Unlike the larger Castle Rock bouldering areas, Panther Beach is beachside and on a nice ocean day, the setting is awesome. If the tide is high this can be a very scenic and loud place.
Though smaller in area, this area is gorgeous. There is a large boulderable arch, and many many beachside climbing sections, most in a fairly tight area. Landings are in sand, which is excellent for highball problems.
This 60' high cliff has some rock that is not sandstone for the first 25 feet or so that makes for some excellent overhangs and fingery vertical face climbs. Above the rocks you will find from very scary loose sandstone, so watch your hands and feet when you get about 15 or so feet!
Routes on this rock range from 5.1 to V6ish, with potential for harder routes than this. Chris Sharma has put up some of the routes here, and undoubtedly many of his routes are considerably harder. Climbing ranges in difficulties from really easy, to terrifyingly tough sections that can put you over 25 feet in the air. Some sections are slabby, some sections are severely overhung. One thing that is for certain is that all of the rock is soft sandstone, and most of the rock in the area can pull off. After a rainstorm, this is not a good place to be for your safety, and the potential for damage to the rock itself.
All routes are either traverse left or right to a good down climbable area, or simply jump off onto crashpads / sand below.
This wall will be in the sun in the afternoon, and will be in the fog for large portions of the year.
You can't legally camp on Panther Beach, but I'm told that it has been done by climbers and non-climbers alike.
Located about 8 miles north of Santa Cruz, and 2 miles south of Davenport, this unmarked beach can be tough to find.
From the North: Take highway 1 south approximately 2 miles south of Davenport, which is located about 1/2 an hour south of Half Moon Bay.
From the South: Head north out of Santa Cruz on highway 1. The parking lot is about 6.1 miles north of the milage sign just out of Santa Cruz.
The parking lot is large, and parallels the highway, though it sits considerably higher than the highway. Once you see a wide driveway on the beach side of 1 at approximately those milages, you should pull in. The parking lot itself is about 300 yards wide, with the trail to the beach on the north end. Several of the sections of the parking lot are quite rough on a 2wd vehicle,so choose your path carefully!
Estimated approach time: 5 minutes from the end of the parking lot.
From the end of the parking lot, head down the downhill path onto the beach below. Walk over to the cliffy area on the left, and a hole will show up in the middle of the cliff, though it is now visible from the parking lot. Walk through the hole, and around to the left, where you will find the beachside wall. The wall continues for about 200 yards, where the rock turns severely loose and sandy.
About 50 yards South of the arch entrance to the Beachside Wall, around the corner from the largest cave, there is a spot where the rock becomes clean and white up considerably higher than any other face on the rock. This climb will usually be out of the surf, except in extreme cases, when you probably shouldn't be climbing in the area anyways!At the base, you will find a large foothold about a foot off the ground, and there will also be a large pocket to serve as a starting hand. Climb the wh...[more]Browse More Classics in CA
There are a few more things worth mentioning about Panther beach.
1) No. Not all the rock is sandstone. The best bouldering is on your typical gray rock (i think its called 'Wacke') and there's are big streaks of it around the area. Its been weathered into rounded off slopers and makes for some great climbing.
2) High tide will affect some of the routes. We were there at ~5ft tide and the best bouldering was getting wet during the biggest sets.
3) Aron failed to mention that the cliffs get up to ~60 feet hight and the climbing continues to entice, just figuring out how to top rope (no bolts in the sandstone!) will require some creativity.
Panther has long been a local secrete and we don't usually tell a lot of people about it. Since you have already spilled the beans, I would like to request that visitors respect the local tradition and boulder barefoot. The waves wash the chalk off the walls every night and we get to climb on beautiful clean rock everyday. Unfortunately climbing rubber is not so easy to wash off and seems to scar the rock. We have been climbing there for a long time and have been able to keep a low profile. Please help by respecting the local customs. Since you are going to respect the shoe ban I will let you in on a couple of local tips.
1. In the summer the beach sands are usually too high to access the good stuff. Panther is best in the winter when storms wash as much as ten feet of sand from the beach overnight.
2. As the full moon builds the tides get higher and wash more sand off the beach. If there is a swell from the north during the full moon the exposures can be epic.
3. Don't drive down here thinking that you'll be able to use the rock during high tide! Get a tide chart.
4. The locals get bummed if you use climbing shoes.
By Aron Quiter Administrator From: Oakland, CA Jun 17, 2003
Note the mileage change, I just went and checked myself, and I was off by a bit.
i just went to panther beach for the first time yesterday -it was the only bouldering spot in the bay area i had never been to. now i know why!.. -IT SUCKS ASS!- don't waste your time unless your in the area and are very bored and want to hang out at a beautiful beach more than actually climb (i will say that it is a very pretty beach with a neat arch to look at) i wouldn't recommend climbing there at all actually. the rock is some of the worst quality sandy, crumbly choss i have ever heard of people trying to climb on (if you can call clinging on to a few lumps of loose, wet, sand covered dirt/rock for about 5 or 10 moves before jumping or falling off "climbing")
i heard this was where sharma climbed when he lived in santa cruz- so i figured the bouldering must have been pretty good to have helped create such a strong climber -wrong- now i think that if he did (or anyone could) learn anything from these chossy climbs it's how to appreciate good rock when you get it and how to climb with bad feet (wet, sandy, and loose) and bad hands (wet, sandy and loose) but with a no stress landing (soft sand)..? !
By Aron Quiter Administrator From: Oakland, CA Oct 9, 2004
Hmmm... I guess reading drunkenmaster's comment made me realize that I made a mistake in my introduction: If I had three words to describe the climbing at Panther Beach "It sucks ass" would definately suffice.
It's a nice beach, but is part of what Obe Carron described as the "vortex" known as Santa Cruz.. Don't go here thinking you're going to spend more than about 5 minutes working on problems. Bring a frisbee and beer (I bring beer to the crags everywehere, but this time it's mandatory), lots of beer.
Chris Sharma started climbing here? He's a great climber and his routes in Spain (Stoke the Fire, La Dura Dura, etc) are awesome, but I thought he was a gym rat when living in Santa Cruz. Drunken and Aron don't try so hard to scare us away, we'll just bring our friends and drink all your beer. I'll be by to check this place out real soon with the girls.
Probably one of the prettiest places you could boulder. Wait for low tide and plan on spending the whole day hanging out on the beach boulder. Contrary to Brian Quiter's comment, all the rock you'll be climbing on IS sandstone. The grey/blue sandstone is cemented with a mineral called dolomite and has some hydrocarbons in it. They yellow/orange banded sandstone is weakly cemented with a type of iron oxide. The grey sandstone will provide the most sturdy holds. The creamy white rock is a mudstone.
The erosion rate at this cliff is pretty high. I've seen names with hearts around them carved into the sandstone and returned a couple days later to find them gone. Similarly the beach level varies considerably here. Don't be surprised if the bottom of the routes posted are at least partially covered. I've seen the sand level change by over a meter in a week.