The Riverside Rock Quarry is the ultimate paradox in rock climbing (not really, see summary below). The Quarry is in a less than stellar neighborhood where locals have used the area as a dumping ground for trash. There are also several spots of graffiti on the rock face. But go there after a cold mid-winter storm and you will be treated to spectacular views of the San Gabriel Mountains covered in snow, such that you will forget the trash and graffiti and marvel at the area's beauty (or you won't care because you're there to climb and are cruising up a stellar route). The rock is granite and the best routes are long (100 feet or more) and composed of some of the finest granite in California (similar to the bullet granite in Idyllwild). However, though the granite is of excellent quality, this was previously a quarry and was subjected to blasting - so some holds are reinforced with glue, and modification of the rock (eg. reinforcement, repair, chipping, modification and any combination thereof of existing holds) is present. As this was previously a quarry, in fact, none of the rock face is naturally-occurring.
In summary, don't go to the Quarry to look at beautiful pristine untouched wilderness, or other weeniness, and don't go if you demand totally natural rock. Go to the Quarry to CLIMB LONG, DIFFICULT, WELL-PROTECTED ROUTES of EXCELLENT QUALITY. Its a bit like an outdoor gym - but the best damn outdoor gym you'll ever see.
Some people think Southern California is devoid of good sport climbing, yet others will insist that the Quarry is just one example of the excellent climbing that SoCal is overflowing with. Never the less, the former will probably admit that with such limited options, the Quarry will easily rank in the top 3. Here are some reasons why. The Quarry is an easy 45 minute drive from Caltech. The Quarry has about 150 routes, most clocking in at the 5.11 and 5.12 grade, with a few 5.13s and above. There are a handful of routes at 5.10 (like maybe 6 on the main wall). If you find 5.10b-5.10d too hard a warmup, the Quarry's main wall is not for you - there are however Quarry areas off the main wall - Slab City and Schoolhouse Rock - that may be suitable. Almost all routes are well protected (e.g. the bolt spacing does not result in big run-outs), nor does one risk decking on a ledge. However, the Quarry is highly featured and never consistently overhanging so falls can be bad in some places; leaders should still consider their position before casting off into the void. The Quarry is shaded until around 11am in winter and 1pm in summer - later than that it gets direct sun. Thus some people prefer afternoon climbing in the winter and morning climbing in the summer. Although the Quarry is climbable year round, some people of weaker constitution will find the afternoon heat of July-August - or the morning cold of January-February unpleasant. Some are not deterred from climbing anytime, however. One person's suggested guideline for weather goes like this. If one is going to climb in the sun, the ambient air temperature must be in the 60s, but preferably in the 50s. Otherwise, if the weather is warmer, the wall is West facing and usually stays shady until around 1 to 2 PM.
A few considerations:
- The neighborhood is not great and cars along the main road immediately adjacent to the Quarry (Sierra) have been broken into before. The best thing to do is simply park inside the neighborhood somewhere along the street. The local residents are generally friendly to climbers (don't change this by blocking their driveways, fire hydrants, etc) and have even offered to watch our cars in the past. The author is not aware of any car parked inside the neighborhood ever being broken into. If you must park along the main street, do not leave anything of value in your car, or atleast certainly not within sight (you might also leave your windows rolled down). Also, do not drive into the the open field between the main road and the Quarry base.
- Many of the routes are long, and a 60 M rope is mandatory, but a 70 M rope is necessary for a few of the longer routes. I mean, really, if you are climbing with a 50m rope, in general, what are you thinking? Man-up and get a real rope! If you get there and you are not sure, look in the guidebook or ask a local, and tie a knot in the end of the rope! You'll be glad that you did, because I've seen a couple of climbers lowered off the end of a rope to a rude introduction with the ground.
- Beware of falling rock and wear a helmet. Like all climbing locations, minor and major rock fall has occurred at the quarry before, so heads-up, literally. However, Louie Anderson and others do monitor the potential for major rock fall on routes and generally safely trundle it before it falls on its own. For minor rock fall, wear a helmet or risk natural selection. Loose rock off route is, like any climbing location, a real danger - so stay on route or exercise full caution.