When most people think about Los Angeles, outside of the celebrities and movies, they think beaches, surfers, blondes, hot weather, convertibles, and the likes of. While I'm not convinced that's really the meat of Los Angeles, here in Malibu it rings very true. Drive up the Pacific Coast Highway and head towards Zuma Beach in Malibu, drive all the way to the end where you reach will reach Point Dume (make sure you pay the $14 parking to drive all the way up to the sand, it's part of the experience!).
Point Dume is a long bluff that juts into the Pacific Ocean and sits along the northern end of the Santa Monica Bay. The name Point Dume, is pronounced like "DOOM" but funny enough was intended to be pronounced "du-MAY" but the proper spelling "DUMÉ" never maid it properly to the map, and DUME has forever stuck.
The northwestern tip was designated a California State Preserve and Point Dume State Beach is a popular location for an array of films and tv series. Perhaps most interestingly, it was home to important scenes in Planet of the Apes, the seaside mansion to Tony Starks of Iron Man and it's sequels and also where horror-movie star Vincent Price had his ashes scattered.
Point Dume also hosts a handful of moderate single pitch rock climbs. Usually anchors are best set by fixing top topes. The geography of the crag being right on the water, has had a tendency to rust bolts very quickly, making lead climbing dangerous and unstable. Point Dume is often an appropriate location to bring first time climbers due to the ease of climbing grades and the beautiful setting. Below is a view of Point Dume beach taken from atop the crag, facing East towards Zuma Beach.
This was my second time climbing at Point Dume, my first time I was very green to climbing, and although I was able to complete one route, I was very stumped on the others. I was also more on an insecure climber and the addition to the beach audience didn't help at the time. Quite some time has passed since my first trip, and my second go around was much more comfortable. Headed out on a Saturday was just my immediate family. We arrived around noon and saw a couple people climbing, but surprisingly not too crowded and not every route was roped up.
I introduced myself to the other climbers immediately. It's good strategy to be friendly and share climbing ropes, or you could spend too much valuable time building anchors and reorganizing. There are only around 7 routes, so if 4-5 ropes are up and people share you have a great chance of climbing everything or at least enough to satisfy the adventure itch. I actually asked some Spanish visitors if I could jump on their route, trail my rope and build my anchor on the adjacent anchor, after which I would let them climb it. It worked out quite well. Some anchors require rappelling down to, and can be tedious. Other routes have fixed anchors with an easy walk up.
Most people here climb a little, go back to their beach blankets and tan a little, climb a little, have some snacks, go in the water and cool off, then climb some more. It's a very laid back environment and often times ropes are just set without climbers on them, all the more reason it's great to share. At certain points it seemed like we had the whole crag to ourselves, was an amazing day. Calm winds, moderate heat, small crowds. It's been said in winter months you can frequently see whales from the top of Point Dume, making the rock climbing even more interesting!
Above you can see my wife Nancy belaying her daughter Desiree, this route is the farthest left and goes at a 5.9 YDS grade. I think the rock is around 70 feet, give or take. I'm proud of Desiree, she's only 15 years old and topped out that 5.9! The rock is fairly slippery, it's a very popular crag so many hands have boarded these routes. In conjunction with the polished state of the rock, these particular left climbs require almost exclusively crimping and edging techniques to complete. That essentially means very tiny features that require digging in your finger nails to balance and standing your feet on facets the size of a dime and quarter with your toes. Ouchie!!!! What a great photo, looks like our own private beach!
My wife and belay champion about to give me her usual amazing support. There are two climbable sides at Point Dume. 95% of the visitors just climb the face that is on the sand, but he West Face, often referred to as the "ocean side" is home to two spectacular climbs. The left is a 5.10 and the right is a 5.10a/b grade. These routes are right over the water and require very long webbing to make an incredible extended anchor. A big more of a pain, but they were an objective of mine before driving out to the beach that day.
I set off for the right route, which I would consider a bit above my normal grades of climbing, so I was focused like a laser beam to accomplish it. It's a very physical climb, some large hand holds, but a little over hang makes it pumpy, most people muscle their way through it, although the great ones probably finesse it with technique (I muscled it).
The main feature is this large flake as seen above. It's a trickier climb than it looks. Everything is always easier when you're on the ground looking at it. Then you get up there and think.... DAMN! Nancy gave me an excellent belay, and I won't like I spent a minute or 3 hang dogging around the rope before I could top it out. Wasn't the cleanest, but was a great way to break into some new grade territory.
Here's a selfie I took at the top. I've sort of stepped back from this type of photography, but I need not apologize, because when you're rock climbing on the beach, and you can capture that combination of surf and stone, it's just show stopping. Quintessential Southern California living right here.
After rocking out that 5.10b my family was rewarded with snow cones!! IT was getting hot and we still had more to explore and a rock route to clean.
There is a little path you can take to walk up to the top of the crag. The climbers use this path to build the anchors with the fixed bolts, and day trippers come up here to get a birds eye view of the beach. The photo above shows a cover just south of the point. You can see it perfectly from the top of the crag, it takes only a little more effort to skirt around the rocks and get to here. This area was once a clothing optional meeting spot in the sixties and seventies. Crazy how in a city as crowded and popular as Los Angeles you can still find places like this hidden paradise.
This is another typical Point Dume scene. These guys were visiting form Spain. Very nice guys, this was dude's first ever rappel, and hey why not do it shoeless and shirtless, welcome to Malibu amigos!!!!
I chart every climb I do in my Word Notebooks Adventure Log. It has been helpful to track progress. Was stoked to jot this 5.10b in there. Visit WORD NOTEBOOKS RIGHT HERE to get your own.
Oh and not to let the celebrity fetish of La La Land slip out of sight, as we packed up and got ready to go, we bumped into famous fashion icon Betsey Johnson, she was kind enough to take a photo with Desiree, but the real head trip was when she complimented Desi on her pin-up girl style swimsuit. Getting a fashion compliment from Betsey Johnson is like having Elton John tell you how great your singing voice is. Awesome way to end the day.
Til next time Point Dume, the summer ain't over yet!!