The majority of routes here involve steep, bolt protected face climbing. Generally, climbs below 5.10 are "run-out" and relatively poorly protected. It is not uncommon for climbers who lead 5.9 routes in other areas to find 5.6 routes at Pinnacles unacceptably dangerous due to brittle rock and poor pro.
In general, rock is more solid on the East Side than the West Side where the monument's longest routes are found. Get to know the rock before you push your luck on a hard route. If you normally lead 5.10+, try 5.6 or 5.7's for your first climbs here. Anticipate that climbs will take much longer than expected and test holds and bolts before you trust them. You can tap a hold hard with your fingertips and if it sounds hollow it is more likely to fail.
The rock at Pinnacles is very weak compared to the granite and basalt of many climbing areas. Protection placements that would hold a fall on more sturdy rock may fail at Pinnacles. Think hard when you place pro: your life may depend on it.
Bolts are not maintained by the National Park Service!
1. Bolts do not improve with age; they get weaker and more prone to failure.
2. Pinnacles rock is relatively weak, so even new bolts may fail. DO NOT assume any bolt is bomber pro. If it looks bad, it probably is bad.
3. Older routes may be equipped with "hardware store bolts" such as 1/4" compression bolts or 3/8" Star Dryvin expansion bolts. These should be considered extremely suspect and never completely trusted. Old or damaged bolts may be replaced, but only by hand as power drills are not allowed. If done, use at least 3/8"x 3 1/2" five piece Rawl expansion bolts or another bolt specifically made for climbing. Please paint the hanger to match the rock. This process requires experience and knowledge. Read up on the subject and get help from experienced bolters before you try it for the first time.
4. By longstanding tradition, the first ascent ethic at Pinnacles is "ground up". Rappel placed bolts are not part of the Pinnacles first ascent ethic.
The National Park Service assumes no responsibility for maintaining or monitoring the condition of bolts and/or anchor stations.
Natural and climber-caused rock fall is extremely common at Pinnacles. Remember to yell "Rock" when you knock a piece off. Wearing a helmet while climbing could greatly increase your life span. Also, please avoid climbing over hiking trails where rock fall or dropped gear could hit hikers.
Rescue and Emergency Contacts
If someone is injured, stranded on a route, or there is a law enforcement emergency, contact a ranger. If there is not a Ranger at the Station, use the pay phone and dial 911 for assistance. Do not go beyond your abilities and always allow yourself enough time, before darkness is imminent. Be Prepared. Here are some hints:
Use a helmet!
Know the route, carry a guidebook.
Know and practice self-rescue techniques.
Carry extra food, water and clothing.
Carry two ropes on a multi-pitch climb.
Carry a headlamp, spare batteries and bulbs.
Carry a first-aid kit and know how to use it.
Use redundant anchor systems.
Individual climbers assume responsibility for their own actions and decisions resulting from participation in the inherently hazardous sport of rock climbing.
Disturbance of Wildlife
Disturbance caused by climbing near nesting birds and bats is strictly prohibited. A voluntary program of closures is in place to protect nesting prairie falcons and other raptors. Seasonal closures for nesting raptors affect many formations in the Park. Please check with park staff for current closures at the Visitors Center or the climbing information boards on both sides of the park. Climbing in these restricted areas can cause the death of young birds. PLEASE! Do not climb in these sensitive areas. (violators subject to citation, 36 CFR)
Short cutting established hiking and climber access trails causes erosion, kills plants, and is strictly prohibited. Look for the sign of the locking carabiner mounted on 4x4" posts. This sign marks many of the designated climber access trails.
Damage to Scenery
Climbers today are learning to minimize their impact on park resources by using camouflaged bolts, using dark colored slings to blend with surrounding rock and using chalk balls or other alternatives to eliminate damaging chalk accumulation. Please use the least intrusive means possible to improve the park for all visitors. Also, keep in mind that chipping or chiseling holds or destroying plant life by scrubbing moss/removing vegetation from a route are PROHIBITED activities.
For additional information, refer to "Climber's Guide to Pinnacles National Monument", available in the Bear Gulch Visitor Center or Chaparral Ranger Station.
Enjoy your Pinnacles climbing experience!
For More Information
Frequently Asked Questions about Climbing at Pinnacles
Raptor Advisory Information
Friends of PinnaclesA nonprofit rock climbing organization dedicated to working with the National Park Service to preserve rock climbing and the environment at Pinnacles National Park.
Clint Cummins' Pinnacles Climbing Pages
A current list of new routes, rebolting work, and other notes or route info which is not yet in the guidebook.