There's more than downhill skiing and mountain biking in Big Bear!
Holcomb Valley was "discovered" in the mid 1800's by William F. Holcomb while a hunting grizzly, but the pinnacles weren't developed by local climbers until the 1980s. This neighborhood of granite formations displays superb Southern California rock climbing with hundreds of routes ranging from 5.5 to 5.13a with most routes being bolted. There is the occasional trad climb and large amounts of bouldering to be done as well.
The majority of the routes were developed by Chris Miller and his friends in the 90's and development continues today. So much potential exists in the exotically shaped formations, it's truly a wonder that this area remained hidden until fairly recently. High intensity routes can be found and trusted that they are safely bolted, you can really focus on technique and push your personal limits. With the easy approach and a few moments to become oriented, Holcomb Valley Pinnacles is a perfect get-away from the sea level grime in SoCal.
Directions from San Bernadino: Regardless of which direction you are traveling from, the simplest way to reach Holcomb Valley Pinnacles outside of Fawnskin is by way of Interstate 10. From Los Angeles travel east, from Palm Springs head west to San Bernardino. Your eventual goal is to get to the Holcomb Pinnacles Climbers Camp, which is a different spot than the developed Holcomb Valley Campground.
Take exit for CA-30W towards CA-330N in Highland. From CA-330N you will follow the exit for mountain resorts, which turns into CA-18/Rim of the World Highway. Be prepared for approx 20 miles of windy mountain roads passing Snow Valley ski resort and onward up the mountain to the town of Big Bear. Once you have reached Big Bear Lake, continue straight (do not turn right) and the road becomes CA-38, which follows the north shore of the lake and through Fawnskin. This is a very touristy town with plenty of cyclists and sightseers, enjoy the view as you creep along.
You will come to a second much smaller lake on your right, start looking for the Van Dusen Canyon Road on the north side of the highway once you've reached the end of the airport runway. Turn left here and follow this road as it quickly becomes dirt and continues to worsen for the next 6 miles. Any local rain storms make wonderfully large mud puddles to splash through. Having 4WD is not necessary but makes it a bit easier. Most passenger cars should have no issue driving this road. Note that Van Dusen is also listed as 3N09. After 2-3 miles, you will veer left onto 3N16 for just a short distance. Keep a lookout for the 3N07 turn-off on your right, the sign is not ready visible until it's too late. The turn-off will be soon after you have passed Holcomb Valley campground on your right.
Once you have turned right onto 3N07 (also called Holcomb Pinnacles Camp Road), follow it as it curves 90 degrees to the right (now heading east) to stay on 3N07. There will be many campers, dirt bikes, hippies and you'll even pass a Wilbur's grave. The road ends abruptly at a fence line; this is Parking Lot Rock area. There are of course alternate 4WD routes to take into the climbing area with many different offshoot trails that will get you lost. Keep to the 3N07 trail until you become familiar with the back roads.
Camping at the climbers camp is free, with no red tape involved, just first come/first serve on prime real estate under the pines. Do obey posted signs regarding campfires. During dry conditions, this padded forest floor will go up in a puff. No water or facilities available, and most cell phones do not have reception. Please keep the area clean for everyone to enjoy!
Best Time to Climb
Depending on your tolerance of heat or chill, Holcomb can be climbed a majority of the year. Typically, the months to avoid would be January through March, but keep an eye on the snow levels and wind chill and you'll probably find good climbing conditions nearly anytime. Routes in the sun or shade, whatever your heart desires, are within easy reach.
Holcomb Valley sits at approx 7500 feet, this makes for temperate days and cool nights during spring and autumn. Summer months can be blazing hot so chase the shade if you're not a sun worshipper, temps can rise dramatically in the afternoons. Night time cool down comes on quick and produces a generous amount of morning dew, so enjoy your scrambled eggs while the rock dries and be sure to lock up everything you leave at your campsite before hitting the crags.
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