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Rock Climbing in the Mother Lode

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The Mother Lode area contains almost unlimited rock climbing opportunities including vertical granite outcrops as well as boulder fields perfect for rock hopping (bouldering) and scrambling. Yosemite is a world-class destination for rock-climbers.

Calaveras Rock Climbing

Calaveras Dome and the adjacent Hammer Dome are popular places to climb along the Mokelumne River, just below Salt Springs Reservoir. With many walls to climb in the area, Calaveras Dome is the tallest at 1200ft. Routes on “Cal” Dome and Hammer Dome follow crack systems or are bolt protected slab climbs. Hammer Dome is 600ft high and offers shorter and more moderate climbing.

In the Bear Valley Area north of Arnold near Spicer reservoir there are several rock climbing places. Go with a guide who can show you down unmarked trails to Box Canyon, Spicer Terraces, and Spicer Road Crags off of Spicer Reservoir Road.

Bouldering in the area can be done on School House Boulders behind the Community Center in Bear Valley. Tamarack Boulders, Hells Kitchen, Big Meadow, and Stanislaus River Boulders near the 22 camp site Stanislaus River camp ground.

Yosemite Rock Climbing

Kevin Jorgeson Climbs Dawn WallYosemite is a world-class destination for rock-climbers. It’s impossible to miss the huge granite walls when you drive into the park. Given the exceptional natural beauty of the surrounding meadows, lakes, and forest, it’s hard to imagine a better place to learn the fundamentals of rock climbing!

El Capitan, Half Dome and Tuolumne Meadows are the major points of interest with countless other walls, and peaks up to 13,000 feet. Snake Dike on Half Dome is a dramatic moderate climb. You pass two waterfalls and an alpine lake on the trail to the foot of Half Dome, from which you climb 800′ along the southwest face of the rock. This full-day excursion includes a six-mile hike to the base, eight pitches of climbing and a 9-mile descent to the valley floor. It is one of the more popular climbers’ routes in the park.

In the Valley, experts have recommended Swan Slab (behind the Yosemite Lodge next to the main road), Sunnyside Bench and The Church Bowl Area.

A good book on rope climbing in Yosemite is “Yosemite Top Ropes”, available at the Mountaineering store or online. One of the best sources for topos and betas is

The Yosemite Mountaineering School and Guide Service offers beginner through advanced classes in Yosemite Valley spring through fall, and in Tuolumne Meadows in summer. They are an American Mountain Guides Association (AMGA) accredited guide service and a Professional Ski Instructors of America (PSIA) member ski school.

Clinics fill up fast and cost $200 for one person; generous group discounts are available for two or more. Seven hour climbing classes provide a full day of fun. Fees range from $217 to $235. Guided Climbs and Private Classes start at $221 for one person for 6 hours.

If you would like to make a reservation or have questions call the Mountaineering School at (209) 372-8344 or send us an email:

If you want to stay in the Mother Lode take a look our list of places to stay.

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