Holcomb Valley Pinnacles


Holcomb Valley is a popular climbing area near Big Bear Lake, CA.  Named after William Holcomb, who discovered gold here in 1860, the crag sit at 7,500 feet and has fun, well-protected routes for all levels of climbers.  Well, maybe not Chris Sharma or those that climb 5.14 and above, but I doubt that anyone who climbs that hard is reading this.  It’s a nice place to take beginners, since there are lots of enjoyable moderates on outstanding rock.  The weather was looking iffy during the drive up, but this helped keep the crowds away and we had the place to ourselves.  Cold and windy, yes.  But fun.

Melissa belays as the weather gradually worsens

We hiked up to Coyote Crag, a textured wall with a bunch of climbs in the 5.6-.10 range.  I wanted to get the ropes up as quickly as possible, since we had a big group and that usually means a lot of standing around and waiting for turns.  I racked up and immediately set off on Coyotes at Sunset (5.8), a 70-foot sport route.  Ryan led the adjacent Bye Crackie (5.7), which actually felt just as difficult, despite the softer grade.

Nadia on Coyotes at Sunset, Ryan at the anchor of Bye Crackie

Jason at the crux of Golden Poodle (5.9)

At one point, I looked up and watched as Steve negotiated the final few moves to the anchor, about 60 feet off the ground.  He was wearing a t-shirt and shorts and it must have been in the low 40’s (or less) with wind chill factored in.  I laughed hysterically, because I really enjoy watching him suffer.


Melissa and Jasmine


Kori and Anthony joined us, and just like at Stonewall, Kori seemed pretty comfortable on the rock.  I’m not sure if Anthony has climbed in the past, but he managed to find some big shoes at REI and was enthusiastic to give it a try.

Anthony makes a leap of faith

Melissa and Ryan and the rest of us down below

Nadia crouching, like a hidden tiger, mom

Ravens, of course, have an uncanny eye at spotting a fresh meal.  We noticed they would circle above Steve every time he would get high on the rock.  They were watching his footwork with keen interest, or perhaps it was my belay?  In any case, it reminded me of the time that I tried to bait turkey vultures onto my person by lying on the ground with a dead tuna.

Ravens circling Steve

I brought my trad gear and I planned to climb a couple of the unbolted cracks at the north end of Coyote Crag.  After looking them over, I decided on Es Muy Bueno (5.8), which seemed interesting.  It was getting colder, and the finger crack nearby didn’t look as inviting.  The flaky crack was a bit loose in places, but it protected ok for the first 25 feet.  Then the options thinned out and I was looking at the crux moves over some blank face.  I decided to clip a bolt on Bye Crackie since it was just an arm’s reach away, and that would serve as a backup should my last placement fail.  I pulled the top and walked up a ramp to a tree, where I set an anchor to bring Kori up.  The climb itself wasn’t very memorable, and I doubt it’s worth doing again.

Jason on Es Muy Bueno (5.8)

Everyone was getting cold, and part of our group decided to head back to camp to warm up.  Those of us that stayed behind were treated to frozen rock and corpse-like fingers, which added some excitement to the climbs.  We didn’t stay long, knowing that beers and a hot fire awaited our return.

Group shot

Collecting bacon grease for other, more important uses

The girls and some wonderful bacon-wrapped asparagus

Kori prepared delicious bacon-wrapped asparagus spears, we did meat-on-stick, and I made foil packet potatoes and corn on the cob for dinner.  It turns out that I’m not the only fan of Jameson whiskey, and we passed around two big bottles as the temperature dropped into the 30’s.  The next morning, most of our food was either frozen or frosted over.

We woke to clear blue skies and it seemed a shame to not take advantage.  We hiked back out to the pinnacles, this time to the Gold Wall, and spent a few hours on fun routes like Gold Standard (5.6), Hidden Gold (5.7) and Gold Bug (5.8).

Kori and Anthony on the Gold Wall


Melissa and Jasmine

The rest of our pictures can be viewed in the gallery below.  All of Ryan’s pictures can be viewed on his photo website.





Leave a Comment


You must be logged in to post a comment.