Cave Valley near Auburn drawing climbers 7 days a week

Climbing area on Cool side of American River canyon open since late 2012
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Climbing basics: Safety tips

- If you displace a rock or drop a piece of equipment, yell “Rock!’ to warn others

-- If someone else yells “Rock!” don’t look up. You don’t want to get hit in the face

- Test foot and handholds before using them

- Be careful and alert

- Use the right kind of equipment

- Seek professional instruction

- Take a class or go with an experienced climber

- Don’t over-exert yourself. Stay within your limits

- Avoid areas where there is a lot of loose rock

- Don’t climb in rainy weather

- Watch out for birds, snakes and other animals in handholds

- Always safety-check harness, rope and other equipment before climbing



COOL — Now open seven days a week, the Cave Valley Climbing area in the Auburn State Recreation Area is finding its niche among climbers.

On Memorial Day, climbers who had walked the 2 miles in along the Quarry Trail skirting the Middle Fork American River were scaling the sheer limestone cliffs of the former quarry and enjoying an experience that was, up until September 2012, illegal.

Climber Iain Moore of Rocklin said he appreciated the opportunity to test his climbing skills on rock cliffs near his home. A first-time visitor, Moore said the experience was enjoyable and not too crowded with climbers.

“I just hope word doesn’t get out,” Moore said with a smile.

Efforts to open the climbing area again took four years, with approvals first coming from State Parks and then from the property owner, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. The drive was led by the Climbing Resource Advocates for Greater Sacramento, or CRAGS, a group that agreed to fund access, restroom maintenance and trash pickup. CRAGS also agreed to educate climbers at the site.

Initially opened on a trial basis for two months, the Cave Valley Climbing Area had continued on as a weekends-only destination last month. At that time, State Parks ended a further trial period and agreed to allow the area to be open seven days a week.

Scott Liske, supervising state park ranger for the Auburn State Recreation Area, said Tuesday that no injuries have occurred to his knowledge since the opening.

“Everyone is getting along and enjoying rock climbing,” Liske said.

There had been initial concerns about littering and potential overcrowding on popular climbing areas.

“But I was there this Memorial Day in the morning, and it was very clean, and the area appeared to be well-respected,” Liske said.

The limestone quarry was established in the early part of the 20th century. After limestone deposits were depleted, leaving perfect climbing cliffs, mine operators moved to other areas on the property. The area was discovered by climbers in the late 1980s and used legally until 2003.

A climber’s death during an experiment using a bungee cord extended over the cliff area resulted in a ban on climbing.

The opening has renewed access to more than 50 established routes along the area’s cliffs, catering to climbers of all levels.

Mora Rowe, executive director of the Placer County Visitors Bureau, said that opening seven days a week indicates the popularity of the Cave Valley Climbing Area and a demand that is now being met.

The area is always crowded and has turned into a new attraction for the area, Rowe said.