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.
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!
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
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.
"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...
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.
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!!!
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.
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.
The following story: www.onsight.com.au/news-blog/articles/36/nicks-accident-what>>> 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).
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."
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.
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.
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.
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 ;)