This black sheep cousin of Castle Rock proper, Skyline Slabs is one of the better kept secrets in the Bay Area for good reason. The approach is long by Castle Rock standards, it's off the beaten path, and the sordid map in the otherwise good Bruce Morris read “Rock Climbers Guide To Skyline Boulevard” is challenging. Nevertheless, Skyline slabs and Eagle Peak to the south, plus all the smaller slabs in between and below in the Aquarian Valley and Devil’s Canyon, offer some really fine climbing.
The climbing is diverse: Everything from low angle, fourth class face climbs to moderate cracks and bolted routes to overhanging 5.13 pumpouts is here. Some are long with possibilities for multi-pitch climbing, a rare pleasure in the Santa Cruz Mountains. ( I'll be updating and adding routes as I do the ones within the scope of my pathetic climbing skills.)
Grizzly Flat Turnout is the best and only place to park. Located about 4 miles north on Highway 35 from the Highway 9 and 35 intersection at the summit. No parking after dark. Rangers do ticket and the fine is horrendous.
There are three ways of getting to the slabs. All take about 20 minutes. If you're new to the area though, it's probably best to follow the Peter’s Creek Trail at first and head down into the canyon going north for about 3/4 of a mile, then turn left (west) and get to small grassy flat area. From there find a use trail into the forest and walk about 1/4 mile to the waterfall. Skyline Slabs is to the right up animal and climber trails. Eagle Peak (South Slabs) is to the left up more animal and climber's trails.
Illegal to park 1/2 hour after sunset. Rangers are rigorously adamant and exacting about this and will ticket. Fine is said to be hefty, and could be as much as a set of cams or two pairs of climbing shoes.
It is also illegal to place bolts, and scrape moss, lichen and other plants and animals off the rock.
The land is officiated by the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District Preserves and one gets the feeling from close encounters with the rangers that the preferred visitors to the area are those with small daypacks, binoculars around their neck and a Peterson’s Field guide to North American birds. Thus, the best policy is to keep a low profile, look like an ornithologist , and always, make that always, clean up after yourself.
There are some houses in the area. Avoid them. They have large dogs and they moved out here to get away from it all.
That said, boom boxes, guitars and yodeling are out of the question.
Wait two or three days after a rain. The sandstone is like a sponge and when its wet, it’s slippery. Also, holds are prone to break and bolts and pro are more likely to fail.
Mountains Lions patrol the area, but you’d never know it except for the warning at the trailhead that suggests keeping small children at one’s side, not walking alone, and the clincher of them all, mountain lions begin to hunt an hour before sunset and into the dawn. Walking out alone at this time, through the dark forest trails listening for twig snaps and turning around every 20 paces to see if a lion is stalking you, is generally enough motivation to pack up before the sun dips into the Pacific. Then again, the sunsets are glorious from the slabs and helps to distract from the pure terror of being eaten alive and gutted, then dragged into the brush and covered in leaves.
Rattlesnakes like warm rocks and little caves. It’s a long walk out and a long drive to get antivenin. Think these thoughts once or twice when thrashing through the chaparral in the summer and fall.
Poison Oak. You betcha. But not enough to warrant a hazmat suit.
Then there’s the banana slugs that are extremely hazardous and can cause one to break an ankle if you should have the horrible misfortune of stepping on one.
And if all else fails, there’s a healthy resident population of vultures that get a real kick out of soaring above the slabs. You know you’re climbing hard when they swoop in close to bask in the smell of fear.
When To Climb
Year-around. Winters, fall and spring is best, however. Summertime blazes. While lesser climbers shiver in the shade of Castle Rock, slab climbers lizard around in the afternoon warmth of the west-facing rocks that are mostly above and out of the moist understory of redwoods and madrones.
Closest camping can be found at Big Basin State Park. Fills up fast in the summer. Or walk in camping can be found at Castle Rock State Park.
Call Castle Rock State Park for weather info: 408-867-2952