotter will keep you off the boulders at the base.
Top Rope Face BS8-10 PG (but
grainy & loose) - several routes (face, flake and corner) can be climbed.
Set anchors well in crack at top. All the rock at the base used to be
part of the routes! *** the rocks & routes to the right collapsed
winter '03-04 *** be extremely careful in this area!
Easy Corner BS6 PG- Face climb and layback up left facing corner with finger crack and good edges. (down climb to the far left)
Roof Crack BS? TR - Has this been climbed? Sharp edged, overhanging flared cracks are very intimidating. Walk up the slab, plug in and start cranking up thruough the slot. Nuts for anchors.
DOWN TOWN (Main Rock)
Naked Edge BS10, TR - On first attempt Jeff Maudlins rope was sliced to the core - rig carefully by sliding a 3 ft length of 1" tubular webing onto your rope before tying in. Arm traverse & heal hook up left on the dike-edge to the corner. Watch the swing!
Inside Corner BS8, TR - Easy moves lead to a jam and steep, exposed layback. Small nuts can be placed in the crack (right at the lip) as directionals. Set your anchor back 6-10 ft where there are good cracks.
Outside Face BS10, TR - Narrow face is thin and technical with small crack and edges. (try not to use the corners).
Outside Face to Right Corner BS7, TR - Stand up and climb up and right around corner, layback to the top.
Down Town Traverse BS7-10 Start at Inside Corner, stay low, and traverse the whole rock (40-50 ft) a foot or two off the deck. Double back for extra workout.
Friction Route BS7, TR - Try the low angle face (left side), without using any big holds - just your palms against the rock. Good practice for Tuolumne.
Easy Crack BS5, PG - up climb or down climb. Hand and fist size is good TR for beginners (big cams can be placed at top).
Intermediate Cracks BS7 (left) and ,BS8 (righ) TR - Actually face to crack problems. Committing at top and a bad landing guaranteed if unroped.
Triple Cracks BS7-9 TR - Waves & tides dictate access to start which can be very slippery . After setting anchors & tossing rope, descending chimney, walk north, around and down to start of routes.
The Eliminator BS11 X - Faces Mid Town Rock. Start up ramp which steepens and then gets real thin. Make committing moves way up high. Palm holds and a prayer gets you up and off. Top rope would be nice
Mental Block BS12 R - Faces
ocean, just left of chimney. Maximum concentration required for purely
psychological lie away smear and lunge. Bad landing!
6.5 miles SOBRANES POINT (North) - small sea stacks have been climbed here - with water approach. Catalog Corner is easy, obvious dihedral. Short fine grain granite faces can be top roped - just above water line. Check out beach bouldering at creek - waterfall area. Divers and tourists a plenty.
Just past Sobranes Point you will
be in view of Pt. Sur Lighthouse. Several places to climb exist from here
to Pt. Sur and are definitely worth exploring!
The Happy Hooker BS13? PG - Butt start, hang from sick slopers and heel hooks to circumnavigate this horizontal seam. Unrepeated since rock shifted in mid 80's.
Traverse Wall BS12 PG- faces
north, just north of Amphitheater, grainy very difficult . Climb left
from low saddle on sharp, overhanging holds.
Amphitheater (clockwise from north)
Psycho Mantle BS11 R Leap up the bulging overhang and latch the sloper. Pull, press and balance then lunge for top. Gutsy, have a good spotter!!
Inside Corner BS10 R - Like climbing the corner of your bedroom. Chimney, then stem to get established. Press up until you can reach a pinky jam (above an old broken vertical piton) and crank to the top.
Mantle Problem BS8 PG - sloping ledge, use two hands or one
Barry's Lunge BS?- left of crack, heiniously hard I'm told
Gary's Lunge BS? - slightly easier...
Top Rope Crack BS7-9 X or TR - Marked by stainless steel "glue in" bolt. at top. Back this up to 5/8" bolt on upper face. Start to the right of crack line, lie back, jamb and fight your way to top. Try the left side start for extra fun.
Roof Problem, BS10 TR- Climb
up and right through pink dike and over roof to delicate finishing moves.
Watch your rope - rock is sharp!
Lower Hallway - West Face
Lower Hallway - East Face
The Slot BS5 - This is a corner-crack
on the sharp and pocked black rock above and behind the Slope Mantle.
It makes an easy way - up or down.
Lieback Crack - Right BS6
X/TR - left facing corner is just up the Hallway
from the last problem. Doing "laps" up and down is good practice.
Back up single bolt with long runners and your own gear! Approach top
via ramp to left near Balance Slab.
Upper Hallway -West Face (left to
Crimp Face BS10 R - Test your finger strength and balance by standing up on this! Finish hand holds are friction smears - have your feet well established. Hard variation on prow to the left.
Pinch-Lunge BS12 R - Layback edge to painful finger stack then pull up. Reachy layaway from offset seam to slopers on top. Hard with a committing, difficult finish.
Low Traverse BS7-9 - Climb
with your feet just off the ground below overhangs and blocks. Good strength
Upper Hallway - East Face (left to
The 5.6 (aka The Ledge) BS6 TR or X - crank onto a ledge, stand up and figure out how to get to the top. An ancient ring hanger bolt marks the top. Use this for a directional and place nuts 6 ft back in a crack.
The 5.8 (aka The Under Cling) BS8 TR or X- Start directly below small triangular "pinch roof". Climb straight up into undercling position using lie away edges and a knob (the baseball). Once you get both hands onto the undercling - fire for the top... if you can let go with one hand!
The 5.9 (aka The Keyhole) BS9 TR or X - Start right with an undercling, then two fingers in a pocket. Lay away up and right to the Keyhole and into a standing position from which you can reach for a thin side pull at the top. Stay with it. Persistence pays off, eventually.
The 5.10 (aka The Flake) BS10 TR or X - climb straight up to the Keyhole (not from the left) and then pinch and undercling right until it's possible to reach over the bulging headwall to slab holds. Watch your feet!
The 5.11 (aka The Face) BS11 TR X - start from the top of Balance Slab. Opening moves on sharp pointed lie-away holds lead to a long reach and then the undercling. After regaining your wits - and before you gas, move right and pull over the headwall.
Balance Slab - walk this "no
hands" - both directions - while waiting for your foreams to recover
Pool Man Traverse BS9 W- head south on a committing series of slopers and no-se-um foot holds just above the water level.
Jam Crack (Crack of Pain) BS8 R - in the small overhanging alcove. Painful jamming for two or three moves, then latch an edge and pull through the overhang. Tape or tear.
Outer Traverse BS10 PG - Improbable but fun. Work left from previous route. Relatively easy start is camouflaged with blind reaches and balance moves. Take note of the bail out flake right under foot. Gets thinner and reachy as you continue. Finish in corner or blast to the top via small pockets and shallow scoops after the traverse crux.
Several moderate routes on this wall
start here (near the flake) and can be easily top roped. Set nuts in cracks
above and extend anchor slings to lip.
Fish On! BS8-9, TR,
X- 100 meters south of drainage outflow. Place anchors and rap or lower
~ 25 ft to water line. Swing in, grab some rock and start cranking to
the top. Beware of tides, swell and wave timing.
Creek Area (park in dirt strip n. of the Stone House) Follow
marked trail to stairs and the beach, turn left to climbs. Fantastic sand
landings below most problems. Bring a towel or launch pad. Diablo Sandstone
is same as Mickey's Beach, Mt. Diablo and Castle Rock with crimpy plates,
friction and the occasional pocket or big knob. Some climbs traverse over
water which adds to the adventure! Tides and Creek discharge affect conditions
- strategic planning and persistence are required to bag some of these
First Cove (these climbs face north)
BezErker Route BS11, R- pimp pebbles and slopers straight up the face, just right of The Wave
Cave Overhang BS10, PG - Undercling, move up and make a long reach to a pinch. Keep it together to the top.
Overhang Face BS9, PG - Climb up square-cuts and flakes on outside corner - just to the right of the Cave.
Archie's Traverse, BS10, PG - climb left along roof-edge, then down and across. Once you latch the other side, it is possible to traverse futher left and continue up the Overhang Face for a real pump.
Diabolical Arch BS10, PG -next beach cove south. Undercling tips with smears the whole way. Usually climbed from left. Turn the corner (BS12) and finish straight up for extra credit.
Diabolical Arch Direct, BS9-11 (depending on sand height) PG - Try the directissima which follows a shallow pocketed groove at the apex of the arch.
Easier routes lie directly across from the DA on cracks, slab and aretes. Great top rope practice for beginners.
Just North of the Creek Mouth
Estuary (north side)
Dire Straits BS12, PG, W -
Multiple crux, sequence and enduro problem traverses under the overhanging
arch. This route required a serious amount of persistence to learn plus
specific training to complete. Young Utah climber Boone Speed showed an
incredible amount of "stick" by managing to complete the entire
problem after arresting several dramatic falls! Cryin' Cowboy Todd Skinner
got a hand across the water and then got lucky... with blow by blow beta.
The few locals who have done this deed include Bascou, Davidson &
Martin and the ex patriot Canuk-turned-Swiss Dan Markle. Others step forward
and identify yourselves! Several months of attempts (and many pairs of
wet shoes) were required to get this problem "wired".
Dire Flyer BS11, R, W - Climb directly up overhang and into shallow recess above. Continue to top (scruffy) or jump. Some months may provide sand landing.
In creek bed / estuary, south side
Several easy traverses and short solos
an be done between these routes.
(This is the tallest rock to the south of the creek
mouth) Set up a top rope from a manky bolt
plus your own gear. Access is from S. shoulder (move).
Crack Route BS10, X or TR Climb patina edges on "approach flake" to tilted ledge at the base of crack. Stand up in hueco, jam and lie away up crack to gain sloping ledge at right. Compose yourself for friction moves to the top. A very bold solo.
Variations on a Seam BS11-12,
X or TR - Climb the "approach flake" to it's mid point, then
up edges and left around corner. Scrample to top. Variation heads up right
on pocketed face just left of Crack Route.
Approach Gulley BS3, PG - use this gulley to go up and over to WTP or access the shoulder and final step to summit of the 5.10 Rock
South of Creek (facing ocean) The ocean side of the 5.10 rock is lesser angle, but may have interest for some easy top rope climbs. Check it out. Traverses are possible from here to WTP.
Walk the Plank BS11, R or TR - Balance up slab just right of the leaning corner. Tricky moves at top will have many's last wish be a top rope. Use chalk sparingly as it will make the problem harder!
Or Get the Shank BS12 R or TR - Shares same finish as route above. Start in corner (to the right of WTP), stay low, traverse up and left to outside corner of The Plank. Pull over into corner and then on to the top.
Glassy and Still Pumping BS10 PG - Start in the alcove then move up and right on on smooth (sometimes slippery) face with pebbles.
Keel Haul BS10 PG - Climb the
overhanging holds (up and left) to the sharp arete (just right of G.&
S.P). Pull up your way to top.
9.4 miles Rocky Point - follow the signs to the restaurant, park in lower lot. Rocky Point Restaurant is a swank cliff side "surf and turf" locals restaurant and bar. This area has lots of potential. Maintain a low profile.
Cave Route, BS8 TR - to the left of Trolling... big juggy and steep. Have fun pulling your way up.
Beyond Rocky Point - Lots of places are yet to be discovered and many routes are left to be done... I've spent many of my years "working my way down the coast"... a few moves at a time. Someone kidded that I must be slow but to go any faster would be to miss the essence of the experience. The exotic mixture of elements - land, rock, sea, waves, weather. There is a lot of the Sur, many miles of coastline - with hidden coves, beaches and of course excellent rock to climb on. I should tell you about the cliffs below the Coast Gallery sometime... or way further south at the tip of Baja - Los Cabos. The route Erk & I did on Pacifico Tower or the worthless bolt atop La Roca del Pelicanos are "classics". You gotta hear sometime about the excellent route Jay and Bob put up over this cave that was big enough to park a plane in...