Wheeler Gorge in Ojai
My name is Andy and I am a rock climber with six years of experience! I’ve explored a wide range of climbing locations in southern California as well as in Nevada, Utah, and Colorado. I want to continue exploring my passion and raise everyone’s stoke so they can follow theirs.
First night in Wheeler Gorge. We arrive to the campground at 12:34 a.m. All sites are taken, leaving no room for the four muchachos (Red, Dan, Franco, and myself) who just want to sleep after driving for nearly five hours. Our tired minds get to brewing and come to a consensus. We decide to pull into a large turnout and sleep the night away.
Each of us still planted in the same seats we had been in the whole way over. The funny thing about car seats is that they are not too comfortable but once you are drowsy enough they will caress you into a deep sleep. Not to say that this is the best place to sleep because they generally cause some kinkage in the back and neck the morning after. Nonetheless, it’s all a part of the experience.
“CAR SEATS ARE NOT COMFORTABLE”
Rise and shine, its morning time! A proper morning outside is to wake up before the roosters and keep a lookout for the sunrise. This morning was not as proper:
• 10:50 a.m.: Wake up
• 11:05 a.m.: Coffee time (during this time it is necessary to consume any fruits, nuts, and/or bars)
• 11:40 a.m.: Take goofy pictures
• 12:00 p.m.: Make haste to camp and stake our claim!
So far the morning has been a success. After setting up camp we explore the bit of land the campground has to offer.
Wheeler Gorge. The name sounds like a land found by ancient dwarves and the environment looks like a scene taken from an art nouveau piece. Walking along the water stream I expected to hear singing, laughing, splashing, or any sign of enjoyment; a sign that wild souls are falling in love with nature. Why wouldn’t there be? The sun is out, the trees shining with emerald, birds chirping, and all while the stream splashes against rocks. But there were wild souls wandering about; the muchachos!
“A sign that wild souls are falling in love with nature”
In the Gorge are tunnels blasted through the mountainous rock faces and connected by bridges. Not bridges that are formed randomly by the forces of nature but mindfully organized structures. Though, without these tunnels we wouldn’t have such a convenience of access and they aren’t bad to look at. As we venture through the gorge we see spots landmarked by large-scale street art (graffiti). GASP! This is where the environmentalist hyperventilates and marches their way over to restore peace to the lands.
“Without these tunnels we wouldn’t have such a convenience of access”
Typically I would share these feelings but I am a grey Jedi! These unmistakable landmarks are displayed at the base of the manmade bridges so no rock or tree was harmed during the process (assumingly). There must have been a code of ethics being followed or the beauty of the wild triggered something spiritual in the minds of the artists. Personally, respect for the natural land is commendable. Andy Warhol himself agreed when he said, “having land and not ruining it is the most beautiful art anyone can ever want”.
“Respect for the natural land”
We finally reach the climbing area! We had done some research on the area before the trip but all of that information dissipated when we stepped foot in the Gorge. Our excitement leads us to our first climb, Exodus 5.11a.
This is an eight-bolt climb with a spicy run-out first clip. Technically the first clip is at ground level but it’s there solely to keep the lead climber from tumbling down the hill if they were to fall before clipping the next bolt. “Queue adrenaline rush,” says the climber thinking about falling. The secret beta to every climb is to relax and trust your movement.
“The secret beta to every climb is to relax and trust your movement”
The climb is brilliant! It is very technical slab with lots of crimps that some climbers will consider to be jugs (unless they are slopy crimps, a.k.a. slimpers). There are slimpers found at the top but used for feet.
Climbing tip #1:
When climbing on slab, aggressive shoes are not the best choice but will have to do if they are the only pair in your arsenal. Reason being, aggressive shoes usually don’t have a large surface area on its talon like toe and they’re just not comfortable. For slab climbing, get some comfort or moderate fitting shoes.
At the top of Exodus is a nice crack seem that only provides tiny crimps. One high right toe, hard left smear, and right hand lock-off from the seem and the anchor is in reach.
If you are looking for a new area to climb in or even hike, Wheeler Gorge is well worth visiting. Whether you want to hop on sandstone or cobblestone (yes, cobblestone), the climbing is superb. Go outside, take your friends, and climb those rocks!
Wheeler Gorge Campground, Ojai, CA – Climbing Day
Difficulty: Climbs range from 5.8 to 5.12
Google Maps Location