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The Fortress

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Central Gully 
Right Side Gully 

The Fortress  


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Location: 34.5806, -119.2605 View Map  Incorrect?
Page Views: 74,083
Administrators: andy patterson, M.Morley, Adam Stackhouse, Salamanizer, Justin Johnsen, Kristine Hoffman (sitewide)
Submitted By: Matthew Fienup on Dec 1, 2006
Forecast:
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Imprint of Brittle Stars, found on a rock in the C...

Description 

Sandstone face climbing on large, triangle-shaped formations above Sespe Creek.

The area is characterized by an airiness and sense of exposure that is truly unusual for Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. Currently, only the most obvious and striking lines have been climbed. Still largely undeveloped, there is the potential for many more excellent moderate routes.

Getting There 

From the Black Wall of Sespe Gorge, continue up the road for about 1/2 mile. Park in the huge dirt turnout on the left, just past the place where Hwy-33 crosses Derry Dale creek. The Fortress is directly overhead!

Climbing Season



Weather station 5.1 miles from here

20 Total Routes

['4 Stars',0],['3 Stars',5],['2 Stars',11],['1 Star',4],['Bomb',0]
['<=5.6',4],['5.7',3],['5.8',1],['5.9',4],['5.10',7],['5.11',1],['5.12',0],['5.13',0],['>=5.14',0],['',0],['<=V1',0],['V2-3',0],['V4-5',0],['V6-7',0],['V8-9',0],['V10-11',0],['V12-13',0],['>=V14',0]

The Classics

Mountain Project's determination of some of the classic, most popular, highest rated routes for The Fortress:
Magali's Arete   5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b     Sport, 75'   Central Gully
Rational Expectations   5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b     Sport, 60'   Central Gully
Free to Choose   5.8+ 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c     Sport, 2 pitches, 180'   Right Side Gully
Snickerdoodle   5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a     Sport, 1 pitch, 100'   Central Gully
Permanent Income Hypothesis   5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a     Sport, 1 pitch, 180'   Right Side Gully
Consumption Dysfunction   5.9+ 5c 17 VI 17 E1 5a     Sport, 75'   Right Side Gully
Capitalism & Freedom   5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a     Sport, 2 pitches, 155'   Right Side Gully
Spontaneous Order   5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a PG13     Sport, 4 pitches, 350'   Central Gully
Seven Steps to Heaven   5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a     Sport, 50'   Central Gully
Straight, No Chaser   5.10b 6a+ 19 VII- 19 E2 5b     Trad, 100'   Central Gully
Adaptive Expectations   5.10b 6a+ 19 VII- 19 E2 5b     Sport, 70'   Right Side Gully
Natural Rate of Unemployment   5.10+ 6b+ 21 VII+ 20 E3 5b     Sport, 1 pitch, 115'   Right Side Gully
Classically Liberal   5.11a 6c 22 VII+ 22 E3 5c     Sport, 75'   Right Side Gully
Browse More Classics in The Fortress

Featured Route For The Fortress
A) Free to Choose (5.8) <br />B) Permanent Income Hypothesis (5.9+)

Permanent Income Hypothesis 5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a  CA : Central Coast : ... : Right Side Gully
Airy and exposed climbing up one of the most striking aretes in the Fortress.The crux of the route is right off the ground, passing the first bolt (5.9+). The remainder of the route is steep and sustained (5.8). The last 40 feet are unbelievable!A 60m rope is an absolute MUST as the route itself is approximately 55m long and the rappels are 30m each....[more]   Browse More Classics in CA

Photos of The Fortress Slideshow Add Photo
Saw this precious little Pacific Tree Frog on the approach to "Free to Choose."
Saw this precious little Pacific Tree Frog on the ...
Nicole nears the top of Rational Expectations, more than 300 feet above Sespe Creek, in the Central Gully of the Fortress.
Nicole nears the top of Rational Expectations, mor...
Avoiding the heat, picking a line.
Avoiding the heat, picking a line.
Alex and David Abzug hike out from the Fotress (April 2011). <br /> <br />Heavy rain and snow fall throughout the Winter of 2010/11 has meant wading across Sespe Creek to access Potrero John and the Fortress.  It may be a while until you can get across without getting wet.
Alex and David Abzug hike out from the Fotress (Ap...
This photo shows the traverse from the base of PIH and Capitalism & Freedom to the top of the first pitch of Free to Choose.  Romain is standing very near the P1 anchor on Free to Choose. <br /> <br />Using the first pitch of Free to Choose to approach and descend from PIH and other routes is preferable to the using the loose Class 3 gully.
This photo shows the traverse from the base of PIH...
This photo shows the three major routes on the right side of the Fortress.  From right to left, these are "Free to Choose" (5.8), "Permanent Income Hypothesis" (5.9+), and "Capitalism & Freedom" (5.10a).
BETA PHOTO: This photo shows the three major routes on the rig...
Didj atop 1st pitch of Free to Choose
Didj atop 1st pitch of Free to Choose
The Fortress, Right Side Gully. This gully includes the two arete climbs "Free to Choose" (5.8) and "Permanent Income Hypothesis" (5.9)
BETA PHOTO: The Fortress, Right Side Gully. This gully include...
This photo shows many of the routes in both the Central and Right-Side Gullies at the Fortress.  It is now possible, with a little creativity, to link a complete circuit of both gullies.
BETA PHOTO: This photo shows many of the routes in both the Ce...
Bruce & Carol enjoy a stellar day at the Fortress.
Bruce & Carol enjoy a stellar day at the Fortress.
"The Fortress" <br />Approach the formations by scrambling up a drainage gully in the bottom left of the picture.
BETA PHOTO: "The Fortress"
Approach the formations by scrambli...
Romain & Alberto perched high atop Hwy-33 and Sespe Creek, in the Fortress.
Romain & Alberto perched high atop Hwy-33 and Sesp...
This photo portrays the evidence of past activity that I was able to uncover [and has been recently revised]. Please post additional evidence and information on the appropriate page. "Hardware store anchor" refers to what appear to be externally-threaded sleeve bolts--I was able to remove a similar bolt with my fingers (no tools required).
BETA PHOTO: This photo portrays the evidence of past activity ...
Amy nears the top of the summit block on Spontaneous Order, at the Fortress.
Amy nears the top of the summit block on Spontaneo...
Steve belays as Matt cleans Permanent Income Hypothesis, at the Fortress.
Steve belays as Matt cleans Permanent Income Hypot...

Comments on The Fortress Add Comment
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Comments displayed oldest to newestSkip Ahead to the Most Recent Dated Jan 19, 2014
By Matthew Fienup
Administrator
From: Ventura, CA
Dec 1, 2006
There is evidence of past and recent activity in the Fortress.

On a striking arete behind "Free to Choose" there is a 80s-era bolt with a white bail-sling about 2/3 of the way up. On the smallest, right-most triangle, there is a two-bolt top anchor (hardware store variety expansion bolts). On one of the center-most formations, a line of bolts ends 1/3 up with a bail-ring (again these are hardware store bolts).

Nothing else is known about these attempts. Please post relevant information here.
By Erik Anderson
From: Ventura, CA
Jan 28, 2007
"On one of the center-most formations, a line of bolts ends 1/3 up with a bail-ring (again these are hardware store bolts)."

I put those three bolts in about 10 years ago on lead with a hand drill. The black flies were so bad I never wanted to go back and finish. The bolts are actually Fixe 3/8 x 3.5 stainless steel wedge bolts...I wish I could have bought them at the "hardware store", it would have saved me some money. Anyway, it's an open project for anyone who likes flies! The route will probably go at 5.9...
By Matthew Fienup
Administrator
From: Ventura, CA
Jan 30, 2007
Erik, thanks for the first-hand information! Do you know anything about other climbing attempts in the Fortress?

Also, did you place any bolts on the right-most formation (a small triangle-shaped one in the front). There are 2 bolts there that look like the ones that you placed. Unfortunately, these all look just like an externally-threaded sleeve bolt (hardware store junk) that I pulled from the Black Wall.

Thanks again.
Matthew
By Erik Anderson
From: Ventura, CA
Jan 31, 2007
Hi Matthew,

I don't know anything about the two bolts on the small triangle in front. I do remember seeing evidence of other activity on the day I spent up there hand drilling (I hope I never get that urge again…).

At that time, the arete to the right of the climb I started had been climbed ( I think this is the same arête your route "Permanent Income Hypothesis" is on?). There was an old piton hammered in on the left of the arête about ½ to ¾ of the way up with a small piece of webbing hanging on it (probably a bail sling). The slings and bolt on top were not there at that time, but I saw them a couple of years later from the 33 and hiked up around on the right to check them out. The slings were fading, and looked as if they had been there at least a year at that time.

I also remember soloing up an existing bolt line on the left hand side of the Fortress (up and right of PJ Wall I think). It seemed to be around 5.4??, and ended after 30-40 feet.

I’m looking foreword to getting on Permanent Income Hypothesis next time I’m up that way. It looks like an awesome climb!!!

Thanks,

Erik
By Kelly Ringwald
Apr 11, 2007
Great stuff. Exactly what climbing is about for me, getting up high and looking around.
By Diego Hellewell
From: Culver City, CA
Jul 30, 2007
My wife and I met Matthew Fienup the first time we came to the fortress. Great routes set by great people!

We climbed a few of the prominent medium-grade routes and loved them! Access is quick and obvious, but better left to the sure footed hiker, especially the on-foot approach to routes like "Permanent Income Hypothesis."

We climbed here in late July, which was pretty warm on the ground, but most of these routes get good shade in the early afternoon.
By Matthew Fienup
Administrator
From: Ventura, CA
Mar 28, 2008
After dozens of days climbing in the Fortress, I've learned to carry a few pieces of gear--my "Fortress rack" includes enough quickdraws to climb my desired routes plus the following gear: #0-#3 TCU, #1 & #2 Omega Pacific Link Cam.

The gear has proved useful for really sewing up some of the routes, including Capitalism & Freedom, Classically Liberal, Consumption Dysfunction, Rational Expectations, and Magali's Arete. This rack is also sufficient to lead Helicopter Effect and Rose.
By ryan mattock
Jan 10, 2009
what's with the Bolting issues Matt?
By Romain Wacziarg
Jan 19, 2009
Ryan,

The following story: onsight.com.au/news-blog/artic... may explain why Matthew is concerned with inadequate bolts in sandstone (or in any kind of stone for that matter). The bolts we placed on all our routes at the Fortress are 1/2 inch sleeve bolts, considerably safer than the hardware store kind he bemoans - these can pull out under less than body-weight in soft sandstone (incidentally the sandstone at the Fortress is not very soft - among some of the hardest sandstone in the Central Coast - with some variations depending on location - the hardest kind seems the one that is reddish on the exterior).

Romain
By M.Morley
Administrator
From: Sacramento, CA
Jan 19, 2009
Historical background care of the late Reese Martin: "A half mile beyond the Sespe Wall is a group of rock slabs on the south side of the road. The eighty-foot-high blank wall at the far left is Potero John Wall. To the right and uphill a bit is a group of large triangular slabs, collectively known as The Fortress. There was some climbing done on the Fortress in the late 1960's and early 1980's. These slabs are essentially undeveloped. The Fortress offers excellent potential for new moderate pitches."
By ryan mattock
Feb 13, 2009
have been to the area for years considering I grew up in Ventura. have'nt climbed the Fortress yet.
heard that somebody was mess'n with the Potrero wall?
By M.Morley
Administrator
From: Sacramento, CA
Feb 13, 2009
Ryan, if you mean Potrero John Wall, all I know is that the two topropes on the far left have been retrofit with lead bolts. This was done back in '99. More info here.
By M.Morley
Administrator
From: Sacramento, CA
Dec 24, 2009
Climbed here yesterday (12/23/09) for the first time and my partner and I both had fun. The views of Pine Mountain and the Sespe wilderness from the little summit blocks were spectacular, and we had the place to ourselves. Thanks Matthew and Romain for the time, money, and effort that went into development. PIH is the real standout route.

The one detractor I would like to comment on is the excessive bolting. There are routes in which the leader can literally clip 3 bolts from a single stance (and on easy 5th class terrain no less!). There is also a 3rd class slab fully equipped with 4 lead bolts and anchor ("Footprints"). This kind of overbolting gives the entire place a kind of "miniature golf" feel to it.
By Matthew Fienup
Administrator
From: Ventura, CA
Dec 27, 2009
Mike,
I would appreciate some context for your various comments throughout the Fortress section.

How do you feel about places like Wheeler Gorge or, farther afield, the Owens River Gorge? Are well protected routes in these areas inappropriate?

Consider the route Superfly ...is this a single pitch route or a two pitch route as described on this website? Is a route automatically one pitch if it is shorter than 60m? How about at sport climbing areas (like the ORG or Echo Cliffs) where the assumption is that parties will climb and descend with a single 60m rope?
By M.Morley
Administrator
From: Sacramento, CA
Dec 27, 2009
The Fortress makes the ORG and Echo look like the Bachar-Yerian.
By Matthew Fienup
Administrator
From: Ventura, CA
Apr 26, 2010
That's actually pretty funny ;-)
By Garth
From: Boulder, Colorado
Jan 22, 2011
Just wanted to point out the Fortress is a great place to rope solo. You can scramble to the top of nearly everything and a 60m rope sets up Capitalism and Freedom, Permanent Income Hypothesis, Natural Rate of Unemployment, and much, much more——all as long, 1-pitch climbs. Thanks to FA-ists for setting things up intelligently, and for the vision to get jiggy with this nice area.
By Maidy
Jun 24, 2013
Climbed here for the first time yesterday and have to say I was pleasantly surprised. The Fortress offers some long routes on unique-quality sandstone for So. Cal. and almost felt like climbing at Red Rocks. The two aretes offer awesome exposure are probably the best you'll find outside of the Sierra Nevadas. The face climbs are technical and fun on gecko-friction rock.

There is some loose rock and lichen to navigate in spots (which some folks may not like) but it's not unreasonable IMO. Kudos for the effort it took to clean these up and bolt them. Gems in the rough and they'll only get better with more traffic. I found myself wishing there were routes to climb. There's likely room for a bit more development.

My only complaint..who named these things? Holy crap some of the names are long and totally impossible to remember. The route naming gets zero stars. Great (dare I say classic) climbs should have memorable names.... but if that's my only complaint you can take it with a big fat grain of salt ;)
By Matthew Fienup
Administrator
From: Ventura, CA
Jan 19, 2014
Saturday, January 18, saw 20 people from 7 different parties climbing at the Fortress. That must be a one day record. I guess the word is out.