View from the top of Camino Cielo Ridge
Camino Cielo Ridge is the northern most ridge that runs parallel to Camino Cielo Road and the city of Santa Barbara.
This ridge is a part of the Santa Santa Ynez Mountains
and embodies La Cumbre Peak. La Cumbre Peak
, elevation 3985 feet is the highest point of Camino Cielo Ridge.
There are a number of rock formations along Camino Cielo Ridge, four of which have reasonable access from Camino Cielo Road. All these formations have established climbing routes and I have posted detailed “Rock” pages on them on Summit Post. The purpose of this “Area” page is to tie all these pages together for a more comprehensive understanding of them. Three of these four formations are located in close proximity to each other. These three formations are Crag Full Of Dynamite
, Green Dome/Kryptor
and Hermit Rock
. The fourth one, Earth Watch
is some eight miles from the others; however, it is very close to Camino Cielo Road and is included in this family of formations.
In addtion to these four formations, there are a number of other formations with established routes. They have never become popular due to access and difficulty in approach. The most notable of these formations is Cathedral Rock which is very blocky and low angle. Cathedral Rock is a fairly large formation and would have been very popular for slab climbing had it been closer to Camino Cielo Road.
Weather And Climbing Seasons Considerations
Camino Cielo Ridge fluctuates from 3000 feet to 4000 feet in elevation. During the summer months, you may get a bit chilly walking around the city of Santa Barbara. This is due to the coastal fog that is common place at zero altitude. Ironically, the mountains of the Camino Cielo ridge being thousands of feet higher than the Pacific Coast, can get very hot during the summer months. You can plan your climbing day according to the time of day and which direction the formation is facing. I recommend climbing on the north face of Green Dome/Kryptor or Crag Full of Dynamite.
In contrast to the summer months, the mountains of Santa Barbara get fairly cold during the winter months. On a stormy day, don’t be surprised to get a few inches of the white stuff sticking on the ground. I have seen the northwest facing Crag Full of Dynamite covered in ice after a storm. On cold winter days, you may consider climbing on the south facing Earth Watch, the west face of Kryptor or the south face of Gibralter.
Gibraltar Rock area after the fires
Start of the fire Gibraltar Rock area before the fires
In the spring of this year, 2009, the mountains of Santa Barbara suffered a huge and devastating forest fire. The aftermath of this devastating fire exposed hundreds of formations that were hardly visible before the fire. With most of the heavy brush out of the way, it is only natural to think that some of these formations will be explored for their climbing potential. Having been involved in developing climbing areas in the past, I know that it takes a great deal of dedication to start and complete such projects. Given the robust climbing community in this area, I would not be surprised to see many new areas developing in the next two years.
Forest fires may have been a blessing for climbers always looking for new rocks to climb. The fact should not be forgotten, however, that many properties were burnt to the ground and in a few cases lives were lost. There are other considerations such as the cost of fire fighting, ultimately a tax payer expense. Within a few years, forests will recover, but the scars will last much longer. These scars should be a reminder for any climber to be vigilant and alert. The consequences of ignoring forest fire potential in the mountains of California could be more dangerous than the sport of rock climbing itself.
Santa Ana Winds & The Sundowners
The normal direction of the winds in Santa Barbara is from the west which is the Pacific Ocean. I have never seen forest fires start during the normal wind direction. Santa Ana winds, however, blow from the north, east or north east direction. As the air mass moves over the mountains to the north and east, the friction with the hillsides causes increase in temperature. During the Santa Ana winds, stay away from the mountains of Santa Barbara.
The Sundowner winds are caused by a different weather phenomenon. These winds start in the afternoon hours and can be quite dangerous. If the forcast predicts “Sundowners,” stay away from the mountains.
Green Dome/KryptorGreen Dome/Kryptor
Looking at Green Dome , also known as “Kryptor, from a distance will give you the impression that it’s simply not worth the effort to get to or explore. Thankfully, a few visionary climbers did take the time and the chance to at least check it out. What they found was a formation with the most concentration potential sport routes in all of Santa Barbara.
Green Dome is made of rock not seen anywhere in our area. The entire area, which is covered by heavy brush, poison Oak and trees, is made of Blue Schiste. This type of rock, at least as it is here, lacks cracks, is very angular with sharp edges and glossy surface. The color of Blue Schiste is dark green that makes it blend with surounding plants and trees. I think it was the color that cause it to be known as Kryptor.
west face of Green Dome
It took a valiant effort by a few local climbers to cut a beautiful trail through rattle snake infested heavy brush to Green Dome. And for a period of time, as is traditional, it was the best kept secret by this group of climbers. Once most of the natural lines were established the word of a new area was out.
Crag Full of DynamiteCrag Full Of Dynamite
This little formation was the object of ridicule and neglect for many years. It’s located right next the road and I used to glimpse at it on my way to Green Dome/Kryptor
. I used to wonder with so many rock formations in Santa Barbara, why would anyone want to climb here? A few years ago a very good friend of mine who had recently gotten into climbing told me that she had gone to this rock but had not climbed anything. Apparently her more experienced friends failed to lead any of the routes to set up a top rope. That’s when I thought this might be an opportunity for me to check out this crag. Much to my surprise, I had a great time climbing most of the routes on “Crag Full of Dynamite” in one morning. My friend had her first experience belaying a lead climb and following three of the climbs.
Thank to Steve Edwards for his vision about this crag. He cleaned and bolted the routes here and because of his efforts, we have another formation to climb on.
Then, there is the road. Oh, yes, the road. You park with a part of your car still hanging out into the road. You belay from a dirt shoulder_not much fun in that. On the positive side, you are treated to the vast and beautiful Santa Barbara back country. Another consolation is that this road is not very busy. On the weekends you get more traffic, but during the week days you may get only three or four cars an hour.
Hermit RockHermit Rock
This one hundred and thirty foot formation is located across the road from Crag Full of Dynamite
and a few minutes hiking distance down the hill from it. Most climbers aren’t aware that this rock is even there. From the road, all you can see is an insignificant pile of rocks down a sreep slope about a hundred feet away. Those few who have taken the time to go down to the base of Hermit Rock are always been surprised by its magnitude.
It is hard to understand the reasons why Hermit Rock has not captured the attention and imagination of climbers to the extent that it deserves. Several attempts have been made to bring Hermit Rock into the climbing main stream. Unfortunately, these efforts have been fruitless.
The earliest recorded climbing history on Hermit Rock dates back to the 1970s. Then for a number of years it fell into obscurity. In 1991, my friend Steve Tucker, the author of the climbing guide book to the Santa Barbara area, asked me if I would be interested developing a new area. I had never heard of Hermit Rock, and always looking for a new adventure, I agreed. Soon after, the group grew to about five people, and we all showed up with our gloves, scrapers, brushes and goggles.
Earth WatchEarth Watch
In terms of altitude, Earth Watch is the highest rock formation on the Camino Cielo Ridge. It’s located only 150 feet down from the summit of La Cumbre Peak, just under 4000 feet.
Jumpin Jive Boulder
This overhanging rock had been noticed by climbers for decades, but no attempt was made to establish any climbs on it. This lack of interest and inactivity may have been due to the distance from Santa Barbara, or the fact that there were so many other formations to keep the local climbers busy for decades. In the early 1990s a new and ambitious group of climbers came onto the scene. I affectionately called them “The 5.13 Club.” The 5.13 club members did not pass up a chance to bolt, and in a few cases, chip and glue holds onto any steep face you could walk to. Earth Watch, being both steep and overhanging, filled the 5.13 club’s ambitions, at least for a while.
Within a few weeks five possible routes were bolted and most of them were red poited. There was, however, one exception. The right hand line of bolts, as far as I know, was never done on lead. Possible rating for this climb, 5.13b. By the time the rest of us peons were alerted to the new area, the 5.13 club had moved on to other blank faces to chip and glue...
Looking west from Earth Watch
Unfortunately, there are no campgrounds close and convenient to Crags of Camino Cielo.
There is, however, 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.
El Capitan Beach Camping
Refugio State Beach Camping
How to get there
I have chosen Green Dome/Kryptor as a central formation for this “Area” page because in addition to being a major formation it offers several faces in different directions to accomodate all seasons climbing.
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. Gibraltar 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.
From Gibraltar Rock drive another 1.8 miles further to its intersection with East Camino Cielo Road. Turn right here and drive about seven miles to where the paved road ends and dirt road begin. Drive another half a mile on dirt road to where the road becomes wide. Make a U-turn and park facing back toward Santa Barbara. The trail drops down steeply for about twenty feet, then it becomes very nice and reasonable. It will take less than ten minutes to hike to the crag.
Crag Full Of Dynamite
Santa Ynez Mountains
La Cumbre Peak