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Cliff House

  • Grade context: US
  • Photos: 8
  • Ascents: 30
  • Aka: Ocean Beach

Access: Parking Lot Closed due to COVID-19

The SF Recreation & Parks Department have closed all Ocean Beach parking lots due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

See warning details and discuss

Created 5 months ago

Access: COVID-19 Restrictions

For up to date COVID-19 restrictions in the Bay Area, please refer to the Bay Area Climber's Coalition.

See warning details and discuss

Created 3 months ago

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Summary

A small, but reasonably good selection of tide- & swell-dependent highball boulder problems between the northern end of Ocean Beach and the ruins of the Sutro Baths, below the Cliff House.

Description

The most concentrated and popular sector is at the northern end of Ocean Beach - it is described in detail below. There are, however, more problems scattered further north around the cliffline all the way to the Sutro Baths, though they are generally only accessible during extreme low tides and/or at times of high sand.

Take care as you climb above the wave zone, as the rock gets crumbly right about where it gets highball, and the top outs can be nasty (sloping sand & loose gravel). Bring a pad, since the sand varies by up to 6' or so over the course of the year (high in summer, low in winter) and can be wet & hard packed. All listed grades are for when the sand is high (summer) - when the sand is low the steep, slimy lower part of the wall is exposed, typically upping the grades.

This wall is almost guaranteed to be cool, even on those (rare) hot San Francisco days. The rock can be damp though, particularly near and inside the cave, both because of the proximity of the ocean and because of the constant sea spray.

A large nylon brush is worth bringing, to remove the worst of the sand from the lower holds, and the loose gravel from the higher ones (especially the topouts).

The best descent and top access are to the right, facing the cliff. While it's possible to descend on the left, the rock quality is dire.

A tide chart is available here.

Important Note: sometime in late 2015 / early 2016 the massive boulder that formed the main top rope anchor disappeared, presumably removed as a safety precaution by the city (it didn't appear to be attached to the rock platform, but must have weighed several tonnes). As a result it is no longer possible to safely rig a top rope here!

Access issues

For all access issues, please contact the Bay Area Climbers Coalition.

This is NPS land (part of the GGNRA).

Approach

Park in the northern-most Ocean Beach parking lot, just before the road winds up the hill to the Cliff House. Walk north along the beach passing the 'Initial Wall' on your right. The 'Main Wall' is located just around the first protruding nose of low-angled rocks (which is the descent / access to the top).

Routes

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Grade Route

The initial wall has a few mediocre problems that drop before the (loose!) top. Not tide affected.

The main area, offering a small number of generally good quality highball problems.

Up using large flat edges (avoid the jugs for added value).

Good introductory problem.

The face the next two routes are on has a variety of quality variants and eliminates.

Straight up from a flat edge just above head height.

Classic laybacking down low. Shame it's so short!

A little loose up high. Can escape right if need be.

Low crux.

Can escape right, if the top roof is too scary.

Awkward crux at half height, just as the rock gets bad.

Watch the rock behind.

Watch the rock behind.

Usually done left to right.

On the right side of the cave.

There are at least two well-known problems inside the cave, and potential for a couple more. It's usually pretty damp however, and there's often trash (including broken glass).

Slaps up the steep, blunt arete, then drop from the jug. Can be extended by starting further right (V6).

There's another problem on the stalactite feature further inside the cave. It's usually damp, however.

There are a number of worthwhile problems scattered along the cliff line to the north of the Main Wall. Most of these are only accessible during periods of extreme low tide and/or high sand, and some of them are best accessed by walking south from the ruins of the Sutro Baths.

The following photo shows a 20' high wall that's a good example of what's on offer:

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