Memorial Day climbing trip to South Lake Tahoe

Packing List

Shameless self-promotion: I used my awesome Packwhiz service to generate and customize a packing list for my trip and it made packing a breeze!

Lover’s Leap Campground

We arrived at Lover’s Leap Campground at about 11 a.m. on Saturday. There were no spots left, but someone was about to leave, so we really lucked out!

Great amenities - toilets, drinking water, a BBQ grill, a large locking storage bin and even a picnic table on every site! Overnight parking is $10, and there’s also free street parking.

We set our camp very quickly, had a snack and headed out for our first day of climbing. The weather was wonderful - about 75°F and not a cloud in the sky.

Approach

You always hear about some people getting lost in their own backyard, but you never think it could happen to you. We spent more than an hour looking for the trail in the wrong place. We were looking for a “clearing” around the Big Meadow trail parking lot while it was half a mile to the north.

Finally Igor, a smart guy, figured out that we were in the wrong place, so we hopped in the car and drove to a small parking area about 0.45 mi to the north from the Big Meadow parking. Just in case, if you find yourself in a similar situation, the trail head coordinates are 38.793950º N, 119.996265º W. There we saw that “clearing,” the small trail crossing it, etc. We headed down the trail to the creek crossing and then up to Luther Spires.

The approach is quite steep and depending on the size of your pack could take 20 to 30 minutes or even more. Total elevation gain is about 600 feet and the distance is about 0.5 mi.

Luther Spires

The trail brings you approximately to the middle of the crag.

On day one, we decided to check out the far right side of the crag. First, I set the TR anchor for Leo and Irit so they could climb the Dog and Grigri, Two Bucks (5.9) and the adjacent Hey Y’all, Watch This (5.7).

Then Igor and I moved to the nearby Beer And A Hotdog, Two Bucks (5.8) which I on-sighted on lead and Igor flashed on top-rope. Then I sent the adjacent Cheap Commercial Steak Sauce, Two Fifty (5.10a) on top-rope and seeing that it was easy, red-pointed it on lead immediately after that. Igor flashed it on top-rope as well. Then I climbed the Dog and Grigri, Two Bucks (5.9) on top-rope, took down the TR anchor and that was the end of our day one.

On day two, we moved to the left side of the crag. First, we decided to set the TR anchor on Slab-B (5.7). The approach to that route scared me more than the route itself. The route was quite easy (later, when I was taking down the TR anchor, I climbed it in my hiking boots to make it a bit more interesting). I placed a red C4 in the crack to the right to protect the first clip.

After I set the TR on Slab-B for Leo and Irit, Igor and I moved to Unnamed Toprope (5.10+). We both gave it a go a couple of times, but unfortunately couldn’t finish it cleanly this time due to a complete lack of any crack climbing skills. There was one obvious finger jam move there which we couldn’t do. Maybe next time.

Then I top-roped Slab-B in my hiking boots, took down the anchor and we all took a coffee break at the base of our next route. There’s nothing like a cup of hot coffee made on a camping stove at the base of a cliff with a breathtaking view!

After our short break, I tied into the sharp end and went up Jane Spy (5.7). Due to a lengthy runout between the 2nd and the 3rd bolts (~20ft if memory serves) and the low angle of the rock, not on-sighting the route was not an option. Check out the side view of the route, where you can see the ledge which makes falling a bad idea:

The view at the top was the best reward! (I wish I had had my camera with me!)

After everybody sent the route on top-rope, I climbed it again, took down the anchor and rapped down.

Conclusion

The quality of granite at Luther Spires is superb! Lots of very positive in-cut edges, knobs, jugs, large flakes, etc. Even the smallest crimps feel very solid. But although the granite is very featured, I nonetheless felt the lack of crack climbing skills - something I should definitely work on.

The approach to some routes is scarier than the routes themselves. It makes sense to rope up for some of the scarier approaches.

The big runout between the 2nd and the 3rd bolts on Jane Spy 5.7 is quite intimidating (but nothing life-threatening). Leading in general is scarier than at Castle Rock (the only other place I climbed at so far). Grades feel slightly harder as well.

Since I was the only one leading on this trip, it was my job setting and taking down the TR anchors. I ended up climbing four times more routes than anyone else - I didn’t complain, of course! But we should be moving more efficiently next time.

Luther Spires is a great sport climbing destination to which we’ll be coming back for sure!

July 1, 2009 |

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About Me

George Sudarkoff Climber of rocks, maker of things, husband of wife and father of kids. Manage DevOps @SurveyMonkey. Views are my own, but damn they are good views!