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Climbing at North Deerhorn

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Don't let this beautiful climbing area become unavailable for yet another 50 years!!!

Dating back to the early 1970's, this little slice of climbing paradise has attracted strong rock climbers from around the San Diego area for decades. The pioneer of North Deerhorn Valley was a strongman named Ray Olson; a larger than life personality who's passion for the rock craft lead to the development of this area with help from like-minded go-getters and brush-breakers. It's a massive amount of work. San Diego brush is a force not to be taken lightly. Ray and crew established dozens of all-star climbs, perched up in the rocky hillsides of this peaceful valley, using only the rudimentary climbing gear available at those times. For years, they were the kings of their own land. That is, until, it was purchased. The new owner was less than hospitable to visitors of any kind and, just like that, the good times at the local crag were gone. Ray move on and sought out adventure elsewhere and North Deerhorn faded in their minds as the brush reclaimed the trails they hiked so many times before. North Deerhorn was forgotten... perhaps a nostalgic mention here and there on Supertopo.
Fast forward to 2020. Covid. The world in utter chaos. Civility at the brink of irreversible damage. My wife and I are sitting on the couch one evening, like everyone else, feeling restless and cooped up. I mentioned to her that I really wanted to go camping. Gleefully, she told me that a friend of hers just returned from a camping trip somewhere locally. When she looked it up, my wife showed me photos on her phone of the area and said, "Hey there are big rocks there." Instinctively, I grabbed her phone and and flicked through the photos. I knew exactly where this was. It was North Deerhorn. The following weekend, we booked two nights there with the dogs. Any words I write here will never fully explain my feeling when we pulled up and I saw all the towering formations and giant boulders... it was a lifetime of climbing, just on this one hillside. I was in paradise. I was in Ray's paradise, fifty years later.
Over the next several months I actually became good friends with the now owner of the area, Brian. He purchased the land a couple years back for the family outings and for campers who love the beauty of such a dramatic landscape. I could best describe the camp as a Joshua Tree group site. The next couple years, Brian had I built a small studio cabin while I replaced the hundreds of bolts with new stainless steel. I also broke a new trail, touring all of the major formations. Climbing friends would help when and where they could and when it was climbing season... we went on a rampage. So many new lines established and boulders added to the lineup. It seemed never ending. Like on Christmas morning, we would peal back the brush and open our new toy, weather it be a boulder problem or a possible start to a new rock climb. It really is a dream come true. But alas... a crossroad is upon us.
Brian is moving for family reasons and needs to sell the camp. When he first told me, my stomach balled up in a knot like a figure eight after a whipper. I couldn't even think of this area falling into the hands of someone who would then shut it down yet again. I told Brian that I would figure something out. I'd find a way to make this area available to all climbers to enjoy and we would all care for the land. I had not a single clue how this was going to happen but I was determined. I reached out to a local non-profit climbing access organization, Allied Climbers of San Diego and have been receiving great advice for running the camp and securing access for climbers. Brian is a tremendously gracious friend. Instead of selling it to someone else and making a large profit, he wants us climbers to take it over and only pay what he paid.
Here's what I propose: My wife and I will pay $180,000 plus closing costs, fees and taxes if the rest of you fine folks can take the last $20,000. If this deal is done, North Deerhorn will forever be a gorgeous climbing area with an ocean view... forever. Thanks for the love.

Ray, I wish you could see the good you’ve done. RIP. 


  • Heather Coate
    • $100 
    • 1 d
  • Anonymous
    • $50 
    • 3 mos
  • BJ Cook
    • $25 
    • 5 mos
  • Kyle Heavey
    • $100 
    • 5 mos
  • Karsten Walker
    • $150 
    • 5 mos

Fundraising team (2)

Ben May
Santee, CA
Michelle May
Team member

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