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Shared By: mungeclimber on Dec 13, 2002 with updates from Mark Doliner and 1 other
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Access Issue: Seasonal Raptor Closures Details


Pinnacles National Park is a Bay Area Climber's nightmare or savior, depending one's interest. Its close proximity to the South Bay and moderate weather during the Winter months make it very popular with the Bay Area climbing community, but at the same time the area is known for its "less than granite quality" rock. Some despise its chossy character, others revel in its history of adventure and "ground up" ethic.

As a former haunt of some of Yosemite's children of the Golden Age of climbing, the names of Roper, Bridwell, Bates are associated with this area. It has bolt-protected face climbs due to the lack of good cracks, as well as more traditional climbs.

An Intro to the Pinnacles

by Steven Dalleske

Tap tap tap, tap tap tap, I can always tell when an experienced Pinnacles climber is in the area. The fact is you can usually hear them long before you see them. Tapping the holds with our knuckles is just one of the unique techniques we have learned to rely on over the years of scrambling across this unique rock. For me, the farther I am from my last protection the more I'm tapping and if I'm really wigging out you'll see me start kicking at the foot holds too. What I'm doing is listening for a nice sharp report from the knob or cobble in question. Something that will let me know how well it's attached to the cliff and how much I want to rely on it. A dull or hollow sound above a fall you're not interested in taking and you should be looking for alternatives. If there are no viable alternatives, its time to decide how bad you want the route and if you decide to push on you'll, at the least, have a better understanding what your getting into. Keep in mind, though, that if you seriously tried to avoid all the loose rock at the Pinns, you're route selection would be seriously limited if not non-existent. Climbing the Pinnacles rock is an art, it's something that takes an acquired taste to really appreciate, but once mastered it's an art that will give you new confidence when visiting other more sound climbing areas.

Another good habit to adopt when negotiating the minefields that are the Pinnacles rock is to try to avoid stepping on the knobs. This is because, when a weighted knob pops, under your foot you'll be at the end of your rope or bouncing off a ledge before you know it. Consequently, a seasoned Pinn-head will, given the opportunity, consciously avoid using the knobs for footholds and instead seek features in the matrix to find a purchase for the foot. The matrix being like a gritty mortar that holds the cobbles in place tends to crumble rather than pop as the knobs do and this can, in some cases, give you the extra second needed to make a decision and hopefully an escape. Eventually you'll find yourself spreading your weight out on the rock, moving like a cat, taking full advantage of stances, exploring and carefully planning your sequences, appreciating a sound bolt more than ever before, clipping anchors with a relief that overwhelms and if you can learn love this careful style of climbing, you've become a true Pinn-head.

Because of the unique rock here, soloing and bouldering at the Pinns, though not unheard of, is considered foolhardy, if not suicidal. Ironically, most of the moderate routes here have serious run outs on them which, coupled with our not so lovable rock makes even the easiest route a serious endeavor. You must always be conscious of your potential falls, this is not a place to haphazardly romp around 20' out from the last bolt. Since the knobs pop on all routes equally, you are more likely to get hurt on something easy like the Portent, 5.6 with it's 20' to 30' run outs than something a little harder like Cantaloupe Death, 5.10c which has mere 6' to 8' run outs. In most cases the easier routes were put up 30, 40 or even 50 years ago in a bygone time when climbing was a more dangerous animal, commitment was at a premium and protection was sub standard by modern ideals. Consequently if you are not already familiar with the rock here, I don't consider the Pinnacles a great place to teach yourself leading. Over the last decade the bolts on most of the more popular routes have been brought up to modern standards, but the run outs, long and true, are and always will remain.

Getting There

Depending on whether one is going to the more popular East District or the West District will dictate how to get there.

For the East District, go South on 101 to Hwy 25 to Hollister. Go South out of Hollister for several miles until you reach the turn off for Pinnacles National Park. Go past the campground and entrance station (fee) and continue to where you can go left over the bridge instead of to the Chalone Picnic area. Park at the end of the road, unless the small lot is full. On occasion if you arrive late you may need to take the shuttle in from the lower parking lot.

218 Total Climbs

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Classic Climbing Routes at Pinnacles National Park

Mountain Project's determination of the classic, most popular, highest rated climbing routes in this area.
5.4 4a 12 IV 10 VD 3c
Sport 4 pitches
5.6 4c 14 V 12 S 4b R
Trad, TR
5.6 4c 14 V 12 S 4b
Swallow Crack
Trad, Sport
5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b
Rat Race
5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c
5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a
The Wet Kiss
Sport, TR
5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a R
Lava Falls
Trad 2 pitches
5.9+ 5c 17 VI 17 E1 5a
Jorgie's Crack
5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a R
Subterranean Tango
5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a
Stupendous Man
5.10c 6b 20 VII 20 E2 5b
Cantaloupe Death
5.11a 6c 22 VII+ 22 E3 5c
Post Orgasmic Depression
5.11b 6c 23 VIII- 23 E3 5c
5.11b 6c 23 VIII- 23 E3 5c
The Verdict (direct)
5.11c 6c+ 24 VIII- 24 E4 6a
Feed the Beast
Route Name Location Star Rating Difficulty Date
Costanoan W Side > Citadel
5.4 4a 12 IV 10 VD 3c Sport 4 pitches
Portent E Side > Discovery Wall
5.6 4c 14 V 12 S 4b R Trad, TR
Swallow Crack E Side > Discovery Wall
5.6 4c 14 V 12 S 4b Trad, Sport
Rat Race E Side > Tourist Trap
5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b Trad
Ordeal E Side > Discovery Wall
5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c Trad
The Wet Kiss E Side > Discovery Wall
5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a Sport, TR
Lava Falls W Side > Balconies
5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a R Trad 2 pitches
Jorgie's Crack E Side > Discovery Wall
5.9+ 5c 17 VI 17 E1 5a Trad
Subterranean Tango E Side > Monolith
5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a R Sport
Stupendous Man E Side > Discovery Wall
5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a Sport
Cantaloupe Death E Side > Monolith
5.10c 6b 20 VII 20 E2 5b Sport
Post Orgasmic Depression E Side > Monolith
5.11a 6c 22 VII+ 22 E3 5c Sport
Foreplay E Side > Monolith
5.11b 6c 23 VIII- 23 E3 5c Sport
The Verdict (direct) E Side > Discovery Wall
5.11b 6c 23 VIII- 23 E3 5c Sport
Feed the Beast E Side > Monolith
5.11c 6c+ 24 VIII- 24 E4 6a Sport
More Classic Climbs in Pinnacles National Park »

Weather Averages

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Prime Climbing Season
Pinnacles is my least favorite climbing area. The place is nice, but i just don't think the climbing is that great. Sep 25, 2006
Pinnacle's Climbing: Historic and Distinguished. Oct 29, 2008
Pinnacles forum...

mudncrud.com/forums/ Sep 28, 2009
Brian in SLC
Sandy, Utah
Brian in SLC   Sandy, Utah
Quote from Toula's Rock-n-Road, from a non-local: "You know what your poop looks like after eating corn-on-the-cob and a Payday bar? It looks like Pinnacles National Monument."

Classic. Nov 6, 2009
Ken Trout
Golden, CO
Ken Trout   Golden, CO
Pinnacles Climbing + Big Sur = Best Winter Road Trip Ever!!! Dec 26, 2009
George Bell
Boulder, CO
George Bell   Boulder, CO
Pinnacles is now a National Park, according to today's news stories . Congratulations, Pinnacles!

How come "Twinkle Toes Traverse" isn't in here? It's a classic! Or is it in here under some other name? I'd add it myself, except I don't remember much having done it so long ago. Jan 10, 2013
Sweet is mountain project! Psyched to be signed up. Watching olympic athletes just inspires to get stronger and more fit. Perfect motivator for a climber. Upon some research of Castle rock and Pinnacles, both within range of Santa Cruz, its difficult to be encouraged or discouraged. The descriptions range from fun and challenging to dangerous and questionable. Love to hear more about these areas. Feb 18, 2014
Jonathan Lagoe
Jonathan Lagoe   Boulder
One of the worst places I have climbed anywhere in the world Aug 18, 2014
Matthew Dee
San Rafael, CA
Matthew Dee   San Rafael, CA
I love the Pinnacles National Park, it is breathtaking and you get to climb with Condors! You're climbing on half of a volcano, the other half is in Southern California! So I'm really baffled by climbers who don't like this Pandora-like world, it must not measure up to your rained out UK climbs I suppose. Feb 17, 2015
Kyle Queener
Bishop, California
Kyle Queener   Bishop, California
Due to recent events this is just a reminder that fixed draws are not allowed at Pinnacles. Neither are fixed lines. Just keep that in mind. Re-rack your gear and stuff it in your pack on the way out. Mar 24, 2015
Vlad S  
Catherine, ratings should be on par plus or minus. Not too sandbagged in general with a few exceptions here and there for good measure. Your main worry should be very chossy rock and obscene bolting unless getting on the most popular routes. Dec 13, 2018