Panic Town Rock Climbing
|GPS:||34.479, -119.706 Google Map · Climbing Area Map|
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|Shared By:||Jeff Mahoney on Apr 20, 2014|
|Admins:||andy patterson, M Morley, Adam Stackhouse, Salamanizer suchoski, Justin Johnsen, Vicki Schwantes|
With a few sparse and singular exceptions, Santa Barbara has always lacked decent crack climbing in quantity. Happily, that has now changed. Tucked away in a hidden canyon are more than 60 full crack/gear routes (primarily from 5.6 to 5.9 and mostly 90+ feet in length). Seems impossible, right?
Wall 3 Tower and some of the lower right & left flanks. (Note team on top and also climbers on the bottom, right of center.) Photo by Jan Roestel.
Panic Town is a series of five sandstone walls arrayed up the canyon behind Arlington Ridge. The area is reminiscent of San Ysidro with a shaded base under oaks, sycamores and bays then breaks out into towering south-facing crack systems; the difference being that these are all gear-exclusive, long trad lines that require good anchor building skills. (Fortunately, most of the top-outs are near solid oaks trees, sling-able boulders and/or excellent slots.)
The first three walls at Panic Town.
Of course, most local climbers loathe approaches (seems silly if you've invested in trad gear), but in the time it takes to drive to Sespe, you can easily tick off a couple of long routes at Panic Town, and be ready for dozens more. Almost all of the climbs are steeper than the Black Wall, too. Many of the cracks are reminiscent of Joshua Tree (if Joshua Tree were all sandstone and moderate). And what makes this truly worth the 30-40 minute hike, is that after several hours of climbing, you can exit the canyon, turn left and be swimming in the spring-fed pools in a couple of minutes. (And, there are two deepish-water solo problems above Pool 2, FYI.)
Keep in mind that this is all virgin rock, and has only been tended to over the last couple of years. There's still a fair amount of vegetation cropping up in the cracks (naturally), so don't expect everything to be pristine. A number of routes were cleaned over the last couple of months (as recently as 4/19/14), so any additional gardening you do on route will be much appreciated by all.
Trevor Marks making things a bit safer for those yet to climb on the FA of "Nice, Fresh Breath" (6/10/12)
A note of warning: If the winds really start picking up, you should exit the canyon. There will always be hazards (falling trees and large blocks) that come down every time there are major gusts.
Area Ethic - No Bolts
All routes were climbed onsight, ground up with requisite gardening and trundling done on lead. Additional cleaning was done after the FAs. The ethic for this canyon is, and should always remain, bolt-less. There are a few modest rap stations in key areas to save damage to the oak trees and manzanitas on top (two stations on Wall 2, since a 70m will not get you to the ground). All the face climbs between the cracks should remain clean. Feel free to TR them or set pro in adjacent cracks, but there is absolutely no reason that any of the face lines should be bolted. (Also note that they've already been climbed, but haven't been named beyond a few exceptions.) This canyon was developed because there isn't any comparable trad climbing in the entire county. If you feel the need to clip bolts or put up yet another sandstone crimp-job, please go elsewhere.
A basic rack of singles to a #3 Camalot will pretty much get you by on almost everything if you're cruising. A few extra finger-sized pieces are recommended if you want to sew things up. Also, a #4 will ease your mind when building an anchor on a number of the routes on top. (A long piece of webbing may also ease your mind.)
(Onsite ground-up gardening? What does that mean?) Ches Upham getting ready to thrash through some unforgiving oak up left on the FA of "Monsters," while Alex Lau has his own problems on "The State of My Tractor." (5/28/12)
Panic Town has been a labor of love/work in progress for several years. All the trundling, weed pulling, rock fall, poison oak rashes, gouges, bee stings, rattlesnake strikes and general unpleasantness was endured by a group of great and dedicated climbers, namely: Menzo & Linda Baird, Alex Lau, Trevor Marks, Christian Maurer, Jan Roestel, Ches Upham, Chris Wing, Phil Woods and Jeff Mahoney. If you happen to run across any of them, tell them thanks for helping establish this unique climbing area (and then buy them a beer).
The first ascents team.
Panic Town reference perspective. (Looking WNW from Tunnel Trail.) Stay along the 3 Pools/Mission Canyon trail (white line, roughly), not up to Arlington.
Start at the Tunnel trailhead and follow the road to the end, then stay straight on the dirt to the Jesusita junction.
Stay straight (leftish) at the end of of the asphalt road.
Follow this to the creek and across. About 60' up the creek on the left side, you'll see a short, loose scramble past an oak tree that takes you above 7 Falls.
At the hairpin that takes you down and across the creek, cut right early and across, then up the obvious scramble left.
At the 7 Falls overlook junction with the start of the Arlington/Cathedral trail, stay straight on the traversing trail that heads up the canyon.
At the lookout point above 7 Falls, stay straight on the contour trail (don't head up toward Arlington).
If you've been to 3 Pools, this is where you're headed. Stay on the trail until it ends at a 15' 3rd class wall with obvious footholds and a diagonal ledge.
The 3rd class wall at the end of the path.
Past this is Theology Crag. Stay in the creekbed and boulder hop for another 350 yards, until you see a boulder with a sporadic cairn and a path leading left.
Leaving the dry creek bed.
After 80' look up and left and you'll see the right end of Wall 1. (If you get to the first pool, you've gone too far. Backtrack about 100'.)
Just before you hear the creek babbling (year-round, regardless of how bone-dry the approach might be).
Head up this canyon and that's it. (The entrance has been cleared and is now wide and passable, but still be mindful of the poison oak. Even though we've pulled out hundreds of pounds of it, along with the bramble, it will always be lurking.)
Classic Climbing Routes at Panic Town
Days w Precip