September is here, and it’s prime time for bouldering at Black Mountain, a granite playground located at over 7,000 feet near Idyllwild, California. Usually at this time of year, the temperatures are warm, but not too warm, and the blackflies have dissipated. Some of the more visited areas at Black Mountain include OK Corral (a great stop on the way up the mountain), Boulder Basin campground, and the gorgeous Visor, which provides a dramatic sunset vista as a backdrop at the end of the day.
I’m more of a dabbler when it comes to climbing at Black Mountain, but a dedicated crew is putting together a new guidebook which promises to make the vast bouldering options more accessible to people like me. The Black Mountain Blog chronicles their progress and is a great resource for current conditions and new ascents until the guidebook comes out.
My visits to Black Mountain are usually more about the fun than the send. It’s probably because I slack off on climbing in the summer, when the weather is hot, so my trips to Black Mountain mark the beginning of my return to outdoor climbing.
One year, Josh and I surprised our friends at the Cracker Boy boulder with a batch of freshly churned ice cream. We used the Ice Cream Ball, which we loaded with fresh cream, mint, chocolate chips, and agave nectar. Disappointingly, you can’t kick the Ice Cream Ball around like a soccer ball to churn it because it would probably crack. But it was pretty easy to load the ingredients, ice and salt at the bottom of the Black Mountain Road turnoff, and shake the ball around on the bumpy ride up to Boulder Basin. When we got there, we stuffed the ball in our crashpad to keep it cold, and hiked up to meet our friends. That was one of our more memorable visits.
On our first trip out to Black Mountain this year, the cool shade of the pine trees and the soothing breeze proved too much for us. We were overcome with the urge to nap.
We spent the day climbing, napping, and climbing. It was another memorable and fun day playing on the rocks at Black Mountain.
If you visit Black Mountain, it helps to have a higher clearance vehicle (a Prius wouldn’t make it), and if you’re going to go all the way up the mountain, you might as well camp for a night. Directions are available here, courtesy of the Black Mountain Blog. Until the new guidebook comes out, you can use the 5 Star Bouldering guide, which covers Black Mountain, Tramway, Horse Flats and Culp Valley. Drive times from L.A. vary due to traffic on the 10, but it always seems to take us more than 2 hours. Oh yeah, and don’t forget to check the level of your gas tank before heading up the mountain on Highway 243. We’ve had several nail-biting trips from the top of the mountain with an empty tank.