Across Mast Boulevard from West Hills Park, Santee
Park in the West Hills parking lot off Mast, a quarter mile north of Highway 52. Walk across the street and follow the beaten path up the grassy hillside toward the school-bus-sized boulders two thirds of the way up. Bouldering is a form of rock climbing that started off as practice for bigger walls and got so popular that it became its own branch of the sport. "The beauty of bouldering," says Jim Merten, local climber and Santee Boulders regular, "is all you need is a chalk back and climbing shoes. It's cheap and easy." The simplicity and small scale of the climbing make it conducive to beginners. But advanced climbers from around San Diego come here as well. The 15-20 boulders here have all been named by these climbers over the years -- Dog Pile, Amphitheater, Carousel, Mudball, Moby Dick, and Donkey Dick, to name a few. Climbers move from one to another the way a golfer moves from hole to hole. Different rocks present different challenges. Some of the bigger rocks are "top-rope climbs," which require a partner. Call Merten at the Sports Arena Sport Chalet (619-224-6777). He'll hook you up with some shoes -- buying or renting -- and he may even take you out climbing with him. He's a kind of unofficial ambassador for Santee Boulders and is always looking for climbing buddies.