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New Directions

California > Southern Sierra > Needles / Kern River


New Directions consists of seven, and counting, relatively compact climbing areas: Parking Lot Rock, The Globule, Middle Cliff, Heart Rock, Rusty Nail, Nowhere Man, The Asylum, and The Morgue. All areas can be seen from the road as you approach.The areas are located about a half mile north of Kernville Rock (Kern Slabs). For great pictures, history, route beta and etc, get the local guide here:
The climbing is substantially steep slab, with old school ratings. Clean rock, good sun exposure for late fall, winter and early spring. Can be HOT in summer. Kern River is 3 minute hike from the parking area.

Getting There

~5 miles from Kernville on the Mountain Hwy 99 you will pass Camp 3. Approximately 1/2 mile past Camp 3 sign you will see a small sign on your right "Chico Flats". Park here. The main trail leaves the pullout just before here, up and parallel to the road, well marked with cairns.

Photos [Hide ALL Photos]

Even on cold days, New Directions is an awesome place to climb.
[Hide Photo] Even on cold days, New Directions is an awesome place to climb.
A nice view from the Rusty Nail area
[Hide Photo] A nice view from the Rusty Nail area

Comments [Hide ALL Comments]

[Hide Comment] Does anyone have good beta for the rest of the routes here? I climbed a couple of them recent and would be happy to put them up for the area, but I feel like I'm far from the most qualified. May 29, 2014
[Hide Comment] Christopher D. Walsh. I just added the Garden Party route. Feel free to add more route/info. Apr 25, 2015
Randy in Ridgecrest
Inyokern, CA
[Hide Comment] Garden party is actually central to the area.

Regarding route information. Many Kern Valley, Ridgecrest, and Bako climbers have been coming to New Directions for decades. Aside from the old Vernon Needles guide, and whatever is derived from it, there isn't a guide. Why this is I don't know. I know someone was writing a KV guide about 10 years ago but nothing came of it. I would say I'm as knowledgeable about the routes as anyone except a few active KV climbers like Kerbs and Herb Laeger. I'll check around and see why nobody is posting up any routes.

The best routes here are hard, but very good. The hard parts are pretty well protected but slippery 5.8 or 5.9 higher on the routes might be scary. Someone has retro-bolted the starts of the Nowhere Man and Somewhere Man, I don't think that was necessary. I say just put in some days and work the aera out - be ready to crank! Feel free to ask me about names and ratings.

Briefly, here is some info about a couple choice spots. Bring a second rope as many routes are longer than 115'.

Heart Rock. The big kind of heart shaped face with the brown/gold streak, well up and right of the parking. The gold streak is "Fall Colors" 5.11c, the area classic. There is a retro-bolted 5.9 to the right of that, used to be really scary. Other harder climbs on the Fall Colors face. Up and left is a ledge with three 5.11ab climbs, easy to knock out in a visit. All of these are not exactly sport climbs, and you might have to equip bare bolts to get off. There is an 11c on the detached block left of Heart Rock.

Nowhere Man. Even the locals aren't too sure about the naming! Anyway, from Heart Rock work as far right as you easily can to get to a cozy ledge under a steep slabby face with bolted lines. You will pass by several routes on the way, including Garden Party and the intimidating "Stiff Upper Lip". Nowhere Man is the 5.9 bolted face that has a large flake at the bottom, and goes into a slabby dihedral at the top. Stiff for the grade, leave off the first two bolts for the original version that got climbed maybe a thousand times. Right of that is "Somewhere Man" 10b. Goes to the Nowhere Man anchor, leave off the first bolt for the original version. Left of Nowhere Man is the bold (thanks Herb!) Man-O-Man 5.10c, also to the same anchor, wish there were more bolts! There is an excellent second pitch 5.11a from this anchor. Finally, from the bottom you can see one last line to the right kind of going up a pillar like formation. Start on Somewhere Man and go to the belay in the crack system. Head up the pillar with bolts, hair raising 11d crux up there.

To the left of Garden Party is a glistening little slab. This is "Mostly Harmless" 5.11b. I put this route up about 10 years ago. Trying to drill the first bolt by hand I got nowhere and eventually had to fall back to the ground. I bought a Bosch and came back and got her up.

To the right of Nowhere Man area is the polished Morpheus/Safety Razor buttress. The start of these climbs are a little more difficult to access. From the Nowhere Man ledge either go down or traverse right depending on the climb. These are hard climbs mostly 11+ 12-. Right of this are a few more climbs but the going is pretty tough through the live oak, it's probably better to go up from the highway. Dec 2, 2015
Guy Keesee
Moorpark, CA
[Hide Comment] Randy... you have all of that pretty much correct.
So you say the 5.9 to the right of Fall Colors has been retrobolted?? How about the crack system to the right of that? forget the name, some 5.9 with no bolts at the bottom.
get Scott Looms, last known location, Ridgecrest CA... he knows or Herb...he climbs. Jan 26, 2016
[Hide Comment] There is a new guidebook just out (June 2016) for Kern Slabs (Kernville Rock) and New Directions Cliffs. It includes approximately 100 routes. It is available for purchase Jun 16, 2016
Cory Brooks
Fresno, CA
[Hide Comment] Herb's guide is excellent. Very fun area with tons of climbs, many of them very well protected. Highly recommend a visit to this serene quiet climbing area. Dec 19, 2016