Rock Climbing at Pinnacles National Monument

Latest News

Sorry, I have not been updating this page as frequently as in the past. Please see:
  • Friends of Pinnacles site with news, especially on the seasonal closures for bird nesting.
  • Mud 'n Crud site with a climbers' forum and guidebook updates.

    1/17/12 Bird nesting closures went into effect. Please see the Friends of Pinnacles page, or the NPS page for details. Or read the PDF with closure map.

    4/4/09 Pinnacles Rockpile Rendezvous, on the East Side. It was fun to see some old friends and long time Pinnacles climbers.

    1/15/09 Bird nesting closures went into effect. Please see the Friends of Pinnacles page, or the NPS page for details.
    Closures are similar to previous years. New in 2009 is nesting on the far left end of Discovery Wall, closing Melvin. The birds are back on the upper part of Son of Dawn Wall on Machete Ridge, too - so the upper parts of nearby routes are closed.

    2/21/08 Bird nesting closures were revised on 2/21, to close several climbs/pitches up high on Machete Ridge, where a pair of birds is looking for a nesting site. Closed routes are: The West Face, Bill's Bad Bolts, Bill's Bad Bolts Direct Finish, Rock Around the Clock, Pigeon Crack, Crackophobia, Son of Dawn Wall (2nd pitch and above), and Icarus.

    1/17/08 Bird nesting closures went into effect on 1/17/08.
    The main closed areas are the same as in previous years (Balconies, High Peaks, Frog/Hand, Yaks). Also closed this year are: Citadel, Whitetail Rock,
    single map of all closures
    See the NPS press release .
    Check the lists posted at the trailheads for any ongoing changes. Also, check again in April, because sometimes a few areas will reopen if birds do not nest nearby.

    5/19/07 Sadly, two of the recently released California Condors have died. The cause of death was not immediately apparent. See the NPS condor update page.

    4/07 The bird closures were modified to include the higher part of Machete Ridge, as there is a nesting pair which is there that was not present in previous years. You can still do one pitch climbs along the base of Machete Ridge, but the upper pitches are in the sensitive areas. Please see the Friends of Pinnacles website for the most recent updates on nesting closures.

    2/16/07 Public input is sought for the new Pinnacles General Management Plan (GMP).
    Public hearings are scheduled: Soledad (March 7), Hollister (March 19), Paicines (March 20) and Santa Clara (March 24).
    See the NPS press release.
    For more details, see the planning section of the NPS web page.

    1/12/07 Bird nesting closures went into effect on 1/12/07.
    The main closed areas are the same as in previous years (Balconies, High Peaks, Frog/Hand, Yaks). Also closed this year are: Citadel, Whitetail Rock,
    new single map of all closures
    See the NPS press release: page 1 / general announcement   page 2 / list of sensitive/closed areas .
    Check the lists posted at the trailheads for any ongoing changes. Also, check again in April, because sometimes a few areas will reopen if birds do not nest nearby.

    1/6/07 Ethan Pringle made the (approx.) 6th ascent of ‹bermensch, at 5.14a the hardest route at Pinnacles. Check out his comments at 8a.nu
    The first ascent of this route was in 1996 by Chris Sharma, and other known ascents are: (2) Ed Barry 1997, (3?) person in 2004, (4?) Bradley Johnson 2005, (5?) Dave Holodiloff 2006(?).

    10/25/06 Bear Gulch Cave - fully open for the last week of October (25-31). See the NPS press release.

    10/16/06 Temporary road closures for maintenance. The East Side road from the bridge to Bear Gulch will be closed October 18-20 (Wednesday-Friday). The West Side road will be closed on October 19 (Thursday). See the NPS press release.

    9/18/06 Rescue operation for climbers stranded overnight on Machete Ridge. The problem started when two climbers doing Old Original were starting their rappel descent from the northern end of the ridge. One climber mistakenly rappelled down the West face instead of the East face, from the bolts on top of the ridge. When he ran out of rope without reaching a ledge, he realized the problem, but was unable or unequipped to reascend the rappel rope. (Note: this was the site of a fatal accident in 1970 when two climbers made the same mistake and did not reach a usable anchor). A large rescue group was mobilized from Montery county, with a CDF helicopter participating as well. Two of the four climbers were airlifed off the ridge before dark with the helicopter (the person who was stranded on the rappel and his partner). The other two (who had attempted to assist the stranded rappeller) were uninjured and were advised via cell phone to not attempt the standard rappel/downclimb descent in the dark. They spent the night on the climb, and self-rescued in the morning. See the summary of rescue (Accidents page) NPS press release and the article in the Salinas Californian.

    9/14/06 Unexpected closing of the Bear Gulch Cave, because the bats have moved into the lower part of the cave (which had been open). See the press release.
    9/20/06 update: the bats have moved out of the lower cave, so the lower cave has been reopened. Soon the entire cave should be open for a week in October, as in recent years. Watch this space for the announcement.

    7/17/06 (four) Community Forums announced to discuss ideas on how to help the California Condors survive in the wild.
    This resulted in the Pinnacles Partnership - check out their web site.
    7/21 (Friday - 12 - 5pm) - general meeting at San Benito County Library on establishing a Friends/Partnership group for Pinnacles
    7/25 (Tuesday - 6:30 - 8pm) - Paicines - Community Forum
    7/26 (Wednesday - 6:30 - 8pm) - King City - Community Forum
    7/27 (Thursday - 6:30 - 8pm) - Hollister - Community Forum
    7/31 (Monday - 6:30 - 8pm) - Soledad - Community Forum
    See the announcement.

    6/30/06 Bird nesting closures were lifted on 6/30/06. All climbing areas have reopened. See the press release for a report on all the successful nesting.

    1/13/06 Bird nesting closures went into effect on 1/13/06. Closures are the same as 2005, plus the Tugboat (formation east of the north end of Machete Ridge). The NPS web page on closures is updated now (3/06), and the closure maps/lists are also up at the trailheads.

    1/9/06 Owls are nesting in the Trauma route (Discovery Wall). They are in the wide section of the corner crack, about 10' above the bolt. It's slimy and would disturb them to climb past, so probably best to save that route until they are gone. Do Jorgie's Crack, Fly-By, Dead Bird Crack, or Plague instead! Thanks to F4Boy for providing this info (route suggestions are mine...).

    11/12/05 New route: Le Petite Morte 5.10c 4x, on the south face of Resurrection Wall, by Mei Xi, Dennis Erik Strom, and Robert Behrens. Mei's trip report and photos

    10/25/05 Bear Gulch Cave Opens The full cave will be open until October 31, after which the gates installed in 2004 will be used to close that section. The lower cave will stay open until sometime in spring 2006 when the bat begin raising their young again. press release

    10/25/05 Improved topo for Machete Ridge - South Face added to topos page.

    9/17/05 California Condor release scheduled. Seven juvenile California Condors will be allowed to leave the pen and join the seven resident condors. press release condor page (NPS).

    7/10/05 Bird nesting closures lifted. All climbing areas have reopened. 27 prairie falcons and 3 peregrine falcons fledged this year!
    NPS page.

    5/4/05 Bird nesting closures modified. Long's Folly, North/South Fingers, and Condor Crags are reopened. (Tuff Dome is still closed).
    The Frog is reopened, although the Hand remains closed (so use the direct northern approach for the Frog). Knuckle Ridge, Outcast and Gargoyle are still closed. See the revised Hand map.
    Resurrection Wall remains closed. The Shaft and Western Front are closed. See the revised list of the closed areas.

    4/13/05 Bird nesting closure violation problems
    There have been 7 violations of the bird nesting closure areas this year, 4 by climbers. (the base jumping incident was counted as hikers). This is rather disappointing, since in the past there have been very few violations by climbers. Although it's only 4 instances, given the high profile bird nesting/observing that is going on, there is extra sensitivity to violations now, and we need to take every possible effort to avoid future incidents. (More concretely, disturbance of bird nesting has led to nest abandonment in the past, so there is a real effect of violations). So if you see anyone climbing or hiking in closed areas, please inform them of the closure and the sensitivity to violations. People who are new to climbing at Pinnacles need to understand that certain areas like Balconies, Hand/Frog, Yaks and High Peaks are usually closed in the peak spring season and they have to get those climbs done in the September-December season. (Although sometimes closed areas like Long's Folly will reopen in April or so if no nests have been established there). In the meantime there are hundreds of climbs to do in areas that don't bother the birds. The NPS is also identifying locations for further closure signs, which should help stop people from entering closed areas by mistake.

    4/12/05 West side gate problems. As noted in the Friends of Pinnacles Newsletter, the new West side gate has been experiencing some damage, apparently due to bumping by cars. The initial configuration of the gate had inadequate power/batteries, which may have caused operation problems, but that has been upgraded. When using the gate, please note that there is a five second delay from the time that the sensor detects a car, to when the gate starts to open.

    4/5/05 Peregrine falcons nesting at Pinnacles for the first time in 20+ years. Not just nesting, but 3 eggs observed in the nest. Welcome back to the fast birds that were almost wiped out by DDT in the 60s/70s. Thanks to all for cooperating with the restricted areas for raptor nesting which helped make this possible.

    3/7/05 New direct start to Melvin 5.10b, 1x, on Discovery Wall, by Kelly Rich.

    3/2/05 Bear Gulch Cave open to public - for the entire month of March. The warm winter weather has led the bats to leave the cave already, so it has been opened for public access. After March 31, the upper part of the cave will be closed, but the lower part will stay open until about May 15, when the bats start rearing their young. For more info, and the current status of the cave, see the NPS Bear Gulch Cave Status page.

    2/24/05 The West Side gate hours have been simplified, to take advantage of the new automatic exit gate.

    Visitors inside are still able to drive out as the gate automatically opens for exit.

    2/18/05 Base jumping incident at Balconies. From the NPS Morning Report:

    On the afternoon of Sunday, February 6th, three BASE jumps leapt sequentially from the middle tier of Balconies Cliffs, an ecologically sensitive area currently under visitor advisories for nesting prairie falcons, peregrine falcons and golden eagles. The park raptor monitor witnessed the jumps, as well as extreme disturbance to raptors in their nesting territories as a result of the sounds and motions of the deploying parachutes. The jumps were also seen by a ranger who was on the Balconies Cliffs trail almost directly underneath the BASE jumpers. The jumpers, later identified as Daren Loesch, 26, Ricardo Valbuena, 34, and Brendan Cork, 26, were immediately apprehended at the talus base of the Balconies Cliffs in an area closed to visitors due to revegetation efforts. All three were issued mandatory appearance citations for air delivery and were released after their equipment was seized as evidence. Numerous other charges are pending. Glenn Yanagi is the case ranger. [Submitted by Glenn Yanagi, Park Ranger]

    2/14/05 A new "one-way" gate has been installed on the West Side entrance road, which allows cars to exit after the gate is closed. In other words, if you are up enjoying the sunset in the High Peaks, and hike down to the West Side parking lot by headlamp, you will not be facing a locked exit gate and a $100 fine for not being out by the nominal park hours. (The East Side went to a 24 hour open policy in April 2004). For myself personally this is much appreciated - I have often had to run out on the trail to make the closing hour, while working on rebolting projects during the short winter daylight hours. Note: entrance on the West Side is still limited to the standard open hours. Due to its proximity to larger cities, security is more of an issue on the West Side. The new exit gate appears to be a great solution to the late hour exit need! Thanks to the NPS (especially Jerry Case, former Chief Ranger) and climbers such as Larry Arthur for working to find and implement this solution!

    2/3/05 Pinnacles Ranch acquired by Nature Conservancy; will be transferred to Pinnacles National Monument over the next 1-3 years. Pinnacles Ranch is a 2000 acre property adjoining the east entrance to the Pinnacles, including the current Pinnacles Campground. The campground will be upgraded and will remain open; the airstrip will be closed. story in The Pinnacles News

    1/14/05 Bird nesting closures went into effect on Friday, January 14. The closed areas are similar to past years, except the Frog and Hand are newly closed. From the press release:

    Annual measures to protect nesting raptors of Pinnacles National Monument will be reinstated as of January 14, 2005. In 2004, ten pairs of prairie falcons produced a total of 33 fledglings. Additionally, the monument had successful nesting by American Kestrels, Red-tailed Hawks, Red-shouldered Hawks, Cooper's Hawks, and Golden Eagles. Peregrine Falcons, a rare species for the monument, also occupied a territory in the High Peaks in 2004. Park researchers will continue to monitor raptors to better understand these interesting and beautiful birds. "We ask you to refrain from any off-trail hiking and climbing in sensitive areas which include the High Peaks, the Balconies Cliffs area, Little Pinnacles, Goat Rock, Gargoyle/Piedras Bonitas, Frog/Hand, Egg Rock/Teapot Dome, and the Scout Peak area," said Muldoon. "Without your cooperation in avoiding the advisory areas, this program could not be the success that it is," she continued.

    Pinnacles info on this site

    Pinnacles National Monument is located about 80 miles south of San Jose, CA, south of Gilroy and Hollister, on the San Andreas Fault. The rock is volcanic breccia. Climbing seasons are fall, winter, and spring; summer often sees 100+ degree temperatures.

    Links to other Pinnacles sites

    Please send any additions/corrections to clint@leland.stanford.edu (Clint Cummins).