Foothill Crag, also affectionately known as “The Foot” is located in the hills just to the north of the town of Ojai, California.
The history of technical climbing on Foothill Crag is, at best, somewhat sketchy, but it’s safe to assume that climbers noticed and may have used the crag for rappelling as early as the late fifties. Yvon Chuoinard, the founder of then “Chouinard Equipment” that later became “Black Diamond” lived in Ventura in the 1960’s. With a well documented reputation in the annals of rock climbing, and the fact that lived only thirteen miles away, it is safe to assume that he was probably one of the first climbers on Foothill Crag. I personally climbed on this crag as far back as the late eighties.
Foothill Crag is made of two separate formations, a larger one on the left and a smaller one on the right, yet the name indicates a singular rock. Typical of all the formations close to the Pacific Ocean, this formation was very gritty and covered by lichen for the most part and for most of its history. According to the guide book to this area, by Steve Tucker and Kevin Steele, the late Reese Martin was the first person to recognise and explore the true potential for rock climbing on Foothill Crag in the 1980’s. A number of bolts, still on the formation, date back to Reese Martin’s time.
Climbs of Foothill Crag
On my latest visit to Foothill Crag in 2009, I was impressed by the amount of the work that local climbers had put into developing this crag. The bolts looked safe and well-placed. The anchors are made of the latest and safest hardware available in the market today. Typical for any sport climbing area, the anchors are placed just below the top of the rock. On Foothill Crag additional bolts have been placed on the large boulders on the top to secure a belay or for setting up a rappel station without bending over the top to reach for the face anchors. Safety seems to have been the main concern on the minds of these few local climbers.
The rock itself is sandstone and faily soft on the hand. The routes are, for the most part, under 90 degrees and slabby. There are, however, a few overhangs for those looking for a greater challenge. With five anchors on the left formation, and two on the right one, you can set up top rope on virtually every climb on Foothill Crag. The majority of the climbs on Foothill Crag are in the 5.8 to 5.9 range. There are, however, two 5.10s that seem to win the greatest praise from climbers. These two climbs are “Ruthless Poodles, 10a” and From The Ashes, 10b” both put up by Reese Martin with “ground up” and self belay technique.
Although Foothill Crag could be considered as a sport climbing area, the bolts are quite sparce and the distances between them greater than you expect. Taking a supplimentry rack is highly recommended.
The best way to get to the top of the rock is via a great trail on the left side of this rock. There is a gully that divides the two larger and smaller formations. Forget about using that one for descent. It’s loose, steep and dangerous.
Climbs of Foothill Crag
|A||Bijou, 10a, 2bolts to a ledge. If you climb to the top past two more bolts, it will be 10c, Standard rack|
|B||Chummin' For A Splatter 11b, two bolts and a standard rack|
|C||I Love LA, bolts and a standard Rack|
|D||Ruthless Poodles, 10a, bolts and standard rack|
|E||The Crack, 5.6, standard rack|
|F||Clean Sweep, 5.9, 3 bolts and standard rack|
|G||Sob Story, 5.8, 2 bolts and standard rack|
|H||Blown Out, 5.9, standard rack|
|I||Overblown, 5.8, Rack up to 3.5 inches|
|J||Moon Doggies, 5.8, Rack up to 3.5 inches|
|K||Teetering On The Edge, 10d, a few bolts|
|L||From The Ashes, 10b, a few bolts, standard rack|
Unlike in the mountains of Santa Barbara, there are a number of campgrounds along Highway 33 on your way to Foothill Crag. Wheeler Gorge Campground is up Highway 33 and not far from here could be used. If you want to camp closer to town, there are many State Beach campgrounds along the beaches of Ventura County.
The following links should help you find a suitable spot for camping.
Ventura Beach Camping
Wheeler Gorge Campground/Ventura, Ojai camping
Emma Wood State Beach
How to get there
The trail to the crag is abvious and passes by many houses’ backyards and porches, all private properties. There are a number of signs to keep you on the right path. You will eventually connect up with paved Foothill Road. Walk up Foothill Road till you see the sign indicating “ Foothill Trail 22W09/ Pratt Trail 23W09.” Take the trail that heads right and you will see the crag. The hike will take about 30 minutes.