Not to be confused with The Fortress in Joshua Tree National Park, The Fortress is a rock formation in the mountains along Maricopa Highway, north of the town Ojai, California.
Black Wall, also known as “Sespe Wall” and Potrero John, the subject of a future page, for many years and drove right past The Fortress without looking at it little closer. I have only recently been alerted to The Fortress by talking to different climbers.
The Fortress consists of a series of rocky pinnacle outcroppings a few hundred feet up the hillside by Maricopa Highway. It’s located about half a mile north of Black Wall, a very popular climbing formation. It seems that The Fortress lost the popularity contest to Black Wall because of the difficulty in approach to its base. The steep and loose hillside can easily discourage a new comer, especially with ease of approach to the base of Black Wall.
Although the approach to the base of the formations themselves might not be the most pleasant mountain experience you have had in your life, the rock itself has a lot to offer. There are many sections of this complex formation that remain untouched.
Topos of the routes, The Fortress
At first glance, there are three distinct pinnacle/triangular shaped formations that stand out. These three formations contain the majority of the routes on The Fortress. Upon closer look, however, you will discover a few smaller satellite faces with a few routes of their own and potential for several more. One such face on the left sports a 5.4 route called “Footprints.” Another mini pinnacle on the extreme right offers a 5.9 climb named “Consumption Dysfunction.”
The Fortress is generally northeast facing and several of the faces get shade early in the day. This has caused large amounts of lichen to grow on several of the faces. Take a good strong brush to clean some of the holds.
List of the routes
Climbs of The Fortress
|A||Foot Prints, 5.4, standard rack|
|B||Snicker Doodle, 5.9+, standard rack|
|C||Blue In Green, 5.6, standard rack|
|D||Rational Expectations, 5.7, standard rack|
|E||Magali's Arete, 5.7, standard rack|
|F||Natural Rate of Unemployment, 5.10, standard rack|
|G||Permanent Income Hypothesis, 5.9+, standard rack|
|H||Free to Choose, 5.9, 2 pitches, standard rack|
|I||Consumption Dysfunction, 5.9+, standard rack|
Unlike in the mountains of Santa Barbara, there are a number of campgrounds along Highway 33 on your way to Black Wall. Wheeler Gorge Campground is one. 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
Directions to Black Wall of Sespe Gorge cannot be simpler. From Highway 101 and the city of Ventura, California, take Highway 33 north for 13.2 miles to its junction with Maricopa Road in the town Ojai. Turn left here onto Maricopa and drive another twenty miles. You will see Black Wall to your left across the creek. Drive another half a mile up the road to a big dirt pull-out on the left side. Park here. You wont miss the triangular shaped formations across the creek and up the hill a short distance.