This Fourth of July weekend was the most exhausting and most challenging weekends of my life. Will and I went to Lovers Leap to meet our friends Sean, Ryan, and Mike for three days of intense climbing, intense hiking, and intense traffic.
Day 1, Friday, July 3rd:
We left camp at around 7:30, and after a half hour of scrambling up a steep trail we were looking up the 500 foot, three pitch Corrugation Corner on the Main Wall of Lovers Leap. There was a pair of climbers already on it, and we sorted our gear while we waited. When we got everything ready, I lead the first pitch without any problems. After I set my belay station, Will had to wait for soloist (i.e. no ropes) to pass by before he cleaned the first pitch and then led the second. I cleaned the second pitch and met back up with Will on an awesome ledge that was a perfect spot to snap a few photos and rest. The last pitch started with me climbing up a chimney that ended with a rather frightening, minimally protected move (which would later be even more frightening for Will when he climbed it and the backpack he was dragging swung out and almost pulled him off the rock). Other than the backpack incident, we topped out without any problems. The reward for the climb was an incredible view of the valley. From such a great height, the climbs we did last year on Hog’s Back looked like tiny bouldering problems. Unfortunately, we didn’t have any parachutes so we had to walk the long hike back down to the valley floor.
We had left a bag at the bottom of Corrugation Corner, but we didn’t feel like walking back up the steep, winding trail. Being mountain climbers, we prefer to climb straight up a big, solid rock rather than meander up a lot of switch backs covered with small, sliding rocks. There was a nice 200 foot, two pitch climb called The Farce that looked like it would get us close to our bag. It turned out that it didn’t get us as close as I thought, but it was a fun climb nevertheless. Will led the first pitch that ended with a scary, minimally protected traverse. I led the second pitch and it was easy but a bit runout. After we retrieved our bag, we headed back to camp where we cooked a spaghetti dinner and met up with our friends who had just arrived.
Day 2, Saturday, July 4th:
On the Fourth of July, I spent the most frightening four and half hours of my life on The Line, a 400 foot, three pitch climb on the East Wall. The climb pushed me to the edge of my comfort zone and brought me amazing moments of clarity and simplicity that can only be experienced while hanging on a rock hundreds of feet above everything. There were a few times where my legs were shaking, my arms were getting tired, and my hands were barely able to hold the rock, but then just when I needed it I would find a perfect hold to hang on to or a ledge to stand on and rest. Every one of these moments found me thanking God and the Earth for creating such an incredible rock. The most terrifying move of the climb was the overhang at the very end. It wasn’t very difficult physically, but hanging backwards 400 feet in the air with nothing below me was a huge mental challenge. The end was just after the overhang, and I topped out with a massive relief and thankfulness that I didn’t die or break anything or even fall. I’m not going to say anything else about this climb other than that it takes FOREVER to trad climb with three people.
After The Line, Will and I were so tired that we couldn’t climb anymore. We tried to set a top rope anchor for our friend Ryan, but we just didn’t have the energy. To remedy our energy problem, Sean, Ryan, Will, and I drove to South Lake Tahoe and we ate two extra large pizzas at round table. The pizzas gave us enough fuel to walk around the lake to look for a boat to rent. All the boat rental places were closed so we passed out on the beach only to be awakened by a bunch of bright lights exploding in the sky.
Day 3, Sunday, July 5th:
Sunday was our last day, and Ryan still hadn’t had a chance to climb. We argued for a while about what to do before I decided that we would climb the first pitch of The Farce again. I led the first pitch, set the top rope, and then Ryan sent it like a champ. Mike and Will both climbed first pitch of The Farce, and then we sent Mike up The Groove on the same rope. It was only a short climbing session, but Will and I were so tired and sore that we couldn’t do anything else. Mike wanted to climb the Surrealistic Pillar, but we had to disappoint him.
The weekend was amazing and exhausting. I climbed over 1100 feet total over the three days, which is more than I’ve ever done before. Add a couple of miles of hiking up and down steep, precarious mountain trails with 30 pounds of gear, and you’ve got yourself enough exercise to last a week. Let’s see what kind of trouble we can get into next weekend…