Description

Located between major urban centers Los Angeles to the south and the San Francisco Bay to the north, the quaint Central Coast of California spans a 300-mile stretch from the southern Santa Monica Mountains to the northern Monterey Peninsula. While known primarily for surfing, celebrities, exorbitant real estate prices, and wine-tasting (the movie "Sideways" was filmed locally), there is actually surprisingly good climbing to be found. The majority of rock around Santa Barbara, Ventura, and Ojai is medium-grade sandstone (i.e., a little friable), but there's also blue schist (Green Dome), andesite (SLO), and conglomerate (Silly Rock, Wheeler Gorge) out there. The climbing is by no means world class, but what it lacks in quality it makes up for in aesthetics. As a friend of mine would say, "maybe not 4-star climbing, but makes for a 4-star day!"

Areas like the Sespe Gorge (Black Wall) had established routes as early as the late 50s and 60s. Over the years, many well-known climbers have graced these small cliffsides, including the likes of Yvon Chouinard (Yosemite legend and founder/owner of Patagonia), Jonny Woodward (Black Diamond), Jim Donini and even Henry Barber!

Around Santa Barbara and Ventura, pioneers of the '80s and '90s included Kevin Brown, Kevin Steele, Steve Tucker, Menzo Baird, Bob Banks (author of "Ocean's Eleven") and Steve Edwards (guidebook author of "Rock Climbing Santa Barbara & Ventura"), who established many of the newer sport routes around Santa Barbara and Hwy 166/Silly Rock.

In San Luis Obispo county, pioneers include Rusty Garing, Dwight Kroll, Pete Gulyash, brothers Tim and Tobin Sorenson, Ed Sampson, Ken Klis, Tom Slater (guidebook author of "California Central Coast Climbs"), and Brandon Thau. Slater, Thau, and Klis are responsible for developing such crags as Cerro Romauldo, Cabrillo Peak and Big Rocks.

Former Access Fund director Reese Martin lived in the area for a time. Sadly, he was killed in a paragliding accident in July 2004 at the age of 49 (More...).

Guidebooks


Getting There

Hwy 101 is the major artery between Ventura and San Luis Obispo (and beyond). 99% of the routes described here lie either off the 101, 154 (San Marcos Pass), 33 (Ojai), or 166 (east of Santa Maria). Refer to specific area for details and directions.

This map will help get you oriented.

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Classic Climbing Routes at Central Coast

Mountain Project's determination of the classic, most popular, highest rated climbing routes in this area.
V0+ 4+
 69
Lizards' Mouth Traverse
Boulder
V3 6A
 85
Charlotte's Web
Boulder
5.4 4a 12 IV 10 VD 3c
 87
Costanoan
Sport 4 pitches
5.5 4b 13 IV+ 11 MS 4a
 80
Tree Root
Trad 2 pitches
5.6 4c 14 V 12 S 4b R
 122
Portent
Trad, TR
5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b
 113
60 Seconds Over Soledad (AKA Dea…
Trad, TR
5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b PG13
 106
Ending Crack
Trad 2 pitches
5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b
 77
Rat Race
Trad
5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c
 90
Ordeal
Trad
5.9- 5c 17 VI 16 HVS 4c
 74
P-Crack
Trad
5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a
 142
The Wet Kiss
Sport, TR
5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a R
 91
Subterranean Tango
Sport
5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a
 90
Stupendous Man
Sport
5.10b 6a+ 19 VII- 19 E2 5b
 85
Camel
Sport, TR
5.11a 6c 22 VII+ 22 E3 5c
 102
Post Orgasmic Depression
Sport
Route Name Location Star Rating Difficulty Date
Lizards' Mouth Traverse Santa Barbara > … > Lizard's Mouth > Mouth
 69
V0+ 4+ Boulder
Charlotte's Web Santa Barbara > … > Brickyard > Charlotte's Web Area
 85
V3 6A Boulder
Costanoan Pinnacles NP > W Side > Citadel
 87
5.4 4a 12 IV 10 VD 3c Sport 4 pitches
Tree Root Hwy 33/Ojai > Sespe Gorge (Black Wall)
 80
5.5 4b 13 IV+ 11 MS 4a Trad 2 pitches
Portent Pinnacles NP > E Side > Discovery Wall
 122
5.6 4c 14 V 12 S 4b R Trad, TR
60 Seconds Over Soledad (AK… San Luis Obispo > Bishop Peak > Cracked Wall
 113
5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b Trad, TR
Ending Crack Hwy 33/Ojai > Sespe Gorge (Black Wall)
 106
5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b PG13 Trad 2 pitches
Rat Race Pinnacles NP > E Side > Tourist Trap
 77
5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b Trad
Ordeal Pinnacles NP > E Side > Discovery Wall
 90
5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c Trad
P-Crack San Luis Obispo > Bishop Peak > P-Wall
 74
5.9- 5c 17 VI 16 HVS 4c Trad
The Wet Kiss Pinnacles NP > E Side > Discovery Wall
 142
5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a Sport, TR
Subterranean Tango Pinnacles NP > E Side > Monolith
 91
5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a R Sport
Stupendous Man Pinnacles NP > E Side > Discovery Wall
 90
5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a Sport
Camel San Luis Obispo > Bishop Peak > Cracked Wall
 85
5.10b 6a+ 19 VII- 19 E2 5b Sport, TR
Post Orgasmic Depression Pinnacles NP > E Side > Monolith
 102
5.11a 6c 22 VII+ 22 E3 5c Sport
More Classic Climbs in Central Coast »

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EricT
Santa Barbara, CA
EricT   Santa Barbara, CA
Nice work Mike, and a good description of the central coast as well. Feb 14, 2006