Pinnacles National Monument
Juvenile Striped Racer, seen near the Discovery Wa...
Pinnacles is a Bay Area Climber's nightmare or savior, depending one's interest. Its close proximity to the South Bay and moderate weather during the Winter months make it very popular with the Bay Area climbing community, but at the same time the area is known for its "less than granite quality" rock. Some despise its chossy character, others revel in its history of adventure and "ground up" ethic.
As a former haunt of some of Yosemite's children of the Golden Age of climbing, the names of Roper, Bridwell, Bates are associated with this area. It has bolt-protected face climbs due to the lack of good cracks, as well as more traditional climbs.
An Intro to the Pinnacles
by Steven Dalleske
Tap tap tap, tap tap tap, I can always tell when an experienced Pinnacles climber is in the area. The fact is you can usually hear them long before you see them. Tapping the holds with our knuckles is just one of the unique techniques we have learned to rely on over the years of scrambling across this unique rock. For me, the farther I am from my last protection the more I'm tapping and if I'm really wigging out you'll see me start kicking at the foot holds too. What I'm doing is listening for a nice sharp report from the knob or cobble in question. Something that will let me know how well it's attached to the cliff and how much I want to rely on it. A dull or hollow sound above a fall you're not interested in taking and you should be looking for alternatives. If there are no viable alternatives, its time to decide how bad you want the route and if you decide to push on you'll, at the least, have a better understanding what your getting into. Keep in mind, though, that if you seriously tried to avoid all the loose rock at the Pinns, you're route selection would be seriously limited if not non-existent. Climbing the Pinnacles rock is an art, it's something that takes an acquired taste to really appreciate, but once mastered it's an art that will give you new confidence when visiting other more sound climbing areas.
Another good habit to adopt when negotiating the minefields that are the Pinnacles rock is to try to avoid stepping on the knobs. This is because, when a weighted knob pops, under your foot you'll be at the end of your rope or bouncing off a ledge before you know it. Consequently, a seasoned Pinn-head will, given the opportunity, consciously avoid using the knobs for footholds and instead seek features in the matrix to find a purchase for the foot. The matrix being like a gritty mortar that holds the cobbles in place tends to crumble rather than pop as the knobs do and this can, in some cases, give you the extra second needed to make a decision and hopefully an escape. Eventually you'll find yourself spreading your weight out on the rock, moving like a cat, taking full advantage of stances, exploring and carefully planning your sequences, appreciating a sound bolt more than ever before, clipping anchors with a relief that overwhelms and if you can learn love this careful style of climbing, you've become a true Pinn-head.
Because of the unique rock here, soloing and bouldering at the Pinns, though not unheard of, is considered foolhardy, if not suicidal. Ironically, most of the moderate routes here have serious run outs on them which, coupled with our not so lovable rock makes even the easiest route a serious endeavor. You must always be conscious of your potential falls, this is not a place to haphazardly romp around 20' out from the last bolt. Since the knobs pop on all routes equally, you are more likely to get hurt on something easy like the Portent
, 5.6 with it's 20' to 30' run outs than something a little harder like Cantaloupe Death
, 5.10c which has mere 6' to 8' run outs. In most cases the easier routes were put up 30, 40 or even 50 years ago in a bygone time when climbing was a more dangerous animal, commitment was at a premium and protection was sub standard by modern ideals. Consequently if you are not already familiar with the rock here, I don't consider the Pinnacles a great place to teach yourself leading. Over the last decade the bolts on most of the more popular routes have been brought up to modern standards, but the run outs, long and true, are and always will remain.
Depending on whether one is going to the more popular East District or the West District will dictate how to get there.
For the East District, go South on 101 to Hwy 25 to Hollister. Go South out of Hollister for several miles until you reach the turn off for Pinnacles National Monument. Go past the campground and entrance station (fee) and continue to where you can go left over the bridge instead of to the Chalone Picnic area. Park at the end of the road, unless the small lot is full. On occasion if you arrive late you may need to take the shuttle in from the lower parking lot.
Weather station 1.5 miles from here
172 Total Routes
['4 Stars',4],['3 Stars',76],['2 Stars',70],['1 Star',18],['Bomb',0]
Browse More Classics in Pinnacles National Monument
Mountain Project's determination of some of the classic, most popular, highest rated routes for Pinnacles National Monument:
Featured Route For Pinnacles National Monument
Machete Direct 5.10a/b 6a+ 19 VI+ 19 E2 5b
A1 R CA
: Central Coast
: ... : Machete Ridge Area
Machete Direct 5.10b/A1 or 5.9/A1: This climb offers six pitches of mixed aid and free climbing. This climb is suitable for a solid 5.9 climber with some aid experience. You will be much more comfortable (and efficient) if you can pull off a couple of reasonably well protected 5.10b free moves. The aid portions are short but often require you to step out of your aiders and make a few free moves. The second pitch is “only 5.7” but is pretty runout (3 bolts in 130”). Retreat: It is possible to ret...[more] Browse More Classics in CA
Latest Regional Forum Messages
One of the Monument's most vocal residents, the Ac...
Reservoir Refelctions. photo by Tom Slater slaterv...
Water level is low in the reservoir
The Reservoir. Photo by Blitzo.
East Side, The Pinnacles N.M. photo Tom Slater sla...
Blue sky, glassy water, at the reservoir
Steve Roper's 1966 Pinnacles guide.
Wild Turkey at Pinnacles. Photo by Blitzo.
Clear sky, sunshine , at the reservoir
My father's Pinnacles guidebook collection -- next...
This pine has very large pine cones!
1983 Pinnacles guide by Gagner
Billy finds one very unfortunate Western Coachwhip...
California condor flying above us at Pinnacles
Juvenile Striped Racer, seen near the Discovery Wa...
Emerging from one of several tunnels on the trail
Sep 25, 2006
Pinnacles is my least favorite climbing area. The place is nice, but i just don't think the climbing is that great.
By Kevin Friedrich
Oct 29, 2008
Pinnacle's Climbing: Historic and Distinguished.
By Brian in SLC
Nov 6, 2009
Quote from Toula's Rock-n-Road, from a non-local: "You know what your poop looks like after eating corn-on-the-cob and a Payday bar? It looks like Pinnacles National Monument."
By Ken Trout
From: Golden, CO
Dec 26, 2009
Pinnacles Climbing + Big Sur = Best Winter Road Trip Ever!!!
By George Bell
From: Boulder, CO
Jan 10, 2013
Pinnacles is now a National Park, according to today's news stories . Congratulations, Pinnacles!
How come "Twinkle Toes Traverse" isn't in here? It's a classic! Or is it in here under some other name? I'd add it myself, except I don't remember much having done it so long ago.
Feb 18, 2014
Sweet is mountain project! Psyched to be signed up. Watching olympic athletes just inspires to get stronger and more fit. Perfect motivator for a climber. Upon some research of Castle rock and Pinnacles, both within range of Santa Cruz, its difficult to be encouraged or discouraged. The descriptions range from fun and challenging to dangerous and questionable. Love to hear more about these areas.
By Jonathan Lagoe
Aug 18, 2014
One of the worst places I have climbed anywhere in the world