Lower Gibraltar Rock is a formation in the mountains north of the city of Santa Barbara, California.
I have written in some detail about the rich history and the family of rock formations in this area. Some of the notable formations in this area are Gibraltar Rock, Upper Gibraltar Rock, Toxic Waste Wall and Cold Springs Dome. Although Lower Gibraltar Rock is by no means as popular nor as large as the rest of the family of formations here, it definitely deserves a page of its own.
The history of technical climbing on Lower Gibraltar Rock dates back to the 1970s, some twenty years after its bigger brother Gibraltar Rack was climbed. This should come as no surprise since the approach to the base of Lower Gibraltar isn’t quite as simple as many of the other formations in this area. After forest fires swept through this area in the spring of 2009, the approach to the top of the formation has become somewhat easier. It is possible to scramble down to the base of Lower Gibraltar Rock, but since this option hasn’t been used in a number of years, the ground has become very unstable and in few places quite dangerous to negotiate. The best option is rappelling. The rusty old bolts on top have been removed and now there are two separate bolt anchors on top of Lower Gibraltar to facilitate getting to the base.
Topo of the routes
As with most of the rock formations in this area, there are a number of ways to climb from the bottom to the top of this rock. The leadable routes, however, are few and far between. There are really only three routes that can be safely led. These three routes from left to right are “Rapture, 5.8”, “Conundrum, 5.7” and “Lieback Annie, 5.7” which is one of the earliest routes done on Lower Gibraltar formation by Tom Adam and a new and talented young climber, Kurt Dixon. The ambitious Dixon opened a number of formations in the Santa Barbara area for climbing.
In the middle of the formation you will find another climb that joins a crack roughly half way up. When Bruce Hendricks did the first ascent of this route in the early 1980s, he used his own protection. As the years went by, someone decided that the climb was too risky to be done with gear. Nowadays, the entire route has been bolted, even next to a good crack that accepts gear protection beautifully.
The last climb and arguably the best route on the entire formation is “Rapture” rated 5.8. Rapture climbs mostly on the left side of the arete to the left of the main face. There are at least five bolts on this climb and they lead to a nice ledge on the top with its own two bolt anchor.
There is one more route that does not get much traffic. It’s called Chimney Sweep, rated 5.8 and it’s located to the right of all the other routes. Chimney Sweep was done about the same time period as Lie Back Annie by Tom Adam and friends.
List of the routes
Routes of Lower Gibraltar Rock
|A||Rapture, 5.8, bolts|
|B||Conundrum, 5.7, bolts and gear|
|C||Lieback Annie, 5.7, standard rack with extra 1-3 inches|
|D||Chimney Sweep, 5.8, standard rack, wide pro|
How to get there
From Highway 101 take the Las Positas off ramp. For those coming from the south turn right; for those coming from the north turn left. In either case, drive toward the mountains to the north of Santa Barbara. Continue up Las Positas for .85 miles to State Street, where the name of Las Positas changes to San Roque. Continue driving straight toward the mountains until you come to HWY 192 (Foothill Road) in another .5 mile. Turn right at the intersection and continue up Foothill Road for 1.9 miles to its intersection with Mountain Drive. Turn left onto Mountain Drive and drive for .5 mile to its intersection with Gibraltar Road. Gibralatr Rock is about five miles from this point. You will recognize Gibraltar Rock located to the west of the road when you begin to see a large sandstone formation immediately to your right (east side of the road). This formation is “The Bolt Ladder.” Gibraltar Rock is a little further up the road and to your left. There are ample turnouts for parking between here and the next two turns in the road.
From Gibraltar Rock drive another .1 mile to the next turn to the right on the road. There is enough room on the ocean side of the road for a few cars. Park here and walk down the steep trail to a small rise. Continue on the same path heading to the right to where you will have to scramble down several easy rocks to the top of the main formation. You will see a set of welded cold shuts for rappelling. If you scramble down a bit more you will see a light colored ledge with two bolts. These bolts are on top of the main face. You can rappel from here.
Camping and fees
Unfortunately, there are no campgrounds close and convenient to Gibraltar Rock.
However, there is one very large and well developed campground at Cachuma Lake, and a few less developed ones along Paradise Road off Highway 154. There are also a few campgrounds along Highway 101 at El Capitan State Park and Refugio State Park.
There are no permits required to climb on Gibraltar Rock or any of the subsidiary formations. However, the forest service requires a permit for entering the "High Impact Areas." Gibraltar Road is not considered as High Impact Area, however, you may need one for camping or parking in the areas designated as such. For more information on such areas, please contact the Santa Barbara Ranger District, 805-967-3481.
Mountain Air Sports 14 State Street, Santa Barbara, CA. 93101 805-962-0049
Big 5 Sporting Goods 3935 State Street, Santa Barbara, CA. 93105 805-964-4749
Santa Barbara Ranger District 3505 Paradise Rd, Santa Barbara, CA. 93105 805-967-3481