There are many than crags called Castle Rock, they exist in Idaho, Colorado, Washington, Virginia, Nevada, Arizona, a couple in California and even one in New Zealand. However, there is only one Castle Rock crag in Southern California and it sits in the San Bernardino Mountains.
This was my second time to the crag, and both times require a sincere recognition and appreciation to my Dirty-Rock-Sucking-friend Lori, who has organized and supported a large part of my climbing and learning. Thank you Lori!!
As we drove into Big Bear, gaining the high ground, we were treated to a lovely "above the clouds" view in San Bernardino.
In a rather secluded forest setting, with sprawling views of Big Bear Lake, sits some superb quality granite. With it's high elevation (7,400' / 2255m) and tree shade provided, Castle Rock is an excellent choice for Summer climbing.
The approach is short and steep, perhaps a mile and 500' gain, but it's beautiful and worth every step. So many crags around Southern California are more of a high desert setting so it's a very fresh alternative to be surrounded by such a lush green scenery.
We had two days and one night in Big Bear, so we set our first day sights on the East Face of Castle Rock. The plan was to work a combination of on-sight sport climbing leads and trad leading. The routes are moderate on this face, and the trad routes ate up rock protection.
Here's Jamie cutting her teeth on a sport lead. Bravo!
I have been rolling the mountain weather dice for the third time on this climbing weekend. I pressed my luck at Yosemite, then Tahquitz, and the third time was a charm. It was about a 50% chance of scattered rain, which ended up being a beautiful sun shower that didn't effect our climbs.
Here's Nancy wearing her rain shell for all of 5 minutes
I've been eager to get deeper into trad climbing and more proficient with my skills. I was stoked for a clean lead on Black Tower Crack 5.7. Big thanks to Josh for the lead belay and the positive encouragement on the climb. Also thanks to Josh and Lori for critiquing my gear placements. Knowledge is power!
The route starts up twin cracks with a wide section on the left and then climbs up about 15' to where the angle kicks back and jugs appear on the face to the left. Higher up another steep section is encountered just before the top. Great climb with a lot of different moves (stemming, chimney, jams, etc.) and protects very well and provides the climber solid stances to place protection. Great for a n00b trad leader!
Although the East Face has significantly shorter climbs than some of the other faces at Castle Rock, we all really enjoy crack climbing, and the moderate routes provide plenty of fun. Here's Nancy with some fancy footwork:
After tackling the lead climbs and avoiding a thunderstorm, we headed back to a campsite in Bluff Mesa. Time for food, fire, and chopping wood! Check out my instagram account for a slow motion video of the log splitting, follow me @foreveroutside
On Sunday, we woke up early, packed the cars and headed back to the crag. We all scrambled to the very top of Castle Rock to set some top ropes and enjoy the view of Big Bear Lake. Many people come here to hike the simple trail and enjoy this view. There's a couple nice 3rd class, maybe 4th class moves to get to the top if you head around the West face.
The goal was to work some harder routes and play with a couple route variations. After some anchor building exercise, here's Jamie rapping down.
We had a partial topo of the Southwest Face, but many routes existed inbetween our map, and all of the routes allowed for some really creative variations that put the consensus in, around, and perhaps above the 5.10 grade. Per the usual, everything on the ground looked easy, looks like a ton of huge handholds and features but when you get up there, it's never what it seems.
The routes are really interesting, nice mix of sport and trad, all on really great granite. Excellent grip and solid rock. The routes on this face are around 100' (30m), offering a great work out. You're also treated to a gorgeous view towards the top of the crag. Here's a photo on top rope, following a bolt line on a tricky route.
Below is Melissa taking creative route detours.
The weather was great on Sunday, it was warm and sunscreen was a must! We had a blast and climbed half a day. After we were satisfied with the work out, we packed up and prepared for the hike back to the car and the 2 hour drive back to Los Angeles.
Everyone had a great time, including Sputnik, who was a perfectly behaved crag dog over the entire weekend!
I'm looking forward to our next trip to Big Bear!