Southern California is an awesome place for rock climbing. With several world-class spots in the area, taking some trips there should be on every climbers tick list. So Cal has every type of rock, from bomber Yosemite style granite to sandstone to volcanic basalt and even some limestone. And every style of climbing too, from long 3rd class alpine scrambles to 5.14 cave sport routes to easy access top rope crags to runout test pieces and perfect jam cracks. Whatever you want or need Southern California delivers. This blog covers all the best crags and gives the low down on some amazing 5.10s, because let’s face it; we aren’t all a bunch of crazy Adam Ondras, Tommy Caldwells, or Alex Honnolds. Here are some routes that the common badass will enjoy and then celebrate with a cold beer. Cheers!
#10 Welcome to NJC 5.10a
New Jack City is a rad spot in the high desert near Barstow. The rock is a weird metamorphic type with cool edges, side pulls, underclings and pockets. This place has something for everyone, from easy slabs to overhanging 5.13s. Welcome to NJC is a fun, sustained 5.10a with a wide variety of moves.
#9 South Face Right 5.10a
Nothing is more So Cal than suns out guns out at the beach. Point Dume is a cool 100 foot crag right on the sand, just footsteps from the water. There’s a slabby face with several 5.6-5.9 routes and around the corner facing the waves there’s a few vertical to overhanging 5.10s. There are lead bolts on most of the routes but they are rusted out and sketchy, so just set up a TR and bring your surfboard to get pitted in between laps.
#8 Industrial Bliss 5.10a
The Riverside Quarry is an old abandoned quarry turned climber playground. Since the rock was blasted the normal ethics don’t apply; chipping and gluing are fair game. The Fun Factory wall is basically a climbing gym; all that’s missing is the colored tape and an 8-year-old climbing V9s in your face. Industrial Bliss is the best route on the wall and is not to be missed on your visit.
#7 Pie Slice 5.10b/c
During the summer, LA can get pretty hot. Luckily there are some high elevation crags to sneak away to. Horse Flats is at around 5,000ft elevation and is a great spot to escape the heat. Pie Slice is a small spire at the top of the hill. The route starts in a crack and leads up to a face. It can be led with just the bolts but a couple of cams help for the start. Horse flats is mainly a bouldering area so throw your pad in the car and wrestle some pebbles while you’re there.
#6 Robbins Crack 5.10a
Mt. Woodson is an amazing granite, classic old school crag in San Diego. Robbins Crack, named from the legendary Royal Robbins, is a perfect 35ft hand crack with a tricky start. This short route can be top roped or led with trad gear and is often bouldered/soloed. Don’t let the short length scare you off; run laps on it to build up your crack skills.
#5 The Guillotine 5.10b
Echo Cliffs is a real hidden gem. The rock quality isn’t the best, but the views are amazing. This spot has one of the longest approaches in So Cal, but is worth checking out. The rock is volcanic and has knobs unlike the pockets of nearby Malibu Creek. The Guillotine is a cool unique route. Head straight up a corner and follow the bolted undercling flake out left and then straight up to the anchors.
#4 Papa Woolsey 5.10b
With an endless supply of boulders and rock formations throughout the park Joshua Tree can be considered a playground for climbers. Papa Woolsey was one of the first “sport” routes in the U.S. and is a great way to get a 5.10 under your belt at place where a 5.4 is scary. It’s located in the heart of Hidden Valley Campground, which is the Yosemite Camp 4 of J Tree.
#3 Sculptures Crack 5.10c
Stoney Point is what you’d think of if you imagined climbing in LA. It’s in the middle of a city right next to a freeway and covered with graffiti. But once you walk around the backside or into one of the canyons, a whole world of excellent climbs is revealed. Stoney was the stomping grounds for the legendary Stone Masters, a group of badasses that pushed the limits of climbing in the 70’s. You can actually feel the history at this spot. This is where they would practice their aid climbing and free climbing skills before heading to Yosemite to take on the big walls. Sculptures Crack was an old aid route formed from pitons being bashed in and removed. Now it’s strictly a free climb with really fun overhanging pumpy layback moves. Bonus Tip: this is also a spot for slackliners to rig up a beginner highline over the canyon.
#2 Revelation 5.10a
Finally a long multipitch route! LA has several multipitch crags but Tahquitz and Suicide are the main attractions. With routes up to seven pitches long, it’s a great place to get some long all day routes in. Revelation is a cool three-pitch route that is bolted but not considered a sport route. The route starts up a small crack and then it’s a face climb to the top with thin edges and small runouts.
#1 Mr. Big 5.10d
Malibu Creek is one of the most packed crags in So Cal. Most climbers get sucked into the TR wall called Planet of the Apes, but continuing past this wall and the rock pool will reward you with overhanging juggy sport routes. Mr. Big is one of the best; it’s short, steep and stout. The coolest thing is that it follows a line diagonally up and left instead of straight up like most routes. Charge through the pump and don’t yell take until you’re at the anchors around the corner. After leading this route you can also TR two 5.11s. Head over to the ghetto area next and get on Kathmandu 10a and Johnny Can’t Lead 10d for two more solid pocket-pulling routes.
Tristan has personally climbed all these routes and has explored many more spots in Southern California. He loves the wide variety of climbing and the year round climbing weather here. Click the route names to go directly to their page on MountainProject.com for more detail. Have fun and be safe out there. Now stop reading and start sending!
Questions, comments, more beta, hate mail? Send me a message: Tristan@patsbcb.com