A Day at Columns of the Giants

By Josh Levin

Hello PG community! Josh Levin here. I’ve been a PG member for the past 13 years, and am here to share some of my climbing experiences with you all each month. I started off on the PG youth team as one of those exuberant children you see running around the gym, and have since graduated to coaching said children and earning my degree in mechanical engineering from Northeastern University. Oh yeah, I do that ninja warrior thing too.

This month, I figured I’d kick things off with a crag review of a local sport climbing area called Columns of the Giants. I took a day trip up to Columns the other week with my friend Chris Bellizzi to check out what the area has to offer. Columns is located in the Stanislaus National Forest, just north of Yosemite and about an hour further up CA-108 from the popular crags of Jailhouse and Gold Wall.

According to the USDA, Columns of the Giants is comprised of basaltic columns that are typical of the Table Mountain climbing areas. The climbing style is blocky, technical, and is comprised of routes from 5.7 to 5.13 (although most are in the 5.11 range and up). The crag remains in the shade for most of the day, but sees sun after 2pm as the cliff heats up from left to right. Column is actually a scenic viewpoint for many tourists due to the ease of access and stunning geology of the area.

On our day trip, Chris and I took an early start from the Bay Area, leaving around 6am and arriving at around 9:30. From the parking lot, there were clearly marked trails and signposts directing us to the base of the cliff, which ended up taking about 20 minutes. I’d recommend wearing approach shoes for the hike in, as the last part of the approach involves scrambling over medium-sized unstable boulders in a talus field and could be dangerous without proper footwear.

Once settled at the crag, Chris and I hopped on some of the classic 5.11’s on the left side of the crag before heading to the right side to hop on the ultra-steep Spin Doctor (5.12d). Spin Doctor was by far my favorite, as it included several dynamic moves off of good holds in a near-horizontal roof, capped off by a double-upside-down kneebar rest and a technical boulder problem at the finish. With Chris’s beta, (and a couple of kneepads) I was fortunate to be able to finish off the climb on my first try! We finished off the day with a lap on Delirious, (5.12a) a pumpy yet juggy climb in the steeps to the left of Spin Doctor.

When all was said and done, Chris and I headed off back to the Bay Area, stopping for a quick bite to eat at the classic El Agave. I had a great time checking out a new crag within day-tripping distance, and highly recommend it to anyone looking to test out their sport climbing skills at a beautiful area in the sierras! For more information, check out the Mountain Project page here or the Stanislaus National Forest page here.

Written by Josh Levin. Photo credit: Josh Levin and Chris Bellizzi