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Vanishing Flakes

5.11a, Trad, TR, 80 ft,  Avg: 3.1 from 43 votes
FA: Archer, Wells, Eaton
California > Central Coast > Santa Barbara > San Ysidro


On the left side of the main wall is a blank face with a fixed pin and a bolt. 20' of delicate slab climbing leads to a more moderate (5.5) trad finish.


There are now two nice bolts at the top. The piton is ~40 years old, but has recently held falls. Who knows, maybe you'll be the lucky one who gets a souvenir. Frequently toproped by climbing up the 5.5 to the right.

Photos [Hide ALL Photos]

The wall containing Vanishing Flakes suffered severe damage from mud and debris flows. All of the patina has been removed up beyond the piton. The namesake flakes are all gone. The rock is soft and sandy, rendering the climbing very challenging.
[Hide Photo] The wall containing Vanishing Flakes suffered severe damage from mud and debris flows. All of the patina has been removed up beyond the piton. The namesake flakes are all gone. The rock is soft and…
Joe working up to the pin on Vanishing Flakes
[Hide Photo] Joe working up to the pin on Vanishing Flakes

Comments [Hide ALL Comments]

Matthew Fienup
Ventura, CA
[Hide Comment] According to the late Reese Martin (as of 1999), "The fixed pin is now rock solid. Clip it and you're in fat city."

Glued in perhaps?

UPDATE: I looked very closely at the piton and there is definitely what appears to be capsule-style glue around the hole where the piton penetrates the rock.

The bottom 15 feet of this route is very height dependent. Shorter climbers will find it very hard to move between the various positive holds. Jul 9, 2007
andy patterson
Carpinteria, CA
[Hide Comment] Well, it seems this crowd-pleaser slab climb is still living up to its name: the holds just keep vanishing. I climbed it this last weekend and noticed a conspicuous lack of certain holds, particularly the "rest" hold (diagonal rail/crimp to the left of the bad pocket) about 8 or 9 feet up. Is the climb now harder? It was for me, but that's only because my traditional sequence was botched due to the lack of the hold. I'd appreciate some outside consensus other than my narrow, chagrined perspective. Jan 2, 2008
Dan Hehnke
Santa Barbara, CA
[Hide Comment] I agree with Andy that this could be a bit harder now. I used to climb it quite a bit between 2001-2005 or so and remember one better hold at the start, and possibly one other hold 9 ft. up or so. Though it still seems if you nail the right sequence it's right in the low/mid 11 range. Such a fun climb. Jan 2, 2010
Richard Shore
[Hide Comment] Holds continue to vanish... But still so much fun Jan 17, 2011
Joseph Stover
Batesville, AR
[Hide Comment] The friction on this route was amazing yesterday. Maybe a slightly cool, damp day aids the stickiness... Even though the holds are few, there are many different variations that exist. Foot placement and balance is key.

I think going slightly right of the piton without moving too far left is standard, but I found going nearly directly above the piton to be a bit less strenuous. May 23, 2011
Matthew Fienup
Ventura, CA
[Hide Comment] It's a very sad day in Santa Barbara.

Someone has sport-bolted Vanishing Flakes. There is a new lower bolt (not far from the route's fixed pin), a new bolt above the original route's second clip and a sport anchor for lowering off half-way up the wall.

This is sacrilege. Vanishing Flakes is one of Santa Barbara's truly classic leads.

I am sure that the new bolts will not remain, but I strongly encourage Santa Barbara climbers to register their opinions here. I desperately hope that this is not the start of a trend at San Ysidro and other area crags.

Stay tuned for photos. Dec 29, 2014
Alex Bury
Ojai, CA
[Hide Comment] I was pretty blown away when I arrived at the cliff this morning. A classic trad line, defiled.

Dec 29, 2014
Jeff Mahoney
Santa Barbara, CA
[Hide Comment] This is what local climbing has devolved to? Sad fucking day. Dec 30, 2014
[Hide Comment] Not good. Dec 30, 2014
andy patterson
Carpinteria, CA
[Hide Comment] When bolting new routes in Santa Barbara, I hope climbers follow the following criteria:

1) Respect the integrity of existing routes
2) Use discretion
3) Use your head

Bolting will always be controversial on some level, but in my opinion, this act of retro-bolting Vanishing Flakes doesn't follow the above criteria. The pin on VF was always quite solid (see Matthew Fienup's entry) and even if it wasn't, this route demands some historical respect. I mean, this is SAN YSIDRO for crying out loud. It's the closest thing we local climbers have to a museum.

But for the sake of civility, let's step back and think about this issue, well, civilly.

First of all, does this mean new routes should never go up at SY or SB? No. New routes HAVE gone up and I climb them with pleasure. When I bolt a new route, I get very self-conscious about what people will think about me. Will they like the route? Will climbers rant about my bolt-placement? Will someone think I'm a chump and chop half my bolts? It's exceptionally hard to bolt routes, and not just because of the time, expense, and energy. Climbers love to sit back and criticize, so if you choose to bolt, you choose notoriety, both good and bad.

A recent example: Fun In The Sun, 5.8 R.

Matthew and I replaced all the old bolts on this historic route in a one-to-one manner, doing our best to preserve the tradition of the route while making sure the hardware was substantial enough to hold a fall (before our arrival, the bolts were super rusty 1/4" diameter bolts that were drilled 1/4" deep). Should we have done this? Or should we have left the existing hardware? Matthew and I would argue that we were doing a service to the community, but I could see how someone might balk at our actions and get angry.

In regards to Vanishing Flakes, my non-cynical self hopes that someone not familiar with local ethics and history showed up, looked at the pin, deemed it un-safe, then added a bolt out of a perceived act of generosity to the climbing community. Sure, I'm bummed and disagree, but I can at least see why someone might have acted in this manner.

My cynical self thinks someone just got scared of leading this route, acted rashly, and disrespected the bold and vibrant traditions of the San Ysidro climbing community. To the extent that Santa Barbara is a climbing-democracy, I hereby cast my vote to remove the new bolt. To whoever placed the new bolt: I won't call you names and issue death-threats, but I will politely disagree with what you did.

I encourage the climbing community to cast their votes. Civilly, please. Dec 31, 2014
[Hide Comment] I encourage the climbing community to cast their votes. Civilly, please., thanks.

Whoever did this needs to be waterboarded with buffalo sperm, period. Luckily, shit like this (unlike graffitti/chiseling) is easily erased. Dec 31, 2014
andy patterson
Carpinteria, CA
[Hide Comment] Heh, heh.

Bob, impressively stated.

If anyone is planning on going up to remove the bolt, let me know. I can A) contribute tools and/or B) heat up the offending hardware in my forge, press it in to a gnarled ball of corrupted steel in my 200 Ton Hydraulic Press, and hang it on the sign at the trailhead as a warning to would-be offenders. Seriously. I can make that happen. Dec 31, 2014
Matthew Fienup
Ventura, CA
[Hide Comment] Replacing aging bolts one-to-one has been controversial for all of the 16+ years that I have been climbing in Santa Barbara. Where it has been done, it has generally been done with great discretion. And still the practice has had its detractors.

In the case of a classic route like Fun in the Sun, I'm happy to engage in this debate. Obviously, I think that adding solid bolts to each of the original placements is worthwhile in order to open this route to more ascents. I also understand that some people disagree.

There is nothing controversial about adding bolts to an existing route without the FA's approval. It's unacceptable in any climbing area. Period.

I know that there are some who have proposed adding bolts to the classic 2-pitch line Face Lift. I think that we need to draw the line very indelibly. Adding lead bolts is unacceptable. Dec 31, 2014
Jon Hartmann
Ojai, CA
[Hide Comment] 1 more vote to chop the offending bolts, and 1 more vote if you count Chuck Ethics opinion. I've clipped that pin many times and always felt safe. If I didn't want the run outs, I would have climbed something different. Climbing is a privilege, not a right.
Dec 31, 2014
Jan Roestel
[Hide Comment] Buffalo Sperm, Buffalo Sperm! That is some serious bukkake...

I vote to remove the "additional" hardware. I also vote for a local, non-online forum to discuss things such as hardware replacement, retro-bolting, crag cleanups, and other general stewardship items over beers. Ideas? Dec 31, 2014
[Hide Comment] I lead this climb back when the pin was still drive up into the flake. Some time between 1987 and 1992 the pin was pulled and replaced in a drilled hole. leaving the climb with much of the original flavor, but safer. The original pin and bolts are placed where they should be to keep a leader from hiding the ground.

Adding bolt to this SB classic is defacements and equivalent to tagging in my opinion.

Please whoever removes these bolts be very careful so as to not deface the rock even further.

By todays standards Vanishing Flakes would not even have bolts, It would be a hi-ball boulder problem just like the one to the right of this route.

Young William lies between Vanishing Flakes and the corner boulder problem, and was lead by Ted Striker. Jan 1, 2015
andy patterson
Carpinteria, CA
[Hide Comment] Jan,

I concur: I'd like to convene with other climbers to address everything you mentioned—particularly the beer topic. In all reality, there's not that many of us who put up new routes, so it might be a small gathering, but I would enjoy hearing other's perspectives. My shop is just around the corner from American Ale, Joe's Cafe, and I always enjoy the Brewhouse. Weirdest menu in SB! If any of you folks are interested, call or text me at 805-729-8146. My email is


Thanks for the history. I love, love, love that stuff. I totally agree about the bouldery nature of Vanishing Flakes and Young William. Kids these days climb much higher stuff sans protection. Jan 1, 2015
[Hide Comment] The idiot that added the bolts probably won't be at the meeting, and most attendees will agree on obvious stuff like don't add bolts to existing lines - so I'm not sure how much will be accomplished. I do think that replacing old bolts with new hardware can eliminate the initial thought that someone might have to fix-up an old route, and then takes it too far by adding other bolts. So to those that really care about the old, historic routes, keeping them up-to-date proactively might help future incidents like this. But maybe not, there are a lot of idiots out there. Also, I doubt it would be very hard to figure out who drilled these bolts. The two-part clay-like epoxy works well for filling in old bolt holes, btw. Jan 2, 2015
Matthew Fienup
Ventura, CA
[Hide Comment] The route's lone bolt was replaced 2-3 years ago. The 5/16-inch stud was replaced with a bomber 12mm stainless sleeve bolt. The bolts in question looked like these.

Clearly, updating the aging hardware did not dissuade the idiot. Jan 4, 2015
[Hide Comment] To whoever wants to remove the bolts... Clearly, it will be easy if they overdrilled the depth, simply push the sleeve in and cover with a bit of glue. If they didn't, an angle grinder with a cutting disc works perfect and can be done without scarring the rock. I have one if someone wants to borrow it; I'm sure Andy does too. Too often, chopping bolts is poorly done and destroys the rock even more. Jan 4, 2015
Matthew Fienup
Ventura, CA
[Hide Comment] Crazy, crazy. The bolts added to VF are hardware-store variety 3/8" externally-threaded sleeve bolts. These are only 1/4" in diameter where the hanger loads the bolt. It would be much safer to clip the drilled piton. The midway anchor consists of 3/8" cold shuts (not even the 1/2-inchers that we used to see at Wheeler Gorge and elsewhere). These beauties have been shown to have a 74% variation in breaking strength.

The mad bolter didn't even make the route safer to climb...

As of January 14, the new (sketchy) hardware has been removed. Jan 14, 2015
Richard Shore
[Hide Comment] Thanks, Matt, for your time and effort in restoring this historic ground-up route. Hopefully the rock isnt too badly scarred from this whole ordeal. Jan 14, 2015
andy patterson
Carpinteria, CA
[Hide Comment] Yes! Thanks for the time and effort. And you restored the route on the same day Tommy and Kevin topped out the Dawn Wall! Jan 15, 2015
Chris Bersbach
Arroyo Grande, CA
[Hide Comment] I just went to San Ysidro for the first time in several years (my last visit was probably 2013?), and jumped on this classic as part of my afternoon nostalgic tour. I hadn't reviewed this thread beforehand, so I didn't know to be on the lookout for retrobolting, patched, holes or anything like that, but I thought it'd be worth chiming in to say that I didn't see anything other than the expected pin and bolt, and I didn't notice any patched holes. Kudos to the SB locals for staying on top of the issue, and especially to Matt for the time & effort removing the added hardware, and for doing such a good job that the climb didn't appear obviously degraded. Nov 27, 2017
Matthew Fienup
Ventura, CA
[Hide Comment] It still goes.

Following the devastating mudslides, this route will never be the classic that it once was. But, there's still a route here. The start is closer to 11b/c now, and a little sandy. If you never climbed it previously, it's probably worth your time. If you climbed it prior to the mudslides, you might be too heart broken to enjoy it. Aug 20, 2018