Type of Rock Climbing: granite, mainly bouldering, few Top Ropes, mostly slab, face and crack
Where: Santee, Mission Hills Park
Drive from San Diego: 20-30min.
Approach time car to climb: 5min.
Santee Boulders is another classic rock climbing area in San Diego. As the name suggests there is mainly bouldering available with a few short Top Rope lines. The climbing is easily approached via a 5-minute walk which is by far the shortest and easiest rock climbing approach in San Diego. Santee features a lot of slab type climbing where appropriate foot technique goes a long way. Small crimps, low angle rock and often nothing but pure friction will pave your way to the top. It is one of the best training places to improve your fancy footwork, crimp strength and overall balance that is so typical for California granite climbing. To test your mental strength there is also a good amount of highball climbs that can also be top roped.
Like most of the San Diego rock climbing, Santee is an area that has been established by a small local group without much involvement from other rock climbing scenes. Therefore its ratings have a reputation to be stiff. A 5.9 Santee tends to be a real 5.9 and a 5.12 is really hard even for the strongest sport-climber. Nothing there is rated with an ego boosting mindset.
At Santee you only find a few climbs that have V-ratings. Most routes are rated like rope climbs using the Yosemite Decimal System (YDS). All in all the ratings are comparable to other Southern California areas that offer similar type of climbing like Joshua Tree National Park or Black Mountain near Idyllwild.
It is definitely recommended not to rush into the harder climbs right away. Santee really requires some delicate movement and pure strength is often not your ticket for successfully sending. Take laps on the “Amphitheatre”, try often and get used to the rock and style and you will get the hang of it soon.
There are also a few crack climbs that are well worth trying. There are about 100 different climbs record in our San Diego local rock climbing book so there is a lot to explore for many visits. All climbs are nicely concentrated in one pile of boulders that can already be seen from the road. Many climbers from town enjoy the easy approach and casual bouldering atmosphere that allows for a quick evening session. Usually you will meet somebody out there carrying a crash pad into the hillside.