Saturday, May 5, 2012Location:
Jon & NickPhotos:
Jon & Nick (as noted)Synopsis:
Since climbing the Northwest Ridge of Four Gables with Jon in January, I have not posted any trip reports as it has been a non-eventful winter in Tahoe. That is not to say I did not get any skiing in – in fact, I got a handful of great powder days in. However, all of the days I did ski were entirely spent at Alpine Meadows or Squaw Valley. I just never seemed to time it properly for any backcountry touring as the snowpack was either (i) non-existent or (ii) dangerous due to the persistent weak layer we had all winter. Meanwhile, the weather in the Bay Area all “winter” was nothing short of spectacular, and I mostly hung around and did a TON of road biking in the Coast Mountains (and have generally been training for a couple of triathlons this upcoming summer and fall).
The great thing about the lack of snowpack this Spring will be the climbing access it affords. As of this writing, both Tioga Pass and Sonora Pass are open to the Eastside and many High Sierra climbs will have very quick approaches that are otherwise inaccessible without skis/snowshoes for much later in the season. Further, I suspect the alpine ice season this year is going to be nothing short of phenomenal.
In order to start gearing up for climbing season, Jon and I headed to Lover’s Leap to hit some of the classic long routes with little crowds. This was my first day back climbing since January, but Jon had recently returned from an amazing trip to Thailand that included the much fabled deep-water soloing.
We began the day with the ultra-classic link-up of Surrealistic Pillar (5.7) and Corrugation Corner (5.7). When linked together, you get 6 pitches of some of the best and steepest 5.7 climbing in the country (in my humble opinion).
The day started very cold, with temps in the 30s and freezing hands. Since Jon had not climbed Surrealistic Pillar, we decided to lead in blocks. Jon would take the 3 pitches of the Pillar, and I would take the 3 pitches of the Corner.
Jon gearing up at the base of Surrealistic Pillar in the earning morning cold temps. Photo: Nick
Here Jon heads up the first pitch of the Pillar – which includes an awesome and exposed traverse. Meanwhile, I was standing at the bottom getting progressively colder while belaying. Photo: Nick
I was super impressed with Jon’s lead given I literally could not feel my hands when following. They went entirely numb while belaying and I had to resort to all hand-jams as I could not hold onto anything on the face due to numb fingers. Fortunately, it would progressively warm as the day continued (with t-shirt weather hitting the afternoon).
Jon was pumped after the first pitch, claiming some utter nonsense that the cold was “good alpine training.” It’s summer dude – I want warmth! Photo: Nick
Jon leading one of the crux areas on the second pitch. I love this pitch and was secretly jealous of the lead having led it before (but in much warmer temps). Photo: Nick
Jon moving over past the exposed traverse – I could tell from the hollers that he was pretty pumped on the route. I mean, it is an amazing climb. Photo: Nick
After topping out very quickly, we headed over to the base of Corrugation Corner – my absolutely favorite route at the Leap. Photo: Nick
Upon arriving at the base, there was a party of three in front of us. We sat down waiting for the leader to finish the first pitch and also for the first follower to move up. It was cold and we kept walking over to Traveler’s Buttress to check it out.
The group was cool to let us pass between the first and second follower. I quickly lead up the first pitch and Jon followed-up quickly.
I was warmed up at this point and wanted to move quickly, so I lead the second pitch in a record time for me. Jon mentioned that he was looking down and looked up and I was practically done. Nick heading up with the stem at the begining of the second pitch. Photo: Jon
The second pitch is frankly one of the best 5.7 routes you can get. Amazing exposure on the arête. Here Jon looks down while following up. Photo: Jon
The third pitch starts with a small chimney and then traverses out to a wonderfully exposed corner moving up to the end of the route. Nick gearing up, leading the chimney and then moving out. Photos: Jon
I can honestly say I would climb this route 300 times and never get sick of it. Absolutely superb climbing. Nick leading up the upper portion of the third pitch corner. Photo: Jon
Here Jon got a shot of the group behind us leading up on the start of the second pitch. Cool that they let us pass on the first pitch. Photo: Jon
After topping out, we were making quick time on the climbing, albeit the hour delay at the base. We descended and headed over to the East Wall to climb Haystack (5.8), which neither of us had climbed.
Look up at the East Wall from the base. Haystack follows the obvious crack system with the large roof half way up the route, almost a direct line below the high-point. Photo: Nick
Once again we were leading in blocks, so we intended that Jon would take all of Haystack and I would take the route, East Wall, after we finished.
One of the best parts of Haystack is the large roof on the second pitch. Here, Jon pulls the roof and is pumped on the climb. Photos: Nick
Meanwhile, I was pumped on the weather! Photo: Nick
The only bad parts about the climb were that (i) we got a #2 BD C4 Cam stuck that we eventually got out, but it honestly ate up about 30 minutes of work by both of us to get out and (ii) while following a foothold knob broke and I took a pretty hard pendulum fall into an arête. The fall was a bit of bad luck, but I hit the arête with my hip and it got bruised up pretty quickly.
Regardless, Jon was pumped for having gotten out the cam. Photo: Nick
Jon looking down moving up the third pitch. Photo: Nick
Although my hip was getting pretty tight, the third pitch was a breeze and really fun climbing. Nick following up to the top. Photos: Jon
As we headed down, it was only 4:30 and we knew we had plenty of daylight to get in East Wall. Unfortunately, my hip was bothering me and I didn’t want to lead it as I was having trouble stepping up with the left foot. Also, I had some commitments in the Bay Area I needed to get back to and I would have missed them if we stayed for the last route. So we headed up, pleased nonetheless with the link-up of Surrealistic Pillar and Corrugation Corner, and the new route in Haystack.
A parting shot of the Main Wall as we headed back to the car. Photo: Nick