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Areas in Marble Caves

Bowling Ball, The 2 / 3 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 5
Main Tower 0 / 5 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 5
Mystery Tower 0 / 4 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 4
Poison Garden 4 / 7 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 11
Sunset Wall 0 / 2 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 2
Up And Down Wall 0 / 4 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 4
Visionary Buttress 1 / 8 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 9

Description

Marble Caves sits high on a ridgeline above the South Fork of the Trinity River, and is truly one of the undiscovered gems of northern California. The walls range from 50' to 200' in height on blue, gold and white-streaked limestone of typically excellent quality. There are currently ~60 routes here, from 5.10-5.14, with tons of room for new development. All of the walls are accessed via the same point, except for the Bowling Ball, which is on a separate formation. Regardless of where you go, you will almost certainly have the place entirely to yourself.

The Caves face southwest, so best times to climb are typically fall to spring, although the crag does get snowed in some winters. Summer is extremely hot and not recommended. Watch out for poison oak regardless of season.

Free camping can be found anywhere, as it's all on U.S. Forest Service property, but the best spots are at the parking for the main area (there's a large, flat landing just before you gain the trail), or at Pete's Pasture, which is at the turnoff from the primary access road to the main area trailhead.

See "Bigfoot Country Climbing" for more info about the crag. The guide lists many routes drilled for Removable Bolts. Since these are no longer made, the majority of old "R.B." routes have been retro bolted with the permission of the first ascentionists.

Getting There

In Northern CA, take Hwy 36 from either Red Bluff inland, or near Fortuna from the coast.

Just east of the "no horse" town Forest Glen, near Hell Gate campground is Flume Gulch Road where Rattlesnake creek flows under Hwy 36.

Take Flume Gulch road 3 miles to the end of the pavement. For the Dream Wall, turn left onto 1S14D. Camp / park on an old logging landing about 1 mile down this road. The trail to the cliff starts at the back of the logging landing, in the trees. Follow this faint trail over the saddle to the right end of the Dream Wall. Walk right across the "catwalk" to the other walls of this sector.

The Bowling Ball is accessed by continuing along Flume Gulch Road past the junction with the road to the Dream Wall. Park at mile post 10. Hike down hill to the southwest from there 5 minutes to the crag. The crags are not visible from the parking area.

40 Total Climbs

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Classic Climbing Routes at Marble Caves

Mountain Project's determination of the classic, most popular, highest rated climbing routes in this area.
5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a
 6
Into The Light
Sport
5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a
 3
Marco Paulo
Trad
5.10b 6a+ 19 VII- 19 E2 5b
 9
Birthday Boy
Sport
5.10b 6a+ 19 VII- 19 E2 5b
 4
100 Year Flood
Sport
5.10b 6a+ 19 VII- 19 E2 5b
 4
So It Goes
Sport
5.10c 6b 20 VII 20 E2 5b
 4
Good Will Punting
Sport
5.10c/d 6b+ 21 VII+ 21 E3 5b
 4
Amateur Hour
Sport
5.11a 6c 22 VII+ 22 E3 5c
 5
My Up And Down Life
Sport
5.11a 6c 22 VII+ 22 E3 5c
 4
Bomb Shelter
Sport
5.11- 6c 22 VIII+ 22 E3 5c
 4
Mutually Assured Seduction
Sport
5.11c/d 7a 24 VIII 25 E4 6a
 5
Fearless Leader
Sport
5.13 8a 29 X- 30 E7 6c
 3
Obliquity
Sport
Route Name Location Star Rating Difficulty Date
Into The Light Poison Garden
 6
5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a Sport
Marco Paulo Visionary Buttress
 3
5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a Trad
Birthday Boy Visionary Buttress
 9
5.10b 6a+ 19 VII- 19 E2 5b Sport
100 Year Flood Poison Garden
 4
5.10b 6a+ 19 VII- 19 E2 5b Sport
So It Goes Visionary Buttress
 4
5.10b 6a+ 19 VII- 19 E2 5b Sport
Good Will Punting Poison Garden
 4
5.10c 6b 20 VII 20 E2 5b Sport
Amateur Hour Visionary Buttress
 4
5.10c/d 6b+ 21 VII+ 21 E3 5b Sport
My Up And Down Life Up And Down Wall
 5
5.11a 6c 22 VII+ 22 E3 5c Sport
Bomb Shelter Main Tower
 4
5.11a 6c 22 VII+ 22 E3 5c Sport
Mutually Assured Seduction Main Tower
 4
5.11- 6c 22 VIII+ 22 E3 5c Sport
Fearless Leader Bowling Ball
 5
5.11c/d 7a 24 VIII 25 E4 6a Sport
Obliquity Visionary Buttress
 3
5.13 8a 29 X- 30 E7 6c Sport
More Classic Climbs in Marble Caves »

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Has anyone climbed here this year? i am really itching to get on some real rock and this area seams the best chance to have a nice winter climbing session. Is there anymore info on this area someone would be willing to share? Mar 4, 2012
Crimper E6
cheltenham, UK, SW is the BEST
Crimper E6   cheltenham, UK, SW is the BEST
Marble Caves : good luck finding the trail, no-ones been here for 10yrs probably, really overgrown, bring a saw.. Awesome climbing in the 7a-7b range.

The bowling ball was easier to find.(although the 10mile post has been knocked over and was in a bush)

Just follow the gully down and then to the R to reach the base of the cliff, no disernable path and poison ivy.

Bowling ball routes are meh, dusty and not really worth it to be honest, plus randomly needing gear for routes, slightly annoying for a sport crag...

Harder routes look ok, i would probably tick all of trinity before going to the bowling ball (and then bring a wire brush and some hangers for the anchors! )

the warm up 5.10 route has no anchors (go L to"fearless leader" and dont kill the belayer with loose blocks) Nov 9, 2014
Lurker
Truckee, CA
Lurker   Truckee, CA  
Bummer that you had trouble finding the trail. There is actually a pretty well-defined trail to the main crag, but it is a little hard to find.

People have certainly been out there in the past 10 years, a handful of new routes went in last year. The climbing at the Caves ranges from good to ultra-classic on mostly bullet, vertical to overhanging limestone. Surprised that you thought that the Bowling Ball was not that great. The rock quality at the Caves, and the Bowling Ball in particular, makes the Trinity Aretes look like a pile of shit, IMO (aside from the Paisano Buttress at least).

I agree though, the random gear placements are kind of annoying, but that's how the majority of Humboldt climbing was originally developed. All the new routes going in are fully bolted.

The only thing the Caves really suffers from is lack of traffic. Five-star routes there that don't have a trace of chalk on them, in an incredibly aesthetic setting. That said, it's pretty much in the middle of nowhere. I'm still surprised, however, that the Bay Area folks haven't picked up on any of these spots. Jan 3, 2015
Lurker
Truckee, CA
Lurker   Truckee, CA  
Bowling Ball parking UTM's: 471788 E 4472175 N.

Park at a small pullout on your left and head down the gully for about 5 minutes until you come around the left side of the crag.

Main area parking UTM's: 472505 E 4471299 N.

Head up the old road to the back of the small clearing, the trail is on your left. Hike approximately 10 minutes up the trail, cross the saddle, and continue down for another 5 minutes, again putting you on the left side of the crag. Feb 23, 2016
Steve Harrison   Arcata
Thank you for the UTM coordinates! The flat felling area by the parking area is slightly above the road and is easy to drive past. The reasonably defined trail goes by a pond, which is great to rinse off all the poison oak you will invariably come into contact with.

This is the best rock I have climbed in the Humboldt area.

It is frustrating trying to reconcile routes from mountain project and the bigfoot guide book. The route names are not consistent.

The random gear requirements kept me off some routes (no gear). It would be helpful if people could comment on the difficulty of gear placements on the routes. For example, if the route is overall 10c, is the stance for placing the one or two random cams a 10c stance, or is the climbing below the grade at that point. Read: new to trad climbing. Mar 15, 2017
Lurker
Truckee, CA
Lurker   Truckee, CA  
Hey Steve. Glad you're out enjoying the Caves...such a rad place!

In regards to the route names, they are absolutely consistent with the Bigfoot guide. I know, because I added all the routes to the database, and have climbed every one (and I bolted a handful of them). The real problem is (1) the Bigfoot guide is out-of-date and there are a number of routes there that aren't in the book, and (2) the Bigfoot guide just isn't very clear. Trust me, it took me awhile to figure out every crag I ever went to in that book. Honestly, it will probably take a few trips to the Caves to orient yourself well. I would suggest starting with the routes you're sure of, and moving out from there.

The gear placements are a tough one. Limestone placements are tricky at best, and honestly, if you're a new trad leader, I wouldn't suggest pushing it on the mixed routes in Humboldt. Some of them are serious DFU territory. That said, the gear placements are generally in the easiest parts of the climbs, but you could also be in 5.10-5.11 terrain as well. The large majority of new routes going in are fully-bolted, thankfully.

If you want any other beta on the Caves or other Humboldt crags, feel free to PM me. Mar 15, 2017
Michael Thielvoldt   San Jose
Latitude and Longitude for the parking area: 40.391798, -123.323933

And the trail head: 40.392125, -123.324479

Sep 2, 2017
Nick Black
Arcata, CA
Nick Black   Arcata, CA
As of 4/14/18, there is a pair of peregrines nesting on the main tower. Apr 15, 2018

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