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Elevation: 3,123 ft 952 m
GPS: 38.65368, -122.62173
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Shared By: Eric Berghorn on Jan 19, 2017
Admins: Aron Quiter, Mike Morley, Adam Stackhouse, Salamanizer Ski, Justin Johnsen, Vicki Schwantes

Description Suggest change

The "discovery" of this remote area on MSH can be traced partly to a trip report provided by three weary college students upon their return from a long day of exploration. In the summer of 1995 Jerry Dodrill, Kurt Jenson and Jared Chaney spent a hot 12-hour day seeking and eventually finding a single pitch rock climb in the remote outback of Robert Louis Stevenson State Park. This adventurous trio endured hours of bushwhacking up a steep secluded canyon to reach this objective, a mysterious tower previously spied from the distant "Far Side" climbing area. Once found, a ground-up ascent of the "Black Tower" was achieved... complete with long run-outs, questionable pro, sketchy rock, and a description peppered with dismissive notes: "To far away". "got lost". "major bushwhacking"... and most memorable the name given to their bold F.A. - "Never Again".

The upper reaches of Kimball Canyon extend almost 4 miles above the paved section of the approach and in wet weather concentrate the true "headwaters" of the Napa River. On the highest slopes of MSH this "river" begins as a mere trickle; quickly growing to a torrent in the narrow watercourse before eventually reaching the Napa Valley floor miles below. The stream flows below the Black Tower/Kimball Canyon Crag during winter and spring providing a refreshing respite.

The "Black Tower" and it's companion "Kimball Canyon Crag" are clearly visible from the farthest western reaches of the Far Side area. The "Macondo" cliff looks down upon these formations from the opposite rim of Kimball Canyon, almost 1000 vertical feet above the crags. This area is now home to 18+ single pitch sport routes and top rope variations. Anchors can be reached by scrambling up the access trails that snake around the backs of the formations. 10 quick draws and a 60 meter rope will get you up and down all of the climbs, though a few routes on Black Tower are rope stretchers to lower or rappel.

The extremely remote location, long approach, and questionable rock quality reported from the FA was noted and kept this area on the back burner for well over 2 decades. As sport climbing development took hold in other areas of MSH over the past 20 years much work was performed to properly clean and equip routes here. The rock type is Rhyolite and is for the most part solid and featured but varies depending on which route you are on. These formations share a volcanic origin with the other MSH area crags, yet have their own unique flavors and textures. The 100' Black Tower features many climbs of moderate steepness and thoughtful exposure which require attentive footwork and technique. Kimball Canyon Crag offers a host of well-protected steeper routes, with jug hauls, crimps, edges, pockets, huecos, etc. many of the routes here are 70-80 feet in length.

There are several sun and shade exposures offered throughout the area when climbing the routes. Spring and Fall offer the most consistent climbing temps. When the winter wind rips down the shady canyon it can be bitterly cold, yet on the warmest summer days climbing here has a pleasant "Alpine" feel. In the the shade of the trees the North facing routes provide excellent conditions on the hottest summer days.

The climbs are concentrated in such a way that makes this area is a true "destination", one which you could very easily spend a full day climbing and not visit any other areas of the park which are quite distant.

Getting There Suggest change

The approach for Kimball Canyon follows the lower park maintenance road around the West side of the mountain, below the Far Side and other climbing areas. Allow yourself 60-90 minutes for the strenuous hike. Park in the same lot along Highway 29 as you would for other areas for Mt. St. Helena. From the Parking Area it is recommended that you begin the initial approach by splitting left off the main trail just above the picnic tables and hiking up the steep unmarked "MINE" trail that follows the creek. DO NOT GO UP THE SWITCHBACKS - WRONG WAY !

At an obvious fork about 150 yards up the unmarked "MINE" trail from the parking area STAY TO THE LEFT and follow along the creek, over a large log, passing the lower Mine shaft. Continue uphill until this small path meets "Silver Trail," an unmarked historic mining road.

TURN LEFT and follow the wide SILVER TRAIL until you reach a paved road. Here you will see a series of Red Buildings and a Cabin owned by the State Park. Please do not disturb the occupant of this cabin who is a State Park Volunteer. Access to the area around the Cabin is "authorized use only."

TURN RIGHT, walking West, away from the buildings on the paved road as it meanders up and down for about 1.5 miles (~30 minutes to the Kimball Canyon approach trail). At times you can view in the distance a large steep-sided grey rock (50 ft. tall) which is known locally as "The Turks Head." The paved road becomes a dirt track and eventually reverts to an obvious single track trail cutting up and down across beautiful swaths of open meadows (straight forward).

The October 2017 Tubbs Fire destroyed sections of the previously used access trail which contoured up the canyon drainage. A newer more-straightforward approach trail begins directly behind "the Turks Head" and meanders though a couple of obvious rock outcrops before arriving at an opening in some old fencing. Continue up a steep slope until arriving at a series of switchbacks. When you gain the obvious ridgeline, continue North for 500 yards heading directly to the base of the left-most Black Tower routes. From the base of Black Tower, Kimball Canyon Crag is located another 300 feet further into the canyon on a straight-forward access trail, slightly downhill.


DO NOT UNDERESTIMATE THE EFFORT OF THIS APPROACH HIKE !!! (mostly uphill on the approach with 860 feet of total elevation gain from the parking area.) Always bring a headlamp, and bury any human waste at least 6" deep. This is a fragile area... Thank you for not trashing it!

In regards to safety use every precaution and wear a helmet when climbing here. Carry plenty of food, water, and a jacket on cooler days (and a first aid kit!) Beware of loose rock ! Cell phones do work fairly well since it's close to the cell tower, but be prepared to self-rescue at all times. This area is remote, hard to access for the uninitiated, and far from help in the event of an accident.

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