SF/Bay Area or Seattle?


Original Post
Mauricio Herrera Cuadra · · Mendoza, Argentina · Joined Nov 2012 · Points: 2,656

I've been living in Colorado's Front Range for almost 4 years and have enjoyed the easy access to the mountains for either climbing, skiing or running. Current job opportunities might take me out of here but with the option to choose in between the Bay Area or Seattle.

I'd like to gather opinions/suggestions from folks who have lived in either (or preferably both) areas. I enjoy all kinds of climbing, from sport cragging to alpine multipitch, as well as ice climbing and backcountry skiing. I'm aware that both SF and Seattle are a little farther away from the mountains than what I'm used to in CO, so I'd like to have some realistic idea on which place provides the closest mix to what I'm used to. This includes the chance of doing some after-work activities.

I kinda feel like SF provides more options for rock climbing, while Seattle has better skiing and mountaineering (although Squamish is only a few hours away). Also CA has way drier weather than the PNW.

Thanks in advance for your ideas!

James T · · Livermore · Joined Jul 2015 · Points: 20

Moved to the east bay of SF (Livermore) this year from San Diego. Yosemite is ~ 2.5 hours away, Tahoe is ~3, small foothill crags are ~2. The thing I miss most about SD is easy morning/afternoon cragging. Even the "local" crags around me are an hour due to traffic. I haven't lived in Seattle but I've heard there's plenty of traffic there too.

Eric K · · Washington · Joined Aug 2010 · Points: 0

Your inclination is correct. The skiing/alpine options in Seattle are unparalleled in the USA. There is some Amazing crag climbing within 45 min as well and world class designations within 2 hours. Smith is like 5 hours and Squamish is like 4. Both are easy weekend trips. I have an stupid amount of WA pride and think the diversity of climbing options in WA makes the choice easy...

BUT

We have had rain almost every day since September and this will continue through the winter. If the choice was simply what area is better for DRY OUTDOOR climbing, I don't see how you could chose WA over CA. Not to mention Yosemite

Eric

kenr · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2010 · Points: 9,632
Eric K wrote:We have had rain almost every day since September and this will continue through the winter.
I started making trips from New York to climb in Washington.
But my Seattle partners said they'd really rather meet me for climbing (and ski mountaineering) in California (sunshine).

To me the great thing about not living in the SF Bay area is that I feel free to often visit the southern (non-Tahoe) Eastside Sierra for ski mountaineering and climbing.
. (alas there has not been so much southern Eastside ski mountaineering in the last eight years or so).

Ken
Maria Green · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Nov 2016 · Points: 0

I started climbing mountains from the age of 22 and I love mountaineering. Sometimes when I am stressed I just pack the bags and go mountain climbing.

Rich Liang · · Millbrae, California · Joined Nov 2014 · Points: 100

Live in the Bay Area, have family in Seattle. So...,

There is a lot of climbing the SF Bay Area and California, but be prepared to drive 3+hrs for any good climbing. Living in the East Bay will cut down driving times by ~:30-1hr. Also b/c of all the driving, most of the quality crags will not be worth the driving for a day trip, locking one into full weekend trips. CA is just too big. (We've also been getting some rain here, and of course its only on the weekends.)

In Seattle a lot of quality crags are a lot closer, within ~1-2hrs driving from Seattle. But, as mentioned, weather does cut down climbable days. I spent a week in Seattle during the summer and it rained 5/7 days. Squamish and Smith are close by, but for 4-5hrs/way is only 1/2 hours shorter from Bay to Bishop/Sierra East Side.

Chris C. · · Seattle, WA · Joined Mar 2016 · Points: 91

Climbing in late spring through September in Seattle is great! There is indeed a pretty significant off-season when the weather is just straight up bad. Which is just about right now.

You may want to look at cost of living, as that is a factor to many people choosing between the two cities. (Tech, anyone?) Seattle isn't cheap by any means, but compared to San Fran, you'll probably be able to save a bit more money.

JCM · · Seattle, WA · Joined Jun 2008 · Points: 5

I live in Seattle, and in the past have lived in the Front Range (Golden) and the Bay Area (Palo Alto). My sister lives in Berkeley, so I've spent lots of time there too. Here's my take:

Both Seattle and the Bay will be a big step down from Colorado in accessibility of rock, and ease of going climbing regularly. You know this already. But both areas offer good climbing opportunities, provided you can work around the obstacles presented. In Seattle the main obstacle is the long rainy season. In the Bay Area the main obstacle is the significant distance between the city and the crags. Which place will work better for you will depend on which obstacle seems less onerous.

In Seattle, there is some really outstanding cragging 0:45 to 1:15 away, at Index and Little Si, plus many other great areas within 2-4 hours driving distance. The alpine multipitch rock is really good. Weather is the main issue, but honestly it isn't as bad as I expected when I moved here. There is a distinct climbing (dry) season and a distinct off (wet) season. This year (which was reasonably typical), I climbed almost every weekend from late March until early October. I sometimes had to seek out steep crags or go to the east side (the dry side) when it rained. Then the rains came in October and shut it all down. Again, typical. It is helpful if you ski, and/or get really into systematic indoor training so that the winter is not wasted. Smith is 6 hours away, and is much drier; it is nice for a long weekend or a weeklong trip in late fall or early spring. Also, in the sometimes-rare occasion that the sun does come out at Index, it is really really good.

In the Bay Area, the climbing that is semi-nearby (4 hours) is amazing, and you can climb pretty much year-round, but the distances you have to drive to get to the (good) climbing are significant. The local stuff is junk. Where in the Bay Area you live/work (it is a huge region) makes a big difference. Living in the East Bay can save you almost an hour as compared to the Peninsula.

To me, Seattle is preferable. When the sun it out here, you can climb a lot, and it is convenient to do so. Whereas in the Bay Area you always have to drive a long ways to climb, no matter what time of year. And even in California you can sometimes get hosed by weather. One of my climbing partners up here lived in the Bay Area for a long time and agrees; for a given level of effort you can get more days of climbing per year in Seattle vs. the Bay. The shorter drives make up for the shorter season. If skiing is also important to you, the decision is even easier, since winter in Seattle is then no longer an "off" season...it is ski season.

There are a few situations in which the Bay Area might be a better choice. If you can work some atypical schedule (week on / week off, or even just 4-10s), that could work out well, and make the trips out to the good climbing more manageable. Also, if you were really into Yosemite / big wall climbing, then California would be an obvious choice. Some Bay Area resident's don't even blink at a 4 hour drive. If your tolerance for sleep deprivationand long drives is high, then you may be able to handle the Bay Area. Lastly, the dark and dreary winters in Seattle can really affect some people; if you think that could be a problem for you then, again, California would be better.

A few other notes:

- Forget about ice climbing in either place.
- Seattle generally feels like a more manageable city compared to the Bay Area mega-sprawl.
- The culture of the two places is different, so you'd have to see which one you like more.
- Both are expensive, but Seattle is a bit less insane.
- Both have traffic. Lots of traffic.
- Californians lie about driving times and are not to be trusted. Add an hour to whatever they claim.
- I find that going to Squamish from Seattle is an easier and more manageable trip than going to Yosemite from the Bay. Squamish is 3:15-3:30 hours from Seattle, not 4-5 hours as stated above. I went there ~10 weekends this year.
- Smith, at 6 hours, is prohibitively far for 2 day weekends (for my driving tolerances). It's a bit of a tease. It is almost close enough for you to consider going, but too far to go on a normal 2-day weekend. I feel the same way about going to Bishop or the Needles from the Bay Area.
-The best climbing close to Seattle (~1 hours) is mostly kind of hard. You want to climb 5.11 or harder trad to get full value out of Index, and 5.12+ or harder sport to get full value out of Little Si. If you are seeking more moderate climbing, your local options really narrow down a lot (and the quality of the moderate sport climbing is a lot lower).

Jimmy Downhillinthesnow · · Bozeman, Montana · Joined Mar 2013 · Points: 5
JCM wrote: You want to climb 5.11 or harder trad to get full value out of Index, and 5.12+ or harder sport to get full value out of Little Si. If you are seeking more moderate climbing, your local options really narrow down a lot (and the quality of the moderate sport climbing is a lot lower).
I'm of the opinion that there's plenty of 5.10 climbing at Index for someone to have fun and grow as climber. That said, it's Index 5.10 so...yeah, it's 5.11.

Seattle, hands down. The backcountry skiing is very close and very good for the 5 months a year that climbing is questionable. Squamish is no farther from Seattle than Yosemite is from the Bay Area. You can climb at Smith and Trout Creek basically year round (except for the birdies at Trout). Tieton is a few hours away and has great 5.10 crack climbing. Index and Little Si are both reasonable for after-work climbing in the summer due to the longer days. If you live over on the East Side, you'll be within an hour from skiing in the winter and climbing in the summer, and you will escape the worst of the traffic.
Firestone · · California · Joined Nov 2015 · Points: 449

Washington has my favorite weather. There is good fishing and great skiing. California is lucky to get a snow season half as good as Washington.

If you want mountains for fun year round I choose Washington.

Chris C. · · Seattle, WA · Joined Mar 2016 · Points: 91
Firestone wrote:Washington has my favorite weather. There is good fishing and great skiing. California is lucky to get a snow season half as good as Washington. If you want mountains for fun year round I choose Washington.
Huh? The whole year round thing is kind of the opposite of what most people from WA feel, me included. Weather totally shafts a lot of days in the year. (Hence why I am on MP right now instead of on a mountain lol)
Firestone · · California · Joined Nov 2015 · Points: 449

Big rain storms are good for fishing and leave lots of snow on the mountains, ski the mountains on days you aren't fishing, and climb hike or camp any days there are blue skies! There may be days where it's a total downpour or white out conditions but if you're with the right people those days have the most adventure!

TBlom · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jun 2004 · Points: 95

I grew up in San Jose, and lived in the Front Range for 17 years. I would never consider moving back to the bay area. Too crowded, too much traffic, too expensive. There is climbing in the bay area, it is sparse, quirky, often soft and generally a full day trip to access. (pinnacles, castle rock, mt. diablo, indian rock, and random outcrops here and there. East bay could be okay, keep in mind that if you live in livermore, tracy, or anywhere east of there you are generally in Agricultural land including all the smells, dust, air quality, and inhabitants. Central valley is no joke!

Have not been to Seattle in many years. It was wet and cold.

Mauricio Herrera Cuadra · · Mendoza, Argentina · Joined Nov 2012 · Points: 2,656

Thanks everyone who has chimed in so far. Good amount of ideas to consider. Keep them coming!

kevin deweese · · Oakland, Ca · Joined Jan 2007 · Points: 200

Lived in the bay my entire life. If you love climbing, every trip is an ordeal depending upon your love/hate of driving. Yosemite is 3.5 hours away and the extra hour is worth it when compared to te the crags 2.5 hours away. If sport is your thing, Jailhouse and Gold Wall are about an hour closer.

Most drive times will be to the gate, add an extra 30 minutes from the gates to parking for Yosemite.

The Bay Area is huge, this the reason for the variety of times you'll get to the crags. I live in Oakland and pinnacles are 2.5 hours away, Lovers Leap at al is about 2.5 hours away. Yosemite the 3.5 hours I said BUT add the random traffic to get out (or back on a sunday) plus the fill ups at the gas station and random other things and you're looking at an extra hour of drive time (plus or minus an extra hour or five) you do get rather zen about driving though. Leave at 11pm and bivy outside the gate for Yosemite or on forest roads for Tahoe and it's manageable. Live in SF and add a MINIMUM of an extra hour to all drive times. (Is it always an hour? No but does trump always lie? No, but he does it enough that we'll call him a liar in general and generally add an extra hour to SF drive times. Seriously, those who say differently are either bad at time, bad at truth, or just plain bad) live further out in the subs and you can take an extra thirty minutes off the drive times; all of it is Bay Area and it's worth considering the the difference between drive times from various areas in the Bay Area are greater than many people are willing to drive in total to get to their crag.

Weather-wise it's all over the place but over 70% of the last decade has been dry enough to climb in Yosemite year round without issue though I have been caught in a snowstorm while finishing a wall route and that was less-than-pleasurable.

All that said, I'm still trying to find a reason to live. My life is bigwall so the relative proximity to Yosemite year round is basically the reason I haven't left yet.

Fueco · · Boulder, CO · Joined Oct 2015 · Points: 256
TBlom wrote:I grew up in San Jose, and lived in the Front Range for 17 years. I would never consider moving back to the bay area. Too crowded, too much traffic, too expensive. There is climbing in the bay area, it is sparse, quirky, often soft and generally a full day trip to access. (pinnacles, castle rock, mt. diablo, indian rock, and random outcrops here and there. East bay could be okay, keep in mind that if you live in livermore, tracy, or anywhere east of there you are generally in Agricultural land including all the smells, dust, air quality, and inhabitants. Central valley is no joke! Have not been to Seattle in many years. It was wet and cold.
This.

I moved from San Jose area to Boulder, and am not looking back. The only thing I miss are my friends and training/climbing groups/partners.

I've spent a bit of time around Seattle, and would say that except for all the wet weather, it's a pretty solid choice.
James T · · Livermore · Joined Jul 2015 · Points: 20
kevin deweese wrote: and it's worth considering the the difference between drive times from various areas in the Bay Area are greater than many people are willing to drive in total to get to their crag.
Argh this part is true and very annoying. And Kevin's right about Yosemite times too, especially the part about the gate vs the floor.

I live here for science which unfortunately comes before climbing, so for now I deal with it.
mike again · · Berkeley, CA · Joined Dec 2015 · Points: 0

Perhaps the grass is always greener, but consider staying in Colorado.

I don't know about Seattle, but IMO it is a drag to be a climber in the bay area. Doubly so if you have any other constraints in your life that make it hard to take frequent full weekends and longer trips away. I know people who are out every weekend and get a lot of climbing in, but none with kids or equivalent responsibilities, and no-one is getting in any pitches after work etc.

Don't mean to be a downer, it's just my current take on things, perhaps accentuated by just returning from a week in J Tree and feeling very far from the rock and ice.

jmapping · · Carbondale, co · Joined Sep 2008 · Points: 763

Geography question: Are you going to be living in the city center of either SF or Seattle or will you be able to live in the suburb / outer communities?

One of the biggest challenges of getting to the mountains from downtown Seattle is crossing the 520 bridge. If you already live on the east side of the metro area this can significantly ease climbing at Index, Goldbar, or North Bend after work or on weekends.

That said, I grew up in NW Washington and have lived in Colorado for ~9 years. Washington's climbing inspires me more than anything I have been to in Colorado. Does the weather suck?... Ya... Well, at least a lot of the year. When the weather is good it's a paradise. Bottom line is you have to want to climb bad enough to happily be willing to drive out to the crag with rain hitting your windshield. When the weather is good the climbing and setting is phenomenal especially if you like Trad or Bouldering.

I could never complain about California climbing but I just spent a week in downtown San Francisco and absolutely hated the thought of actually living there. I think the key to getting out a lot if you live in SF is to have lots of time, live as close to the hills as possible, and maybe buy a helicopter since you'll probably be rich enough to afford a helicopter if you live there :)

JCM · · Seattle, WA · Joined Jun 2008 · Points: 5

+1 to everything in the post above. Especially the part about the climbing accessible from Seattle being more inspiring than the front range local stuff. In the front range I felt like I was just finding ok local climbing to keep me busy until I could travel to the good stuff. In Washington I feel like the local areas are the good stuff. There is nothing as good as index an hour from Denver, and similarly nothing as good as Squamish within 4 hours. The trade off is the weather.

JCM · · Seattle, WA · Joined Jun 2008 · Points: 5

Also, after meeting up with a friend from the Bay Area this past weekend, I can confirm that the cost of living in the bay is dramatically higher than that in Seattle. And that is pretty scary.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

Post a Reply

Log In to Reply