In contrast to the good quality sandstone found in many of the western states of the United States, the quality of the sandstone along the coast of California is not very good. You are hard pressed to find solid cracks that have passed the test of time- in other words, cracks that have not crumbled into oblivion with repeated ascents of climbers' hands and shoes. There are, however, a few exceptions. Two crack systems that have survived pretty much intact are T-Crack, rated 10a, and The Nose
, rated 11a.
T-Crack is a crack system on Gibraltar Rock
in the Santa Ynez Mountains
to the north of the city of Santa Barbara, California. This crack system is the most sought after climb for the up-and-coming climbers breaking into solid intermediate level climbing. This is a beautiful two pitch route that, more often than not, is top roped. Needless to mention that it is perfectly leadable, and I have personally witnessed friends free soloing the route.
The First Pitch
is very easy with a little bit of of hassle in approach. You need to skirt around the entire south face of Gibraltar Rock to get to the base, or you can rappel down from the Peanut Gallery
. The Second Pitch
is where the real climbing begins.
The second pitch
of this mega classic crack was rated only 5.8 in the old times. About twenty years ago the most local climbers agreed that the old rating was no longer correct and the route's difficulty rating was up-grated to 10a. The original rating should make you wonder what the old climbers were made of. The pitch begins with a dynamic layback move and a high step on a slightly overhanging rock to a solid hand jam. A few more jams will bring you to a horizontal crack that resembles a T, hence the name T-Crack. More jamming and smearing to the right and making a long reach straight up to a handhold in the middle of a bulge and then to a ledge. There is a no-hands rest on this ledge. Move a few feet to the left and surmount a sloping mantle shelf. A few more jams to the right under a roof will bring you to a layback slot. Above, a finger lock and a hand jam completes the hard climbing. Move up and right to a tree and belay. Congratulations; You have just climbed one of the best crack climbs in the Santa Ynez Mountains.
: To avoid the second half of the second pitch, you can move further right after the obvious T, and reach an alcove. There is an easy chimney that leads to the same ledge and tree as the end of the second pitch.
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. Gibralatr 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. There are ample turnouts for parking between here and the next two turns in the road.
How to get to T-Crack
There are at least two different ways to approach the west face.
1- Via the Peanut Gallery: Walk and scramble on the north side of the main formation to reach a short steep gully. Down climb this gully to the Peanut Gallery which is roughly half way down the west face. There are two bolts on the ledge for rappelling to the base or belaying and top roping.
2- Via the base of the main formation: The obvious path that takes you down to the base of Gibraltar Rock can be followed around to the base of T-Crack.
one 50 meter rope, standard rack, pro to 2.5 inches, slings.