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Arctic Temple

California > San Bernardino… > Big Bear Lake Area > Big Bear South

Description

Approach: 20-40 minutes
Descent: Downclimb
Morning shade & afternoon sun
Rack: Full trad rack with doubles to #3 (1-2 #4's for the offwidth 10c). A long sling for the top can be used to setup TRs.

Arctic Temple is one of the largest formations in the San Bernardinos. It has several stellar 5.10 trad climbs and is a traditional area (primarily). The tallest route is 33 meters and all the routes are long, sustained, varied, and high quality. The area seems seldom visited and the routes could use some more traffic to clean up the kitty litter and potato chips. The routes feel like FA's still and have probably only seen a handful of ascents. The routes themselves are all stellar and very enjoyable with solid cracks and good gear placements. The area is more reminiscent of Tahquitz than other Big Bear areas.

5 trad climbs in the 5.10a-d range are available as well as a single 5.9. Although there are several bolts here and there, there are NO sport climbs and all climbs require gear. Bolts are located when gear is not available and are all good quality and camouflaged.

No bolted anchors exist on top. Either downclimb a somewhat loose gully or be prepared to leave a sling on a horn or tree.

Leaving a Rap Line or anchor from the summit facilitates multiple descents instead of repeating the downclimb. A 70m is necessary to reach the ground (double rappel). Also, a TR set up (70m rope) from the highest point allows TRing all but the arete climbs.

Getting There

GPS coordinates:
Arctic Temple: 34°13'39.45"N, 116°59'17.91"W (or the link at the top of this page is also correct and accurate)
Bluff Mesa Campground: 34°13'22.44"N, 116°58'32.46"W

Take I-10 east (State Hwy 330) to Running Springs, CA. Take State Hwy 18 to Big Bear Lake Dam. Turn right on State Hwy 18 for 3 miles and turn on Tulip Lane. Turn right on Mill Creek Road (2N10), go 4 miles and turn right on 2N86 and.....

Fast approach: Follow 2N86 nearly to the end and take a left fork down to Moon Valley. Park and walk up a 4-wheel drive road about 0.25 miles to the end. Keep going straight into a drainage for about 100 yards. When it curves back, cut over to another drainage which becomes a stream. Follow this stream for a couple hundred yards. Find the well cairned descent gully (wide and loose) and you'll approach from the rear of the formation and can see the top of it from the rim.

If you get totally lost, just follow the plateau rim and check each gully for cairns at the start of the steep downhill.

Alternatively, to approach from Bluff Mesa Campground (not the fastest, about 45 minutes if you know where you're going):
From 2N86, turn on 2N86A to the Bluff Mesa Group campsite TOILET available at campground. Go west, following the very well trail marker posted (rappelling guy on sign) and cairned trail straight out of the campground past the campground sign all the way to a logging road near the plateau edge like you're heading for Black Bluff. Head right (north) and uphill a bit for about 10-15 minutes following logging road and the plateau edge. Don't descending the plateau rim, however, there are several very mild ups and downs. Follow the rim till you see a well cairned descent gully. Check each gully for several cairns at the start. The wall is approached from behind and is thus just barely visible till you get to it in the gully proper. Take the loose, steep gully down and the crag will appear on the right. Should only be about 200-400 feet of descent and take around 5-10 minutes of downhill scrambling / sliding.

WATCH OUT FOR LOOSE ROCKS! Don't crush your friends!

Routes from Left to Right

Photos [Hide ALL Photos]

Arctic Temple from a the Arctic Circle road west of Big Bear Dam.
[Hide Photo] Arctic Temple from a the Arctic Circle road west of Big Bear Dam.
Here's the "trailhead" on the sw side of 2N86 (opposite Yellow Post 30 CG). Pass the right side of the log and head through the trees to intersect with the old dirt road.
[Hide Photo] Here's the "trailhead" on the sw side of 2N86 (opposite Yellow Post 30 CG). Pass the right side of the log and head through the trees to intersect with the old dirt road.
photo-stitched image of Arctic Temple and Greg rapping back down.
[Hide Photo] photo-stitched image of Arctic Temple and Greg rapping back down.
Arctic Temple, Greg rappelling back down to the base
[Hide Photo] Arctic Temple, Greg rappelling back down to the base
Trail to Arctic Temple.
[Hide Photo] Trail to Arctic Temple.
Reminiscent of a grand, imposing temple indeed.
[Hide Photo] Reminiscent of a grand, imposing temple indeed.
Arctic Temple from west descent gully.
[Hide Photo] Arctic Temple from west descent gully.
Arctic Temple upper section with ubiquitous tree.
[Hide Photo] Arctic Temple upper section with ubiquitous tree.
The cairn in the notch will lead you to the rappel, should you choose that option.
[Hide Photo] The cairn in the notch will lead you to the rappel, should you choose that option.
Steep middle section of the crag.
[Hide Photo] Steep middle section of the crag.
San Gabriels from Arctic Temple gully.
[Hide Photo] San Gabriels from Arctic Temple gully.
Hwy 18 from the top of the gully.
[Hide Photo] Hwy 18 from the top of the gully.

Comments [Hide ALL Comments]

Chelsea
South Lake Tahoe, CA
[Hide Comment] Somehow managed to stumble upon this treasure while attempting to find Black Bluff. Cairns are still there June 2011, but still seems to be a miracle we found it. Glad we did not know where we were so that I climbed Land of Midnight Sun which otherwise would have been intimidating. Fantastic place to climb! Jun 20, 2011
Simon H
Oakland, CA
[Hide Comment] A scenic, enjoyable climbing area, that makes for a great outing for a 5.10 trad leader. You're almost guaranteed to get this spot to yourself. We brought two ropes, and set up a fixed rap line that we used all day. On the last climb, the 2nd just brought up the gear we'd brought down, so we avoided using the loose, steep, gully altogether.

While this area made for a great day, I was vaguely disappointed in the broken nature of the climbing and the rock quality (which is still pretty good). The guidebook certainly inflated my expectations beyond what was reasonable, talking about the Yosemite quality granite.

On a side note, we went too far and found ourselves at Castle Grey Skull before we found our way back.

The 4WD road mentioned in the description is totally blocked off by logs, and really hard to find the start of. Your best bet is to keep your eyes open as you drive down 2N86 for a set of 40' tall boulders on your left, and a yellow post campsite pulloff on your right. This marks the beginning of the 4wd road, and 3-4' deep drainage culvert that you will follow to the temple. As mentioned, the approach is well cairned. Jun 3, 2012
Chris Owen
Big Bear Lake
[Hide Comment] I agree Simon, providing you're not bothering anyone, Yellow Post 30 CG is probably the best place to leave your car. On the opposite side of the road from the CG there's a faint trailhead which starts right of the rightmost log, just follow this and it opens up into an old dirt road which is followed until it ends/becomes overgrown, there's usually a small cairn here (there may also be a two stone cairn earlier on - ignore it), break through the bushes and hit the first ditch which you follow until there's a large cairn on top of its right bank, now break right out of the ditch and down to another large cairn which leads you to a second ditch, follow this and it will bring you to a dry creek bed, marked with cairns as you follow it over obstacles until it's time to break right again (still following cairns) to the edge of the mesa, the cairns will continue to lead you looping rightwards to the top of the crag/ descent gully.

It's not a long hike. Oct 8, 2012
Howard
Costa Mesa, CA
[Hide Comment] The 4wd road turn-off should have GPS coordinates N34.23208° W116.98036°. Jul 29, 2014