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Mt. Woodson Is a Top Spot for Bouldering


Bouldering is a popular variety of rock climbing, and North County is the home of one of the finest bouldering sites in the state. A prominent ridge studded with thousands of huge boulders, Mt. Woodson is northeast of Poway off California 67.

Parking is on the shoulder of 67, and climbers walk a quarter mile or so on Mt. Woodson Road to get to the boulders, which cover the entire point. "It's like someone spilled a bag of giant marbles," said Brian McInerny, a longtime climber who took his first rock-climbing class there in 1972.

Climbers first come across two relatively small practice boulders, which are but 8 or 10 feet high. Climbers can warm up on the smaller boulders or practice certain techniques that they will need when they tackle the larger ones, which rise out of the ground like towers, many more than 30 feet tall.

Two of the largest, most popular boulders are known, in fact, as Tower No. 1 and Tower No. 2, and others have names like Mother Superior, the Cave, Ogre and Marshmallow Tower.

There is even a pocket handbook called Mt. Woodson Bouldering, which has locations, difficulty ratings and descriptions of most of the routes that climbers attempt on each of the boulders.

The routes are usually barely noticeable, with only the remnants of chalk dust, or some fixed bolts for the climbers to tie into to mark them. Routes may be based on the smallest of cracks, or the scantiest of footholds.

"Mt. Woodson is a Mecca for all Southern California climbers," said Tim Johnson, a Navy flight officer who lives in Ramona. "It has every type of crack climbing and face climbing. It ranges from easy problems to the most difficult you can imagine."

On larger rocks, where there's a chance of a fall, climbers employ a technique called belaying, using ropes and carabiners (metal loops) to anchor themselves against a fall.

"You can always challenge yourself at Mt. Woodson," said McInerny. "There will always be something harder to do."

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