Turn north on Movie Flat Road from Whitney Portal Road, and proceed about 1 mile to a dirt road that veers off to the left (west). This soon joins another road heading directly west towards some large rock formations. Pass the first +/- free-standing formation (Paul’s Paradise) and continue to follow roads leading west past a large, dark pinnacle on your left (the Burnt Penis) and into a small canyon (the Cattle Pocket). The road will soon turn left (south) around a big rock pile. You will find a big flat slab on your left with parking on its south and east sides. Stop here and walk east 50 yards through a notch, then scramble another ~100 yards east south-east to a large east-facing wall on the south side of the pocket. This is the approach recommended by Strassman. It is evident that an approach from the “Burnt Penis” would be shorter and more direct, but in deference to local wisdom, I’ll suggest you follow Strassman’s approach.
There are at least five established routes on the Poodle Wall, ranging from 5.8 to 5.10d in difficulty. I do not have names or ratings for all the climbs. One route is a TR, another a trad crack, the rest sport climbs. There are anchors at the top of all climbs, though one is really special, and has to be seen to be appreciated. Since I have climbed only The Poodle Bites
, that is the only climb for which I will provide in-depth beta. For general information on the area, and specific information on the other routes (including a topo), consult Michael Strassman’s book A Rock Climber’s Guide to the Alabama Hills
- Pet Shop Boy (TR) 5.10
- People Are Poodles Too 5.10d
- The Poodle Bites 5.8, direct start 5.9. This enjoyable climb proceeds more or less up the center of the face, just to the left of the Poodle Boy crack. The technical crux is getting off the ground. The climbing becomes progressively easier as you get higher. The psychological crux comes between the third and fourth bolts. These are sufficiently far apart that there is a real ground fall potential as one approaches the fourth bolt. Thankfully, the holds are gompers, but for the less experienced leader, this might be a good route to TR (you can reach the “anchor” by walking around the right side of the face and scrambling up). The remaining bolts are also fairly run out for a sport climb, but you’re high enough off the deck that a ground fall is not likely, unless your belayer is asleep.
You’ll probably be feeling pretty good about the climb as you approach the top. This feeling won’t last. The party that established the route discovered their 3/8” bolts could be removed by hand. So instead of bumping it up to ½” bolts, they hammered ½” angle pitons into the holes. I didn’t have a hammer to test these puppies when I was there, though they seem solid enough. They’re probably fine for top roping, but if you have doubts, just mutter "the poodle bites", and go climb something else.
- Poodle Boy 5.9 (crack, pro to 3.5”) Looks like a fun exercise, but we didn't have trad gear when we were there.
- The Poodle Chews It 5.9 Strassman calls this the "best route on the crag". Too bad we were out of day light.
Rope, harness, draws, sunscreen. Gallons and gallons of water in the summer.