Gear Trails Vol. VI: Wine and Rock Climbing Edition

Included: views for miles

By Diane Rommel

One Perfect Day in Napa, With Rock Climbing and Wine
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16 May 2016

The biggest problem with getting outside in the Bay Area? Being spoiled for choice. We’re trimming that process by getting the goods straight from the experts. Previously, we discovered the top Bay Area paddle and waterfall backpacking trip.

Today: one perfect day of rock climbing in Napa, courtesy of a Bay Area outdoors expert and guide Max Stewart, whose SAANO Adventures has led clients on expeditions through South America, Iceland and Africa.

Caveat: he’s kindly scheduled the climb around a wine tasting.

Says Max:

“Rock climbing on Mt. St. Helena is not to be missed. Whether you’re an avid climber, putting up new routes in Yosemite or chalking up for your first outdoor climb, St. Helena has something for everyone.

A 40-minute hike from the parking lot leads you to an obvious climbing area called the Bubble. Loaded with moderate climbs starting at 5.6 and increasing in difficulty to 5.11c, all climbs are bolted for the sport climber, but are also top-rope accessible for those who haven’t made the transition into lead climbing.

When you arrive at the Bubble, the first thing you’ll notice is that you can see Napa Valley in its entirety. The view from this location is four out of five stars — to obtain the fifth, you have to put your climbing shoes on and top out on one of these classic routes. While you’re at the top, take a minute to choose one of hundreds of wineries you’d like to take your climbing partner to after the climb.

If the Bubble is crowded, and a bit more seclusion and moderate grade climbs are what you’re after, follow a hidden trail to the left of the Bubble for an additional 20-minute hike to discover an area call the Far Side.


Image via EveryTrail

Climbing on St. Helena is great all day, but I know very well that many wineries shut their doors at 5 P.M., and some of them close even earlier. Therefore, I like to arrive early, climb until about 1:30 pm — when I’ve worked up a proper appetite and thirst — pack up my ropes and start my descent back to the parking lot. If I arrive back at my vintage VW bus by 2:30pm, I can be at Chateau Montelena tasting delicious wine in a castle just 11 minutes later. I’ve got a full hour (plus) of tasting here before they lock the doors and raise the drawbridge, and I relocate within minutes to another vineyard with tastings until 5 P.M. (like Silverado Vineyards).


Image via Silverado Vineyards

If this is something you choose to do as a date, I hope you’re working on a plan for your next date, because this will be a hard one to top. Luckily, you can blow your date’s mind by recreating this adventure in the South Bay at Castle Rock State Park with more world-class climbing and views, paired with a visit to one of the many wineries along Skyline Drive on your return to the City.”

Looking for more ideas? Get in touch with Max, who offers a range of Napa climbing tours (with, as he says, “super-secret vineyard tours that are closed to the public, with picnic table tastings amongst the vines”). Who doesn’t want some of that?

The Specifics

Saano Adventures

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