California Climber | Issue 16 | Spring '16

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CaliforniaClimber free






| SPRING 2016


tions a u l o s e l b a stain

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

in climbi

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ClimbTech Legacy Bolt

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ClimbTech’s permanent draws – Permadraws – are designed to be long-life rock climbing quickdraws that don’t wear or deteriorate like traditional nylon draws.

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We are proud to dedicate this issue of California Climber to the memory of SCOTT COSGROVE 1965 - 2016



NO. 16 SPRING 2016



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Travis Lombardo bouldering the Sunset Face (5.10) at the Sunset Rocks near Goat Rock Beach. IMAGE + DEAN FLEMING THIS PAGE

Scott Cosgrove during the first free ascent of the Muir Wall (VI 5.13c), Yosemite Valley. IMAGE + GREG EPPERSON

NEW Alien Evo Lite

NEW Fixe Wire Rope Draw (EN 354 22kn)

NEW Alien Evo Lite


Ari Maiello climbing Potato Chip (V5) at the Sunset Rocks.

CALIFORNIACLIMBERMAGAZINE.COM PUBLISHER Dean Fleming ART DIRECTOR Alton Richardson SENIOR CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHERS Jerry Dodrill, Jim Thornburg SENIOR CONTRIBUTING EDITORS Fitz Cahall, James Lucas CONTRIBUTORS Charlie Barrett, Jim Thornburg, Greg Epperson, Jerry Dodrill, Christian Adam, Jack Hereford, Dean Fleming

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 95370 Phone: (209) 768-0110 Email:


I PULLED INTO THE PARKING AREA– a wide gravel lot that overlooks the Pacific Ocean to the west and the rolling hills of west Sonoma County to the east. I shut off the headlights and started a second pot of coffee. At 5:00am the expansive views were hard to determine, yet as the sounds of crashing waves echoed across the landscape, the slowly changing light of daybreak revealed a rolling fog bank. The clouds rushed over our position on the ridgeline and then dipped into the steep canyon toward the Sunset Rocks. By the light of headlamps we marched toward the aptly named Sunset Rocks; a condensed and unassuming cluster of slippery schist rocks settled in a picturesque valley near the precipice of an imposing sea bluff near Goat Rock Beach in Sonoma Coast State Park. From the parking area the trail to the boulders takes a steep and often muddy path to the valley below; a flat area that collects runoff in late winter and early spring creating a nearly un-negotiable bog of thick mud. My shoes were soaked from the past three days of approaches here; it felt liberating to sink into the icy mud without a second thought and quickly stomp across the bog to the boulders.

I tossed off my pack and scrambled up a 4th class ramp to the summit of the East Boulder while West County local Travis Lombardo laced up his shoes for another lap on the Pelican Arete; a 25 foot tall 5.10a that he toproped in his earliest years as a climber and has since bouldered with robotic precision countless times. At first light I snapped a couple of pictures before downclimbing to our stash of coffee and snacks at the base. Over the course of the following hour we gawked at one of the most spectacular displays of natural presence that I have been fortunate enough to witness. The colors changed from pink to blue and then to bright orange while the light crept over the horizon. As the sun warmed the coast, a strong wind blew from the east. Streams of fog rushed around the boulders and snaked across the plateau. A herd of deer grazed through the valley. We ran around the boulders, like kids in a playground pointing out the next best sight to be seen. We climbed a few of the easy problems until we were met by a larger group of Sonoma County climbers. Some were new to the area while others had spent decades lapping the boulders and topropes. All seemed equally enthusiastic to relax atop the square blocks, lazily swapping belays, shuffling crashpads and sharing stories in the afternoon sunshine. We sat at the boulders until sundown, taking in another golden hour with incredible sunset views in every direction: A Sonoma County tradition that will hopefully continue well beyond our years. <~~~> On Wednesday, February 17th the California State Parks Department held a meeting at the Sebastopol Community Cultural Center to present a plan to install iron rangers and manned fee booths at various coastal access locations in Sonoma Coast State Park. While some specifics of this proposal had yet to be determined at the time of this meeting, a portion of the presentation did outline a manned fee station at Goat Rock Beach that included a proposed location for a permanent structure that will block access to the parking area for the Sunset Boulders.

California Climbers have longstanding relationships with our California State Parks and many local climbers rightfully support the State Parks program; after all, these parks were created with the intent to preserve our wilderness areas and provide safe and healthy access to our public lands. Parking areas, impact-minimizing trail systems, trash receptacles and bathrooms are just a few of the welcome provisions our State Parks program provides. Additionally, the State Parks Department often welcomes input from user groups before implementing regulations and fees or assembling permanent structures. It is possible for the details of the State Park’s proposal to evolve at a rapid pace and specifics involving Goat Rock Beach could amend before the ink dries on this edition of California Climber. With the timely nature of this subject at the forefront, I would like to encourage the readers of this magazine to form your own options about the State Park’s proposal. And if you have considerate opinions that you’d like to share, please allow our land managers to hear your voices. The motion from the State Parks Department to install fee stations along the Sonoma Coast will be reviewed and decided by the California Coastal Commission; an organization that has an excellent track record of carefully considering a wide range of user groups before sanctioning projects that could potentially limit access to our coastal lands and beaches. Respectful letters from the climbing community can be sent to Nancy Cave, 45 Fremont Street, Suite 2000, San Francisco, CA 94105 or via email at Current information about this State Parks proposal can be found at or For more about climbing at the Sunset Boulders, check out long time Sonoma Coast climber Jerry Dodrill’s feature story on page 40. —DEAN FLEMING 1-707-255-1500 849 Jackson Street #5A Napa, CA 94558





Ye a r s o f Innovation



Ty Foose


FIRST ASCENT Mark Howe - 1996



Bear Arete






Sport, 2 pitches







Bear Crag, Mt. Saint Helena

40 min.

Bolted anchor, lower or rappel


Year round

GUIDEBOOK Bay Area Rock 8TH Addition, by Jim Thornburg

DESCRIPTION THE BEAR CRAG IS HOME to some of the best, longest and hardest routes that Mt. Saint Helena has to offer. Another reason this cliff is so unique to the area is that it also features a second tier, which, with its already exposed location far above the Napa Valley, adds a bit of exposure and will give you to one of the best views in Northern California. The Bear Arete (5.11b) is a hidden gem, tucked away far up and to the right on the upper half of the cliff, just right of the well worth doing off-width, Bear Crack (5.9).

Eric Berghorn climbing the upper portion of the Bear Arete (5.11b).

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Most people approach the Bear Arête by climbing the route Kodiak (5.10c), which by itself constitutes a fun and steep four bolt adventure. From the ledge on top of Kodiak, either belay at the chains or continue in a single, long pitch, venturing up the beautifully exposed headwall. The technical crux is found between the second and third bolts where small edges and precise footwork will get you through. But don’t dismiss the endurance crux while climbing past the last five bolts of steep, exposed and pumpy blocky jugs that make climbing at Mt Saint Helena so fun and unique.




“THE PUZZLE VAN” Elliott Perucca and his 1995 Chevy Astro AWD Where did you find her and how much did she cost you? Back in 2012 a buddy and I were going to take a couple months off and road trip up to Alaska. I originally wanted a Westfalia but they were out of our price range for a vehicle we would potentially have to ditch somewhere along the way. I caught ole Puzzle from a dude in Tustin, C.A. for $4,000 and she’s been worth every penny. My buddy and I split the cost, then a week before we planned on leaving he pulled two pulleys off his middle and ring finger. He tried to power through and we still had a memorable time, just more time in bars. Can you tell us how the Puzzle Van got her name? My friends immediately took to calling it the rape van, but it was too generic. Patton Oswald has a bit in which he describes “Uncle Touchy’s Puzzle Basement: where you won’t wear a shirt and you’ll cry.” The Puzzle Van sounds a lot better than the former name and we can say it without getting glared at.

the creative use of our crashpad and food bins. There is webbing all over to capture clothes and camping supplies, a couple of drawers in between the seats, even ceiling drawers for toiletries! I’m constantly having to replace puzzle pieces though, forward drive shaft, radiator, fuel pump, etc. But I’m stoked that I can fix just about anything that breaks by myself. How’s the gas mileage? The V6 motor is pretty good on gas. And V6 is my highest bouldering grade, pretty much the reason I don’t climb harder is because I don’t want to fall out of sync with Puzzle. The average is around 20mpg if I am going 60 and the sky boxes are left at home. How does she do off-road? I don’t rally her, but she can reach the Talon at Shuteye, and we made it to every spot in Cochise. We have yet to be stuck, but I have the slack line and come-a-long system at the standby. Can you tell us that story from Joshua Tree, or will you be prosecuted? It’s fine. We basically gathered a bunch of Joshua tree rookies and headed to crawl through the chasm late at night. The gate was open so we drove in...Big mistake. As we emerged, reborn into the desert air, the rangers were waiting to celebrate. 15 people sitting on the curb as the ranger gave me the third degree about safety and what not. At the end of it he gave me a ticket and 15 people crawled Ringling Brother’s style into the van giggling as we rambled back to Ryan Campground. What sets the Puzzle Van apart from other vans? The all-wheel drive is great. It has a little vent hatch in the back which helps air out the ahh... fragrances. Probably should put a bigger one in. The doors squeak like banshees and the handles keep ripping off. Nicole doesn’t know her own strength.

What modifications or repairs have you done?

Aside from frightening children, what does the Puzzle Van do best?

There is a twin sized fold down bed in the back which we expand into a queen size with

There is an exhaust leak that seeps into the van sometimes. It keeps whoever is riding in the back quiet and compliant with my radio choices.

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n all day boot that was built for long distances and long pitches, the Nepal Cube from La Sportiva is a new take on a tried and true classic and performs flawlessly on everything from steep ice to overhanging mixed terrain and several mile approaches. The insole is 4mm EVA Carbon Tech Honeycomb Insulation, which is much slimmer than the original Nepal and several grams lighter. The slimmer midsole makes it feel less like your walking on stilts and more controlled underfoot while boasting sensitivity in the toe. Due to this, scrambling on lower angle rock felt more natural and it made the front points truly feel like they were right on the tip of your toe, instead of teetering over them. Weighing in at 31.5 oz., the Nepal Cube feels more like an ultra aggressive hiking boot then a mountain boot and climbs surprisingly delicate with less effort to move the foot around. We tested this boot on rigorously long days of ice cragging around Colorado, alpine style blitz’s on multi-pitch cascades in the Northern Winds and a long hike above treeline on Mt. Hood. We found that the Gore Tex lined Nepal Cube, climbs like a nimble, ultra light boot while maintaining the rugedness needed for the big mountains. Bottom line; the Nepal Cube is a great choice for a lightweight yet incredibly burly boot that is extremely comfortable and tolerant to major abuse.



his was a big year for new lightweight models of camming devices, with Black Diamond, Wild Country, DMM and Metolius all releasing new ultralight devices in 2016. With incredible weight reductions in a huge array of products, Metolius has held the lead in the ultralight climbing gear market for a number of years. And so it came with little surprise when Metolius released their new Ultralight Master Cams in a range of sizes that include the lightest hand-size camming devices on the Planet.

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When comparing hand-size cams (about 60mm), the new Ultralight Master Cam is 14 grams lighter than the Black Diamond Ultralight Camalot, 36 grams lighter than the new DMM Dragon, and a whopping 47 grams lighter than the new Wild Country Friend. We tested the Ultralight Master Cams in some pretty tricky terrain, including wonky Joshua Tree flares and the sustained granite cracks of Yosemite Valley. The larger units operated beautifully, and with a full double rack of cams in tow the weight reduction was remarkably noticeable. If you’re in search of ultralight gear, it’s becoming well known that Metolius is the right place to look, and with their release of the new Master Cam, the folks over at Metolius have once again made incredible strides in the competitive lightweight climbing gear market.


TRANGO CATALYST 9.0 { $260 }


n the past five years we’ve tested dozens of ropes in the 8.9mm to 9.2mm range. Although most of these ropes have shaved pounds off our packs and fit nicely into our rope bags. Very few stood up to serious abuse. The new Trango Catalyst 9mm easily ranks among the most durable ropes in this diameter range, withstanding a whopping seven UIAA falls and boasting an incredibly burly sheath that seemed virtually unaffected by six months of heavy testing. The Catalyst 9mm clocks in at a similar fall rating as many 10mm ropes by using Unicore technology to bond the sheath and the core of the rope together; an action that minimizes sheath slippage and creates incredible durability in the core in the event of sheath damage. At 55 grams per-meter, the Catalyst is slightly heavier (around three grams per-meter) than the lightest single ropes on the market today. While some testers considered the weight addition to be significant, many felt that the increase in weight was a fair price to pay for some added durability. We mainly tested this rope on the highly abrasive quartz monzonite rocks of Joshua Tree and the Alabama Hills, and after countless lowers and rappels the cord remains in fine shape. All Catalyst 9mm ropes come with a Duo Dry finish and highly visible middle markings.



winging ice tools is hard work, any advantage you can get to ease the pump and minimize fatigue will add up in the long run. Enter in the Grivel Tech Machine. With a flatter pick head (less curved), a lighter, less aggressive shaft, and a handle that is angled further back instead of inline with the shaft, the Tech Machine was designed for optimal efficiency and high end ice climbing. The handle design creates a more powerful swing at an optimal angle for first try sticks and helps generate better upward leverage when removing the picks from the ice. An intregrated index finger catch on the handle helps with delicate placements by giving the hand a bit more control and sensitivity. It felt very comfortable to hold during all day missions and never vibrated or felt hollow due to chromoly steel throughout. Even though these tools are designed for someone who climbs more ice than rock, they still performed very well on mixed terrain even with the stock ice specific pick. Grivel makes a mixed specific pick for rock as well as hammer and adze attchments. Large leash clip-in points on the very bottom of the handle work great for managing a leash system and the large hole in the head clips easily onto ice screw clips. The head is a little fat, so if you have a more then a couple screws clipped in the tools like to sit at an angle. In a side by side comparison test with a certain Petzl tool, it handled almost identical and proved to actually be a little easier to remove. On low angle terrain where you may have to use the top of the tool for support they felt sturdier and less likely to tip over. All in all, the Tech Machine is a solid, jack of all trades tool that is on par with the highest end tools on the market.

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*Actual size

PIRANHA KNIFE You don’t need a knife very often on multipitch climbs, but when you do, you really do. This minimalist solution is just as easy to forget about as it is to use, which is why it’s perfect. Put one in your chalkbag pocket or prusik ‘biner and forget about it (until you need it).


CLIMBER Anne-Marie Lambert LOCATION Turrtle Dome, Yosemite Valley PHOTOGRAPHER Dean Fleming

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CLIMBER Russ McBride ROUTE Alien Roof (5.12b), Yosemite Valley PHOTOGRAPHER Jim Thornburg

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CLIMBER Scott Cosgrove ROUTE Rastafarian (5.14), Joshua Tree PHOTOGRAPHER Greg Epperson


CLIMBER Giovanni Traversi ROUTE Grand Finale (V9), Fort Ross PHOTOGRAPHER Dean Fleming

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Coming 2016 10,000 sq ft of rope climbing Training Room / Hydraulic wall Powered by Touchstone Climbing 11 Gyms 1 Community

Tom Addison racking up at the Frankensteins Cliff near Pinecrest Lake, Sonora Pass, California. IMAGE + Jerry Dodrill

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The Lobbyist Bad Pun Rhymester, Access Crusader and Strange Fruit Aficionado:




leaned over the rounded granite edge and craned my neck toward the South Fork of the Stanislaus River; its dramatic v-shaped canyon draining west to the Central Valley. It was early spring and the Forest Service gate across Herring Creek Road was closed, forcing us to park along Highway 108 and ride bikes through snow drifts to approach the Frankensteins; a wonderfully featured and incredibly exposed granite plug that stands high above Pinecrest Lake in the Stanislaus National Forest. For the past five seasons I’d talked with El Cerrito resident and avid Sonora Pass route developer Tom Addison about the excellent new climbs he’d established at the Frankensteins. Most recently, we’d discussed the possibility of the first free ascent of an existing three pitch aid route. In typical style for Addison, he’d spent the better part of two weeks scrubbing, cleaning and equipping the route for free climbing. Once again, I only needed to show up, rope up, and bask in excellent well-protected climbing and the glory of the first free ascent. From the top of the Frankensteins the small pine trees and steep angle of the river canyon below enhanced the exposure. When I heard Tom yell “off rappel,” I rigged my belay device and leaned over the edge into the first of a series of three rappels to the cliff’s base. The 9mm static rope felt slippery. Forty feet below the summit my left hand casually brushed across the top of the belay device. It was hot. Really hot. After only sixty feet I began to smell something burning. I decided to test the device by touching it a second time, which of course, burned the crap out of my fingers. With the scent of burning nylon growing stronger and at least another 120 feet to the anchor, I decided to stop and clip into a lead bolt to let the device cool down. As I hung there, dangling in space, attached to only a single protection bolt, I remember thinking; “Thank God Tom placed this bolt…” And I couldn’t help but smile when I realized just how many times I’d thought about Tom’s methodically safe bolting practices. In truth, I’ve thought about it more than a dozen times while climbing on just a small sample of the hundreds of brilliant pitches Tom Addison has established in the Central Sierra.

THIS PAGE Addison helping to build a parking lot for Jailhouse; a steep cave near Jamestown, California. IMAGE + Jerry Dodrill OPPOSITE PAGE Addison climbing The Governor (5.13b) at Jailhouse. IMAGE + Dean Fleming

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n more than 35 years of climbing Tom Addison has put up roughly 1,500 new pitches in at least 10 states, including significant stints of route development at Farley Ledges, Massachusetts, Owls Head, New Hampshire, City of Rocks, Idaho and the Superstitions in Arizona. In California, Addison has developed hundreds of new pitches at areas including the Lost World, Owens River Gorge, the Frankensteins, Yosemite National Park, the Grotto, Jailhouse and other “top secret” areas that he’s not yet ready to reveal. The climbs that Addison has established are of immeasurable value to our climbing community, yet he’s best known among friends for his wacky demeanor, a strange penchant for unusual subtropical fruit and for staging incredibly prolonged

practical jokes. Addison is the kind of guy that insists that his passion for putting up first ascents exists “solely to choose route names involving bad puns,” and that the act itself is “a huge waste of time and basically an asinine thing to do.” <~~~> I leaned out on the bolt and looked down the overhanging wall to the belay. Tom was hard to miss, wearing his bright blue tights under the faded shorts he “scored” from the thrift store, a crooked bright blue beanie and neon red fleece overcoat. When I finally reached the stance, he flashed the “hang loose” sign with one hand, passed me his aging rack of museum-quality trad gear with the other and then let out a big “whaaat upppp duuuude?!” Because of this, and so many times like it, it’s nearly impossible for me to imagine Tom Addison in a suit and tie lobbying for our air quality in the State’s Capitol. And I can’t imagine him sitting at a conference table representing the California climbing community with a panel of National Forest big wigs.



Addison climbing Flight Simulator (5.12b) at the Grotto near Jamestown, California. IMAGE + Dean Fleming

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THIS PAGE Addison making the first ascent of Hung Frankenstein (5.12b) at the Frankensteins cliff near Pinecrest Lake in the Sierra Nevada, Sonora Pass, California. IMAGE + Jerry Dodrill OPPOSITE PAGE Addison climbing The Verdict (5.11b), at Pinnacles National Park, California. IMAGE + Jim Thornburg

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It’s true that Addison spends weekdays in the State Capital working as a Lobbyist for the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, and when he isn’t, he rolls up his sleeves to protect climbing access through discussions with private land owners and land managers. Since moving back to California in 1989, Addison has helped to preserve access to climbing areas managed by the Bureau of Reclamation, the Bureau of Land Management, the National Park Service, the National Forest Service and the California State Parks, and at crags like Jailhouse, Mickey’s Beach, Castle Rock and the Grotto.


om Addison began climbing in 1980 while living in New England and quickly expanded to climbing in New Hampshire, the Gunks in New York and Farley Ledges in Massachusetts. Addison remembers putting up his first route in 1982 in North Adams, Massachusetts at a marble quarry. “Of course, because of the time period and the ethics of the day, we did that in ground-up style,” said Addison. “It was a really fun adventure; one of those things that I tried and I knew that I was going to go all in.” Addison has since established routes in a vast gamut of styles, but in the past decade his first ascents have become well known for meticulously calculated natural and fixed

protection placements that often follow clean, fun and safe climbing. “When I started climbing it was a different era, and so we all emulated the California traditional onsite ground-up ethic,” said Addison. “When I put up a route in ground-up style, I’m not necessarily thinking about making a safe or happy route for other people. For me, it feels like putting up a route in traditional style is more of an adventure for the people putting up the route. I certainly establish more routes these days from the top down, and I do want other people who climb these routes to have enjoyable experiences, so I try to make sure that the hardware is quality and that the clip stances are well thought out.” <~~~> Addison insists that he lacks a natural talent for climbing, yet in the past three decades he’s managed to acquire an impressive ticklist of hard ascents, including about 200 redpoints 5.13 or harder and onsight ascents of routes as difficult as 5.13a. “I’ve never been particularly gifted as a climber; rather, I’m embarrassingly stubborn and persistent,” said Addison. “If you stand out in a field long enough, lightning is bound to hit you eventually.” In May of 2003 Addison’s determination paid off with a redpoint of a seven year project and his hardest route to that date; Overhaul (5.13d) at Jailhouse Rock near Jamestown, California. Bolted by Addison in 1996, Overhaul tackles a severely steep and unrelenting extension to his earlier 5.13b route Haul of Justice. “The third year working on Overhaul I fell trying to clip the chains,” said Addison. “I thought that I would send the next weekend, but I crashed my bicycle the following week and tore my shoulder apart. After that, a series of different injuries set it back a number of years.” Addison’s ascent of Overhaul was followed by a more recent completion of another difficult long term project at Jailhouse; an unrepeated route he redpointed in 2013 called Capitol Punishment which he has rated “HFT” (Hard for Tom).


Addison climbing his route Chains We Can Believe In (5.12a) at the Lost World near Sonora Pass, California. IMAGE + Jerry Dodrill

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“IN THE END, OUR ABILITY TO CLIMB AT THE PLACES WE LOVE DEPENDS COMPLETELY ON OUR ABILITY TO WORK EFFECTIVELY WITH LAND MANAGERS” In 2014 while bouldering in the gym, Addison inflicted a strange and somewhat unexplained ligament tear in his wrist. The resulting surgery and rehab prevented him from climbing for the following two years. Although Tom has returned to climbing on “bumbly” routes, he continues the process of rehabilitation. “If you climb for a significant period of time, you’re going to get injured, and I’ve had a variety of injuries in the 35 years that I’ve been climbing,” said Addison. “It’s certainly not clear if I’ll return to climbing at the level that I used to climb at, but the goal is really getting out. It’s easy to focus on grades, but as you get older and you look back on your climbing, you realize the reason you do it is the people, the friendships and being outside in these amazing settings, and all of that stuff can continue at any level. I’m not sure what is possible in my climbing future, but I am sure that I’ll keep climbing at some level, at some capacity, because it’s something that I really enjoy doing, and that has been a constant for a long time.” <~~~> ABOVE LEFT Addison climbing Shut up and Climb (5.13a) at Cave Rock. IMAGE + Jim Thornburg ABOVE RIGHT Addison climbing a 5.12a at the Lost World near Sonora Pass, California. IMAGE + Jerry Dodrill

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Addison’s work securing access to climbing areas began in the 1980s at Farley Ledges in Massachusetts. The approach to the cliff crossed privately owned land and access was jeopardized. “This was about the time when the American Alpine Club had an Access Committee, but before the Access Fund,” said Addison. “I started working with access issues at Farley Ledges with Al Rubin. We got the state of Massachusetts to offer the land owner $17,000 for his land to secure access to the cliff for climbers. This was tremendously exciting, but ultimately disappointing when the land owner didn’t take the offer. Access there continued to be

a problem until the Western Massachusetts Climber’s Coalition took action and ultimately resolved the issue.” When Addison moved back to California in 1989 he started working on access issues under the guidance of Armando Menocal and Paul Minault of the Access Fund. “The biggest win for climbers has been the formation of the Access Fund, which has been an incredibly effective voice for all of us,” said Addison. “My perspective is that the Access Fund has only gotten stronger and more effective over time, and I really encourage every climber to support the organization however they can.” “In the end, our ability to climb at the places we love depends completely on our ability to work effectively with land managers,” said Addison. “Understand the rules of where you’re climbing, and not only follow reasonable rules from land managers, but encourage others to do the same. If you see someone doing something that potentially jeopardizes other people’s access, speak up and let them know. Join your local climber’s coalition, take part in community service days and consider donations to both the Access Fund and the ASCA.” “It’s certainly true that there are increasing numbers of climbers, and that means that many areas have higher visitation and that our climbing is much more noticed by land managers than it used to be,” said Addison. “But I’m not the kind of person that looks back at the past nostalgically. Instead I see a lot of community minded, positive younger people getting into the sport. If we can harness that energy and enthusiasm, these generations will be a great resource to make sure that access to climbing areas can continue.” “I’ve had the opportunity to climb in some amazing places, and I’d like for us all to be able to keep doing that,” said Addison. “We tend to get worked up as climbers about some pretty inconsequential stuff, but none of that matters if we can’t even touch the rock.” Tom Addison would like to publicly acknowledge that he is the slowest climber on Earth and take this opportunity to apologize to all of his patient belayers over the years.


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Travis Lombardo warming up at the Sunset Rocks. IMAGE + Dean Fleming



f you are reading this you probably have one. Each of our stories contain important details that shape and reveal who we are and should probably be shared with prospective partners before setting off on an adventure. “Oh, you started two weeks ago?” … mmm… There’s nothing wrong with being an enthusiastic noob, but this is something to be vetted in the gym rather than at the base of Astroman. We all had our introductory climbs of course, when perhaps you went climbing, but the climber within was still at a latent stage. It was just something you did. One day there was a realization, a determined moment perhaps, when the route -the problem- became the single most important thing in your consciousness. Even if for a few seconds, you exited the chrysalis of the horizontal world and the climber within was revealed. Then you evolved. I had been telling my origin story for twenty years when the next level in the life of a climber looked me straight in face: Now you’re an activist. Oh gawd. The very word seems loaded. Those are the people who stand outside Whole Foods and try to get us to sign petitions. We take evasive action to avoid them. How many times have you given up your signature for a cause you didn’t really understand or care about? But something happened at the crag one day in the mid 2000s, and suddenly I was wallowing in the murky waters of citizen-activism for climbing access.


t first it seemed like just another gorgeous day here on the North Coast. I had the afternoon free so I drove Highway 1 to Goat Rock Beach, parked in the roadside pullout and trotted down the trail toward the Sunset Rocks. These stunning blue/green schist boulders lie in a magical coastal prairie in Sonoma Coast State Park where the San Andreas Fault, Pacific Ocean and Russian River converge. The pressure of tectonic plate collision brings many types of rock to the surface here. Most is not climbable, making the garnet studded Sunset Rocks a unique and significant resource that has been used for over fifty years. A short approach, variety of top-rope routes and boulder problems from V0 to V10 make this a full spectrum crag where a young climber can develop. Nearly all of Sonoma County’s most accomplished climbers began their outdoor apprenticeships at the Sunset Rocks. Mark Howe and Harrison Hood inspired a legacy of stewardship and adventure.

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In the 1990s crushers like Bonnie Hedlund, Marcos Nunez, Richie Esquibal and Chris Summit pushed the difficulty levels at Sunset Rocks; paving the way for well-known Sonoma County climbers like Kevin Jorgeson, Charlie Barrett, Giovanni and Carlo Traversi and Colton Edson. “The Sunset Rocks played a huge role in my early development as a climber,” Santa Rosa’s Colton Edson recalled in a recent interview. “When I first got my license I would run out there in my mom’s car on weekends and skip class to catch solo sessions on all the boulder problems I could. Having it so close to home meant that whenever I wanted to get outside for a quick session it was the first place to go.”


n that particular sunny day I’d botched the packing job and things kept falling out of the crash pad as I walked. A roll of tape, a shoe, a water bottle… So I wasn’t really paying attention when a person stood up from a deep hole at the base of the warmup boulder. I squinted in the afternoon sun to more carefully analyze the situation. Sweat glistened on the brow of a man with contemplative eyes and a salt and pepper goatee. Calloused hands rested on a shovel handle. He wore a uniform bearing the familiar yellow and blue patch of California State Parks. The strings and flags placed around the perfectly square pit in which he stood concerned me and seemed at odds with the friendly smile on his face. Oh great, an archaeologist! I don’t remember exactly what happened next, but I do recall sitting in the shade having a long conversation as he dug, poked and prodded in the hole.

Travis Lombardo climbing an unknown (V2) on the Hard On Boulder. IMAGE + Dean Fleming


Ari Maiello climbing The Hard On Traverse (V6). IMAGE + Dean Fleming

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ABOVE LEFT Bessie Lopez grabs polished holds at Sunset Rocks in Sonoma Coast State Park. Paleontologists believe the very smooth polish on these blue schist boulders may have been caused by herds of colombian mammoth which wallowed in nearby wetlands before rubbing against them in the Late Pleistosene era 11,000-15,000 years ago. IMAGE + Jerry Dodrill ABOVE RIGHT Bessie Lopez climbing on The Bitch Boulder IMAGE + Jerry Dodrill

Breck Parkman was the Senior State Archaeologist and on that day was taking a core sample with the hope of finding ancient hair follicles from the Colombian Mammoth. If he could successfully find a DNA sample it would prove his “Rancholabrean Hypothesis.” He believed the highly polished surfaces of our favorite boulders were created during the late Pleistocene era, between 11,000 and 15,000 years ago. “The mammoths would have rolled in mud over there,” he pointed east, “then come here to rub the abrasive exfoliant off their skin as it dried.” Having long wondered what caused the polish, I had to ponder this for a bit. “Really? Mammoths?” I questioned. He crawled out of the pit and showed me rubbings that were more than five meters off the ground. “Not sheep or cows,” he smiled. He had taken samples of the polish and pulverized it to see if he could extract DNA. To me, this was all really fascinating, but it couldn’t be good for climbing access. What would happen to the Sunset Rocks if he found the DNA?


arkman and I had struck up a kind of friendship. He was spending a lot of time around climbers during his research and overall had had a positive experience. He appreciated how passionate we were for these rocks and didn’t think we were hurting the polish. He told me climbing was just a part of the current history of the stones. Early hunters probably climbed up there to wait for their quarry. I imagined wild-eyed

cave men looking down with primitive stone spears. We haven’t evolved much. Over the next few months however, I began to worry that our interests were on a collision course. Parkman’s theory took hold and released a wave of journalists, news crews and eco-tourism. Naturalists began leading walks to the “Mammoth Rocks.” Climbers and nature lovers awkwardly intermingled around the boulders. To our dismay a few handholds that were on the edge of the polish disappeared. Despite obvious rock-hammer marks, magnesium carbonate finger prints led outraged stewardship groups to a misplaced conclusion: “Climbers are destroying the mammoth rubbings.” A storm was brewing. Before long we learned that a citizen’s advisory council comprised of local environmental groups and community activists were meeting with State Park officials to discuss impacts caused by climbing at Sunset Rocks. Parkman invited some friends and I to share our perspective. A delegation of climbing community leaders anxiously attended the hearing to discuss our fate. Someone suggested banning climbing all together and installing a boardwalk around the Sunset Rocks with interpretive panels. Someone else thought climbing should be regulated by a permit system. Others thought we still used pitons. We cringed and emphasized the modern principles of non-destructive clean climbing, self-policing culture and ethics. The polish isn’t what makes this place special, we explained, it is the entirety of the Sonoma Coast experience. We were not completely without fault. A local guide had been seen with clients rappelling off the dramatic but chossy South Rock, which is covered with native plants. Though no crime had been committed, the incident was the likely catalyst for the meeting. In the end we had a better understanding of each other’s concerns and the delicate balance required to find harmony between conservation and recreation. Though this happened a decade ago, I still wonder about the outcome if Breck had proven his hypothesis. For the moment it seemed that a bullet had been dodged.



Travis Lombardo bouldering Pelican Arete (5.10b) or (V0R). IMAGE + Dean Fleming

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o the California climber, State Parks are a tremendously high valued resource. Consider for a moment how many popular crags lie within State Park boundaries. Virtually all major Bay Area crags: Castle Rock, Mts. Diablo, Tamalpais and St. Helena, Mickey’s Beach, Sunset Rocks, Salt Point, the list goes on and on. Some of these are fee areas while many undeveloped coastal areas are free. This is due in part to the California Coastal Commission whose founding principles include a mandate to regulate development and maximize public access. It is no secret that California’s State Parks are under-funded and suffer from both scandal and mismanagement. We could agree that new ways must be found to fund the Parks. But those ways are going to be painful. Under Governor Brown’s leadership, a “Parks Forward Initiative” is transforming the parks into a more entrepreneurial entity. Their goal is to “establish a robust revenue generation strategy and dedicated reliable source of public funding.” Apparently this means charging fees for access to public lands which have always been free. In 2013 Sonoma Coast State Park planners unveiled a proposal that would introduce Iron Rangers (self pay stations) to fourteen new locations. The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors unanimously rejected the proposal because in addition to being vague and lacking environmental review, it violated the county’s Coastal Commissionapproved Local Coastal Plan which ensures free access. The Park appealed to the Coastal Commission who agreed to hear the case, not because they disagreed with the County, but because a yes decision would set a precedent which would open fee generating opportunities along the entire California coast. Just before press time we learned that the Sonoma Coast State Park’s proposal has broadened in scope, adding several thousand inland acres while claiming that no environmental impact or user access would be affected. This “negative declaration” allows minimal environmental review and does not allow public comment. While there will be fewer self-pay stations than initially proposed,

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the development of three manned kiosks will directly impact access for climbers. The entire parking area at Sunset Rocks is to become a three-lane entrance station. If the Coastal Commission approves the State Park’s proposal, a lot more than our parking will be at stake. A quarter century of local grass-roots activism to ensure free coastal access could be wiped away.

“The conservation battles we lose today are lost forever. The conservation battles we win today are only won temporarily. Future governments will decide that our resources can be better used for other purposes.” Patricio Robles Gil AUTHOR’S NOTE Please take a moment to email your comments to the California Coastal Commission before March 25, 2016. Ask them to reject the Sonoma Coast Fee Proposal, specifically at Goat Rock. More information will be posted online at freesonomacoast. com and at Respectful letters can be sent to: Nancy Cave, California Coastal Commission, 45 Fremont Street – Suite 2000, San Francisco, CA 941052219. Respectful email’s can be sent to

ABOVE Ari Maiello climbing Hard (V1). IMAGE + Dean Fleming RIGHT Dean Fleming climbing Potato Chip (V5). IMAGE + Jerry Dodrill


LEFT Kevin Jorgeson climbing Killer Crack (5.11b) or (V1R). IMAGE + Jerry Dodrill RIGHT Bessie Lopez warming up on Sunset Slab (5.8) or (V0R). IMAGE + Jerry Dodrill

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Travis Lombardo climbing Hard On (V2). IMAGE + Dean Fleming

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Images + Dean Fleming

THE BETA GETTING THERE From the south in the town of Bodega Bay, take Highway 1 north for 9 miles. Turn left onto Goat Rock Road, drive approximately 0.5 miles and then park in a large gravel lot on the west side of the road. The trail to the boulders heads west toward the Pacific and is obvious. WHERE TO STAY Bodega Dunes Campground is the closest camping to Goat Rock Beach, but it will set you back $35 per-night.

THE SUNSET ROCKS 5-STAR ROUTES Pelican Arete (5.10a) or (V0R) Killer Crack (5.11b) or V1R) Sunset Traverse (V2)

GUIDEBOOK Jim Thornburg’s Bay Area Rock.

Skull Cracker (V3) The Specialist (V5)

Ari Maiello climbing Potato Chip (V5). IMAGE + Dean Fleming

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Chris Lorimer on T-Crack (5.10c), Gibraltar Rock.

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THIS PAGE Mike O’Connor on Makunamia Direct (5.12a). OPPOSITE PAGE Chris Lorimer on the Nose (5.11b).



coastal town of Santa Barbara offer vast amounts of untapped potential... to the climber with an overactive imagination. Too much daydreaming of soaring granite and sandstone splitters has addled my perspective and tricked me into questioning every rocky pile. Alas the tall palisades of rock visible from anywhere in Santa Barbara are rarely worth climbing. What appears to be vertical walls perched on top of crests and ridges turn out to be broken, jumbled, vegetated, eroded, pretentious choss. It looks so much better than it is. Trust me, I’ve checked. Hours spent trudging up steep trails or thwacking through creek beds choked with dense forests of poison oak have all ended face to face with disappointment. Just how professional climbers are always shorter in person, a rock outcrop I had spied out, found on Google Earth and miraculously arrived at, became more diminutive with each step. Every visible feature I exaggerated into something promising grew uglier the closer I got. Out of desperation I’d scramble around the side thinking what if that splitter finger crack would be back there, hiding out of sight, waiting for me to stumble across it; my manifest destiny. Then I’d be on top of the rock. And that’s all she wrote. A two hour ordeal of sweat, tears, and poison oak-evasion-tactics culminating in a fourth class turd pile. At the least the view is good. And that’s where the climbing in Santa Barbara redeems itself. Like a deformed, weathered little cousin to Squamish the Santa Ynez Mountains are partly beautiful in their position above the Pacific and partly in their proud, if somewhat fragmented, ridges and canyons of Matilija sandstone. From anywhere in downtown Santa Barbara I can look up at the mountains and, with familiarity, pick out small individual crags. In a 30 minute drive from the beach, up 3,000 feet into the hills I can be climbing on them. A favorite quote of mine about Santa Barbara choss wrangling is “the climbing is three stars, the views are five so you’re almost always left with at least a four star day.”

My first year of living in Santa Barbara started off with a lot of excitement. I had a whole new playground of rock to explore and it seemed as if I wouldn’t have to share it with many of the local climbers. Pretty quickly I realized why. The bouldering is (mostly) pretty accessible but the rope climbing often involves a farther hike than the pebble wrestling and is less concentrated. One word to sum up the sport and trad climbing scene: short. Or maybe Lilliputian. The nature of the young rock makes many of the outcrops small and where the rock is dense enough, overhanging with some seriously brutish moves. It’s an interesting style of climbing with powerful moves that are unforgiving to any slip in technique. The Matilija sandstone has gravity amplifying slopers, sharp micro crimps and tiny foot chips that are prone to frequent breakage. On average the routes are between 30 and 40 feet tall with a couple outliers on either end; some are 18 feet tall and have three bolts and others are 90 feet and have five bolts. By the second year I had ventured to almost every crag and was realizing that the future of climbing in Santa Barbara is either hiking for an hour to find unclimbed routes, hiking 45 minutes for forgotten old sandbags, or bouldering.






Pablo Hammack on Omega Glory (5.13a).

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Climbers have been poking their noses in nooks and crannies up in the foothills since the 1950s. Yvon Chouinard, when he wasn’t in the Valley, building up Patagonia or surfing, found time to establish a couple first ascents. Later Hans Florine spent time in Santa Barbara, although I believe he was more preoccupied with Owl Tor and setting speed records than looking for chossy sandstone routes. More recently the few areas left untouched by previous generations have been arduously established by a small, dedicated group of locals including Andy Patterson, Jeff Mahoney, Matthew Fienup, Tyler Gross and Ian Bloom. These guys tenaciously quest through the overgrown, arid forests of manzanita looking for formations, boulders and outcrops that anywhere else wouldn’t get a second glance. The work is hard and the rewards relatively low. Yet they keep doing it. Enduring hot, dusty treks with sweat painfully sticking to old poison oak sores that keep getting irritated by their beladen packs stuffed with ropes, brushes and water. Meanwhile the ocean is infuriatingly close and inviting. Most climbers in town, and still very few overall, opt for climbing at the established areas and leave development to the fanatics. There are over 200 routes that are generally ignored by both the local populace and climbers in the greater Central Coast area. The popular crags like San Ysidro and Gibraltar are often used more by guides than recreational climbers but the remote areas, requiring an approach farther than five minutes, can be devoid of parties for weeks or months at a time. Renaissance Crag, Upper Theology, Cold Springs Dome, Potter’s Point and Green Dome all offer a handful of truly classic sport climbs in good Santa Barbara fashion. For the listless trad-daddies the recently developed, and aptly named, Panic Town with over 90 all gear routes will surely entice them to bring out the racks and hand-jammies.

The most accessible crag is Gibraltar and it also happens to be one of the finest. Right next to its namesake road this scenic cube of rock has a route for everyone. On its sunny southern face there are plenty of 5.moderates with easy top rope anchors. Hidden beneath Gibraltar’s largest arête is Santa Barbara’s Separate Reality; short, hard and very, very steep the Nose is our local training crack widening from thin hands to fists in 15 feet. Around the corner on the water polished western face are a handful of harder routes. Three technically and psychologically difficult slabs that were opened five years ago by Andy Patterson and Bernd Zeugswetter have only been repeated once to my knowledge. But next to them is THE crack climb to do in Santa Barbara, TCrack (5.10c). A West Coast classic climbed by Herb Rickert in the 50s, this in-your-face 5.10c suckers you in with the best hand crack west of Yosemite and then dumps you out high and dry staring down a don’t-fuck-it-up mantle with gear next to your toes. If you get on the sharp end just imagine those shiny cams beneath your feet are wooden pegs like Herb used. From the same parking lot as Gibraltar Rock a stout trail strikes up a ridge that overlooks Santa Barbara and leads toward the reclusive Cold Springs Dome. There, hidden away from the already non-existent crowds, is Makunaima (5.11c). On a steep and tall wall that used to be the locals top



rope crag in the 80s Makunaima takes the only leadable line up a fragmented and zigzagging finger crack. The gear is mostly straightforward with obvious stances to place from, however some of the rock can be less than bomber. Great flowing moves on surprisingly juggy holds speed up most of the difficulties. At the top there is a runout escape to the left that bypasses the final headwall and a tricky V4 boulder problem that can feel very exciting without the gear beta. The escape is 5.11c and the direct finish is around 5.12a. Go do it. It’s awesome. The rest of the crag actually has a large amount of potential if someone bolted the top-ropes that the old guys never bothered to. What if there was another route like this somewhere in the hills...? Farther up Gibraltar road, past a hippy commune and many switchbacks, is Potter’s Point. On a sizable chunk of rock next to a couple lone pine trees is Omega Glory (5.13a), the crown jewel of Santa Barbara sport. The hike alone offers the best views of our little coastal town and on a clear day all four of the Channel Islands. Put up by hardman Steve Edwards in the 90s Omega is the cleanest, steepest, tallest (it’s still only about 45 feet) rock face in the Santa Barbara hills. The opening move clocks in at trick V7 and doesn’t let up until you’re clipping the anchors. Powerful moves with dynos off underclings and practically no rests make this a power endurance classic. Some of the longest lasting and smallest face holds that the Matilija formation sustains are on this 5.13a, surprisingly from an un-obnoxious amount of glue. For those who really don’t like crowds, or roads, or even looking at Santa Barbara a drive out to Green Dome will appease their hermitude. Green Dome hosts 20 climbs on strange metamorphic green schist and its West Face, often referred to as Kryptor, is a hardman, or hardwoman’s, wet dream of steep hardman’s clip ups. Offering a look at the North side of the Santa Ynez range Green Dome is the most unique crag near Santa Barbara both for the unusual rock that lacks the customary friction of sandstone and for its total remoteness near the end of East Camino Cielo. Dedicating a day to find and explore this crag is rewarding for those climbers who like to go as far out of their way as possible to climb something unique.

After a couple years of climbing in Santa Barbara I’ve learned, like a blustery day in Joshua Tree or peak season in Yosemite, our choss is most enjoyable when I just accept the shortcomings, relax into the sunshine and appreciate the view with friends. The deceptive appearance of the quantity of rock in the hills will probably always keep me guessing, imagining what if there is actually a great finger crack waiting for a first ascent out there? And that’s what I want in local climbing, a continuing interest. Well, apart from really good rock. That’d be nice too. The ambiance of a relaxed bourgeois, surf town is an unusual vibe for most climbing locations but lends itself to a slower pace. Instead of trying to bang out as many pitches as possible it’s generally more economical to find a project or two and get familiar. The climbing isn’t always amazing but what reveals the allure of Santa Barbara climbing is the atmosphere; the powerful juxtaposition of mountains and ocean, the contrasting personalities of sandstone, surf and city with the climber right in the middle of all of it.

OPPOSITE PAGE Ian Bloom on Monster in the Maze (5.12b. THIS PAGE This Page Chris Lorimer on Lieback Annie (5.7).


Mike O’Connor and Ian Bloom hiking back to the car from Makunamia.

THE BETA GETTING THERE The climbs featured in this article are located in the Gibraltar Rock area off of Gibraltar Road outside Santa Barbara. From downtown Santa Barbara take Forest Route 5N40 / Gibraltar Road for approximately 8 miles. Specific directions to each cliff can be found in the guidebook Rock Climbing Santa Barbara & Ventura by Steve Edwards. WHERE TO STAY There are no convenient campgrounds close to Gibraltar Rock, but camping can be found along Highway 101 at El Capitan State Park and Refugio State Park. GUIDEBOOK Rock Climbing Santa Barbara & Ventura by Steve Edwards.

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Wonderland 5-STAR ROUTES

Lieback Annie (5.7), Gibraltar Rock T-Crack (5.10c), Gibraltar Rock Makunamia (5.11c), Cold Springs Dome Monster in the Maze (5.12b), Green Dome Omega Glory (5.13a), Potter’s Point

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