Approach shoes? Check. Crash pad? Check. Climbing shoes and chalk? Check.
I was ready for my first day at Tunnels. Cars whipped by and drivers gave us quizzical looks as we walked down Malibu Canyon Road, eventually veering down into the brush towards the trail. After arriving at the first set of boulders and removing my crash pad I took in my surroundings. The reflection of the sun flickered off the water running through the massive sandstone boulders and scattered trees. I knew I had arrived at a hidden gem for climbing.
Nestled within the Santa Monica Mountains you’ll find the bouldering oasis locally known as Tunnels. The Malibu Tunnel Boulders are sandstone blocks scattered throughout the water of Malibu Creek. This secret haven is located just off busy Malibu Canyon Road but, once you descend the steep approach and feel the ocean breeze drift through the mountains, you’ll feel worlds away.
Lucky for us, three renowned climbers from the LA area have teamed up to create a brand new guidebook for bouldering in Los Angeles County. The book covers 11 areas and has something for everyone, no matter your level of climbing.
The video below, created by Spencer Josif, highlights a few of the classic climbs you'll find at Malibu Tunnels.
Originally discovered by Bill Leventhal in 1984, Tunnels has seen two major waves in development over the last thirty years. The first wave in the mid- to late 1980’s saw Leventhal, Dave Katz, Mike Guardino, and Banny Root all making significant contributions. Tunnels sat relatively dormant for the next two decades until Dimitrius Fritz reenergized the search for new lines, stumbling upon the lower areas around 2010. At this point a new wave of development kicked off, with Dimit, Spencer Church, and Devlin all making significant contributions. A strong contingent of local climbers continue to develop new boulders to this day.
For the LA locals…
If you’re headed north on the 101, take the Las Virgenes exit and drive south on Las Virgenes Rd. Continue to Malibu Canyon Rd for 5.6 mi.
If you’re headed north on the PCH (CA-1) highway turn right onto Malibu Canyon Road and continue for 5 miles.
Parking is illegal along the winding road, but there is a parking lot where Las Virgenes and Malibu Canyon Road meet at Piuma Road. If this lot is full, parking can be found at the Tapia Day Use Area parking lot a few hundred feet south on Malibu Canyon (parking fees apply).
Walk south along Malibu Canyon Road where you’ll see a trail drop down off the main road. If you bypass the earlier trail and walk alongside the road, Tunnels will be accessible by walking .4 miles south to a large rock on the left with a steep trail down to the first set of boulders.
The underground feel of Malibu Tunnels creates an undeniable energy. Knowing you’re climbing in an area with a rich, local climbing history makes it that much more meaningful.
No matter what your style of climbing, Tunnels has something for you. Crimps, flakes, and slopers are just some of the characteristics these sandstone boulders have to offer.
The first set of boulders contains some exceptional warm-ups, including Malibu Lieback (V1), X Problem (V3), and LeProhon Press (V3). Follow the water upstream to reach Terminator (V7) and Full Throttle (V7) or head downstream to Samsquatch (V7) and Leah (V8).
– Pablo Escobar (V7). An amazing compression line.
– Landing Not Included (V7). Start on bullet slopers at head height and head up the steep face. Shouldery lock-offs take you to the top.
– Terminator (V7). Pure line. Big moves to jugs.
– Hypodermic (V2). Start matched in low hueco, high foot, exit on slab.
– Other classics include Desperado (V6), The Natural (V7), DWP (V2), Test Tube (VB), Beelzebub (V3), and It Only Takes One Finger (V5).
Please note: Malibu Tunnels is an intermediate/advanced climbing area. Be sure to bring crash pads and always have a spotter!
As climbing continues its exponential growth, so do the number of climbing gyms in Los Angeles. Touchstone currently has three locations: Cliffs of Id in Culver City, Hollywood Boulders, and LA Boulders in Downtown Los Angeles. Their fourth location, Verdigo Boulders, is scheduled to open in the coming months in Burbank, CA.
The huge Sender One LAX is located just east of LA’s airport, and further south you’ll find the old-school Hangar 18 Long Beach. If you’re looking for a gym closer to Tunnels, there is a Boulderdash location in Thousand Oaks and Top Out Climbing Gym in Santa Clarita.
Should you need a spot to fuel up before or after a long day at Tunnels, Santa Fe Cafe on Las Virgenes Road in Calabasas is open 8am - 9pm daily and will not disappoint!
If you’re interested in checking out all of the LA County bouldering locations, keep an eye out for the new Los Angeles County Bouldering Guidebook, written by Matthew Dooley, Dimitrius Fritz, and Bill Leventhal. The 320 page guidebook covers over 975 problems within LA County and includes areas like Stoney Point, Purple Stones, and Horse Flats. If you’re an LA climber, you’re not going to want to miss this!
You can pre-order the book online by following the link above. The shipping date is scheduled for December 18, 2017 – just in time for Christmas!
Hope to see you out at the boulders!
Connect with Kylee Wofford!
Cover photo: Brett Morham climbing Leah (V8), courtesy Matt Dooley