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How to Become a Climber in Los Angeles

Local Katie Jo Myers gets us up to speed

Katie Jo Myers calls herself a pirate, which makes sense because she lives on a sailboat in Marina Del Rey on the westside of Los Angeles. But the only thing this pirate raids is rock. Katie Jo started as a sport climber, but after a bouldering trip to Bishop, she fell hard for ropeless climbing. She loves the power moves that bouldering demands, as well as the fact that it can be done solo. However, she does hop on sport and trad routes from time to time. So, how does an L.A.-based pirate find real rock on the regular? We chatted with Katie Jo to get tips for how people living in L.A.—or in cities in general—can get into outdoor climbing.

Backcountry: What are some of the closest climbing areas to home?

Katie Jo Myers: We have a surprising amount of crags in the Los Angeles area. Malibu Creek, Echo Cliffs, Bee Rock, Malibu Tunnel Boulders, Purple Stones, and the historic Stoney Point are some of the local favorites for sport climbing and bouldering. A little further out we have Tramway, Black Mountain, Big Bear, and Tahquit.

When you can’t get outside, what’s your favorite climbing gym?

In L.A., we’re so lucky to have a lot of great gyms! Currently, I spend most of my training time at Cliffs of Id, because it offers such a large amount of terrain for both bouldering and sport climbing, as well as gym facilities and training rooms.

 

Is it possible to get out and climb outdoors after work in LA?

From late spring to early fall, we have a lot of daylight hours and it’s definitely possible to get outside after work. There are little climbing areas scattered all around L.A., so no matter where you are in the city, there’s probably somewhere within driving distance to get outside and get your hands on some rocks. One of my favorite places to go is Stoney Point. This park is a really convenient location for a fun after-work bouldering session.  

What are the best weekend climbing road trips from the LA area?

Hmm, that’s tough! We’re located within a few hours of so many great climbing destinations and it also really depends on what type of climbing you’d like to do. My current favorites for weekend road trips are Bishop, Joshua Tree, and Red Rocks, all within a four- to five-hour drive. These areas offer easy camping options and a little bit of everything climbing-wise, which I love. Over the course of the weekend, you could do some great trad lines, take some whippers on a sport project, and push yourself on hard and highball boulder problems.

How do you deal with the traffic and longer distances required to reach climbing from L.A.?

Traffic can definitely be tough! It took me a little while to get my schedule dialed in, but generally I try to start work very early in the morning, which allows me to miss rush hour, and also get out of the office before traffic starts. This also gets me to the climbing gym early, when it’s still pretty empty and I can get a great workout in. On Fridays, it seems that everybody in L.A. wants to escape the city for the weekend and traffic is pretty awful from early morning ‘til late in the evening. This makes it a little challenging to get out of town on climbing trips. I’ll usually wait until about 9pm to start driving. It can mean getting to your destination late, but also mean a quicker and easier drive.

 

What does your local climbing community mean to you?

The community is something I love in general about climbing. In this sport, you’re constantly putting a lot of trust in other people—to spot you, catch you, cheer for you—and I think that fosters such a great community environment, where everyone is really welcoming, supportive, and encouraging. Climbers were the first friends I made after moving to L.A., and I know I wouldn’t be where I am today if I didn’t have that support group to push me to try new things and really get after it, both on and off the wall!

Tell us about one of your climbing partners.

Jake is one of my best friends and climbing partners. He started climbing four years ago after losing his leg in a hit-and-run accident, and is now one of the strongest climbers I know. We only met about a year ago, when he was preparing to compete at Nationals, and then World Championships. He asked me to help him train for those competitions, and we’ve been a team ever since.

What other tips do you have for someone in L.A. or a city who wants to start climbing outdoors?

It can be intimidating to make the move from a gym to outdoor climbing. My biggest piece of advice is to find some friends and mentors at your local climbing gym, who can help you get out there safely. It’s great to have more experienced folks along so you can learn from their climbing experience, as well as their knowledge of the local area.

 

You can also check out local guidebooks or online resources like Mountain Project for site beta. Another very important tip is to brush up on your Leave No Trace principles and proper outdoor ethics. Though these things are always important, in the midst of a city, our outdoor spaces are very limited so we really need to work hard to take care of them.  

 

Katie Jo is sending the boulders of L.A. in the Backcountry Climb Collection.