Santa Barbara, California
While other climbers are sweltering in Joshua Tree, why don't you head up Highway 101 to Santa Barbara? When I first climbed there, back in the early '90s, I was still editor of Rock & Ice. "You don't want to go there," said my fellow editors, "there's no good rock." Were they wrong! Granted, the rock isn't any match for the granite walls of Yosemite Valley, but you can expect to find some of the best bouldering and short sport climbs in the country. It used to be that you needed to befriend a local climber (who most likely could be found drinking coffee or martinis, or both, in one of the city's many hangouts) in order to find the really good climbing. Now, thanks to Steve Edwards (sort of the Pied Piper of Santa Barbara's climbing community), there's a top-notch book available. "Rock Climbing: Santa Barbara and Ventura" (Falcon Press, 2000) will lead you to a passel of previously secret spots, with thousands of climbs and boulder problems. It also is a fun book to read, in case you end up sitting in a cafŽ waiting for the marine layer to clear. Climbs there run the gamut: 5.1 to 5.14 and you won't need much gear, just a rope and draws - or just a crash pad.
However, some gear can be nice for anchors and the odd trad route. P.S. Don't forget to bring your camera. The golden rock, coastal chaparral and pine, with the backdrop of the Pacific Ocean, are unbelievably gorgeous. And as for those pre-climb cups of joe and post-climb martinis and beer, good choices are Peets Coffee and Santa Barbara Roasting Company, as well as The Blue Agave and the Santa Barbara Brewing Company.
Lander, Wyoming (Wild Iris)
This is another place I visited in the early '90s when it was just a glimmer in its founder's eyes. Wild Iris began as the training grounds for the Todd Skinner clan, namely Paul Piana, Heidi Badaracco, Amy Whistler, Jake Valdez, Timmy Toula and a handful of foster climbers who would visit for a day and stay for a week. With a lot of hard work and fun, they turned the previously unknown limestone cliffs of Wild Iris Wall (on Limestone Mountain) into a first-rate sport-climbing destination. Wild Iris Mountain Sports (307-332-4541) is the best place for supplies and information. Pick up a copy of the "Wild Iris Guidebook" by Paul Piana. If the weather doesn't cooperate, try the indoor wall at The Gravity Club (307-332-6339). For Wild Iris, all you'll need to bring is a rack of quickdraws - the area is well bolted. This is a great place during the hot summer months since the climbing area is around 9,000 feet. Even when temperatures soar, you can always find routes in the shade. Wild Iris has about 400 routes, ranging from 5.6 to 5.14. After climbing, hit the Lander Bar (on Main Street) for the best cheeseburgers and beer in the area. Trad climbers can make the short trip to Sinks Canyon (about 10 minutes out of town), or for a real treat, try Fremont Canyon (about two hours southeast) of Lander.