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Marble Caves

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Bowling Ball, The 
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Marble Caves Rock Climbing 


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Location: 40.39359, -123.3299 View Map  Incorrect?
Page Views: 8,962
Administrators: Rick Shull, Lurker, M. Morley, Adam Stackhouse, Salamanizer suchoski, Justin Johnsen, Kristine Hoffman (sitewide)
Submitted By: Rick Shull on Oct 12, 2007
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BETA PHOTO: Marble Caves as seen from Hwy. 36 when traveling d...

Description 

Marble Caves sits high on a ridgeline above the South Fork of the Trinity River, and is truly one of the undiscovered gems of northern California. The walls range from 50' to 250' in height on blue, gold and white-streaked limestone of typically excellent quality. There are currently ~60 routes here, from 5.10-5.14, with tons of room for new development. All of the walls are accessed via the same point, except for the Bowling Ball, which is on a separate formation. Regardless of where you go, you will almost certainly have the place entirely to yourself.

The Caves face southwest, so best times to climb are typically fall to spring, although the crag does get snowed in some winters. Summer is extremely hot and not recommended. Watch out for poison oak regardless of season.

Free camping can be found anywhere, as it's all on U.S. Forest Service property, but the best spots are at the parking for the main area (there's a large, flat landing just before you gain the trail), or at Pete's Pasture, which is at the turnoff from the primary access road to the main area trailhead.

See "Bigfoot Country Climbing" for more info about the crag. The guide lists many routes drilled for Removable Bolts. Since these are no longer made, the majority of old "R.B." routes have been retro bolted with the permission of the first ascentionists.

Getting There 

In Northern CA, take Hwy 36 from either Red Bluff inland, or near Fortuna from the coast.

Just east of the "no horse" town Forest Glen, near Hell Gate campground is Flume Gulch Road where Rattlesnake creek flows under Hwy 36.

Take Flume Gulch road 3 miles to the end of the pavement. For the Dream Wall, turn left onto 1S14D. Camp / park on an old logging landing about 1 mile down this road. The trail to the cliff starts at the back of the logging landing, in the trees. Follow this faint trail over the saddle to the right end of the Dream Wall. Walk right across the "catwalk" to the other walls of this sector.

The Bowling Ball is accessed by continuing along Flume Gulch Road past the junction with the road to the Dream Wall. Park at mile post 10. Hike down hill to the southwest from there 5 minutes to the crag. The crags are not visible from the parking area.

Climbing Season

For the Redwood Coast area.

Weather station 1.9 miles from here

24 Total Climbing Routes

['4 Stars',9],['3 Stars',9],['2 Stars',6],['1 Star',0],['Bomb',0]
['<=5.6',0],['5.7',0],['5.8',0],['5.9',0],['5.10',9],['5.11',10],['5.12',4],['5.13',1],['>=5.14',0],['',0],['<=V1',0],['V2-3',0],['V4-5',0],['V6-7',0],['V8-9',0],['V10-11',0],['V12-13',0],['>=V14',0]


Featured Route For Marble Caves
Rock Climbing Photo: Taylor about to enter the business on "Fearle...

Fearless Leader 5.11d 7a 24 VIII 25 E5 6a  California : Redwood Coast : ... : The Bowling Ball
Moderate face for a few bolts, then pull a crux bulge on long reaches between jugs. Gain a no-hands rest above the bulge, then pull an easier crux moving left into good incut holds. Finish on a short hand crack. Pretty soft for .11d as Humboldt grades go, but really quality climbing....[more]   Browse More Classics in California

Photos of Marble Caves Slideshow Add Photo
Rock Climbing Photo: right wing, watch for loose blocks
right wing, watch for loose blocks

Comments on Marble Caves Add Comment
Show which comments
By Taylor Morrow
Mar 4, 2012
Has anyone climbed here this year? i am really itching to get on some real rock and this area seams the best chance to have a nice winter climbing session. Is there anymore info on this area someone would be willing to share?
By Crimper E6
From: cheltenham, UK, SW is the BEST
Nov 9, 2014
Marble Caves : good luck finding the trail, no-ones been here for 10yrs probably, really overgrown, bring a saw.. Awesome climbing in the 7a-7b range.

The bowling ball was easier to find.(although the 10mile post has been knocked over and was in a bush)

Just follow the gully down and then to the R to reach the base of the cliff, no disernable path and poison ivy.

Bowling ball routes are meh, dusty and not really worth it to be honest, plus randomly needing gear for routes, slightly annoying for a sport crag...

Harder routes look ok, i would probably tick all of trinity before going to the bowling ball (and then bring a wire brush and some hangers for the anchors! )

the warm up 5.10 route has no anchors (go L to"fearless leader" and dont kill the belayer with loose blocks)
By Lurker
Administrator
From: Westwood
Jan 3, 2015
Bummer that you had trouble finding the trail. There is actually a pretty well-defined trail to the main crag, but it is a little hard to find.

People have certainly been out there in the past 10 years, a handful of new routes went in last year. The climbing at the Caves ranges from good to ultra-classic on mostly bullet, vertical to overhanging limestone. Surprised that you thought that the Bowling Ball was not that great. The rock quality at the Caves, and the Bowling Ball in particular, makes the Trinity Aretes look like a pile of shit, IMO (aside from the Paisano Buttress at least).

I agree though, the random gear placements are kind of annoying, but that's how the majority of Humboldt climbing was originally developed. All the new routes going in are fully bolted.

The only thing the Caves really suffers from is lack of traffic. Five-star routes there that don't have a trace of chalk on them, in an incredibly aesthetic setting. That said, it's pretty much in the middle of nowhere. I'm still surprised, however, that the Bay Area folks haven't picked up on any of these spots.
By Lurker
Administrator
From: Westwood
Feb 23, 2016
Bowling Ball parking UTM's: 471788 E 4472175 N.

Park at a small pullout on your left and head down the gully for about 5 minutes until you come around the left side of the crag.

Main area parking UTM's: 472505 E 4471299 N.

Head up the old road to the back of the small clearing, the trail is on your left. Hike approximately 10 minutes up the trail, cross the saddle, and continue down for another 5 minutes, again putting you on the left side of the crag.
By Steve Harrison
From: Arcata
Mar 15, 2017
Thank you for the UTM coordinates! The flat felling area by the parking area is slightly above the road and is easy to drive past. The reasonably defined trail goes by a pond, which is great to rinse off all the poison oak you will invariably come into contact with.

This is the best rock I have climbed in the Humboldt area.

It is frustrating trying to reconcile routes from mountain project and the bigfoot guide book. The route names are not consistent.

The random gear requirements kept me off some routes (no gear). It would be helpful if people could comment on the difficulty of gear placements on the routes. For example, if the route is overall 10c, is the stance for placing the one or two random cams a 10c stance, or is the climbing below the grade at that point. Read: new to trad climbing.
By Lurker
Administrator
From: Westwood
Mar 15, 2017
Hey Steve. Glad you're out enjoying the Caves...such a rad place!

In regards to the route names, they are absolutely consistent with the Bigfoot guide. I know, because I added all the routes to the database, and have climbed every one (and I bolted a handful of them). The real problem is (1) the Bigfoot guide is out-of-date and there are a number of routes there that aren't in the book, and (2) the Bigfoot guide just isn't very clear. Trust me, it took me awhile to figure out every crag I ever went to in that book. Honestly, it will probably take a few trips to the Caves to orient yourself well. I would suggest starting with the routes you're sure of, and moving out from there.

The gear placements are a tough one. Limestone placements are tricky at best, and honestly, if you're a new trad leader, I wouldn't suggest pushing it on the mixed routes in Humboldt. Some of them are serious DFU territory. That said, the gear placements are generally in the easiest parts of the climbs, but you could also be in 5.10-5.11 terrain as well. The large majority of new routes going in are fully-bolted, thankfully.

If you want any other beta on the Caves or other Humboldt crags, feel free to PM me.

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