Ghoulish Crack Adventures

Mission Gorge - San Diego, CA. Sexy sailor, high heels and a trad rack! While little kids have their Halloween on Monday us working folks (or friends of working folk) like to celebrate our Halloweens on weekends, this weekend particularly.  This weekend also being my best girlfriend's 30th birthday party in San Diego, I planned [...]

Mission Gorge – San Diego, CA. Sexy sailor, high heels and a trad rack!

While little kids have their Halloween on Monday us working folks (or friends of working folk) like to celebrate our Halloweens on weekends, this weekend particularly.  This weekend also being my best girlfriend’s 30th birthday party in San Diego, I planned out a nice little road trip – the weekend’s essentials being, sexy sailor costume “borrowed” from sister, high heels (good practice for my agro bouldering shoes), and trad rack, one thing you should never leave home without.  The plan being to party me hardy and finally check out San Diego’s climbing.

Starting up "Crack of Dust" (5.8)

Starting up “Crack of Dust” (5.8)

A few Maker’s Marks too many and I finally tucked myself in a wee bit past my standard 9:30pm bedtime, which resulted in a somewhat groggy discumbobulated start to my morning climbing expedition. The day’s plan was to check out San Diego’s oldest crag and local climbing favorite, Mission Gorge.

Mission Gorge rock is fine grained metamorphosed granite, translation – super water polished and slick and probably best climbed in colder weather so that sticky rubber on your feet actually sticks, being So. Cal and October we were blessed with somewhat less than ideal highs in the low 80s. Mission Gorge offers a range of climbing from sport to pure trad to mixed with the bulk of climbs being mixed, requiring both some draws and your rack.

Free Mission Gorge Climbing Guide
-> this is a 2mb PDF file. Click link to download <-

Because of the heat (and personal preference), I began my quest for bomber cracks in the shade. A girl can dream, right? I made the mistake of printing out the guidebook (above) in a save paper kind of fashion (4 pages on an actual page), resulting in very small black and white thumbnails of the route topos (probably should have tested my ingenious plan). Anyways, my brilliance made for some creative route finding turned the intended 5.8+, “The Owl,” into a wild lead on the 5.11a, “Escapade”. Adrenaline was surging by the time I reached the second bolt on the slick face and I was beginning to wonder what I had gotten myself into with the promised crack still not in sight. This was a slight issue considering I had brought only four draws in favor of cams for this yet unsighted crack system and after venturing as far as the fourth bolt was forced to bail off of my second to last BD D biner (no more backup rappel device). Anyways, climb one was a less than successfully warmup frolic and more of a very successful crash training to my partner on how to bail off a route.

Paying significantly more attention to the guidebook and having a strong inclination towards ground up crack systems we found a few short but beautiful cracks to play on. The short length of the cracks made them great opportunities for my climbing partner to learn jamming and how to place trad pro. My favorite crack that we climbed was the 30-foot “Crack of Dust” (5.8), a flaring off finger crack (for those with fat hands) or a beautiful hand crack (for my dainty little girl hands).  Still, regardless of hand size the mantle at the finish puts a slippery exclamation point on the climb.  My second favorite climb, “The Owl”, the actual, was just to the right of “Crack of Dust”.  “The Owl” offered a brilliant start in an overhanging crack with sustained climbing for about 15-feet at which point the angle and difficulties back off to a scant 5.4.

Sunshine on "Crack of Dust" (5.8)

Sunshine on “Crack of Dust” (5.8)

Profile of "The Owl"

Profile of “The Owl” (5.8+)

Having logged a few laps and with winter begrudging us of more sunlight, we scurried back to our cars and before heading back north made a put stop at San Diego Brewing Company for some ribs and a crisp Peche Lambic.

Sun sets on Mission Gorge

Sun sets on Mission Gorge

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Ilana is a native of Southern California. She is an accomplished rock and ice climber and is the brains behind Thrillseekers Anonymous. Currently residing in Colorado, she is a Registered Surgical/Trauma Nurse, who can be found leading her own adventures on days off. Ilana is a sponsored athlete with GoMacro, WoolX, and an Arcteryx Denver ambassador. She has been featured in various media outlets including the February 2015 issue of ‘Climbing’ magazine, December 2013 issue of ‘Rock and Ice’ magazine, December/January 2013 issue of ‘Gripped Climbing’ magazine, Canyoneering: A Guide to Techniques for Wet and Dry Canyons (How To Climb Series) by Dave Black and Pasadena Magazine as well as a Climbing Expert on MTV’s Parental Control (Season 7 – “Heather”).

Ilana has written 111 articles for Thrillseekers Anonymous.

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