Climbing Auburn Cliffs (Quarry)

Looking out from Horseshoe Canyon towards the Memorial Wall (Left, by outhouse)

Outdoor rock climbing is my summer project this year and I’m trying to get out to do it as much as possible. So far this summer I’ve done my first sport lead, trad lead and multi-pitch. I’ve gained knowledge from going with more experienced friends, started leading at the gym, read the Climbing Anchors book about building anchors / placing protection and taken an anchors class from an instructor. This has given me the confidence to go out on my own and lead to acquire more experience. Asking around about good sport climbing areas near the bay brought me out to Auburn Cliffs (Quarry) a short distance northeast from Sacramento.

Wreckage Wall

There were helpful signs directing us to the quarry from the main fire road.

Using the free guide of Auburn we decided to hit walls that were shaded in morning and then had sun later in the day when it was like 90 degrees. I wanted a full day of climbing because we were just day tripping here so we got to the quarry at around 8:20am and had it all to ourselves as we walked through and made it back to Wreckage Wall.

wreckage wall
Wreckage Wall

We wanted to warm up on the furthest right route Anonymous Coward (5.7) but it was too much of a hassle to walk up the loose dirt for it so we started on Local Yokel (5.8) and Tail Gate Party (5.7) which were okay climbs and got us associated with the rock. The limestone here was definitely loose in places and unlike granite did not offer a lot of friction. It was not uncommon to see a foothold that should work, but watch my foot simply slide down it when applying pressure.

Next we did Hunger Pains (10b) and Bionic Bitch (10c) which I had a little hard time with but eventually made it up. All the routes here, as well as the rest of the quarry were very well protected with newish bolts every 4-6 ft so I felt very comfortable taking falls on lead.

Horseshoe Canyon

Popular Scale wall. This shade was gone shortly after noon.

Still totally alone at Wreckage Wall at 11:20am we decided to try another area and headed back down towards the entrance. We were greeted by a decent sized group of people climbing the sun drenched Scale Wall. Scale Wall has a lot of easier routes making  it a great place to start your morning, but gets quite warm from the afternoon sun. Given the heat we took a right towards Horseshoe Canyon which maintained shade for the rest of the day over most of the climbs.

Vincent climbing the Auburn classic – Uncomfortably Dumb

Here I lead the 5.8 Creepshow nearly as a trad route replacing three of the bolts with nut placements and did a couple other climbs. However, the main attraction in Horseshoe Canyon are the five star climbs of Uncomfortably Dumb (10b) and Human Oddity (12a). Someone was always on Uncomfortably Dumb, but there was never a line since there were plenty of other things to climb. The route lives up to its rating and is really fun. I’d definitely come back to climb it again.

Scale Wall

Finally the afternoon clouds came through and relieved the Scale Wall from the pounding sun. We migrated over to it and I ended on Goldfinger (10c) listed as Unknown (6) in the free guide. It was really tricky and difficult to end on. My shoes would simply slide down what would normally be solid foot holds and cracks. Clipping the second bolt was incredibly difficult and I fell a lot on the first bolt. Determination and a little deviation from the route finally got me to bolt #2 and I was fine the rest of the way up.

Auburn Quarry Wrap Up

In all I really enjoyed Auburn Cliffs. There is a lot to do there, bolts are well maintained and there are a lot of different walls. I would definitely come back to climb on the Surf Tower or Twin Towers areas. However, the limestone here can be slippery. It is common to come across some loose stuff or kick down small pieces but the big flakes were solid. Some insider tips are to escape the heat by diving into the nearby river or bicycle down the easy 1-1.5 mile approach instead of walking. Lastly, the free guide was good, but I found the Falcon Guide I brought to have a few more routes and be a little more helpful.

More photos on Flicker.

View of the quarry from entrance