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County Climbers Have Their Peak

Guidebook reveals plenty of challenges for area enthusiasts.


Some climbers believe the only places to climb in Orange County are a gym's rock climbing wall or the north face of the Matterhorn at Disneyland. Wrong.

At least, not according to Randy Vogel, who wrote, illustrated and self-published the "Hunk Guide to Orange County."

Vogel, an Irvine attorney and a veteran climber, has been climbing since 1971, when he was a junior at Foothill High. A former climbing guide at Joshua Tree, Vogel has compiled an impressive list of climbs that include places in Yosemite, Italy, Switzerland, Joshua Tree, Baja California, Wyoming, Utah and Idaho.

He has authored and co-authored several other rock climbing guidebooks for areas, including La Mission in Baja and the Bishop and Mammoth area.

"Of course it's not Yosemite, but sometimes you can't get away, and it's nice when you can get in your car and drive a few miles and be climbing," Vogel said of Orange County.

The first issue of the Hunk Guide came out in 1981, and since then, there have been six updated editions. The climbs, which are scattered throughout the county, include Pirate's Cove in Corona del Mar, Hart Park in Orange and Irvine's Turtle Rock. All the climbs have been illustrated and rated from easy to very difficult.

"Most of the places in the guide book I discovered with friends, or are established climbs that had been around for years," Vogel said. "Like Pirate's Cove has always been a popular spot for practicing."

The climbing spot at Hart Park, which Vogel called the second-most popular area in the county, is a man-made retaining wall made with cement mortared together with rocks.

"There's an upper and lower wall here," Vogel said. "There's some [difficult sections] on the lower, and the upper provides some very good traversing."

Vogel says it can be strange to climb urban places, but if you can't have the real thing, at least it's providing some practice. As Vogel likes to explain, a fall at Turtle Rock may result in a bruised ego instead of broken head. For a few seconds, a climber can duplicate a tough move that might be needed at Yosemite.

And what is Vogel's favorite county spot?

"I like the Orange Boulders in Orange," Vogel said. "It's limited as far as climbing, but it offers some challenging climbing for the beginner and the expert, and even includes some top-roping stuff."

Twenty-two sites are listed in the guidebook, but Vogel said he believes some spots have yet to be charted.

"I didn't want to list places where climbers might get arrested for trespassing," Vogel said. "But other than that, I definitely think there are some undiscovered spots in OC. Like the Laguna Coast Wilderness Park. And when they open up the Irvine Co. land, there could be some good spots there. Maybe I'll need to put out a new guidebook for that."


Climbing "The Beach"

The cliffs of Pirate's Cove in Corona del Mar are a popular spot for climbers. Known as "the Beach," the sandstone rock provides some challenging climbs up to 45 feet in length and a soft sandy landing. A look at the various routes--called problems--and variations:

1. Claw Hammer, 5.9

A. Hot Stuff, 5.11

2. Not So Hot, 5.9

3. The Shelf, 5.9+

4. Hart But Lennard, B1

5. The Hook, 5.10+

6. The Trough, 5.10

B. High Noon Traverse, 5.9

7. Maiden Variations, 5.8

8. The Maiden, 5.7

9. Iron Man Direct, 5.11

10. Diamond Man, B1+

11. Iron Man Traverse, 5.11

12. Wild Dyno, 5.11

13. The Block, 5.10

14. The Corner, 5.9

15. Slab, 5.3

16. Baby Ricky, B1

17. Little Ricky, 5.10+

18. Big Ricky, B1

19. Finger Crank, 5.10+

20. The Pocket, 5.10+

21. Hinge Traverse Direct, 5.11

22. (A) Hand Traverse on the Hinge, 5.11

(B) Hinge Finish, 5.9+

(C) The Hinge, 5.9+

(D) Mantle of the Hinge Traverse, 5.11+

23. Hinge Direct Start, B1

24. Fale Problem, 5.8

25. The Pyramid, 5.8/7

26. Dave's Problem, 5.10

27. Rib Romp, 5.9

28. The Ramp, 5.6

29. Mantle Knobs, 5.10

30. Anabel, B1

(A) Variation Finish, B1

(B) Regular Finish, B1

(C) Graham Finish, B1

31. Anabel's Mad Sister, B1

32. Italian Fall, 5.11+

33. Race Left Route, 5.11

34. The Layback, 5.8

35. Double Layback, 5.8

36. Not Even, 5.11

37. Chips Ahoy, B1+

38. Green Burrito Right, 5.9

39. Green Burrito Direct, 5.10

40. The Green Burrito, 5.9

41. The Layback Flake, 5.9

42. Dirt Gully, 5.8

43. Smegma, 5.11

44. Fun Stuff, 5.8

45. (A) Brain Direct Finish, 5.10

(B) Brain Regular Finish, 5.9

46. City Ordinance Crack, 5.11+

47. Poodle Press, B1

48. (A) The City Crack, 5.11

(B) The Pin Scar, 5.10+

49. Knob City, 5.8

50. Traverse of the Big Cave, 5.10+

51. Lower Line (Brain Route), 5.10

Source: Hunk Guide to Orange County by Randy Vogel

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