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San Ysidro

Routes Sorted
L to R R to L Alpha
Applied Magnetics T,TR 
Chavez/Mosher T 
Daddy's Girl S 
Enigmatic Voyage TR 
Face Lift T 
Fine Line T 
Gnome Fingers T 
Great Race S,TR 
Haunted by Waters S 
Heckling, The T,TR 
Many Happy Returns T,TR 
Orangahang T,TR 
Peels of Laughter T 
Puny Prow T,TR 
Return On Investment T 
Rick's Route T 
Rockocco T 
Scrub Job T 
Vanishing Flakes T,TR 
Weeny Roofs, The T 
Young William T 

San Ysidro  

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Location: 34.4464, -119.623 View Map  Incorrect?
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Administrators: andy patterson, M.Morley, Adam Stackhouse, Salamanizer, Justin Johnsen, Kristine Hoffman (sitewide)
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You & This Area
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I have seen a lot of really cool things in San Ysi...


With a good mix of routes and strong sandstone, San Ysidro is easily the best canyon climbing in Santa Barbara. There are a few dozen routes here ranging from hard slabs to vertical and sporty. The area is east facing and surrounded by dense foliage, so it is one of the slowest areas to dry out. Good all year round, barring recent rain. By SB standards, it gets busy, but that usually just means two or three groups on weekends.

There is a gully roughly in the middle of the wall which affords a 3rd class approach to the tops of the crags.

The following routes correspond with a topo found here.

Left of Main Wall
i. Daddy's Girl (5.11a).
ii. Two Fine Sons (5.10a).
iii. Speed Zoo (5.6).
iv. Return On Investment.
v. Haunted by Waters.

Main Wall
1. Brown Nose Frog (5.8).
2. Puny Prow (5.10). Single bolt.
3. The Big Sleep (5.11b/c).
4. Vanishing Flakes (5.11a) - CLASSIC. Difficulty seems to depend on the humidity and temperature; if you can get up to the drilled angle, life will be sweet. #4 Friend useful to protect the top.
5. Young William (5.12a R). Thin and runout testpiece with high ground fall potential.
6. Enigmatic Voyage (5.11b).
7. Rockocco (5.5). Take a couple of larger Friends.
8. Applied Magnetics (5.9) **. Climb a bit of history. Cool start to the route. Wired nuts keep it from getting run out.
9. Too Mucking Futch (5.8). Climb the crack. Pro: wires and small cams.
10. Face Lift (5.7) - CLASSIC. VERY popular. Be sure to take two long runners to reduce the rope drag on the first pitch. There are three variations to the second pitch.
11. Tigger Treat (5.8). From the belay of Face Lift, go up and split to the right (5.9).
12. Scrub Job (5.9). Traverse right from the belay of Face Lift.
13. Chavez/Mosher (5.10 R). Traverse farther right from the belay of Face Lift. It's thin for a long ways after the bolt.
14. Great Race (5.10a) - CLASSIC. "The best 5.10a in Santa Barbara" says Reese Martin. Don't chicken out: move left at the fifth bolt to get to the upper face. The direct start is 5.10b.
15. Peels of Laughter (5.5 R) **. Easy arete, but only two bolts on the entire pitch.
16. Many Happy Returns (5.9) - CLASSIC. Fun climb, seems easier; take a #2 Friend & some medium size wired nuts.
17. Amish in Space (5.10a R). From the ledge on the second bolt on Many Happy Returns, head left a bit then straight up through steep rock. A real trouser-filling lead.
18. Orangahang (5.7) - CLASSIC. Corner to a bulge.
19. Rick's Route (5.7) **. Thin face.
20. Fine Line (5.9) **. Thinner face climbing. Three bolts.
21. Ricky Don't Lose That Number (5.9 R). Don't worry about gear, there isn't any. On-sight, free solo first ascent.
22. The Weeny Roofs (5.10b R). Crux is setting up the roof moves. Four bolts.
23. The Heckling (5.10 R).
24. Teacher's Aid (5.8).

Upper San Ysidro 

Upper San Ysidro is mostly shady and pretty remote. Despite touting some very commendable routes, this crag probably only sees one ascent per year, thus the prolific overgrowth. Gnome Fingers is the best of the lot.

Once you reach the turnoff for Lower San Ysidro, hike past the turnoff till you reach a fork where the fire road crosses the stream and a trail bears right. Take the right fork. Hike about a 3/4 mile up some switchbacks and past some pipe-railings. About 200 meters past the pipe-railings, look left for a large slab sloping down towards the creek. You can't miss it. However, getting TO the crag is tricky. I suggest hiking till you are directly parallel to the crag, then hike straight down the steep slope. There's lots of Poison oak so be warned...

Getting There 

101 to Montecito, then San Ysidro exit. Right on East Valley Road to Park Lane, and then a left on Mountain Drive. After a short bit on Mountain Drive, park and take the trail leading through peoples' back yards to a fire road. Check out the GPS location for help. Head up the fire road for 5 minutes and then take a left right before the gate. Cross the stream and you'll be at the base.

Climbing Season

Weather station 5.4 miles from here

21 Total Routes

['4 Stars',0],['3 Stars',8],['2 Stars',10],['1 Star',3],['Bomb',0]

The Classics

Mountain Project's determination of some of the classic, most popular, highest rated routes for San Ysidro:
Rockocco   5.5 4b 13 IV+ 11 MS 4a     Trad, 80'   
Orangahang   5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b     Trad, TR, 1 pitch, 80'   
Face Lift   5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b R     Trad, 2 pitches, 90'   
Peels of Laughter   5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b R     Trad, 110'   
Rick's Route   5.8- 5b 16 VI- 14 VS 4c R     Trad, 1 pitch, 80'   
Applied Magnetics   5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c PG13     Trad, TR, 1 pitch, 80'   
Fine Line   5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a     Trad, 1 pitch, 105'   
Many Happy Returns   5.9+ 5c 17 VI 17 E1 5a     Trad, TR, 1 pitch, 80'   
Great Race   5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a     Sport, TR, 1 pitch, 70'   
Gnome Fingers   5.10b 6a+ 19 VII- 19 E2 5b     Trad, 70'   
Vanishing Flakes   5.11a 6c 22 VII+ 22 E3 5c     Trad, TR, 1 pitch, 80'   
Young William   5.12a 7a+ 25 VIII+ 25 E5 6a R     Trad, 1 pitch, 75'   
Browse More Classics in San Ysidro

Featured Route For San Ysidro
Joe working up to the pin on Vanishing Flakes

Vanishing Flakes 5.11a 6c 22 VII+ 22 E3 5c  CA : Central Coast : ... : San Ysidro
On the left side of the main wall is a blank face with a fixed pin and a bolt. 20' of delicate slab climbing leads to a more moderate (5.5) trad finish....[more]   Browse More Classics in CA

Photos of San Ysidro Slideshow Add Photo
The rare and elusive Banana Slug calls San Ysidro home.  Look for these warm and cuddly critters along the climbers trail that connects the Fire Road to the actual crag.
The rare and elusive Banana Slug calls San Ysidro ...
Anise Swallowtail Caterpillar, in the process of becoming a chrysalis, photographed in San Ysidro Canyon. <br /> <br />Dozens of chrysalises can be seen on fennel plants in San Ysidro canyon during the Fall when the plants are in seed.
Anise Swallowtail Caterpillar, in the process of b...
A – Puny Prow (5.10- R) <br />B – Vanishing Flakes (5.11a) <br />C – Young William (5.12a) <br />D – Rockoco (5.5) <br />E – Applied Magnetics (5.9 PG13) <br />F – Face Lift (5.7 – 5.10a R) <br />G – the Great Race (5.10a) <br />H – Peels of Laughter (5.7 R) <br />I – Many Happy Returns (5.8+) <br />J – Orangahang (5.8) <br />K – Rick’s Route (5.8- R) <br />L – Fine Line (5.9-) <br />M – the Weeny Roofs (5.10c R) <br />
BETA PHOTO: A – Puny Prow (5.10- R) B – Vanishing Flakes (5.11...
A young climber and one very young Western Fence Lizard, on the trail in to San Ysidro Canyon.
A young climber and one very young Western Fence L...
Canyon Wren nest, at San Ysidro Canyon
Canyon Wren nest, at San Ysidro Canyon
Colleen makes the long reach for the next crimp, on the 5.10 2nd-pitch variation of Face Lift.
Colleen makes the long reach for the next crimp, o...
This Foothill Yellow-Legged frog had taken up residence in one of the cracks that comprises Many Happy Returns at San Ysidro.
This Foothill Yellow-Legged frog had taken up resi...
California Kingsnake, photographed in San Ysidro Canyon--just one more extraordinary reason to visit this spectacular Canyon.
California Kingsnake, photographed in San Ysidro C...
San Ysidro Canyon, Santa Barbara
San Ysidro Canyon, Santa Barbara
Another one for the Sage album. Looks like she fell off Applied Magnetics. (She was so reeking this one day last August that no one was willing to try and wake her up and get her to move.) I'd say "poor girl" but she's obviously living the life...
Another one for the Sage album. Looks like she fel...
1) Vanishing Flakes/Rockoco: two 1/2" x 4" wedge-bolts with chains (2004);  2) Applied Magentics: two 14mm Petzl Bat'inox glue-ins and one 12mm Fixe Triplex expansion bolt (2005);  3) Great Race/Peels of Laughter: two 1/2" Rawl-style 5-piece expansion bolt (2007);  4) Fine Line: two 12mm Fixe Glue-ins and one 1/2" Rawl-style five-piece expansion bolt (2004).
BETA PHOTO: 1) Vanishing Flakes/Rockoco: two 1/2" x 4&quo...
Laura makes one last lap of the wall, near the end of another idyllic day at San Ysdiro.
Laura makes one last lap of the wall, near the end...
Eugenia poses with long-time local and San Ysidro icon "Sage"
Eugenia poses with long-time local and San Ysidro ...
Show some respect
Show some respect
An incomplete listing of routes at San Ysidro, highlighting a few of the better ones.
BETA PHOTO: An incomplete listing of routes at San Ysidro, hig...
Hannah belays at the base of Orangahang, at San Ysidro.
Hannah belays at the base of Orangahang, at San Ys...
Carolyn Libuser climbs the Tigger Treat variation, high above San Ysidro Canyon.
Carolyn Libuser climbs the Tigger Treat variation,...
Anna's Hummingbird nest, San Ysidro Canyon
Anna's Hummingbird nest, San Ysidro Canyon
Nice to see 3 year olds climbing.
Nice to see 3 year olds climbing.
Keep an eye out for the tree that looks like an archway over the trail you go left at from the main trail which leads to the crag
BETA PHOTO: Keep an eye out for the tree that looks like an ar...

Comments on San Ysidro Add Comment
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Comments displayed oldest to newestSkip Ahead to the Most Recent Dated Jul 2, 2014
By M.Morley
From: Sacramento, CA
Feb 11, 2006
Many of the routes at San Ysidro warrant a PG/R rating for seriousness. Unless you are toproping, anticipate significant runout sections on somewhat friable rock.
By Jon Hanlon
From: SLO
Feb 19, 2006
Thanks for the new set of anchors on Applied Magnetics...the old ones were looking pretty shabby.

I also noticed the horrible anchor chop-job at the top of Many Happy Returns. On another website, I read a post questioning why some of the retro-anchors were chopped, as they were essentially TR anchors.

San Ysidro has a proud history and has never been a considered a "Toproping" area, and I can understand how some could be offended by new TR anchors. I myself feel that not all of the new anchors are necessary. A directional nut can easily be placed at the top of Great Race to keep the follower out of the gully, and Vanishing Flakes could always be toproped with bomber cams. You could also TR Vanishing Flakes from Applied Magnetics with a directional in the crack. Not every climb needs to be "toprope ready."

On the other hand, San Ysidro's popularity requires some new thinking on the part of would-be choppers. People DO toprope, and the damage caused by hundreds of ropes can be greater that the damage by a couple of bolts. This can be seen by the deep rope grooves in the rock at the top of Orangahang (Maybe the anchors that got chopped were attempting to address this). I also worry about the oak tree that has suffered hundreds of rappels and ropes pulled around its trunk without the benefit of fixed slings/rap rings. If anywhere needs a retro-anchor, or rap station (or just some slings) it is here.

My point? Both sides of the issue need to be considered. Not every route should be reduced to a convenient toprope route, but at the same time we need to be able to bend our own rules to help preserve our crag.

Thanks again for your effort and expense in the replacement of the manky anchors.
By Matthew Fienup
From: Ventura, CA
Feb 20, 2006
About the old Applied Magnetics fixed anchor:
Despite their age, the bolts themselves proved to be in decent condition. At the same time, the rock that they were in was absolutely scary. Beneath the patina, the rock was super soft and tended to remain damp for several weeks after a rain. Other than the patina itself, these bolts were essentially held in by mud.

I'm starting to learn that the greatest weakness of fixed gear in Santa Barbara is not the type of hardware or its age; rather, it's the rock itself. [Although, there is plenty of crappy gear too--including 5/16" x 3" expansion bolts all over San Ysidro.] Do not be fooled by the apparent hardness of this sandstone on its surface. Beneath the 1/4-1/8" thick patina is sandstone which is soft enough and coarse-grained enough to be scratched with a fingernail.

Climbers should be advised that there are only a very few types of fixed gear that prove solid during tests when placed in rock as soft as ours. Even a traditional climbing-specific Fixe wedge anchor has very little holding power in such conditions (they actually break the rock inside the hole). Glue-ins and Fixe Triplex expansion bolts are your only reliable bet. Every thing else (meaning most of the fixed gear in SB) should be treated with suspicion.
By Matthew Fienup
From: Ventura, CA
Apr 3, 2006
During the week of March 20, there was a significant rock-fall event in the main descent gully at San Ysidro.

In this event, at least 30 cubic feet (3,000-lbs?) of rock fell from high in the descent gully, from opposite the start of "Scrub Job." It is obvious that a considerable amount of instability remains and that smaller rock falls are happening regularly. A refrigerator-sized chalk-stone at the top of the gully (8 feet below the large oak tree) appears to have been undercut and could release.

Fortunately, falling rock has thus far tended to stay in the gully and does not appear to immediately threaten climbers on any of the major routes--with the possible exception of climbers at the bottom of "Great Race." Be extremely cautious when using the descent gully.
By EricT
From: Santa Barbara, CA
Aug 9, 2006
The right bolt on top of Peels of Laughter has a nice wobble to it. I'm guessing people have been toproping Great Race off of it and the way the bolts are set up this puts a nice force on the right bolt.

Someone who has more experience bolting want to check it out?
By EricT
From: Santa Barbara, CA
Aug 10, 2006
Matt, even if they're using an equalized anchor, rotating the chainlink on the right bolt to Great Race puts some nice leverage on the bolt. I don't know if this was the problem or if its the expansion business, either way...
By Matthew Fienup
From: Ventura, CA
Aug 15, 2006
On August 15, 2006, I pulled one of the anchor bolts atop Peels/Great Race straight out of its hole with only moderate pressure. The bolt was a 1/2" wedge bolt!! It has been replaced by a Petzl Bat'inox glue-in.
By Jon Hanlon
From: SLO
Aug 21, 2006
I think most people are aware of the inherent dangers of our sport, but I appreciate the reminder to evaluate fixed protection with a wary eye. I also appreciate efforts to replace unsafe bolts and anchors at our crags. The vigilance is admirable, but I am getting a little weary of the hysterical warnings about mortal danger and unsafe conditions on every climb. After 15 years of climbing on the Central Coast, it’s a wonder I am still alive! Please, leave a little adventure and discovery to the whole experience. Evaluating the conditions and making one’s own decisions are part of the process. As I have ranted before, not every climb needs to be “fixed” or needs to be toprope ready. If someone wants to replace bad anchors, great. If it is best to set a directional to eliminate a short pendulum, great. But let us figure something out on our own. Some of us enjoy that learning process.

I get tired of the sanitization of every crag so that is more palatable for mass-consumption. This trend is very erosive. For example, from “Face Lift” at San Ysidro: “The position of the bolt was moved approximately 4 feet to find harder rock in which to place the bolt and an easier stance from which to clip.” While you are at it, might as well add some more bolts or chip some holds to make it easier to climb.

All of these “safety improvements” (along with scads of photos, moving bolts, exaggerated warnings, etc.), appear to be an attempt to bolster a guide service. Now I understand why many of the classic lines at San Ysidro have begun sprouting retro-bolted toprope anchors.

Please consider how your actions may negatively impact climbers not included in the list of clientele.
By Matthew Fienup
From: Ventura, CA
Aug 22, 2006
Excerpts from Anchors Away
by Duane Raleigh. Climbing Magazine, October 1992.

Anyone wishing to see the complete text, please contact me. Non-clientele will be required to pay a large fee ; )
By Bill Becher
Jul 6, 2008
Someone filched the bolt hanger and nut from one of the three bolts at the top of Orangahang.
By Matthew Fienup
From: Ventura, CA
Aug 5, 2008
I replaced the filched rap-hanger, a Fixe double ring anchor, with a (much less expensive) bolt hanger and rapid links. Subsequently, someone has nabbed two sets of rapid links. I guess someone would really like us to walk off.
By Geoff Olin
Oct 8, 2010
Here's a link to footage of some of the climbs.

By Mark Collar
Sep 18, 2013
Lost a silver ring at the base of Rockocco (I think) 9.15.13. Bummer because the owner of the ring was climbing real rock for the first time, and hadn't taken the ring off since her 10th birthday (27 now - I guess her fingers didn't grow in 17 yrs). If anyone finds it, please get in touch. Happy climbing! ... Also - picked up an empty juice box, water bottle caps, etc. at the base of the crag - let's try to keep it tidy out there.
By DesertRat
Oct 21, 2013
From the trail head, if you take the dirt trail and do not walk on the asphault except where you have to, then there are two gates. To get the the climbing area turn left about 100ft before the second gate. This is past the first gate on the dirt road and it is past where the sign says "Trail" and points left.
By Raylon Smith
From: Santa Barbara, California
Jul 2, 2014
Re: Getting There
As a first time visitor in late June 2014 I had a VERY hard time following the directions on this page to find the correct spot.

Here is a newbies guide to getting there. Park as instructed and stay on the trail (you're not really in anyone's back yard, you're near them on the trail). The trail will pop out adjacent to a road but continue along side of it. Walk past a metal gate with clearly marked signs for the trail. Stay on the main trail until you see, on the RIGHT side of the trail, a large slab sloping up and away from the trail at about a 40 degree angle. Just after you pass that look LEFT for a pathway leading down a not-very-steep decline towards the creek. Walk down this a short ways and you will see a large boulder in the middle of the trail with 2 trees behind it. Walk around the boulder, in between the trees and pop out at the base.
This is a view from the main trail immediately before taking the left down towards the creek.On the right behind the cactus is the 40 degree slab. At this point you are very close to climbing.
This is a view from the main trail immediately before taking the left down towards the creek.On the right behind the cactus is the 40 degree slab. At this point you are very close to climbing.