Wednesday, 2 September 1998. Lover's Leap, Lake Tahoe, California.
After Ian, the last of the Boston crew, left town I was on my own. Saturday was consumed by the basic chores of life which, even on the road I haven't escaped -- laundry and groceries.
The group of climbers Ian and I had meet on Teewinot had mentioned a farewell party for Andy, the climbing ranger, would be Saturday night. Not having any other social engagements, I headed over. Andy's farewell party had been combined with an end of summer Dead fest. I arrived just as, Renny Jackson, the head climbing ranger launched into a slide show of his first trip to Denali. They were attempting the Cassin Ridge and members of their party had never been on a glacier. Talk about uprepared! I had a good time hanging out with the climbing rangers that night.
Sunday morning, I meet with the Teewinot gang and Andy for a final breakfast. Not having a climbing partner lined up, I researched a few trails at the visitor center before deciding on a mellow 12.5 mile round trip to Holly Lake. I must have had a plane to catch, since I covered the six miles in just under two hours. And no the trail was not flat! I hung out at the lake for a while, chating with a fellow backpacker who was headed further up the trail.
Back at the climber's ranch, someone had replied to my note looking for a climbing partner. Funny thing was, I already knew him. On the Exum, one of the members of the party behind us gave us a ride from the trail head to the ranch. That was Joshua. His climbing partner, Ashley was looking for someone to climb with. We decided on the Snaz for Monday, and possibly Irene's Arete the following day. A pretty ambitious plan, it would require two alpine starts in a row.
Hiking up the trail at 6 AM, we startled a moose. I'm not sure who was more startled, us or the moose. The approach to The Snaz is pretty tame by Teton standards. We were at the base by 7:30. The plan was for Ashley to lead the first five pitches, then I would take over leading. Our guide books had lead us to believe the fourth pitch was a fist crack (about 4" inches). Someone must have much bigger hands than I do, since it was an offwidth that I struggled following. Had I known, I would have brought my #5 Friend (still unused). My pitches were much nicer. On the final pitch I was feeling spunky, so I lead a 5.10b roof variation. Whee!
Back at the ranch we were both pretty beat. The thought of another alpine start was not looking good. So we decided to get up at a resonable hour and attempt Baxter's Pinnacle. Baxter's has a major redeeming feature -- it is the shortest approach in the entire park, but still a half hour uphill slog. The climbing was interesting on the first two pitches, then degraded to fourth class until the final pitch. We didn't get to enjoy the summit, since storm clouds were moving in fast. We rapped off as fast as we could, but didn't get stormed on. Good thing too, since we were travelling light without our rain gear.
Ashley had to head back to Seattle, and I knew I had to pick up Hilary in Reno on Friday, so I hit the road. The roads to Salt Lake City were under repair in three different states. I wasn't very impressed with Salt Lake City. Too much smog, traffic and it seemed hot and barren. All this without considering the LDS. I camped in Big Cottonwood Canyon, litterally fifteen minutes outside the city. The care takers, a retired couple, were concerned that I'd be cold. She offered me a blanket incase I was cold. Thanks!
Thursday morning, I did some gear (i.e. toy) shopping. I found the Black Diamond store, hoping for a tour of the factory. But tours are only offered on Monday, Wednesday or Friday. I was surprised to see non-BD equipment in the BD store. Its a full service shop. I picked up a few basic items at REI, then headed over to IME. The Salt Lake store is no longer owned by Rick Wilcox. He needed money, so the managers bought the store from him. Not as good of a shop as the original North Conway store.
Its over 500 miles from Salt Lake to Reno. Not wanting to make the drive in one long day, I headed west. I stopped at the Bonneville Salt Flats where they used to set the land speed records. Not much to look at really. Just flat and white for a long way.
Arriving early in Reno, I headed a little further west to Truckee, California. Truckee is located near the north end of Lake Tahoe. The guide book for the Lake Tahoe region is in the same status as the guide book for New Hampshire -- ie out of print, but eagerly awaited. I kinda new this, but didn't buy the guide book while I was back east. Jonathan at Sierra Mountaineer in Truckee, lamented my state and allowed me to read through the shop copy. I was getting depressed trying to decide which areas I should hand copy the topos for. Then he remembered there's a small select guide book available. Not prefect, but much better than nothing, so I took it. Then I grabbed a campsite at Donner Lake and provisioned at the grocery store.
Even though she was booked on NorthWest and inspite of the impending pilot's strike, Hilary made it to Reno. They had rebooked her on United and arrived a few minutes earlier than her original flight. Saturday we headed up the road to Donner Summit. The climbing at Donner Summit is actually made up of several smaller crags. The climbing was good, but not great. The grading was pretty inconsistent, however. Even 7,200', it was pretty hot in the early afternoon sun. And looking down at the folks water skiing at Donner Summit was pretty tough. So we took a break and went swimming. The swimming area had a sign: Warning, extremly cold water and no life guard. Warned, we expected icy waters, but were surprised with just mildly cool water. After swimming we relaxed for a while before returning to the cliff late in the day. We climbed at a different crag, climbing a mixture of trad, sport and toproped climbs.
Sunday we got up a little earlier to avoid the heat. We started on a long climb by Donner Summit standards, all of three pitches. The first pitch looked much harder than the rated 5.7, but only pushed the grade a little once you committed to the jams. The second pitch was a steep finger crack, with very little for your feet. I'd made it to the top of the crack, but my feet were very sketchy. I could feel my hands slip, then I was falling. My gear had been at my feet, so I didn't fall that far. And no rope burn this time! I hung for a while, then sucked it back up and sent the crack, this time keeping my feet in control. After an awkward corner, the rest of the climb was much easier. An easy descent lead us back to our gear. The summit had been nice and breezy, the walk back to the truck was hot. One Hand Clapping was the best climb we did at Donner Summit.
Our plan was to spend the next couple of days at Lover's Leap which is at the south east end of Lake Tahoe. So we packed up our campsite and headed to the Leap. The drive around Lake Tahoe is very beautiful. Above the clear blue water, rise snow covered peaks. Couldn't pass the lake without going swimming. The water was cool, not cold and very clear and clean.
The camping at Lover's Leap is perfect. Nice, resonably quite camping spots and its free! Quite a nice change from the $16 charged at Donner Lake. Cooking dinner, who camp by? Steve Angelini, who I've now run into for the third time on my trip. Steve had been climbing for the past several days in the Lake Tahoe area.
Monday, we decided to climb more moderate climbs. A recent issue of Climbing magazine focused on Lover's Leap and recommended a few climbs. Our select guide book didn't have a route description or topo for Corrigation Corner (5.7), but a parttime guide made a topo for us. It was a good one too, I never got off route. All four pitches of climbing were excellent. The rock at Lover's Leap is distinguished by horizontal (or nearly so) dikes that run across the rock. The climbing is mostly face climbing with cracks for protection. Lots of steming, manteling and matching feet to hands. Good stuff. The walkoff takes you far from your gear, but is very pleasant and easy for a change. Rather than hike up the talus slope to our gear, we went to a lower cliff and climbed The Groove. The name is misleading, it should say something about mantles. A mantle move is when you step up onto a ledge that is above you, with little to grab other than the ledge you're going to. Hard to describe, often awkard and flexibility helps. Nearly every move was a mantle move, but still lots of fun.
After returning from our climb we were looking forward to having a melon we'd brought. We pulled out the melon, but decided to have a swim in the river first. A good swimming hole is essential for a great climbing area. The Leap comes well equiped. The water wasn't deep enough for swimming, but enough to soak in and at least feel clean. After swimming we needed to make a few phone calls, so we walked down to the Strawberry Lodge. (Lover's Leap is in the "town" of Strawberry.) Returning to our campsite, we were shocked to see the state of our poor melon. Tree Rats, as Hilary called the squirrels, had attacked our melon. They had bored a hole into the melon, eaten the center, then bored a hole out the other side! I guess that's why we keep our food in the provided bear boxes.
After dinner, we hung out at a campfire with a group of other climbers. There was a couple from Ireland, the rest were from San Francisco. Got some good beta for our intented route, and had a good time. Steve didn't have a climbing partner, so he joined us for Traveller's Buttress. Yes, another of the 50 Classic climbs! I lead the first pitch, which was long and pumpy. Steve lead an awesome variation of the second pitch. The climb is famed for an awkward offwidth on the second pitch. We'd heard all kinds of stories of people struggling up this (including one in the Climbing article). I'm not sure why more people don't do the obvious finger crack just to the left of the offwidth. Steve styled up the crack. I was planning on attempting the offwidth, to stay true to the route. Hilary followed and couldn't manage the finger crack. So she struggled up the offwidth. Hmm, that doesn't look like fun. So when it was my turn to climb, I cruised up the finger crack. What an awesome pitch! At the belay I reracked for the next pitch, an excellent climbing up and around an arete with a hanging belay. The next two pitches are much easier and take you to the top. After returning to camp for more big gear, Steve and I each lead Surrealistic Pillar Direct (5.10a). Got to use my #5 Friend!
Today, Wednesday, we're off to Burning Man. I'm quite sure what I'm going too, but if you want to know more checkout http://www.burningman.com
After I've experienced it first hand I'll attempt to describe it.