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Permanent Income Hypothesis

5.9, Sport, 180 ft (55 m),  Avg: 3.5 from 87 votes
FA: Romain Wacziarg & Matthew Fienup (January 2007)
California > Central Coast > Hwy 33/Ojai > Fortress > Right Side Gully
Warning Access Issue: Hwy 33 Road Closure DetailsDrop down


Airy and exposed climbing up one of the most striking aretes in the Fortress.

The crux of the route is right off the ground, passing the first bolt (5.9+). The remainder of the route is steep and sustained (5.8). The last 40 feet are unbelievable!

A 60m rope is an absolute MUST as the route itself is approximately 55m long and the rappels are 30m each.


"Permanent Income Hypothesis" is located in the center of the Fortress, on the huge arete immediately behind and uphill from "Free to Choose."

The best way to approach the start of the route is to climb the first pitch of "Free to Choose." From the P1 anchor, traverse a narrow ledge left to the start of "Permanent Income Hypothesis" (about 80 feet).

(Note: the rappel line is 10 feet to the right of the route. It is not possible to rappel the actual arete without risking a dangerous swing.) Rappel from chains down the gully to the right of "Permanent Income Hypothesis." 30m down the gully is a grassy ledge with bolts. A second rappel will get you back to the start of the route (see photo for more detail). From the start of the route, traverse a narrow ledge to the P1 anchor of "Free to Choose." Make one more rappel to the ground


16 bolts plus bolted anchors. All bolts are 1/2" Rawl-style expansion bolts.

Photos [Hide ALL Photos]

Romain Wacziarg airs it out near the top of P.I.H., at the Fortress.
[Hide Photo] Romain Wacziarg airs it out near the top of P.I.H., at the Fortress.
Romain & Alberto, two economists, on "Permanent Income Hypothesis," at the Fortress.
[Hide Photo] Romain & Alberto, two economists, on "Permanent Income Hypothesis," at the Fortress.
A) Free to Choose (5.8)<br>
B) Permanent Income Hypothesis (5.9+)
[Hide Photo] A) Free to Choose (5.8) B) Permanent Income Hypothesis (5.9+)
Romain Wacziarg on P.I.H., at the Fortress
[Hide Photo] Romain Wacziarg on P.I.H., at the Fortress
Matthew Fienup nears the top of "Permanent Income Hypothesis" during the route's first ascent.
[Hide Photo] Matthew Fienup nears the top of "Permanent Income Hypothesis" during the route's first ascent.
Permanent Income Hypothesis and the related rappel line.
[Hide Photo] Permanent Income Hypothesis and the related rappel line.
Pulling my buddy up one of the best 5.9's in SoCal IMHO. Photo courtesy of Hagan Timmons, from "Capitalism and Freedom"
[Hide Photo] Pulling my buddy up one of the best 5.9's in SoCal IMHO. Photo courtesy of Hagan Timmons, from "Capitalism and Freedom"
Belay on Permanent Income Hypothesis
[Hide Photo] Belay on Permanent Income Hypothesis
Romain Wacziarg enjoys stunning arete climbing on "Permanent Income Hypothesis" during the route's first ascent.
[Hide Photo] Romain Wacziarg enjoys stunning arete climbing on "Permanent Income Hypothesis" during the route's first ascent.
Richard Shore at the summit block of Permanent Income Hypothesis
[Hide Photo] Richard Shore at the summit block of Permanent Income Hypothesis
Rest spot on PIH
[Hide Photo] Rest spot on PIH
Maidy at the belay at the top of pitch 1.
[Hide Photo] Maidy at the belay at the top of pitch 1.

Comments [Hide ALL Comments]

Matthew Fienup
Santa Rosa Valley, CA
[Hide Comment] It is important to note that Romain and I simply made the First KNOWN Ascent of this route. Two pieces of fixed gear indicate that an attempt was made to climb this arete in the 80s. Other than these two placements, the route felt pristine (there had been little or no cleaning of lichen and loose rock prior to our ascent in 2007). Jan 11, 2007
Matthew Fienup
Santa Rosa Valley, CA
[Hide Comment] It is possible to access the start of this route (and descend from the base of the route when finished) by using the rock-filled, 4th class gully beneath the route. This is NOT recommended. The descent is particularly treacherous. It is much better to use the first pitch of "Free to Choose" for both the approach and the descent. Jan 11, 2007
[Hide Comment] I'll add that the uppermost of the 80s-style bolts had a rap sling on it; it is probable that those who attempted the line bailed from there. Any traditional protection anywhere on that route would be very sketchy at best. Jan 11, 2007
Erik Anderson
Ventura, CA
[Hide Comment] Interesting route! The climbing and position were fun and the route should get better as future ascent parties clean away some of the lichen and loose rock. Recommend a helmet and protected stance for the belayer until things clean up.

I noted evidence of two previous (pre-Permanent Income Hypothesis) ascents/attempts on the arete when my wife and I climbed it today. These included a rusty old bolt and hanger (70s era) that I had mistaken for a piton when I saw it from the ground some years back and a newer bolt (90s? era and chopped) towards the top. Nobody’s ever claimed any credit for these as far as I know?

I have to commend Matthew and Romain for putting a tremendous amount of work into "Permanent Income Hypothesis" and the other projects I noticed going up around the Fortress. Thanks! We had a great day. Feb 4, 2007
Matthew Fienup
Santa Rosa Valley, CA
[Hide Comment] To see a photo of the aging bolt removed from PIH, please click here…

What appeared from the surface to be a standard issue 3/8" wedge bolt was actually something very different. Mar 2, 2007
[Hide Comment] Really spectacular exposure on this route and the arete transition near the top is just fantastic. After climbing again I think that the move at the 2nd bolt is perhaps 5.9, but the rest seemed no harder than 5.8. Apr 11, 2007
Adam D
Los Osos, CA
[Hide Comment] Best current route at the Fortress? I think so. Thanks for all the work put into these climbs Matthew and Romain. The upper sections reminded me of some arete climbs in the Gunks. Stuck ropes are a possibility on the first rap into the gully (happened to me) and having some pro to lead back up through the choss is nice. May 10, 2007
Jeff Dunbar
Ridgway, CO
[Hide Comment] Did this route with my girlfriend back in April, and we had a ball. After the initial 5.9 slab move, the rest of the route is surpisingly cruiser and the exposure high on the arete is fantastic. I commend the FA crew for a superb bolting effort. I'll definitely be coming back to this one! May 25, 2007
Diego Hellewell
Canoga Park, CA
[Hide Comment] Not every day gives you the opportunity of a 16-bolt 5.9+ on super exposed sandstone, and especially not if you live in SoCal. This climb is worth whatever it takes you to get here!

Be prepared for some sore achilles tendons after the 60 meters of pointwork you'll be putting in here, and do yourself a favor by rappelling off "Free To Choose" when you're done, the descent on foot is kinda hairy. Jul 30, 2007
Santa Barbara, CA
[Hide Comment] Nikki and I climbed PIH on 9/30/07. Awesome route, super exposed, super fun climbing. Definitely one of the best 5.9s around (or anywhere). Thanks to Fienamn and Wacziarg for putting up such a superb route.

Some Beta:
1) Helmets are a good idea as there is still a significant amount of lose rock and lichen on the route.
2) I can echo the sentiment about a stuck rope on the first rappel as it almost happened to us as well.
3) I would recommend bringing gear to build a belay at the bottom of the route as a lead fall before the first bolt could result in tragic consequences (I used a #1 MaxCam[~.75"], #10 & #11 Nut).
4) For the conservative, bringing a 2" Cam for the traverse from Free To Choose isn't such a bad idea either.
5) Bring some longer slings for offline bolts (2nd bolt for example) as after 16 bolts the rope drag, although manageable, is quite considerable Oct 1, 2007
[Hide Comment] Nice to see that there are some permanent routes going up in this area. I did many of these routes either on top rope or on lead with natural gear (not recommended as the rock was pretty loose and pro was sketchy at best) about 10 years ago when we were adding routes to the John P. Wall. I did a line that closely follows PIH with gear and was pretty spooked because I knew my placements were not that great. I was thinking of coming back and bolting the route after we finished Cleaning Lady (The 10c just to the right of Color Blind on the John P Wall) in 99. The flies were so bad and we ended up never coming back to do it. Thanks Matt and Romain for putting it up. I am sure it will be much more fun clipping bolts on it then my last go on it. Also top roped the area around Classically Liberal and Consumption Dysfunction in the late 90’s and thought they would be a lot of fun as bolted lead routes. I knew this area had some good climbs in it and I am glad to see that someone has finally began to put some routes there. During the 90’s some friends and I put up about 10 routes in the area and knew there were many more fine lines to be had.

If you think the Fortress Area is nice, check out the walls a few more miles up the creek. There are a ton of classics waiting to be had there. Did several exploration climbs there as well, and though the approach is not quite as nice, once a decent trail is established the possibilities for really fun first accents will keep you happy for quite a while.

Looking forward to getting back up to the area and checking out the established bolt lines. Dec 11, 2007
Matthew Fienup
Santa Rosa Valley, CA
[Hide Comment] Just did this route as a trio last weekend. With two 60m ropes, it is possible to rappel the entire route in one stretch. Pulling our ropes from the base also seemed to provide a better angle and a cleaner pull (perhaps providing less chance of a stuck rope). May 13, 2008
Stephen Pratt
Goleta, CA
[Hide Comment] "The permanent income hypothesis (PIH) is a theory of consumption that was developed by the American economist Milton Friedman. In its simplest form, PIH states that the choices made by consumers regarding their consumption patterns are determined not by current income but by their longer-term income expectations."

A free market fan eh? Jan 8, 2009
Paul F Rose
[Hide Comment] Great route! Fun, very exposed, one of the few full pitch climbs in the area. Maybe too many bolts. The rock quality keeps you on your toes but it's all there. Jan 19, 2009
Rob Chaney
[Hide Comment] I also did this route as a trio, and raped all the way down and found the rope pull much cleaner. I have had my rope stuck raping of this route before. May 11, 2009
[Hide Comment] I love this route! Gotta watch out for rocks falling when pulling your rope after the first rappel though. Aug 28, 2009
Matthew Fienup
Santa Rosa Valley, CA
[Hide Comment] The poster that you refer to did not say that the route would be better with half the number of bolts ; ) Dec 27, 2009
[Hide Comment] yeah! I like the number of bolts! Jan 6, 2010
John Knight
[Hide Comment] A really cool, long, well protected route. It's been 4 years since this route went up and it appears to be settling nicely. Certainly the best route we climbed while we were at the Fortress.

I think the grade is a solid 5.9. While the opening move may be the crux (5.9), the upper moves are exposed and really interesting. Note - shorter climbers may want to have someone tall pre-clip the first bolt for them. A fall before the first bolt would result in a tumble down the gully.

I brought a few small cams (just in case) but did not need them. It was nice only having to carry draws and long slings (you really do need 16!). I think the bolting is "Goldilocks". If it had 1/2 the number of bolts this route would be R/X and few would climb it.

Thanks Romain & Matt for a great route. Jan 19, 2011
Maidy Vasquez
Bishop, CA
[Hide Comment] Stellar climb! Awesome exposure. Best arete in so Cal IMO. The bolt spacing is fine given the length, grade, and the fact that it is an arete. It's just incredibly long so you can get some rope drag if you clip every single one with a short sport draw. Use long runners or skip a couple bolts on easy parts to minimize drag.

We rapped back to the base of this climb in a single rappel with one 70 meter rope (short easy downclimb to the ledge). You do have to watch the rope pull since there are a number of features that can snag your rope or cause drag. Jun 24, 2013
[Hide Comment] Climbed on Saturday and right to the top of my list of fantastic gold medal climbs. My other is Sail Away in Joshua Tree. GO CLIMB IT NOW...but beware of rope snag! Seems it's guaranteed. I pulled my rope, caught in a crack, my buddy pulled his rope, first couldn't pull it, had to hike around to twist chains, then...SNAGGED! Not sure what to do differently.
Climb is fantastic and needs to be ticked!
Met an older climber there with a woman and he took photos of me climbing but with all the rope snag issues we missed him. Would love to have those photos!! Nov 18, 2014
[Hide Comment] Solid Climb.

Airy, Exposed and a real treat.

Clipping is well protected: you can easily skip bolt 2,3,4 (5th-class) before you really get to the vertical stuff.

The rappel is not bad at all; rap rings are around 25 meters down the east face and we did not have an issue of a rope getting stuck.

We climbed this multiple times over the course of our two day trip. A joy. Jan 27, 2016
Ernest W
Asheville, NC
[Hide Comment] Absolutely awesome route! Long, exposed, airy, fantastic summit. One of my new favorites on the Central Coast. The gully is really not that bad for the approach, but on the descent it's much better to traverse over to the Free-to-Choose rings and rap from there. I thought the bolting was just right - did use one red #1 C4 just as you step out onto the RH face of the arete below the overhang. We had no trouble pulling ropes on the raps down. Crux is around the first bolt and would echo the comment that a fall before clipping the first bolt could be a real problem both for climber and belayer. Be sure to pay attention to extending draws to reduce rope drag. Aug 27, 2018
Jeremy Elberst
Camarillo, CA
[Hide Comment] One of the better 9’s Ive done, with clean pulls on the raps (for us at least). Definitely dont fall before the first bolt though. Mar 3, 2020
Jonny Surfcatz
Moorpark, CA
[Hide Comment] Climbed it as a trio yesterday. Great fun! Prior to climbing, I missed Nick Todd's comment and so want to highlight it for those who follow. If climbed in a team of two with a 60m rope, when rapping down the north east side (as suggested), there's an additional rap station in the gully which is perfectly placed. Looks new and clean as of this date, too. I didn't see it while climbing up but, it's there for the descent. Safe climbing! Jun 13, 2020
Matthew Fienup
Santa Rosa Valley, CA
[Hide Comment] While the 2nd bolt may feel unnecessary for the leader, I highly recommend it for the follower. Without the 2nd bolt clipped, a fall at the crux would result in a very scary and perhaps injurious swing into the gully for the follower. Skipping the 2nd and 3rd bolts could prove disastrous. Jun 14, 2020