Type: Trad, 250 ft, 2 pitches
FA: Holmgren, Matthews, Vandevere, 1982
Page Views: 7,157 total · 52/month
Shared By: Jon Hanlon on Sep 26, 2007
Admins: Aron Quiter, andy patterson, M. Morley, Adam Stackhouse, Salamanizer suchoski, Justin Johnsen, Vicki Schwantes

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Access Issue: Seasonal Raptor Closures Details


Two magnificent pitches of wild stemming up a spooky black groove on the Balconies. Pitch one involves steep knob climbing between sometimes sparsely-placed bolts. An occasional knob can be tied off, but the steep crux comes between a gap in protection opportunities.

Pitch 2 requires more hip-cramping stemming up the water-hardened chute. This pitch is not to be missed.

At the time of this writing, not all bolts are inspiring, and some loose rock is present.


Lava Falls can be found in the middle of the Balconies. The route starts in a stand of trees just uphill from the Smiling Simian. Follow the black gully that pinches off at the top.


Quickdraws and full length runners for tying off knobs and clipping wandering bolts. Bolted anchors on both pitches.
Kyle Queener
Bishop, California
Kyle Queener   Bishop, California
Re-bolted in January 2009. Expect "bomber" bolts. Jan 30, 2009
Julie Silvestro
Phoenix, AZ
Julie Silvestro   Phoenix, AZ
Bring TWO ropes... Nov 8, 2009
aaron hope
Walnut Creek, CA
5.9 R
aaron hope   Walnut Creek, CA
5.9 R
Well protected. Except for the crux. Aug 28, 2010
Colin Simon
Boulder, CO
  5.9 R
Colin Simon   Boulder, CO
  5.9 R
This was my first lead ever, in April 2008.

I was terrified. I had done a bunch of gym climbing but only toproped outside about 5 times.

This route still feels special, and defined me as a climber. Oct 5, 2010
Owen McGrath
Boulder, CO
Owen McGrath   Boulder, CO
Just climbed the first pitch today. Didn't make the second as we were benighted.

Bolts are really solid, except at the crux, place extra slings on nobs or be ready for a decent whipper.

All told, an amazing climb. Great stemming route, and an even more epic view.

Was my first time to Pinnacles. Can't wait to get back.

Also, anyone have beta for those wanting to camp and climb only on the West Side? Is it cool to leave a car overnight and trek to campground on the east side? Anyone tried to ask some of the ranches on the way in if it would be cool to pitch a tent for a night's sleep? Jan 16, 2011
So San Francisco
beachplus4   So San Francisco
I was told no cars over night on the west side by Ranger Mark. Camping on th east is so easy and its a short hike to any of the climbs on the west. Jan 16, 2011
Pavel K
Pavel K  
You can rap off with a 70m rope if you are willing to downclimb the last approx. 10 feet to the ground. Jan 17, 2011
Matthias Gottmann  
  5.9 R
Found (by missing the middle belay station) that the two pitches can be combined with a 70m rope. Distances between bolts are substantial, but I felt that the hardest moves were well protected. Nov 11, 2013
Simon W
Nowhere Land
Simon W   Nowhere Land
Really fun route, but I wouldn't recommend it for the new 5.9 leader.

Most of the bolts are in good shape, but in most spots you wouldn't really want to use them. (Due to big air potential and rock that isn't quite steep enough.)

I counted bolts and still almost climbed past the first belay. Look for a manky old SMC hanger out right when you're at the 10th bolt or so and you should notice the chains just outside of the chute. Jan 7, 2014
Joe Forrester
Palo Alto
Joe Forrester   Palo Alto
Great line and an exciting amount of distance between bolts. You can rap with a 70m in 3 raps, but you have to be willing to equalize bolts 2+3 on the first pitch, then climb back up and get your stuff. A whip at the crux would be exciting. Apr 7, 2014
Kyle Queener
Bishop, California
Kyle Queener   Bishop, California
I've done this route approximately ten times now and still ALWAYS find it exciting and fun. One of the nicest ways to climb it is to follow the first pitch and continue on leading the second pitch. Since the belay at the top of the first is off to the right you can just keep climbing without ever stopping at the belay stance. Just continue on up and do the whole thing in one nice continuous climb.

I also believe this route is definitely climbable even on the hottest days if you wait for the wall to go into the shade very late in the day. Sep 17, 2014
A single 60m rope rappel from the top of the 2nd pitch to the top of the 1st pitch leaves very little rope left, so beware and tie knots. This is usually not done because you have 2 ropes, but we had a 70m and a 60m in a party of three. While two of us rapped the fixed 70m to the ground, the third set up the 60m to go to the mid point anchors. Nov 14, 2015
Jacob Straszynski
San Francisco
  5.9 PG13
Jacob Straszynski   San Francisco
  5.9 PG13
TLDR; Can confirm that this can be lead with a single 70m rope! I'd make sure your belayer is tied in because it's very marginal - in fact it shouldn't even be possible given the combined length of the two pitches is 245 feet according to the 2007 guide book.

Lead this on December 11, 2016. It was still dripping in the morning and I considered whether or not this meant we shouldn't climb it (ALA sandstone). Theres no mention of moisture concerns in the guide books or this website so I went with it. Perhaps common sense should have applied here, but I managed to convince myself because it looked like the wetness might be limited to the first 30 feet, which were in the shade.

Nope - the whole route was wet.

Definitely one of my most interesting leads. The 15-20 foot spacing between bolts was bad enough and compounded with the sometimes unavoidable drip in the middle of the water streak, jug puddles, and general pinnacles rock quality concerns, made it a memorable experience.

Crux came after the goobered glue in bolt. A traverse about 4 feet out right got me somewhat into the sun and some dry rock. Messed up the sequence initially so downclimbed about 7 feet to smoke a cigarette and reconsider how wise this plan was. 10 minutes and approximately 15 feet later, I was past the crux at the next bolt. A fall during this section wouldn't have been pleasant.

I noticed the anchors out right when I was 3 bolts above. After counting my draws, slings and locking biners, I decided to continue. Got to the top with one long sling left, which I basket-hitched through the anchor chains.

My first follower decided he'd seen enough after a fall from third bolt. Weighing ~ 190lbs, he came to a stop about 2 feet off the ground after the 210 feet of rope that was still out stopped stretching.

A second follower persisted to the glorious end trailing another 70m rope. We made it to the bottom in a single rap with our 140m of rope. By the time we rapped down the rock seemed relatively dry. Dec 12, 2016
Natalie Nicole
San Francisco, CA
Natalie Nicole   San Francisco, CA
Confirmed that you can do 1 rap to the ground with two 70m ropes. Fun route! Dec 23, 2016
Mike D
Boulder, CO
  5.9 R
Mike D   Boulder, CO
  5.9 R
I feel the need to comment on this route since there's a picture of me leading this in the Pinnacles guidebook. The picture was taken by my belayer, who was clearly giving the task at hand his undivided attention. ;)

Anyway, this is a great route, though I've only done the first pitch. Dec 23, 2016
Max Rausch
Portland, OR
  5.9+ R
Max Rausch   Portland, OR
  5.9+ R
Forever a classic. Killer weather yesterday. I noticed there is now a rap link on the 4th bolt for all you single 70m people. I often find that the mantle move after the last bolt on p2 is just as spicy feeling as the crux of p1. Nov 12, 2017
Isaiah Foulks
Isaiah Foulks   Monterey
Absolutely stunning climb. I have the utmost respect for the bad asses that discovered the line.The mantel move at the top of the second pitch was a bit of an unwelcome surprise, apparently blank at first but well protected. At the top of the second pitch, I spotted a bolt on the upper tier (about 40 feet up and a little right, in the next water chute). Wasn't feeling adventurous enough to investigate further. Anybody know of any recent projects or continuations to lava falls? Dec 14, 2017
kevin deweese
Oakland, Ca
kevin deweese   Oakland, Ca
@Isaiah Foulks: AFAIK the bolts on the upper tier remain the uninspiring old bolts on homemade hangers that peter out into nothing from an abandoned attempt in the past. I've ventured up two bolts or so many years ago to see what was up and ended up bailing when the bolts disappeared, was told by others that would know that the upper tier bolts above Lava Falls were remnants of an exploratory climb rather than a finished climb. Dec 23, 2017