I got down to Smith Rocks and met up with Kathy (we climbed The Chief together in Squamish). I got there a little late, so we only did two routes. But it was enough to introduce me to the the technical nubbins Smith is famous for.
Kathy told me she had the next week off work and was looking to climb somewhere. She said she wanted to climb in Tahoe but finding partners there can be hard. So I volunteered.
We started off in Emerald Bay area with Mayhem Cove. Mike, the guy who taught Kathy how to climb joined us there and we warmed up on a nice 5.9. We tried to TR an 11c next door, but none of us got very far. There was a good 10b around the corner that would be better.
At least we thought it would be. Most of the climbing is very chill, but there is an awkward roof with a ledge below it. A bolt protects it well, but you need to be brave enough to reach it. Kathy went up first and backed down there. I went up next clipped the bolt. Making the pull over the roof was another matter. I got on the bulge but couldn’t figure out the next move. Tried heel hooks, stemming, and search for hand holds. Nothing worked. I gave everything I had (to the point I couldn’t talk and could barely breathe) and signaled to be lowered. Mike gave it a go and had to be lowered. He said there is a hold that broke off. Both Kathy and I felt better since 10b should have been an onsight for us. I did the texas rope trick to bail from the route without leaving any gear.
Next up was Eagle Lake. After a short hike we crawled through a talus field. (Pro tip: there is a trail here that bypasses the talus by staying above it by the base of the cliff.) We started out on a really fun 5.8 chimney. It starts out fairly narrow and gradually expands. I have long legs and it was a stretch for me up at the top. Super fun. We went around the arete of the chimney and did a sweet 10c. Less than vertical, but holds that were barely there. We also did a 10a with fun bumps and knobs. At the top of that we set a top rope anchor to a layback crack 10b. It was super pumpy and strenuous and was supposed to be lead on trad. I couldn’t imagine having enough stamina to hang there while fiddling with gear in a crack you can’t see well.
The next day we went to Luther Spires. After a fairly long approach, we got there and had no idea what the routes where. We found something that we thought was a warm up 8 and I lead it. It turned out to be a 10b. So much for warming up. But we did get in a number of fun climbs and Kathy even got to place her new trad gear for the first time.
Our next stop was Lover’s Leap. We started off on an easy but very fun two pitch 5.6. The climbing here is defined by the numerous horizontal dykes. Once we got down to the base, we went up a 5.8 called The Groove. It follows a water runnel that gives the name to the route. Very fun, but if you rap from the first pitch, I would suggest a 70m rope. You *can* do it with a 60, but a 70 would be so much better.
The middle of the day is too hot to climb, so we rested a little and then went for East Crack. We probably rested too long because part way up the third pitch, we watched the sun set. And I didn’t bring a headlamp. Kathy had a hard time finding the route route, so she made an impromptu gear anchor and belayed me up so I could take over. Placing trad gear in the dark was an interesting experience. And on the walk off, we would come across rattlesnakes gathering the last bit of warmth from the rocks in the path. Definitely an adventure.
The next day we went for Haystack. The pitch I lead had a 4 foot roof with a wide finger/thin hand crack running through it. I was pretty scared about it. I would work out a move and then step down and rest and repeat. But eventually I needed to just commit and go for it. I made it and set up a belay to bring Kathy through. She had a bit of a panic attack at the crux but she gathered her strength and pushed on through. That is one of the amazing things about rock climbing; you get overcome stuff you never thought you could because you have no other choice.