Outdoor Rock Climbing in San Diego

outdoor rock climbing San Diego
Photo: Rock climbing at People's Wall, La Jolla

Are you itching to go outdoor rock climbing? Well, here's a few tips to consider.

  1. take a class with a professional so that you learn how to do it right,
  2. always go with a buddy, don't go alone,
  3. better yet, go with a buddy who knows how to do it right.

outdoor rock climbing San Diego

Indoor rock climbing is much, much, much safer than outdoor rock climbing. So just because you're good in the climbing gym, it doesn't mean you're good out in the great outdoors. In particular, gym conditions are strictly regulated to minimize accidents. This is a perk that you will not find outdoors.

  • Wetness: if it rains, or is humid, the moisture will make the climbing surface slippery.
  • If it is sunny, the sun may get in your eyes causing discomfort and affecting your climbing performance. Even if you are not facing the sun, the sun may reflect off the rock face giving you a constant "I'm a rotisserie chicken" feel. The heat of the sun will dehydrate you quicker than you expect - not to mention, the sun will make the rock face hot to the touch.
  • Outdoor handholds and footholds may not be secure. That is to say, they may crack off or crumble away when you put your entire weight on it. You need to test the holds before you climb on.
  • Sometimes, there are no good handholds available. That's just the way it is, you need to improvise, be creative, and take risks that you might not normally take (you can always "cheat" in indoor rock climbing by using a hand/foothold from another route).

Let's put it this way, the difference between outdoor and indoor rock climbing is like the difference between
    - mountain biking vs. stationary biking
    - rowing vs. rowing machine
    - running a marathon vs. running a tread mill
    - resuscitating a man vs. resuscitating a manikin
Get it?

If you are ready to go outdoor rock climbing here's a few places you can try (disclaimer: it may not be legal to scale these walls, but I have never heard of anyone being arrested for doing so). For starters:

outdoor rock climbing San Diego

UCSD: At the UCSD, there is a large building called the Gilman Parking structure (corner Gilman Dr & Villa La Jolla Dr). On the east side of this parking structure, there is a wall made with slab rocks which can be scaled. It's about 25' wide, 10' high and is quite easy. It is somewhat secluded given that it is at the back side of a parking structure. Short and easy wall: great for beginners.

outdoor rock climbing San Diego
Surrounding the CLICS building (Center for Library & Instructional Computing Services) at the UCSD, there is a porous, knobby wall that can be used for bouldering. There are two long walls, one on the right of CLICS and one on the left of CLICS. Walls are about 10' high and varies in length depending on which segment you choose. It's another easy wall good for beginners. Watch out for trees and tight spots.

outdoor rock climbing San Diego People's Wall: In La Jolla, just south of Children's Pool Beach, there is a man made, retaining wall called People's Wall. It is about 100 yards long and goes up to about 20' high. It's a great place for traversing. Climb up, or climb across, you can follow the chalk marks left by other climbers or find your own route. After a bit of climbing, why not do a bit of surfing? The ocean is right there.

outdoor rock climbing San Diego
Pump Wall: Just south of Ocean Beach (on Sunset Cliffs Blvd, a block south of Adair St), is another man made, retaining wall. This wall is a little more challenging. Some handholds are quite far apart making it a bit of a stretch. Traversing the wall is great exercise for the body and the mind. Start by climbing right to left (it's a bit easier) and if you can do that, climb right back the other way. During high tide, the waves will go right up to the wall.

outdoor rock climbing San Diego

If you are ready for more, check climbing routes from
    rockclimbing.com and
    San Diego Rock.
or, buy a book here.

  • read about indoor rock climbing
  • see other attractions in San Diego
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  • Shown on the right:

    Gilman Parking Structure wall at UCSD,
    CLICS wall at UCSD,
    People's Wall at La Jolla and
    Pump Wall at Ocean Beach.