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Moving to San Francisco/Palo Alto area


Original Post
Cory Furrow · · Blacksburg, VA · Joined Jun 2016 · Points: 25

My company will likely be moving me to the San Francisco area for a year or so. Searching MP, I see there is a lot of bouldering which I'm okay with but I really like ropes. What are the good areas (within a 3-4 hour drive) for Sport/TR/Trad?

What gyms do you recommend?

Thanks!

Mike Mellenthin · · San Francisco, CA · Joined Nov 2014 · Points: 70

Oh hello. I have lived in both of those places for most of my life.

First, there isn't really any good climbing in the Bay Area with the exception of maybe Mickey's Beach and bouldering at Castle Rock (the former depends on your definition of Bay Area, the latter depends on your definition of good). You will be driving at least 1.5-2 hours depending on where you live.

Second, you will be much (up to an hour relative to Palo Alto) closer to good climbing if you live in the East Bay (Berkeley, Oakland, et al.).

Third, there is a lot of good climbing within a few hours, esp. from the East Bay. Yosemite, Shuteye, random crags up the coast, Sonora pass climbing, etc. Bishop is possible in a weekend. But it's all at least 2 hours from Palo Alto.

If you live in Palo Alto or anywhere south of SF, join Planet Granite. If you live elsewhere join the Touchstone gyms. Both are great.

Good luck!

Kent Richards · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 2009 · Points: 83

The map on the MP home page will show you local areas if you zoom in. Like the above poster said, what's "good" is entirely up to you.

From SF / Palo Alto, Yosemite Valley is ~4hrs depending on traffic.

The gym depends on where you are. If I was close to PG, I'd prefer them over Touchstone (this includes PG SF). If you're in SF, closer to Touchstone or public transit, and really like bouldering, look at Touchtstone (esp Dogpatch).

M. Morley · · Sacramento, CA · Joined Jan 2002 · Points: 6,585

Cory, you might find this thread from several years ago helpful.

SRB25 · · Woodside, ca · Joined Nov 2014 · Points: 5

I routinely make it to the valley floor from Palo Alto area in less than 3 hours. TM 3:30-3:45. S. Tahoe/Leap/sugarloaf approx the same. I leave early. I would say that many more places in the sierras are therefore within that 4 hour window.

mpech · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Sep 2013 · Points: 6
SRB25 wrote:I routinely make it to the valley floor from Palo Alto area in less than 3 hours.
I used to do this commute all the time, I don't think I ever made it in 3 hours. How many times have you been pulled over for speeding in the park?
grabski · · N California · Joined Aug 2015 · Points: 105
Cory F wrote:My company will likely be moving me to the San Francisco area for a year or so. Searching MP, I see there is a lot of bouldering which I'm okay with but I really like ropes. What are the good areas (within a 3-4 hour drive) for Sport/TR/Trad? What gyms do you recommend? Thanks!
There are a few decent spots for roped climbing in the more immediate area. Mt Diablo and Castle Rock are within an hour drive (when traffic is minimal) and combined have ~150 roped climbs, mostly sport, but some gear climbs. Mt St Helena has ~150 roped climbs, again mostly sport with some gear, and it takes <2 hours without traffic. There are a few high quality climbs up there. And Mickey's Beach has a decent number of high quality sport climbs, including some classics, but driving through SF to get up there might be a pain depending time of day.

Beyond that there's what everyone else said. Tahoe Area (Donner Pass, Emeralds, Lovers Leap, Phantom Spires, Sugarloaf, etc) is 2.5-4 hours depending on exactly where. And of course Yosemite, Bishop, High Sierra etc etc are 4+ hours.

Basically traffic is gonna influence everything. If you can avoid rush hours things are reasonable. If not meet climbing friends with motorcycles.
grabski · · N California · Joined Aug 2015 · Points: 105
Kent Richards wrote: The gym depends on where you are. If I was close to PG, I'd prefer them over Touchstone (this includes PG SF). If you're in SF, closer to Touchstone or public transit, and really like bouldering, look at Touchtstone (esp Dogpatch).
Also, while some of the gyms are pretty good, they get quite busy on weekday evenings. I used to live in the south bay and PG in Sunnyvale gets crazy. Same can be said of SF gyms. If you can get to them by 5p usually it's alright. Or go in the morning.
Muscrat · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2011 · Points: 3,610

Um hello? The pinnacles?
mountainproject.com/v/pinna…
~90 miles away, 200+ routes, can be empty (there's a reason for that), and etc.

Cat. · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jun 2014 · Points: 5
SRB25 wrote:I routinely make it to the valley floor from Palo Alto area in less than 3 hours. TM 3:30-3:45.
This is terrifying.
mpech · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Sep 2013 · Points: 6
Cat. wrote: This is terrifying.
A quick google map search suggests that, to get from palo alto to the valley floor in 3hrs flat, (via highway 120; 190miles), you would have to average 65 MPH. Sounds doable, right?

But...

The speed limit in the park is around 40mph, and 20mph in many places. That section is about 25 miles long. I've been pulled over multiple times here despite not speeding-- the police look for any excuse to pull over your car.

And...

Oakdale to the park entrance is 65 miles-- all windy, two lane roads.

So, I'm skeptical...

matt
Roddy McCalley · · Joshua Tree, CA · Joined Mar 2014 · Points: 0

I grew up around there. Live in Joshua Tree now where I work as a climbing guide, and spend summers guiding in the Sierra. The Bay Area is not a great place to be a climber, but it's not bad. The best gym near Palo Alto is the big Planet Granite in Sunnyvale. I really like climbing at Castle Rock, and I share your preference for roped climbing. The bouldering there is world-class I'm told, but I enjoy hanging a rope on Goat Rock, the faces on both sides of the waterfall, and on Castle Rock itself. Not to mention Summit Rock and Tick Rock, on the other side of Skyline Blvd. Definitely not world-class but it's a beautiful place, the climbing is on grippy sandstone with cool huecos, and the trails are nice. Farewell to Arms, The Great Roof, The Waterfall Route...there are some really fun routes (mostly good as top-ropes). Great place to get some exercise, and the weather is good year-round so you can climb any time the rock isn't wet. A longer drive (hour and a quarter?) gets you to Pinnacles National Park (just upgraded from Monument) which has a ton of routes, some of which are really good. The weather at Pinnacles is nice October-April, super hot in summer. And of course Yosemite is a half-day drive, totally doable as a weekend trip. Kinda crazy as a day-trip but people do it. Have fun out there!

Mike Mellenthin · · San Francisco, CA · Joined Nov 2014 · Points: 70

That last bit isn't even true matt. Imagine doing 65 through Groveland. Yikes.

Maybe he means 3 hours as in sub 4? I've done sub 4 to reeds in the morning.

Roddy McCalley · · Joshua Tree, CA · Joined Mar 2014 · Points: 0

Castle Rock is only 45 minutes from Palo Alto :)

Mike Mellenthin · · San Francisco, CA · Joined Nov 2014 · Points: 70

^^^

You can even boulder there before work and see no one...oops I mean it sucks dont go :p

Roddy McCalley · · Joshua Tree, CA · Joined Mar 2014 · Points: 0

If you like 5.10-5.11 sport climbing you can get a mega workout in a short time at Pinnacles. The two best spots (both afternoon shade) are The Monolith and Discovery Wall. Between those two spots you can climb at least ten pitches of 5.10 and harder--fairly long pitches--in an afternoon.

Cory Furrow · · Blacksburg, VA · Joined Jun 2016 · Points: 25

Thanks!

(I love the MP community)

I'm gonna check out all of your recommendations!

SRB25 · · Woodside, ca · Joined Nov 2014 · Points: 5

As of 10/20 11am:

Matt, happy to explain a little further. Trip report...made it in 3:15 to the valley floor this morning (not the village or camp areas). This is the very closest part of the valley below the tunnels. This includes the stops for traffic light at Don Pedro bridge and flagmen for the logging projects. The only 20 mph zone I am aware of is immediately preceding the entrance kiosk and is maybe 1/8 mile. 25 mph zone is at Crane flat/120 turn off and is roughly 1/4 mile long. I may be wrong but California hwy with Unposted speed limits default to 55 mph on two lane undivided hwy. Traffic was very light on 120 especially above groveland. Including today I have been pulled over a total of zero times. Call it efficient or driving with purpose. I do nothing unsafe and today passed maybe 3 cars above groveland.

To Cat, don't be "terrified".... Maybe you fall in with the tourists driving their tiny rental cars and going eeeeextra slow around every unknown curve.

Mike, correct...no one drives 65 through groveland. But do you know how averages work?
With the bridge work and logging it's been over 3 hours this season. If you get lucky with traffic on 120 you'd be surprised how quick it goes (barring organic artisan coffee stops, lolly gagging, looking out the window, selfie stops, Instagram posts, fuel, groceries or just being slow). Leave at 5am and drive 75-80mph (the regular flow of traffic on 92/880/580/120) up to Manteca will get your average to 65.

Cat. · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jun 2014 · Points: 5
SRB25 wrote:This is the very closest part of the valley below the tunnels.
What a silly way to define your travel time. The difference in our stated times is probably just that we're taking into account actually getting to the destination. And, of course, that we're speaking about average experiences (which includes tourists and construction), rather than that one perfect time we encountered no other cars. Though I must confess, I also use this time estimation strategy to sandbag people into agreeing to long drives (not usually to brag, though)
Muscrat · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2011 · Points: 3,610

SO, i made it from the 120 entrance to Castro Valley in >80 minutes. (120+ mph?) Ok, i had a street illegal alfa romeo, and was racing a 911. SO yes, you can make it in >3 hours, BUT, i have also spent 6 hours getting to or from. And ask a ranger, they will ticket 5 mph over posted limit. Most areas in the park are 45 and under. And EXPENSIVE.
Best strategy is leave town early, like Thursday!
Or go somewhere else, duh.

mpech · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Sep 2013 · Points: 6
SRB25 wrote:I routinely make it to the valley floor from Palo Alto area in less than 3 hours. TM 3:30-3:45. S. Tahoe/Leap/sugarloaf approx the same. I leave early. I would say that many more places in the sierras are therefore within that 4 hour window.
In your first post, you said you routinely make it in less than three hours.

I called BS, because I thought it was wrong to mislead a newcomer to the bay area about how close yosemite was.

you then say it takes you 3:15 to get to around the 120/140 junction.

This is a believable, albeit fast, time for getting to the valley-- if you are leaving at a time that avoids bay area commute traffic (for a weekend warrior, this means leaving early saturday morning or late friday night). I would also note that a lot of the most interesting climbing (like, El capitan for example) is not at the 120/140 junction, and this entails doing a loop on the valley floor-- not a long distance, but still pretty far.

best,
matt
Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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