California Climber Winter 2015

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s n o i t a v Inno ng hardware. Su

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ClimbTech removable bolts are great for bolting and minimizing impact. New features include cable stiffener, ergonomic trigger, and one-piece cleaning bushing. ClimbTech RBs are safe, efficient and easy to use.

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NO. 15 WINTER 2015



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Anne-Marie Lambert climbing Pirates on Horseback (5.10b), Alabama Hills. IMAGE + DEAN FLEMING THIS PAGE

Nicole Zuelke on Shark’s Fin Arete (5.7), Alabama Hills. IMAGE + DEAN FLEMING

NEW Alien Evo Lite

NEW Fixe Wire Rope Draw (EN 354 22kn)

NEW Alien Evo Lite


Chad Gilbert on Kingpin (5.13a), Riverside Quarry.


PUBLISHER Dean Fleming ART DIRECTOR Alton Richardson SENIOR CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHERS Jerry Dodrill, Jim Thornburg SENIOR CONTRIBUTING EDITORS Fitz Cahall, James Lucas CONTRIBUTORS Amy Ness, Charlie Barrett, Devlin Gandy, Dean Fleming, Jim Thornburg and Seth Zaharias

MOST, IF NOT ALL OF THE ACTIVITIES DEPICTED HEREIN CARRY AND PRESENT SIGNIFICANT RISKS OF PERSNAL INJURY OR DEATH. Rock climbing, bouldering, ice climbing, moutaineering, alpine climbing and any other outdoor activity are inherently dangerous. The owners, staff and managment of California Climber do not recomend that anyone partcipate in these activities unless they are an expert or accompanied by an expert. Please seek qualified professional instruction and/or guidance. Understanding the risks involved are necesassary and be prepared to assume all responisbilty associated with those risks.


CALIFORNIA CLIMBER 22502 Colorado River Dr. Sonora, Ca 93570 Phone: (209) 768-0110 Email:


IN 1996 MY FRIEND SCOTT became the first of our small group of climbers to acquire a driver’s license. That summer we swooped his mom’s Volkswagen Rabbit (a classy but gutless black convertible) and drove to the Mobile gas station at the Highway 395/120 junction. We flipped through guidebooks while we waited for a large barbeque chicken pizza. Scott pulled out the guide to the Owen’s River Gorge and asked if I had ever been there. I said no but that I’d heard it was pretty good, which at the time, I hadn’t. We rung up the guidebook, boxed up the pizza and hit the road south to Bishop. Our experience with the Eastern Sierra’s open Pinyon Pine forests, expansive Table Lands, hassle-free camping and excellent climbing sparked a slew of trips among our small group of friends. For the next five years we spent nearly every Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years camped in the Table Lands or near the Buttermilks. We’d scramble about on moon-lit nights “soloing” scrappy little formations and letting the wind, with stronger gusts than we’d ever felt, push us up the steep, sandy slopes toward the summit of Buttermilk Dome.

This past Thanksgiving I drove past Bishop, instead continuing south on Highway 395 for about 60 miles. I did this mostly because of an email I had received from Bill “Blitzo” Serniuk in the spring of 2013 titled “Alabama?” The email included a small selection of climbing images that centered on the captivating and creative rock architecture of the Alabama Hills – a dome-land of quartz monzonite blobs just a few minutes from the Eastern Sierra town of Lone Pine. Serniuk had been a fixture in the Alabama Hills since the 1970s and perhaps no other person was as perfectly suited to climbing and exploring there. Blitzo’s demeanor was kind and welcoming, but he also had a craving for the fringe. He lived a free and sometimes solitary existence, much of it in the desert landscapes of Joshua Tree and the Alabama Hills. I replied to Blitzo’s email and hatched a plan to run a feature on the Alabama Hills in the next available winter issue of California Climber. Sadly, before the next winter issue arrived, Blitzo’s battle with cancer came to an end. <~~~> I WOKE UP TO THE SOUNDS OF 40MPH WINDS, the rocky piles of the Alabama Hills stretched on for miles with hundreds of pointy spires, caves and rounded domes. Moonlight streamed through the crags illuminating a storm cloud that rose and spun above the Whitney Range. I stumbled around in the darkness searching for some camera gear before finally realizing that the strong winds would not allow a sharp image to be taken in the dim light. Instead, I did what I had done for the past five days: I sat alone, gazing back and forth from the White Mountains to the crest of the Sierra, listening to the sound of the wind whipping through the sage. I wondered how my friends were doing, most of them just 60 miles north on the outskirts of Bishop. A few days prior I’d seen a picture of 150 cars parked at the Buttermilks. Then another picture of 120 cars parked at the Happy Boulders. I was glad that I had kept the car in gear, driving past the busy boulders and packed campsites of Bishop to eventually find refuge in

the Alabama Hills. As I looked back toward the Sierra I noticed 100 vacant campsites positioned almost directly at the base of more than 1,000 high quality sport climbs. In the past five days I had seen less than five groups of climbers at the Alabama Hills; a crag that if located almost anywhere besides California would be considered a sought-after destination. “There are so many places like this in California,” I thought, “Why don’t we just spread out a little bit?” The answer is simple: Evilution, High Plains Drifter, Stained Glass, Ambrosia… the Nose, the Salathe Wall, Serenity Crack, Nutcracker… White Rastafarian, Illusion Dweller, Equinox… the list of World-class climbs in California’s heavily visited areas goes on and on. And we all deserve a chance to climb them. But I wonder if we, the local community, could try a little harder to visit these popular locations in the offseason; augmenting our visits just slightly in an effort to reduce the impact and parking issues significantly. After all, we know the secret that many visitors do not; that there exists a wealth of excellent crags and boulder fields that can be virtually vacant during the busiest months.



This holiday season I’d like to encourage the readers of California Climber to make an effort to discover a seldom-visited crag or bouldering area. You might find some bumpy roads, a little bit of choss and primitive camping, but you won’t fight for parking and you won’t stand in line. If you’re lucky, you might even find a few climbs that rival the classics at our bustling destinations. Most importantly, wherever you decide to climb this season, try to take just twenty minutes out of your visit to pick up some trash or restore a trail; your efforts will spread infectiously and make huge strides toward preserving California’s climbing areas for future generations. For more information on proper crag etiquette, area stewardship and Leave No Trace principles, visit www. —DEAN FLEMING climb 1-707-255-1500 849 Jackson Street #5A Napa, CA 94558



Ye a r s o f Innovation


1996 Chris Danielson

Caroline Treadway

Kennan Pope climbing Little Wing (5.10d), Yosemite Valley.

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FIRST ASCENT Mark Chapman, Charlie Porter & Bruce Pollock - 1974



Little Wing









Small to 3”




Little Wing Cliff, Yose. Valley

30 min.

Bolted anchor, lower or rappel



GUIDEBOOK Yosemite Free Climbs, by Don Reid



HIDDEN FAR ABOVE THE MERCED RIVER, just a few feet from the Old Big Oak Flat Road, the Little Wing Buttress is an incredible escape from the dark and damp winter conditions on the Valley floor. The cliff gets all day sun and is so exposed that sunning in a T-shirt is common on even the coldest winter days. Three excellent routes can be found at the Little Wing Buttress, but the area’s namesake route Little Wing (5.10d), is certainly the star of the show. Little Wing starts with a locker finger crack that is augmented by a few ½” edges that beckon to be used as footholds. At about 1/3

height, an obvious three-foot roof can either be jammed past or hero lay backed on a huge in-cut side-facing jug. The remainder of the route sports technical finger-locking, hand jamming and a few tricky sequences that lead to a scenic two-bolt belay. From the anchor, make sure to take in the view; on of the best in Yosemite. Ribbon Falls, El Capitan, Half Dome, Sentinel, Bridalvail Falls and Leaning Tower can all be seen from this stunning location. The nearby routes Honor Thy Father (5.10c), Leisure Time (5.10b) and The Riddler (5.10a) are also worth the short and scenic hike to the cliff.




“STING” Seth & Sabra Zaharias and their 1995 Toyota Previa AWD CCMAG: OK, you have to tell us why you named this van Sting. SZ: We originally named the van “Green Eggs and Van,” which fit simply due to the shape and color of this visionary Toyota Previa. Mix this in with our love for Joshua Tree and all things Dr. Suess and it seemed fitting. But then things changed. Seven months later while installing a bumpin’ sound system, we realized that the entire interior of the van was wired for audio and video, and there were many cubbies cut into the sub-frame. Oh yeah, this was an impound vehicle out of San Diego with 90 thousand miles. It seemed clear that it had been a drug smuggling vehicle that got impounded and then graduated to sting operations. There was this little tiny dash cam pointed right at the driver. Holy shit, we were so stoked when we realized it wasn’t actually hooked up. There were also those strange brown stains on the ceiling… How much did you pay for this immaculate drug-smuggling Previa? We paid $4,500. We can’t remember exactly where in San Diego because it all seems the same down there; but it was kind of sketchy. We desperately needed a vehicle at the time.

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What modifications have you done to Sting? We installed a Bazooka Tube, Infinity speakers and pioneer deck and then got rid of the rear captain’s chairs. We added a secondary independent battery system after stranding ourselves outside of Amboy Crater while binge listening to Jon Krakauer’s “Under the Banner of Heaven” book on CD. Now you can bump tunes all you want without fear of running your battery down. We also added a tow hitch to pull our sailboat, the “Scurvy Wench.” How’s the gas mileage? Sting gets reasonably good mileage. This is a rare model Previa with a simple fuel injected motor. Most Previas have a Super Charger or Turbo. Sting gets a consistent 20mpg even with all our mountain and dirt road travel. On the 99 headed north or south, 24mpg is possible. How does she do off-road? Rips! But the clearance sucks. We have banged her off many rocks and roots, but she doesn’t seem to mind too much. Thank you Toyota! The clearance is way better in the rear end, so if it’s looking hairy, we take it in reverse. I’ve heard rumors that Sting has been involved in some pretty crazy shenanigans; can you validate this? I can neither confirm nor deny any legal or illegal activities that may or may not have occurred while this vehicle was registered in my wife, Sabra Purdy’s name. The second craziest thing, I will say, is this one time at Johnson Valley’s King of the Hammers, where I passed a $100k buggy sideways on a sand dune while leaning out the window, flying the bird and yelling “What up now punks!?!?” Nobody likes being shown up by a minivan. They were cool though. Instead of beating me up, they gave me a beer.

Inspiring your next California Road Trip. # touchstoneclimbing




made my first chalk bag in 2014; it took three days to sew and the pattern was upside-down,” said San Diego resident and Static founder Taylor Carpenter. In the last two years Carpenter has taken a thoughtful approach to designing chalk bags, asking her friends for feedback to improve the designs and materials used in these handmade bags. Static has since taken hold among a core group of California climbers as these one-of-a-kind chalk bags have steadily crept into climbing gyms and retailers across the state. As the company grows, Carpenter remains committed to locally sourced materials and handcrafted designs. “California is home to us and keeping our products handmade is the core of who we are as a brand,” added Carpenter. This season we tested one of Static’s most popular designs; the Classic Mexi Blanket chalk bag. We found the closure system of the Mexi Blanket bag to be super durable – about six months’ worth of chalk dust and wear did not affect the smoothness of the closure or degrade the heavy-duty Paracord and fastener. One of the most commonly abused areas of any chalk bag are the belt attachment loops. Static’s choice to use ultraviolet resistant and waterproof 1” belt loops has helped to craft a more durable chalk bag that can resist the heavy abuse of the High Sierra and the physical granite climbing in places like Yosemite and Joshua Tree. These attachment loops have been methodically spaced (slightly further apart than most chalk bags) to keep the bag from twisting when chalking up. Inside is a canvas top layer that and a protected soft anti-pill fleece lining. This lining is absorbent, and is intended to pick up chalk particles allowing for some hand-drying capabilities even when the bag is void of chalk. Our testers found these Static bags to be the perfect size (slightly larger than average) allowing a lot of room to chalk up, while still maintaining a light weight (2-3oz) and un-cumbersome frame. In review, we all found Static chalk bags to sport a ton of style in an incredibly utilitarian package, and we all enjoyed sporting these handmade bags from a California-grown small business at the crags and boulders.



e picked up a few pairs of the Scarpa Vapor Vs in July of 2015 and have since tested them on terrain ranging from steep pocketed sport climbing to plastic pulling, granite dime edging and a few cracks. The Vapor Vs are some of the stiffest shoes we tested in 2015 and some feedback did indicate an expected loss of sensitivity from the Vapor’s powerful rand. Although the Vapor Vs smear quite well, the stiffness in the forefront of the shoes does reduce the sensitivity and comfort during certain types of delicate foot placements. Yet when the Vapor Vs were tested on routes that featured dead-vertical to slightly overhanging technical edging, the shoes preformed incredibly well with a paramount sense of security on the thinnest credit card edges. The Vapor Vs were not necessarily designed for crack climbing, but they do jam relatively well on cracks larger than 1” – they were a bit too stiff to perform well in thin finger cracks and seams. The Vapor V excels at a very specific style of climbing that is common in California; mainly the slightly overhanging and vertical edging testpieces at places like the Buttermilks, Yosemite Valley and Lake Tahoe. These shoes aren’t the best for slabby routes or the steepest roofs, but if you’re looking for a well-rounded shoe that absolutely excels on granite, quartz monzonite or Monzogranite, we’d highly recommend trying on a pair of Vapor Vs.

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DMM PIVOT { $29.95 }


f all the devices currently on the market that function as both a tube/plate style device and a Plaquette style device for a topmanaged belay, the DMM pivot is in a league of its own. Most notably, I found the pivoting function of the device to be incredibly innovative. Rather than having a fixed attachment point to the anchor when in Plaquette mode, the DMM Pivot attaches on a hinge system. This is a big deal, as it allows a climber to be lowered from a top-managed belay with unparalleled smoothness. Additionally, the channels of the Pivot are tapered (larger at the top, narrower at the bottom). This creates significantly less friction while belaying directly off the anchor in Plaquette mode. Verging on my second decade as a full time climbing guide; my elbows are very thankful for this. In testing I found the DMM Pivot to function well as a tube/ plate style device for bottom managed top ropes, and excelling at simul-belaying from top managed stances while multi-pitch climbing. The device rappels quite smoothly in either high or low friction modes. The Pivoting anchor attachment is awesome, but it would be insanely awesome if the attachment was a swivel. As it is currently designed, the Pivot works quite well attached to a pre-equalized cordelette anchor finished with a figure 8 or any bight knot with an even number of wraps. I would strongly recommend the Pivot to anyone who is looking for a lightweight, versatile belay device that functions incredibly well at top-managed belay stances. - Seth Zaharias / Owner & Operator of Cliffhanger Guides & Certified P.C.G.I Multi-Pitch Guide and Senior Mentor.

TENAYA IATI { $170 }


imply put, the Tenaya Iati has taken the already renowned line of high performance shoes from Tenaya to the next level. The Iati has a similar fit to the popular Tenaya Tarifa, yet the Iati features a Velcro closure system, a down-camber in the mid-foot, and the most downturn toe box of any Tenaya model to date. Our testers found the shoe to maintain an incredible level of comfort while providing a serious amount of power and sensitivity to the toe box. These shoes devoured dime edges, pockets and smears on all types of terrain varying from low angle slabs to the steepest roofs. Tenaya put a serious amount of effort into crafting a shoe that is breathable and maintains a consistent fit. Tenaya achieved this goal with a combination of natural and synthetic leather coupled with a cotton liner and Tenaya’s Draxtor lacing system. Our testers found themselves fidgeting with the Draxtor lacing system for the first few days of testing, but once they had the system dialed into the perfect specs, all testers found the lacing system to be incredibly functional and precise. These shoes were not designed for crack climbing, yet they preformed surprisingly well on cracks of all sizes. One drawback while testing the Iati on a few larger cracks was found in the Draxtor lacing system, where the placement of a metal buckle on the toe box would sometimes create a pressure point. But, as stated earlier, the Iati was not designed for crack climbing – it was designed to absolutely dominate in the realm of steep sport climbing and bouldering and our testers agreed unanimously that Tenaya nailed the mark with this shoe. As we’ve come to expect from Tenaya, handcrafted quality all around the shoe and a 3.5mm Vibram XS Grip outsole show this brand’s continued commitment to utilizing the best possible materials and innovative designs.

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Trango’s Crag Pack has all-new features that make your gear interaction stress free. You’ll be wondering, “Why didn’t I think of that?” Details at Now available in short-torso models

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CLIMBER Trevor Carter ROUTE Cascade Crack (5.10b), Yosemite Valley PHOTOGRAPHER Dean Fleming


CLIMBER Nicole Zuelke ROUTE Sail Away (5.8), Joshua Tree PHOTOGRAPHER Jim Thornburg

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CLIMBER Max Zolotukhin ROUTE Unknown V6 near Santa Cruz PHOTOGRAPHER Devlin Gandy

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CLIMBER Carl McDonald ROUTE V5 Arete at the Crystal Ridge Boulders PHOTOGRAPHER Dean Fleming

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Taylor Jackson climbing White Trash (5.12b), an atypically steep sport climb recently developed by Myles Moser on the Hillbilly Pillar.

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THIS PAGE Anne-Marie Lambert climbing Pirates on Horseback (5.10b) on The Shark’s Fin.


OPPOSITE PAGE Taylor Jackson climbing Poodle Chews It (5.9).

The Lone Pine locals know the secret. Hundreds of climbers drive right past Movie Road, the entrance to the Alabama Hills, heading up to the big stone of Mt. Whitney, neglecting to see the potential. But for those few who venture off into the mounds and spires of rock that make up what we like to call the ‘Bamas, the reward is endless. Living in Lone Pine for the last six years I cannot say that I have climbed all the routes in the Hills, actually I have only climbed a fraction of them. Even after repeating many of my favorites countless times, it seems that with each excursion to climb or scramble in the Bama’s, I find something new and worthwhile. The tailgate style of climbing here makes it easy to stick close to the roads, with five minute approaches usually causing some form of complaint throughout the group. We are alpine climbers

most the year, but the nature of this type of sport climbing allows one to be lazy in the sun while still getting in a ton of quality pitches. And that’s not to say that there are not climbs with slightly longer approaches, or traditional or mixed climbing routes, but on those winter days when the Sierra is covered in snow, clipping bolts in the heat with the cooler of beer close at hand is why being in the Alabama Hills is so wonderful.


Anne-Marie Lambert climbing an unknown 5.7 slab on Movie Flat.

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THIS PAGE Nicole Zuelke climbing Shark’s Fin Arete (5.7). OPPOSITE PAGE Leoni Dickerhoff climbing Bananarama (5.8) at the Tall Wall.

AH The relics of old quarter-inch buttonheads and rusty bolt ladders prove that we are just one of several generations of climbers using this area as a training ground for bigger objectives. A picture of Norman Clyde rappelling in the Hills can be seen in a museum in Independence (great place to visit on a rainy day), the Harding Route (or so it is believed to be) can be found on the south side of the Cattle Pocket, and a bolt-ladder assumed to be put up

by Fred Becky can be discovered near the Candy Store. Mike Strassman, Tim Standing, Marty Hornick, Jackie Carroll, Raleigh Collins, and Tom Ace established many of the routes, with Sean Jones, Myles Moser, Darren Odgers, and Tony Becchio putting up many of the new 5.11-5.12 routes. And there is a lifetime of climbing still to be done; one just needs to get off the beaten path to find the next new gem in hiding.


Nicole Zuelke climbing Shark’s Fin Arete (5.7).

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Taylor Jackson climbing White Trash (5.12b) on the Hillbilly Pillar.


Elliott Perucca climbing Digging in the Dirt (5.12b) in the Corridors.

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Taylor Jackson climbing Poodle Chews It (5.9).


Kyle Queener bouldering near the Tall Wall.

AH The Hills have been called a “poor man’s Joshua Tree” which is semi-fitting with the similarities in the rock and mostly single-pitch climbing in the desert. However, the lack of crowds, more relaxed camping (free for 14 days) and majestic backdrop of the High Sierra’s “Range of Light” will have you feeling like a millionaire. The Bama’s have something for everyone. Many routes are beginner friendly

with close bolts and mellow 5.0-5.6 climbing, most of which have Mussy Hooks at the anchors. Then there is a plethora of 5.7-5.10 climbs, some of which I have done over and over again because of their awesome quality. And, with the recent development of steeper, harder lines, the Alabama Hills have been given a new edge. Previous development had focused on the slabby or vertical faces of the formations; however, the new eye for steep featured rock that had been previously overlooked has made this place a hard-man’s playground. The Alabama Hills and surrounding area offer more than just climbing; hiking, mountain biking, exploring, fishing and good ol’ desert sun baking offer plenty in way of rest days. But no matter what you do in the Hills, you are guaranteed to be taken away with the beauty of your surroundings and the ease of being here. This article is dedicated to the memory of Bill “Blitzo” Serniuk.

Far North climbing Gym

Humboldt County’s Premiere indoor climbing center

1065 K St, Arcata, CA 707-826-9558

Images + Dean Fleming

THE BETA GETTING THERE From the town of Lone Pine on Highway 395 take Whitney Portal Road west for 2.7 miles. Turn right on Movie Road for the majority of the climbing, or continue a bit further and turn left onto Horseshoe Meadows Road for the Gunga Din area. WHERE TO STAY Camping in the Bama’s on BLM land is permitted for 14 days a year, however, we the locals ask that you use the principals of Leave No Trace camping. Another, sometimes better option is to camp at Tuttle Creek Campground, $5 per night, five minutes off of Whitney Portal Road-there are designated sites with picnic tables and fire pits, potable water, pit toilets, and a stream that runs through many of the sites offering shade and cold water. If you want to be a bit cushier, the Whitney Portal Hostel in Lone Pine offers dorm room rates for just over $20 bucks, with hot showers, WIFI and all the amenities. WHERE TO EAT Alabama Hills Café, of course! Other than sharing the name with our crags, they have amazing breakfast and lunch, but do close at 2pm. If you are here from May-November, drive up to the end of Whitney Portal Road for a beer and the best burger and fries on the east side of the Sierra… complete with a waterfall rushing into the parking lot, the taco truck in town does Mexican right, at the right price too.

AH 5-STAR ROUTES Shark’s Fin Arete (5.7) Bananarama (5.8) Poodle Chews It (5.9) Hole in the Wall (5.10c) White Trash (5.12b)

GUIDEBOOK The Bishop Area Rock Climbs guidebook by Marty Lewis and Peter Croft offer a good description of many of the routes, although, if you are looking for the best beta, go into the Whitney Portal Store or the climbing shop, Elevation, to ask the locals. There are a lot of excellent routes that are off the beaten path, and many more not in the book. If you are looking for some instruction, learning how to climb, or just want to get the most out of a tight schedule, check out Whitney Base Camp & Climbing School-a new, locally owned guiding school for the Alabama Hills.

Photo by Lidija Grazulis


DELIRIOUS 5.11b Delirious takes a line of small but positive holds through a small corner and then over two small bulges. Bolted by Louie Anderson in 2007, the climb is among the most popular pitches at The Roof Area at Riverside Quarry: an impressive wall stacked with quality routes. The crux of Delirious is pulling the second bulge, but the climb is mostly sustained with no stopper moves. PICTURED HERE Christine Zalecki enters the crux sequence.

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It was 2007 and a group of thieves had stolen a Lincoln Navigator from a nearby dealership, and driven the plush ride up the bumpy dirt road to the top of this suburban Sunnyslope, California, cliff. They pinned a 2-by-4 between the driver’s seat and the gas pedal, and launched it. Such is the history of this abandoned quarry site, a third of a mile square, and bisected by a huge, shattered nugget of a cliff. To this day the quarry retains a reputation, based on oft-repeated tales from 15 years ago, for debris, dereliction and choss. But nowadays the quarry is a completely different place. Both the ground and the cliff are far cleaner than in the past, in large part due to the presence of climbing. Climbers have organized numerous trash clean-ups, and local police have gated the entry points to the quarry and cracked down on illegal dumping.

tangerine dream 5.10d Tangerine Dream is one of the Riverside Quarry’s few sandbags; notorious for continuous moves on forearm-sapping slopers. The route involves two distinct crux sections. The lower crux includes technical slabby moves in an orange streak. Pictured here, Alex Witte passes into the second crux, a physical section of power-liebacking and underclinging before pumpy climbing on jugs that leads to the anchors.


THE ZONE 5.12b The exposed ten foot roof of The Zone starts from an anchor above Leviathan (5.11d). From a hanging belay the climb takes a wild line directly through the roof and then finishes up a slightly overhung headwall on square-cut edges. PICTURED HERE Natalie Josefsburg makes the intimidating moves to reach the lip of the impressive roof.

WHAT YOU WILL FIND AT THE QUARRY in 2015 is the highest concentration of high-quality sport climbs in California, with nearly 400 pitches from 5.6 to 5.14. All of which might seem, to any climber who has been here for the long run, about as surprising as a car in the air. Rising 250 feet above a talus slope of similar height, the cliff towers above the surrounding flatland and casts a slender morning shadow over the scruffy tangle of dirt tracks that criss-cross the brushy lowlands. Beyond, heat devils shimmer through the rising smog of most Southern California days. During my first visit, in 2004, on a rest day from nearby Joshua Tree, I observed several of the factors that had relegated the quarry to legendary negative status. Scattered amid a virtual dumpsite of used tires and old mattresses were four figures. Two of these people, dressed in fatigues, raced mud-splattered ATVs and appeared to be armed with automatic weapons. Pappappap! sounded one rider’s rifle as a streak of red paint splotched the helmet of the other, causing him to swerve and bounce out of control through a deep and muddy pothole 50 feet from me. Yikes! I darted for cover behind a nearby boulder. Then, from behind and high above me I heard a terrifying rush of air and spun to see a man falling toward me from the top of the cliff, his body reaching near-terminal velocity before he pulled his chute with a loud WHUMPF—at the last second before impact. A fourth man, laden with a car jack, sledge and roto hammers, rappelled over the side of the cliff. Thirty feet down, he fitted the jack behind a block the size of a refrigerator. Bellowing a warning to us on the ground, he turned the jack a few times and dropped the block, which exploded into the talus with an impact that tripped car alarms half a mile away. I got the hell out of there, but even in my haste I noticed that all four men were grinning, thoroughly enjoying this post-apocalyptic playground for grown-ups. From the safety of my car, I looked one last time at the cliff—a mountain blown essentially in half, still bristling with detached blocks and pillars. From a distance, I could clearly see how a multitude of vertical shot-hole scars partitioned the cliff into slightly concave 150-foot sectors. Five inches in diameter and hundreds of feet deep, the holes were drilled in the 1950s by the Riverside Cement Company (RCC), packed with dynamite and detonated. Curtains of solid granite and limestone 15 feet thick, hundreds of feet wide and up to 80 feet tall sheared from the mother cliff. Thousands of tons in weight, they must have impacted with earthquake intensity. By 1960 the mountain had been stripped of all her lime, and the surrounding boulder-strewn land, creaking and unstable from the mayhem, was deemed unbuildable. The RCC unceremoniously abandoned it. From 1960 to nearly 2000, the quarry served as a haven for a variety of unsanctioned activity. Graffiti art, target practice, and trash and appliance dumping were the more savory uses. In the 1970s and 1980s, climbers began to brave the third-world atmosphere to practice aid techniques on the shattered granite, finding plenty of grainy and expanding features to nail. Richard Jensen and Mark Smith were two of the first to explore the grand, chossy lines at the quarry. The two cut their teeth on first ascents of aid lines such as the A4 nightmare Stay of Execution, a route that required nailing what (they

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thought) was a solid if difficult traverse under a huge roof. An incipient line of chossy placements took them past several suitcase-sized shards, which they cut loose with gentle shoves. The following year, however, the pair made a surprising find: A new, living-room-sized boulder had materialized in the talus below their route, complete with pin-scars on one edge. “It took us a while to figure out that it was part of our route,” Jensen recalls. “Turns out the roof had been the real death-feature of the line—we never realized that it was actually an enormous, hanging, detached block!” “Back in the day the quarry had loose, hanging shards like we haven’t seen anywhere else,” Jensen says. “Once you’re committed to paying the price, where you pay it isn’t the issue. The quarry made us into climbers, where prior to that we had been hobbyists.” Still, climber visits were few and far between in the years before 2000. That all changed when Grahm Doe, a hypermotivated climber with a constructionist bent, stumbled upon the quarry simply trying to avoid a heinous traffic snarl on nearby Highway 60. Despite finding the cliff coated with 6 to 18 inches of dynamite-shattered rock, Doe was immediately psyched. He quickly recruited his friend Louie Anderson to begin the Herculean task of cleaning the walls for free climbing.

KINGPIN 5.13a Kingpin is one of the steepest routes to be found at the Quarry, featuring thin, powerful crimping. Although the technical crux is found low on this route, the climbing remains sustained up to the first roof until encountering a distinct, endurance-testing second crux section. Kingpin is widely regarded as the hardest and highest quality 5.13a at the Quarry. PICTURED HERE Chad Gilbert fires through the second crux.


VIOLATOR 5.11c Another excellent Louie Anderson route, Violator has become well known for its burly cracks, overhangs and high quality stone. The climb starts up a short section of easy slab to the base of a spectacular left-facing flake system. Violator is mostly an endurance route, although the climb does finish with a technical crux on small edges. PICTURED HERE Nicole Zuelke eyes the next draw after transitioning into the highest flake system on the route.

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weight of the world 5.13c Weight of the World is one of the most powerful and bouldery routes at the Quarry and is located between the Roof Area and the Tangerine Dream Area. This popular section of the Quarry hosts a wealth of quality routes from 5.10d to 5.13c that range in length from 50 feet to 190 feet. PICTURED HERE area route developer Louie Anderson makes some of the hardest moves at Riverside Quarry.


double whammy 5.11b This two pitch route starts on Whammy (5.10a), an excellent warm up that consists of technical low-angle moves and long reaches between good edges. Double Whammy (5.11b) continues past the anchors and features a harder crux sequence with a few difficult moves on insecure holds. PICTURED HERE Christine Zalecki and Alex Witte tackle the second pitch.

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ORIGINAL SIN 5.11b Original Sin is one of the earliest routes established at the Quarry and was given its name from the use of a gas-powered jackhammer that was used to the make jugs on the blank, chossy face. PICTURED HERE Nicole Zuelke climbs through the steepest section of the route.

THE PAIRING OF DOE AND ANDERSON was key in the development of the quarry, as each was uniquely suited for the task. Strong and energetic, both men also had solid previous experience with developing chossy crags like Echo Cliffs and Boney Bluff in the nearby Santa Monica Mountains, cleaning loose rock and finding fun climbs underneath. Armed with whatever it took to get the job done, from car jacks to heavyduty pry bars, the two began systematically cleaning wide swaths of the Riverside Quarry cliff, knocking off anything loose. They eventually mined down to the solid golden and gray stone the cliff is now known for. Anderson recalls that an average line at the quarry required a grueling and dangerous six to eight hours of backbreaking manual labor. “Knocking the choss off was like defusing a bomb sometimes,” he says. “You’d start to clean a flake, and suddenly sections above and below would cut loose.” Says Doe, “We’d come down after an extended cleaning and bolting session utterly exhausted and covered in sweat, blood, rock dust and bat shit.” So tedious and strenuous was the work that the pair often questioned the end result, and on several occasions came close to abandoning the idea. “I never anticipated that the cliff would be developed to the extent it is today,” says Anderson. “If I knew then what I know now, I’m not sure I would have started. It really is difficult for anyone to imagine how much work went into even the cleanest lines.” By the end of the first month of work, the pair had established a few worthy lines, and the gold rush began. Soon they persuaded their friends Gary Henning, Brent Webster and Matt Callender to share the spoils (and the labor). For the past 10 years this group - spearheaded by Anderson (who has developed roughly 80 percent of the routes) has continued the ant-like work, steadily and systematically removing tons of loose blocks and bolting monolithic stretches over 200 feet tall. The resulting climbs are at times exquisite, linking stellar granite features. The long and varied Forbidden Fruit, one of Anderson’s many excellent contributions on the right end of the cliff, is a perfect example. At 5.12a, this 150-foot pitch has pretty much everything you could want in a granite sport climb: It begins with a stout test of thin and cryptic stemming up a blank dihedral that leads to an airy ledge 60 feet up.

From here a sweet overhanging section on a very exposed arete and face gain a second ledge and another rest, at 90 feet. Another overhanging face leads to the capper, a splitter layback corner that is technical and relentless all the way to a final perplexing boulder problem to reach the chains. The quarry is also home to dozens of two, three and even four-pitch routes. The Zone (5.12b), a dead-horizontal 15-foot roof, is perhaps the most classic of the multi-pitch routes. It begins from a hanging belay at the top anchors of another five-star route, Leviathan (5.11d). I was drawn to the route during a trip to the Quarry by a fantastic photo in Anderson’s guidebook of a climber swinging footless above big exposure. I was blown away that a roof that big and blank could be only 5.12b, but on closer inspection saw that the big holds the climber was dangling from looked generously chipped. After my initial shock, I decided, “Well, damn, it’s a quarry anyway and that looks fun—I want to try!” CALIFORNIACLIMBERMAGAZINE.COM | 59

the ultimate 5.13a The crux of The Ultimate involves a very hard series of moves on burly underclings. A series of small crimps and bad feat must be passed before reaching a rest and then excellent mid 5.12 climbing to the chains. PICTURED HERE Chad Gilbert fires past the crux.

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forbidden fruit 5.12a Forbidden Fruit is a wild 150ft pitch that requires a gambit of granite skills; first, a thin and desperate stemming corner leads to a steep, crimpy face followed by a balancy arĂŞte and a good rest. Near the top of the climb, burly liebacking and jamming lead to a final boulder problem just before the anchor. PICTURED HERE Valarie Tes Anderson makes the clip before exiting the lower corner.


control freak 5.13a Control Freak starts with sustained and intricate climbing through a small bulge that finally leads to a decent rest around the fifth clip. The highlight of the climb is a powerful deadpoint crux. After this showstopping throw, a few remaining technical moves lead to a no hands rest and then another short section of 5.11 climbing to the anchor. PICTURED HERE first ascentionist Louie Anderson sticks the crux dyno.

“The concentration of routes, height of routes, and ease of access can’t be beat within at twohour radius of L.A.”

I was so stoked that I tried the route the next morning. Working my way out the flake that leads through the roof, I experienced a powerful sense of deja vu. The moment I snared the big hold at the lip and my feet whipped free, the memory crystallized: I’d done a roof almost exactly like this one—the iconic Foops (5.11) in the Gunks of upstate New York! That was 30 years ago, but the sensation of my feet swinging crazily above the void was so heady that the memory flooded home. The two climbs’ differences are notable as well: The Zone is a pitch up and therefore even more exposed, and Foops, heartbreakingly, is located on a cliff on private property that is currently closed to climbing. I also reflected that the quarry itself is like one huge chipped hold. Not one square inch of it would be exposed if not for years of massive blasting and removal, and none of

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the rock would be climbable had not a few motivated climbers cleaned and bolted it. Although most within the staunchly traditional So Cal community have no tolerance for chipping, Quarry locals don’t view the occasional chiseled “bi-doigt” with disgust; they grab it, consider it a brief vacation to the South of France, and motor on to the next natural feature The long-time California crusher Chris Lindner has called the Quarry the best sport-climbing area in So Cal: “The concentration of routes, height of most routes, and the ease of access can’t be beat within a two-hour radius of L.A.” The geographic location imparts one other benefit: reliable weather. The area is one of the nation’s best bets for winter cragging—the rock dries quickly after the infrequent So Cal rainstorms, and even on the coolest days, you’ll be down to shorts and a T-shirt in the afternoon sun.

the zone 5.12b With 100 feet of air below, Natalie Josefsburg pulls the lip on The Zone’s intimidating ten foot roof.

True, the quarry’s environs are undeniably urban. Houses sprawl densely all around. To the west, 20 miles distant, highrise buildings loom through the reddish smog of downtown L.A. But on the rare winter days following a big winter storm, the newly-cleansed skies reveal the L.A. that people fall in love with: snow-covered peaks 11,000 feet high rise Alp-like in the east above the rooftops, while to the west the sun sinks past palm trees and sand into the distant Pacific in a

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brilliant Hollywood orange, tingeing to magenta and purple before melding with the deep blue of the early evening sky. The Quarry is the quintessential L.A. crag in this respect; there will be times when all you notice are the graffiti, blight and abandoned junk. But soon enough your focus will narrow to the next few feet of perfect rock, that one last hard move between you and the chains.

leviathan 5.11d Leviathan is one of the most popular routes at the Riverside Quarry, hosting fun moves on great holds through incredible angular features. The climb is positioned directly below one of the largest roofs at the crag. The anchor of Leviathan is conveniently positioned for a quick lower-off, but can also be used as a hanging belay stance for The Zone (5.12b). PICTURED HERE Alex Witte takes a late evening lap.

THE BETA GETTING THERE Park along Sierra Ave adjacent to the quarry. Break-ins have thankfully become increasingly rare, but never leave valuables in your car. Please be quiet and extremely respectful of the homeowners in the area. They have been very gracious about the daily influx of climber vehicles in their neighborhood. Never leave any trash on the site. Instead, pick up a little (or a lot) and pack it out. WHERE TO STAY There are a few RV parks nearby, but your best bet is to find some friends or rent a cheap motel room. GUIDEBOOK A Climber’s Guide to Riverside Quarry by Louie Anderson. A rack of 20 quickdraws will suffice for most of the bolted climbs. A standard rack to 3.5� suffices for the handful of worthy gear-protected climbs.

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5-STAR ROUTES Agony Arch (5.11b) Leviathan (5.11d) The Zone (5.12b) Survival of the Fittest (5.12b) Kingpin (5.13a)

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