San Diego Climbing


Recently returned from San Diego where we got to climb at several areas: Valley of the Moon, Santee, and La Jolla Cove.

Valley of the Moon required an hour-and-a-half drive east of San Diego into the heart of the desert. We then turned south on a gnarly 4×4 road over a rocky pass and drove another 5 miles. VOTM sits on the Mexican border – and I mean ON the border. There’s no checkpoints, fences, walls, or concrete culverts seperating the US from Mexico. Where the dirt road ends Mexico begins. The rock was like Joshua Tree but with huge huecos scattered across many of the formations. Miles and miles of rock – everywhere. Unfortunately, the day gradually turned from sunny to windy, cloudy and cold. We spent most of our time wandering around the granite mounds overwhelmed by the potential of the area.

The next day we visited Santee, a small bouldering area located only yards from a convenient parking area at a city park. This was the opposite of Valley of the Moon. A few dozen huge egg-shaped granite boulders scattered among the hillsides. The climbing was fun, technical, and crimpy. Many of the more impressive problems were highballs and would have been fun to try if we’d had a crashpad. There were quite a few students and others who stopped by after work or school and wanted to get a few problems in before the sun set. Nearby, an old guy cruised several problems working to complete his 45-problem circuit before the day was done.


On Monday we went to La Jolla Cove for some bouldering on the beach. If you’ve never climbed on a beach it is a unique experience; waves roll onto the shore, all around is sand for your crashpad. You don’t need climbing shoes or chalk. The one rule: you can’t complain about a hold being too sandy or too slick. The rock was a soft sandstone with a smooth-polished surface making top-outs difficult – but exciting. Most problems required tricky balance and open-handed smears. Slapping for the top of the rock you couldn’t be sure that there would be any hold there and if there was it might have sand, seaweed, or sea creatures on it. The best problems had super-grippy sandstone, much how I would imagine gritstone to feel. The climbs ranged in height from 10 feet to over 25 feet. Exploring the beach for new lines was half the fun, some of the stuff that appeared easy at first glance turned out to be more difficult due to the texture or lack of holds.

We continued to climb as the sun sank into the Pacific and traces of golden light lingered on the water. Even as darkness set in we were finding new rock that we wished we had found earlier. Overall, it was our best day climbing of the trip.

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