Bee Rock

Additional photo contributions courtesy © Tara Kerin

When you think of adventure in California, you probably jump right to the National Parks like Yosemite and Joshua Tree, or the 14,000' peaks like Mt. Whitney and Mt. Shasta, but what about Los Angeles? I'm always enthusiastic to climb on a new-to-me to crag and there happened to be one I've missed. Just a few miles from my house is Bee Rock.  Situated inside Griffith Park, in the heart of the city, with disreputable rock quality, sits a peculiar work in progress.

From the information found on Mountain Project, there was a long and easy route that was bolted with anchors for protection, and ascends the entire formation.  This route was named "Beeats Me."  All the routes established on Bee Rock have cute word play names, and the parent name stems from massive bee hives on the wall. Not afraid of insects, I had to try this and set out to climb the line.

Friday April 7th, 2017 we parked our cars at the Griffith Park Merry Go Round Lot 3 and started our hike up.  You head on trail, then quickly shoot right, up a steep use trail that gets thinner and thinner.  It's not actual bushwhacking but it's definitely only a climber's trail. Quite a beautiful hike in with the super bloom intoxicating the state the of California right now.

Towards the top of the use trail you catch your first full vision of Bee Rock, it certainly has the appeal of a large mud pile, but the wild flowers were in full form. Expectations were low and curiosity was high.

After some typical fumbling around to find the base of the correct route we started gearing up.  There was an ENORMOUS bee hive that was already in sight, and we all spent a fair amount of time arguing about the idea of climbing towards it.  I was a definitive 'yes' as I prepared by wearing a very concealing outfit to defend myself from stingers.  To be honest, the hive, while large, wasn't overly intimidating because the bees looked docile opposed to the aggressive behavior of the Africanized species.  Tara decided the risk couldn't be justified and opted to stay on the ground.  Charles, James and I would now go as a party of three instead of two teams of two.  We used a 60 meter rope, and James tied in the direct middle.  I was adamant about leading the climbing, so I tied in the sharp end and Charles tied into the tail.

Off I went on lead, with an abundance of bolts, I skipped clipping quite a few to avoid treacherous rope drag, plus the beginning section of climbing was incredible simple.  You pass one anchor and establish the belay at a second anchor which has two rap rings.  At this point i have swiftly and successfully avoided the two massive bee hives.  I take up the rope and start belaying James up,  Below you can see him somewhere along the first pitch, pretty dirty stuff to be climbing but this is a relatively new establishment.

From here the second pitch looked equally unassuming.  We wanted to keep moving quickly, although above the hive and out of sight, we were not far from it, and no reason to linger around tempting the situation.  I lead off the next pitch, easy climbing with a tiny delicate traverse left after the first couple bolts, then higher up to a legitimately steep section.

With no knowledge of the route finding (following bolts) or where the summit was, I approached the head wall optimistic it would be the finish.  There were very few steep moves, but I would grade them around 5.7 (YDS)  you had to step up on some very thin edges, and side pull some extremely loose rock, then pull this little roof/lip up and over.  There is a bolt at the crux, but of course it's only drilled in 2/3 of the way, so there is some commitment required.

I get over the lip and see much more climbing ahead.  I find two anchor bolts, spaced extremely far apart, only one with a fixed quick link.  I create a marginal anchor with some cordelette and belay James up, Charles is simul climbing beneath.

No we are all at the top of pitch 2 (3?) but we want to gain the true summit.  There is a fence around the actual top of Bee Rock, and we know it's not too far above us.  Not seeing any more bolts, the adventure continues.  I head up the most direct path and approach a bolt with no hanger to clip into it.  I cannot use this for protection.  I dance around this boulder, now pretty run out with a rope that isn't really doing anything.  I decide to just solo up the mantle, assuming it would be just one move and I may find a bolt above.  It's moderately exposed and exciting.

I get on top of the boulder pictured above and NOTHING!  Now I'm high above the cliff, rope run out and useless, and I have 50 feet of easy slab climbing but with a fair inherent risk.  I gun it to the true summit, which reveals a splendid view of Los Angeles behind Griffith Park.

Of course at the summit the anchor hangers are also missing from the bolts, what the hell!?

I sling the (bomber?) fence post and build an anchor, clip in, and let my party below know they are on belay, which is better than having to solo the section like I did.  Here we have a little more turmoil.  Partially James didn't want to trust my fence anchor, fair enough, and partially Charles spotted a bolt line that might be the actual third pitch.  I take James off belay and Charles leads an alternate third pitch off the tail end of the rope. 

Free to roam while they finish climbing, I eat a snack, hydrate, and crawl through a hole in the fence to the true summit.  I run into an older couple who is impressed to see people climbing the face.  They have wandered into the "summit cage" by means of a class 2 trail from the backside, apparently Bee Rock is a known landmark and vista in the park, but it wasn't until the last few years that people have been developing rock routes up it.  The fence at the top must have been put up to allow people to enjoy the view without risk of falling off.  They are kind enough to take my photo.  I am feeling pretty good at this point, the adventure had elevated far above my expectations.

Charles heads right of the boulder I mantled, clipping 4 more bolts and pulling what he described as perhaps a 5.8 crux move.  There is a medium sized tree above the bolt line and he builds an anchor to belay James up.

The three us convene at the top, enjoy the view, and discuss our descent.  Ideally we could have walked off using a common park trail and make a simple 2 mile hike back to the car, but James and Charles left most of their belongings at the base of the route and we're not going to take the overgrown use trail back up all over again. We reluctantly decide to rappel back passed the bee hives and to the start.

We do the first rap off the tree that was used as an anchor above pitch 3, and rap back to the top of pitch 2.  Here we're treated to the single rap link as described earlier. Check out that rock "quality."

Below you can see James really excited to rap off a single bolt.

Fortunately, he discovers a rap line angling right that takes us directly to the ground and creates more distance from the bees.  Back to Earth in two raps, sweet! Charles follows, then me.

We gathered our belongings and exited using a more obvious use trail.  This trail on climber's right of the crag takes us through some beautiful canopied foliage and back to the main trail.  We head back to our cars, with a total time of around 4 hours.  Only Charles suffered a single bee sting on his back, no other reported attacks this day.

We all laughed and agreed the adventure was surprisingly worthwhile.  The weather was beautiful, the view was fantastic, the flowers blooming, and the arguments/confusion was funny in hindsight.  We head over to India Sweets and Spices for a hearty lunch.  Great way to spend a half day adventuring. I'm looking forward to heading back!