Trip Report: The Sonoma Coast

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The western edge of Sonoma County is widely recognized for its incredibly scenic and expansive coastline. Spanning nearly 500,000 acres from the San Pablo Bay to the Mendocino County boarder, the inland ranges of west Sonoma spill down to the Pacific Ocean; where fascinating Tafoni sandstone rock outcroppings form tide pools below steep, windswept lookouts. Occasionally, this unique Tafoni sandstone also forms some of the most incredible features for bouldering and sport climbing. The region hosts a relatively small amount of climbable rock, but of the established boulders and cliffs that do exist here; many constitute the highest quality sandstone blocks on the West Coast.

Chris Summit climbing Triceratops V4

In the late 90s and early 2000s Chris Summit, Richie Esquibel, Marcos Nunez, Jordi Morgan, Sean Brady, Jerry Dodrill, Ryan Tolintino, Kevin Jorgeson, Charlie Barrett and the elusive Mark Howe were a dedicated and wily bunch that made up the majority of Sonoma County’s rock climbers. This group kept busy by discovering and establishing first ascents along the twisting Highway 1 that lines the incredibly scenic Sonoma Coast.

“We had a different perspective of what was fun back then,” said local Sonoma Coast route developer and guidebook author Chris Summit. “Most of the climbers were stoked to road trip to expanding areas like Bishop and Joshua Tree. I was thought of as kind of a dork for sticking around Sonoma County and cleaning every line I could find. Only a couple of us had the psyche to go local. Most of what we did was just for us. We didn’t care if anyone thought it was cool.”

Ben Pope climbing Judge Dredd 5.13b

Sonoma’s early route developers are credited with a few incredible finds including the Fort Rastafarian Boulder, the Stoney White Boots Johnson boulder, the Triceratops Boulder, the Shroomland Boulders and the Johnny Cash Boulders. This group also discovered and bolted a nice selection of quality sport climbs at the Dry Creek wall and the cliffs overlooking Fisk Mill Cove.

Wes Miraglio climbing Blockhead V4

With inspiration from folks like Richie Esquibel, Sean Brady and the ever-psyched Chris Summit, a new wave of bouldering activity has resurfaced in West Sonoma County. With help from local climbers like Travis Lombardo, Bessie Lopez, Giovanni Traversi, Carlo Traversi, Duke Schimmer, Olivia Gonnella, Rob and Sarah Mckay and Denise Tucker, forgotten classics along the Sonoma Coast now see at least a dozen regular visitors each season. Spearheaded by local guidebook author Jim Thornburg, many of the coastal sport climbing areas along the Sonoma Coast have recently been re-bolted with resilient titanium glue-in bolts.

Travis Lombardo climbing Fear of the Inevitable V6

In addition to revitalizing forgotten climbs along the Sonoma Coast, this current crew of Sonoma locals have discovered and climbed a handful of new problems abutting the Pacific. In 2014 Travis Lombardo found an incredible freestanding sandstone arch with a plumb line of in-cut side-pulls. This line, known as Fear of the Inevitable (V6) was quickly climbed by Touchstone member Giovanni Traversi, and is considered among the best lines in recent discovery.

Gabrielle Nobrega climbing Red Beard 5.10a at the Treasure Chest

The unique Tafoni sandstone of the Sonoma Coast seldom reveals climbable sections of stone, and these sections are often few and far between. Yet the classic climbs in this region are truly outstanding. The process of searching for the few established climbs in this area can be mildly difficult, but the approaches usually consist of aimless wandering through lush fields and rocky precipices which lead to outstanding views of the Pacific. At the end of the day, some of the West Coast’s best sunsets can be seen from nearly every vantage on this portion of California’s famous Highway 1.

Fear of the Inevitable (V6)
Triceratops (V4)
Blockhead (V4)
Seabiscuit (5.12b)
Judge Dredd (5.13b)