Page Type Page Type: Mountain/Rock
Location Lat/Lon: 34.47593°N / 119.67944°W
Additional Information County: Santa Barbara
Activities Activities: Trad Climbing, Sport Climbing, Toprope
Seasons Season: Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter
Additional Information Elevation: 2500 ft / 762 m
Sign the Climber's Log


The Bolt Ladder

The Bolt Ladder, a satellite of Gibraltar Rock, became popular because of a line of bolts that were put up by two Sierra Club members for a rock climbing class. This way the students learn how to use direct aid to climb a rock. I have instructed climbing partners hauling systems as a rehearsal for wall climbing. I didn’t want to have to shout instructions when we actually got on the wall.

Another reason for popularity of The Bolt Ladder is its zero approach status. You have guessed right. It’s situated right next to a mountain road. The lower half of this seventy foot clean sandstone formation is actually a road cut. For many years there was a dirt hill on the base of this rock. With more and more climbers visiting and moving around on the base, the dirt hill is all gone resulting in an even taller formation than the original. I have no doubt that rain played a big part in the erosion of the dirt hill as well. Another good deed done by the climbers was to dislodge many loose boulders from half way up the rock. The Bolt Ladder is pretty clean now.

Fog over Pacific Ocean
Hills of Santa Barbara
Montecito Peak from Camino Cielo Road
Sky over Gibraltar Rock

Climbs of The Bolt Ladder

Routes of The Bolt Ladder

The Bolt Ladder, however, turned out to be more than just a line of bolts up a blank face. Soon after the bolts were placed, climbers noticed all the features that made it possible to free climb this face. Finger cracks and small flakes on the face made for great free climbing routes. Having a line of bolts to protect the face moves bacame a great treat. For those interested in top roping or rappeling The Bolt Ladder, there are bolts on top to set up anchors. The easiest approach to the top is via a steep and rocky shoulder leading up the left side of the formation.

Setting up top rope on The Bolt Ladder

Climbing the face on The Bolt Ladder and following the bolts closly is great and rated 10b/c. There is also another route named “Finger Crack, 10a” to the right of the line of bolts that climbs to the middle of the face without reaching the top.

If you are interested in something a little, or a lot, harder, you can climb a bit higher than the top of The Bolt Ladder and find the Sweating Buckets boulder. Sweating Buckets is a bolted face climb rated 11d.

Climbs of The Bolt Ladder
AThe Bolt Ladder, climbed as a direct aid pitch, c1, many bolts
BThe Bolt Ladder climbed free, protected by many bolts, 10c
CFinger Crack, 10a, this climb does not really go anywhere.
Sweating Buckets, located on a small formation just above The Bolt Ladder, 11d, bolts

The Bolt Ladder shoulder
Routes of The Bolt Ladder
The Bolt Ladder
The Bolt Ladder
Finger Crack, 10a


Unfortunately, there are no campgrounds close and convenient to The Bolt Ladder.

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

Cachuma Lake

How to get there

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.

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Parents refers to a larger category under which an object falls. For example, theAconcagua mountain page has the 'Aconcagua Group' and the 'Seven Summits' asparents and is a parent itself to many routes, photos, and Trip Reports.