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From Colorado to California
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Nov 22, 2012
Hi all,

I am in the process of moving from Colorado to Socal. I have been addicted to alpine climbing for 3 years now and lead 5.7 rock (including alpine 5.7), with most of my ability concentrated in the alpine environment, above 11k. I have had the opportunity to partake in some most amazing alpine climbs in the beautiful state of Colorado, many of which are in my backyard.

I am worried about leaving the state, as it pertains to climbing. I must do what's right for the family, which in this case, is move closer to relatives and other family in socal.

As you can imagine, I'm a bit worried. I would like to advance my climbing ability and continue to take on bigger and further away objectives. These of course include things like the Exum Ridge on the teton and alpine routes in the Sierras and Alaska.

Several key factors come to mind.

Firstly, I am worried a bout losing my acclimitization. Living at 6,000' is a huge advantage. Being able to get up above 10,000' bi-monthly is also a huge advantage. What can I expect living at sea level now, trying to complete moderate alpine rock climbs in a day? Is it going to totally knock me out of my socks? Am I going to be able to hit Mt. Whitney from San Diego in a day? Two days? Am I asking for AMS?

Secondly, I'm worried about the lack of multi-pitch routes in San Diego County. Of all the research I've done, I can't seem to locate many. Maybe one or two on El-Cajon Mountain, most of which are sport climbs. Are there any good multi-pitch trad climbs I can get on to keep myself sharp? Am I going to have to take up bouldering?

Thirdly, I guess I can say goodbye to Ice and Mixed climbing. I will be a 5.5 hours commute from the sierras. Over 6 to Lee Vining. This is disconcerting!

Fourthly, How in the heck am I going to find a partner? Maybe the climbing community is exploding in socal and I just don't know it? I have several high quality alpine climbing partners that are more than willing to take the sharp end of the rope when needed. I'm sure going to miss being able to train with these guys, and knocking off bigger objectives together.

Fifthly, am I just a worry wart? Can anyone help me to address these concerns?

I am looking forward to moving, even though I have to leave the alpine environment behind. I'm looking forward to the sierras and getting in some amazing climbing, albeit, 6 hours away.

I'm also looking forward to exploring San Diego County. I will be located most likely, south of Escondido.

I would appreciate anyone who is willing to help me alleviate my distress over these concerns.


James Bellamy
James Bellamy
Joined Nov 22, 2012
0 points
Nov 23, 2012
Look at the good side of it - you will be relatively close to Tahquitz (multipitch excellent rock) and Joshua Tree. If you drive to Whitney, spend a night at the trailhead first, and you'll be fine. I don't know anything about San Diego climbing.

It will probably be difficult to find new partners for a while, but it will happen.

Welcome to The Golden State.
From Atascadero, CA
Joined Nov 19, 2009
15 points
Nov 23, 2012
good trad routes at el cajon mtn if ur willing to haul your rack like 2 miles of flatland and like 1000 feet uphill.
eagles peak has multi sport
corte madera has both trad and sport multi pitch
then theres tahquitz and joshua
youll be fine
From San Diego, California
Joined Aug 22, 2012
60 points
Nov 23, 2012
Its Sierra.... not Sierras. Keep sayin Sierras and you'll never fit in out here.

You're loosing the psyche. That's understandable. But you gotta gain it back. If you've got the psyche for your new area in SoCal, then all will be well. Read trip reports, look at photos or read about the history of the area. For climbing rock outside in the dead of winter, seems like SD is the place to be. There is high altitude (10K) near L.A. so if you like to ski or snowshoe, the San Gabriels could be for you.

Do you climb alpine routes in the winter? If so, go to the Sierra.
Like craggin? You'll like SD
Do you climb sport routes? You'll like SD
Gym climb? boulder? You'll like SD

Leading 5.7 on rock would tell me that your choice of routes is going to be limited, so why not aim for some new goals this year. Onsight a 5.9 sport route? Wire Robbins crack out at Woodson. 30 pitches a day. Something. Anything. It's all training for the alpine, right?

Chad N
From Three Rivers, CA
Joined Jan 30, 2010
1,270 points
Nov 23, 2012
I live in London (sea level) and climb outdoors once a month. Maybe next year will be different but I had more important things to do in 2012 than climb.

Last summer I was able to go to California from London and climb hard above 11,000 feet. I am currently planning a trip next summer and most of the areas I am considering are all above 11,000. No matter where I go, at least one of the objectives will be a big alpine route with a crux pitch near my onsight level.

It is definitely possible to live in a city, at sea level, away from mountains and still have success in the mountains.

I didn't choose London for climbing - like you it was for family reasons. I thought I was going to be finished as a climber. But I've adapted and now I actually enjoy living here. There are a lot of very good reasons to live here if you are a climber. I bet if you're open minided you'll find that SoCal is just a fine place for a climber to live.
Ryan Williams
From London (sort of)
Joined May 10, 2009
1,215 points
Nov 23, 2012
Thank you all for the assuring replies. The first reply was especially insightful and encouraging. I probably do have a sense of urgency to my voice, that otherwise wouldn't be there if I didn't have such an incredible love for climbing!


I understand what you're saying about the "psyche" loss. That's the first thing that happened to me, now this worry.. I am more of a winter mountaineering guy, just breaking into the more technical mixed routes. It will be a difficult thing to leave places like RMNP (which is an hour away), that has soooo many world class alpine and ice routes. I am blessed to have been here!

Everyone else, thanks for the information and encouragement. I'm hoping that by visiting the Sierra once a month I can somewhat keep my acclimization.

James Bellamy
Joined Nov 22, 2012
0 points
Nov 23, 2012

I lived in Orange County for 6 years (while in grad school). I now live in Fort Collins.

if you WANT to get up to the Sierra you will. Its not in your backyard, so the effort will be greater to get to the big mountains. The longer drive times is what is going to annoy you the most.

HOWEVER, that being my limited experience, the alpine rock in CA is FAR SUPERIOR to the the alpine rock in CO. I'll probably catch hell for writing that. But its just my opinion. The clean, spectacular granite of the Sierra mountains is like heaven. Mix in fantastically stable weather (for the mountains) and you have a virtual paradise.

Living at 6,000 ft makes alpine stuff easier. But I lived at sea-level there, and still climbed 5.9-5.10 at 13,000-14,000 ft. You just have to deal with a bit more nausea.

Don't lose the psyche. There's so much to climb, it'll blow your mind! And there's tons of motivated climbers in S.D.

As far as multi-pitch rock experience, check out Tahquitz. Classic granite. Lots of fun, moderate stuff.

Nick Barczak
Joined Oct 9, 2008
50 points
Nov 26, 2012
James..... Welcome to California.....

Look up "pull"..... those boys do big time Alpine and rock climbing and are a large part of the SD scene.

There is so much to climb here you might never want to go scramble on scree again, with a frosting of snow..... Just kidding.

You will get that 5.7 up to 5.10 pretty quickly.

Guy Keesee
Guy Keesee
From Moorpark, CA
Joined Mar 1, 2008
105 points
Nov 26, 2012

You definitely don't have to leave the alpine environment behind. The Sierra are fantastic. And you'll find a lot of excellent rock closer to your door near San Diego.

As for acclimatization, I don't think you're going to lose much by coming down to sea level. I live at sea level, and I don't notice the altitude when I go climbing all that much more than I did when I lived in Colorado. Of course, you can make it easier on yourself by getting more time off of work so you don't have to try to cram a Whitney ascent from San Diego into one day.

Since you like winter mountaineering, one of the other really great things about the Sierra is the relatively stable snowpack. There are avalanches here, but the snow tends to bond more quickly after a storm than in Colorado, and the main avalanche zones are more predictable. You'll still need to take precautions if you're tromping around in the winter, but you'll find that you can safely access an amazing range of stuff in the Eastern Sierra for most of the winter. The backcountry skiing is unbelievable as well.

I live significantly north of San Diego, but the drive to the Sierra covers a lot of the same ground from anywhere in SoCal. Hit me up if you want to climb or ski something cold on a weekend sometime this winter.
Travis Madsen
From Denver, CO
Joined Feb 19, 2008
0 points
Nov 27, 2012
Travis, Guy, Nick -

Thank's for the encouragement. I have been doing more research since my last post... The rock quality looks amazing. The ruggedness of most of the peaks compared to Colorado, is also amazing.

I was thinking of purchasing a cheap climbing cabin near Independence, CA or Lone Pine, CA. It seems these two towns would be perfect as a launching point for any weekend out in the alpine.

I am definitely more of a winter guy but just started cutting my teeth on alpine rock (spring and summer time) last year. I did the Sharkstooth in RMNP and have climbed a lot in Eldorado Canyon State Park. Quite a bit also in the flatirons, boulder canyon, clear creek canyon and other areas. I'm mainly self taught but do have some professional training. I was a HRST (Helicopter Rope Suspension Master) in the Marine Corps. Most of the guys who trained me in technical climbing have been through CMC courses in rock - I'm familiar with fall factors, building anchors, etc. etc.

Hah, I guess I'm marketing myself for a new climbing partner now.

Anyhow. Travis - Thanks for the offer and I might take you up on that. One of my fears is that it'll be difficult to find a competent partner in the San Diego area - let alone one who even owns all of the gear.

James Bellamy
Joined Nov 22, 2012
0 points
Nov 28, 2012
I second what was said earlier...

Check out Pullharder

There are San Diegans crushing in the alpine. Yeah, it's a bit of a drive. But like Nick said, Sierra granite blows anything I've seen in CO out of the water.
Joined Nov 28, 2007
35 points
Nov 28, 2012

Welcome to California. I moved to San Diego from Denver about seven months ago and I had many of the same apprehensions as you have now. As others have noted, a little research will reveal quite a bit of adventuring to be had around here. Yeah, rock isn't quite as quick and convenient, but from what I've experienced it's also not quite as crowded as 'ol Crowdorado. I took my first months here to lay off climbing, learned to surf, and let some nagging injuries heal but I've been getting to the gym and climbing outside regularly. I have a fair amount of alpine experience and would be interested in getting some time out in the hills. Let me know if you're looking for a partner.

Eric Rak
From Seattle, WA
Joined Sep 20, 2005
0 points
Nov 28, 2012

You can do plenty of altitude training in So Cal, if you're willing to drive a little. The Sierra are available, starting at a 5.5 hr drive. Whitney in a day is probably out, but in a weekend is totally doable. 2 hours away are Tahquitz (mutipitch granite at ~7-8k'), San Jacinto (hiking up to an elevation of 10,800' with Cactus to Clouds being a hike with 10,000'+ of gain easily done in a day), and San Goronio (hiking to 11,500').

If you're into multipitch, there are three faces in the San Diego backcountry: El Cajon Mountain, Eagle Peak, and Corte Madera. The Allied Climbers of San Diego ( have not only fought successfully to maintain access to these areas, but have produced the best available guide to them. Each have a great wilderness feeling to them, have fewer than 10 people most days, and combined easily have over 100 multipitch routes up to 500' long that are spectacular experiences. They are primarily bolted face, but do have some gear lines up them. The guide is typically available at Mesa Rim climbing gym for $20, and every dollar goes back to ACSD (I need to remember to restock them this week since they are out! Thanks for the reminder!)

Mesa Rim ( climbing gym is one of the largest and nicest gyms in the country, and is where I train (and teach). It has a great community. There are people who hit the alpine, but they can be hard to find sometimes. SD has a descent climbing community, and you will find partners quickly if you're motivated and proactive.

Mixed/Ice climbing? You're kinda out on that one living in S.D. unless you make the haul to Lee Vining when the ice is in. There are some routes in the Sierra, but it probably doesn't compare to what you're used to.

Josh Higgins
Joined Oct 29, 2009
55 points
Nov 28, 2012
I lived in San Diego for ten years and have climbed throughout the County. I now live in Colorado. They are both great places to live. Think in terms of what San Diego has a to offer that Colorado doesn't. Yes, you will be farther from ice climbing, but that will give you a great excuse to come back and visit here. It's an easy flight or a long, very scenic drive.

While not a global destination for climbing, SD has many great local climbing areas, although most of it is single pitch. Corte Madera is your best bet for multi-pitch trad. Even better, From Escondido you are only ~2.5 hrs to Tahquitz or J-Tree.

Your idea of buying a cabin in the Eastern Sierra is a great one. From Lone Pine you have easy access to a lifetime of sweet alpine granite and some 14ers. Your alpine partners from Colorado will be more than happy to visit you there.

There are many climbers in SoCal. You'll find partners.

Have a blast, and go check out Torrey Pines State Reserve (especially in late afternoon), home to one of the most beautiful beaches anywhere.

From Brighton, CO
Joined Sep 24, 2010
0 points
Nov 29, 2012
"""I was thinking of purchasing a cheap climbing cabin near Independence, CA or Lone Pine, CA. It seems these two towns would be perfect as a launching point for any weekend out in the alpine.

That is a whole different story, I do not think you can get a cheap place on the east side. The DWP owns all the land and they don't give out any water permits- so no building.

The fact that the DWP owns it all is pretty cool... IMHO. If it was wide open it would be another Fresno.

I know of a place, a smallish Ranch by Lone Pine... It's on the block for about 12 million.... :>)
Guy Keesee
From Moorpark, CA
Joined Mar 1, 2008
105 points
Jun 8, 2013
So Folks,

Seems we bought a house in southwest Escondido, off of Via Rancho Parkway. My, how time flys. It seems like yesterday that I started this thread.

I have already had the opportunity to get up and climb Whitney via the Mtr's route, which was indeed a blast!

I am always open to hitting a local crag. I have a full trad rack and sport gear. Also have all alpine gear, overnight gear, etc. etc.

That being said, I am on the hunt for good climbing partners - especially those that care to get up to the Sierra and climb in an alpine environment.

James Bellamy
Joined Nov 22, 2012
0 points

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