Painted Cave is a bouldering area located along Painted Cave Road in the mountains of Santa Barbara County, California.
Painted cave is the oldest and most traditional bouldering area in Santa Barbara. By all acounts, the sport of technical rock climbing in Santa Barbara can trace its origins to the early to mid-fifties. The sport of bouldering as an off-shoot of rock climbing must have had its roots in the mid to late sixties. Painted Cave boulders, being right by the side of a popular residential/mountain road, were noticed early on.
Although the Painted Cave area consists of only three boulders, there are dozens of “problems,” test pieces and variations that have been done. If you have ever bouldered, you know very well that eliminating one handhold or foothold changes the “problem” dramatically. Some can be done from a “stand up” start and some with a “sit start.” You can go a foot to the right or left to end up with a completely different “problem.” But, it’s all done for training and for fun.
Generally speaking, bouldering has become an independent sport all by itself. On any weekend, the bouldering areas are bustling with activity, with climbers giving each other “beta,” or a tip as to how to overcome a “problem.” You hear shouts of victory or frustration coming from all directions.
Painted Cave bouldering area contains only three large boulders, two of which have the majority of the routes. It’s hard to believe how only two boulders can offer so much. The two boulders are “Trojan Boulder” and “Hallway Boulder.” Except for a small section of each of these two boulders, you can find just enough features to climb on all the surfaces. Most of the faces are either overhanging or vertical with sloping holds. You would have to be an accomplished boulderer to tick many of the problems here. I found even the easiest problems “VOs” difficult to do. To do a “V3” problem, you need to be in excellent physical condition, let alone for doing a “V6” and higher problem.
Hallway Boulder must have been the first boulder to be noticed and climbed in this area. The reason for this early attention is a long and low traverse that will take you around two sides of this boulder. The rounded edge pockets were just too good to be missed by climbers looking for a good burn. Do the traverse starting from the right side facing the road, go around corner, and continue to the end of the hallway, and tell me if your forearms aren’t burning. One of the problems that will surely stop the traffic is called “Street Corner, V0,” and climbs the overhang between the west face and the hallway.
If you are looking for a greater challenge on the Hallway Boulder, walk around to the south face and give “Baby’s Head, V3” a shot. And if that goes too easily for you, you can try the tiny pockets and edges to the left of Baby’s Head. Now you are ready for “Wedgie Roof, V6,” another overhanging crack inside of the hallway.
No knees, V0 to V0+, Several variations
Wedgie Roof, V6, You don't want to fall at the crux; you can hit you head against a rock below you
Street Corner, V0 to V0+ depending on the variation you choose. This line will stop the traffic on Painted Cave Road.
Static Eliminator, V4
Baby's Head, V1
The north east face, V0-, many variations, all pretty easy
Hallway Traverse, V1
Routes of Trojan Boulder
Trojan Boulder is about eighteen feet at its highest, but most of the problems are between ten to fourteen feet in height. The front side, east face, is right next to Painted Cave Road. This is where “Heavy Traffic, V3,” the most famous boulder problem in Santa Barbara is located. If you are doing this problem, you’d better finish it, or make sure there aren’t any cars passing by, or you may end up on the roof of that car. “Heavy Traffic was the first of a series of more difficult test pieces that were done on the east face of Trojan Boulder. Soon after Heavy Traffic, climbers began looking at many variations to the right and to the left of it. One of the most sought after problems is “Old Soft Hsu, V3,” named after my friend Doug.
Trojan, 5.12, Top Rope
Heavy Traffic, V3, another traffic stopper
Old Soft Hsu, V3
Big Deal, V5
Arete of Troy, V0. If you stay on the arete, V0-
Seam or face on the west face, V0-
Unfortunately, there are no campgrounds close and convenient to The Painted Cave.
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.
From 101 Freeway take the Highway 154, Cachuma Lake & San Marcos Pass exit. Drive north for 5.3 miles toward San Marcos Pass to its itersection with Painted Cave road. Turn right on Painted Cave Road and drive 1.4 miles. The two large boulders are overhanging and on either side of the road. Trojan Boulder is on your left and Hallway Boulder on your right. Go just past the boulders and park in the dirt pull out.
To see the Indian painting you need to drive further up the road. It will be on your left and it’s protected by a locked gate.