Swallow Crack, 5.6

Page Type Page Type: Route
Location Lat/Lon: 36.48953°N / 121.21404°W
Additional Information Route Type: Trad Climbing
Seasons Season: Spring
Additional Information Time Required: Less than two hours
Additional Information Rock Difficulty: 5.6 (YDS)
Sign the Climber's Log


Swallow Crack, located on Discovery Wall, is another Pinnacles classic. I am sure many people who live in California's Central Coast are introduced to trad climbing on this route. I like the route because you are not forced into particular moves. If you don't like one move there is another move to try: face moves, crack climbing or stemming. The route is fun!

Getting There

From the Bear Gulch Visitors Center, head towards the reservoir via Moses Spring Trail. When you come to the sign post, marking the turn off to reach the Bear Gulch Caves, continue right on Moses Spring Trail. When you come to the a second sign post, indicating a climber’s trail, again bear right to reach Discovery Wall. From the base of Discovery Wall, scramble up hill for a short distance to reach Swallow Crack.

Sign PostFirst Sign Post
Sign PostSecond Sign Post

Swallow Crack is the predominant, left leaning crack

Route Description

Swallow Crack
Swallow Crack
Swallow Crack

Swallow Crack is a trad climb. The rock, for the Pinnacles, is solid, as it sees a lot of traffic. However, Pinnacles breccia should always be considered suspect. From Rubine's guide: "On any climb where self placed protection is required, expert skills are mandatory, regardless of the rating. You cannot place too much protection, Set aside the ego, place lots of gear, and understand the rock is soft. " Luckily, Swallow Crack does offer many opportunities to place gear and you can sew it up. There is one bolt on this climb. It is on the upper section, where the crack ends and you move left and up over a step. If you are leading this section is a bit unnerving, but fun for the follower.

There is a two bolt anchor at the top of the climb. If you belay from the top, you will have difficulty communicating with your second. Consider extending your attachment to the anchor and redirecting the belay as John has in the image below. Then you will be able to see and communicate with your second.

Swallow CrackMoving Left
Swallow CrackJohn Belaying

To descend, head right on the trail that parallels the top of Discovery Wall to reach the Rim Trail. The Rim Trail will lead you to the High Peaks Trail and back to the base of Discovery Wall.

Essential Gear

You will want an assortment of nuts, hexes, and cams, to two inches. You will also want long slings, to extend your runners and reduce rope drag.

Rattlesnake Warning!

Rattlesnake and PackRattlesnake

When we were at Discovery Wall on 5/5/07, we saw two juvenile rattlesnakes, one at the base of Swallow Crack. This was the first time I have ever seen rattlesnakes at the Pinnacles. I mentioned the snakes to a long time Pinnacles climber. He said it was common to see rattlesnakes in the area, So be careful!

The sequence of pictures below was taken on 5/5/07, when we saw the rattlesnake. We brought Ron and Jenny's four month old baby with us and had settled her down for a nap in a protected spot, out of the way of any rock fall. We didn't know the rattlesnake was on the other side of the rock.

Checking on babyChecking on Baby
Swallow Crack,5.6Starting Lead
Swallow Crack, 5.6Ron Climbing
Jenny Belaying RonJenny Belaying Ron
Jenny starting Swallow Crack Jen Has Seen the Rattler
Jen moves the BabyMoving Baby

Red Tape

Discovery wall is not usually affected by the annual raptor closures, but you should check the closure list before you climb at the Pinnacles.

You can get more information about the Raptor Advisory Lists at this web site: