The East Wall of Lover's Leap holds one of the best concentrations of moderate climbs anywhere. Add a very short approach and an easy descent and you have a winner... and a crowded place on weekends! We climbed a good number of the classic lines, some of which are described below (from left to right).
East Corner (5.11b, 3 pitches) - June 4, 2004
"East Corner" follows the first striking corner on the left side of the East Wall and just right of "Pop Bottle", a popular 5.7.
The first pitch is enjoyable 5.7 climbing on good rock. It ends with a slight traverse to the right, onto a large ledge, then back left to the base of the striking dihedral.
The next pitch is what you came for: a relatively low angle, but smooth-walled corner with a fingertip crack. The crack fortunately features pin scars at intervals for decent finger holds. A section just below the roof has no scars… and you notice it! Thin smearing and stemming is the name of the game here (5.10a or so). The first major roof is the business. There's a decent blue alien placement under it, then a partially blind, small nut placement at the lip of the first overlap. OK pro, but pretty small. Going over the roof is the route's crux. Clearly harder than 5.10 because of the almost total lack of decent hand holds. Eric was able to use a side-hold on a flake on the left wall, which, together with the fingertip hold in the crack for the right hand and some hairy stemming, enabled him to lift the right foot onto the first overlap and sort of mantle onto it. I'd say 5.11a at least. I could not reach the flake, but my smaller fingers afforded her better purchase in the crack, so I ended up liebacking the move. I'd call it hard 10, low 11. McNamara gives it 5.11b. Whatever, it's only one move. Above that, a bit more smearing, stemming, and thin fingers lead to the exit roof which goes easily by moving left onto the arete and the bolted anchor. Watch for some hollow rock at the roof. A good, fun pitch. Protection is adequate on mostly small and medium nuts, and some small cams (black to green aliens). The last pitch is really just an exit to the ridge of East Wall: low fifth and fourth class for 200 ft to the ridge. Not a bad route!
Note: SuperTopo incorrectly shows the 5.11 crux move at the large upper roof near the end of the pitch. In reality it occurs on the lower roof, about two thirds of the way up the pitch.
Haystack (5.8, 3 pitches) - May 22, 2004
Today is Saturday, which probably means huge crowds. Having been rained off after two pitches the day before, we're eager to climb so we decide to go anyway. We try to get there relatively early but it makes little difference: we're horrified when we find about 20 cars parked on the streets before the gated road leading to the campground! The hike leading to the East Wall is short, even from the campground, so we're at the base in no time (the quickest approach is from another trailhead/parking area at the Northeast end of the crag). There are already one or two parties queued up at the base of each route.
We had planned to start with "East Crack" but it does not look as striking as "Haystack" which follows an intermittent right facing corner capped by a 4ft roof half way up. So "Haystack" it is… By the time we're ready, the party above us is almost done with the second pitch, so we don't waste anymore time and start climbing.
I lead the first pitch, a good warm up at 5.6. The pro is good and the climbing pretty straightforward. I can see a line of anxious climbers forming behind Eric. I try to pick up the pace a bit. I reach a good ledge below the roof and belay Eric up.
We exchange the gear, stack the rope and I'm off again. The second pitch looks pretty wild. It starts with a 5.8 stemming problem with good pro. Not being used to the rock, I tense and cannot quite trust my feet yet. It's so different from all the edging we just did at Red Rocks! It takes a while to convince yourself that there is actually enough friction on this granular rock that your feet won't skate right off. Past this first tricky section, a nice finger crack on low angle rock leads to the 4-foot roof. It looks pretty interesting. I don't like roofs. I get easily scared when I have to climb one (even following) so I whine a little... Eric sends a few words of encouragement and I go for it. I place a red alien at the lip and begin to pull over the roof by liebacking at first, then jamming over the lip. Turning the roof feels pretty stiff for 5.8! It is probably 5.8 if you know exactly what to do. The way I did it felt much harder. Oh well, I finally manage to pull myself up and over. I belay on a small stance just above the roof. There is a more spacious ledge a few feet higher but I'm out of gear so I stop. I set up an anchor and bring Eric up. I'm relieved to see that Eric finds the roof pretty tricky too. He almost slips on it - it is quite polished from all the traffic.
Because I had cut the second pitch a few feet short, we end up climbing two more pitches to reach the rim. They're easier, with a couple of tricky moves here and there, but overall unremarkable compared to the second pitch. I belay Eric off bushes on the rim.
After snapping a couple of pictures, we head down the climbers trail that leads back to the base. The descent is easy and quick (even pleasant!). Ten minutes later, we're back at our packs.
Eric then leads, Unnamed, a single-pitch 5.9/10a just to the right of "Psychedelic Tree". Nice dike climbing protected with bolts. Twenty foot 5.6 runout to first bolt, then loosely bolted to a crack that Eric protects with yellow and blue cams. Pulling over the crack near the end is really awkward.
By the time we finish this pitch, the afternoon is in full swing. About two or three parties are queued up at the base of each route. We call it a day. We watch a party climbing the very runout and scary "Fantasia" for a while. It's 6PM when we're back at the car. For dinner, we go to the nearby Strawberry Lodge and have a burger at the bar.
Scimitar (5.9, 3 pitches) - May 24, 2004
After a rest day in South Lake Tahoe, we' re back at the East Wall to sample more good moderates. We had planned to get up early but it does not turn out that way. When the alarm rings at 7:30AM, I turn it off… and we end up sleeping until 9:30AM! After a quick breakfast, we pack the gear, drive to the east parking area, and walk 10 minutes to the wall. It's 11:30AM. This is Monday and the Leap is really quiet. What a contrast with two days ago! There is nobody in sight on the East Wall - except of course on the route we intended to do: "East Crack", a 3 pitch line that follows a crack system just left of "Bear's Reach". The wall is still in the shade. Despite the late hour, it is still chilly so we don't feel like waiting around. We go to plan B and climb "Scimitar", a nice 5.9 line that follows a left-facing corner on the first pitch, then a discontinuous right-facing one on the next two.
This line has really fun climbing and is well protected, except for a circuitous 5.6 face section on pitch 2. The first pitch follows an obvious left facing system with multiple cracks/flakes. The climbing is continuous but never exceeds 5.8 or so in my opinion. Straightforward moves and good protection. This pitch ends at a 2-bolts-and-a-pin anchor at the end of the left-facing system.
The next pitch starts with a sparsely protected 5.6 face (some pro in the first few meters, then runout). Finding the easiest line is inobvious. I ended up going mostly straight up at first, then making an almost horizontal traverse on small dikes to the right, then up again until finally able to place pro in the obvious crack that forms the rest of the pitch. The overlaps above are intriguing: looking pretty hard and inobvious at first, they end up quite reasonable once you decipher them (5.9). This leads to a belay on gear at a good stance (save an orange Alien or equivalent for the anchor).
The third pitch has more bulges (up to 5.9) and leads to a series of huge overlapping flakes just below the summit. The true line here goes straight up and over one overlap after the other (wild!), to end at the large lone tree at the very top of the wall, straight above belay #2 . Do not let yourself be sucked to the right following one of the arching overlaps/roofs or you'll miss all the fun.
BTW, SuperTopo recommends a double set of cams up to 3.5", so I carried a blue (#3) and a purple (#4) Camalot. Never placed either one. You could use them if you really tried but there's no need as there are plenty of other options. So, save the weight and take a double set of cams from the smallest Alien (black) to a #2 Camalot, as well as a full set of nuts. The most useful sizes are green, yellow, and red Aliens; make sure you've got two of each.
East Crack (5.8, 3 pitches) - May 24, 2004
We've just finished "Scimitar". After a quick lunch at the base, we rack up for the next climb, "East Crack". It looks like it is about to rain though. We can see big dark clouds moving in from the west so we debate for a while whether to get started. We finally decide to give it a go.
I quickly climb up the first pitch (5.7), trying not to think too much about the dark clouds. It's pretty straightforward climbing and very well protected. There is one harder move at the roof (5.7). The belay ledge is about 160 ft up. I spend some time setting up the anchor - I used all my medium size aliens down low so I have to get creative, using a couple of nuts and a blue alien. Eric zooms up the pitch - it's definitely too easy for him.
A party that was about to start on "Bear's Reach", just to our right, has just given up in view of the menacing weather… fingers crossed. We exchange the gear and I set off again. The second pitch is harder (5.8) with tricky moves going over two bulges. The pro is great so I don't worry.
Once I reach "Bushy Ledge", I set up a belay on the right side of the ledge since there isn't anybody on "Bear's Reach" or "East Wall" (these 3 lines all share the same last pitch). The dark clouds are getting thinner; it doesn't look like it's going to rain after all! I bring Eric up, we re-rack, stack the rope, and I'm ready to go. The last pitch is easy (5.7) with one cruxy section - a layback off a rounded crack. Once again the pro is excellent and it goes smoothly. Not willing to try the wild, unprotected 5.9 exit mantel, I traverse right and belay on a ledge just below the rim (you cannot reach the top with a 50m rope if you escape right as I did).
A really good line; better than suggested by its 3-star rating in SuperTopo, we thought. Fun, even climbing, on clean rock and with straightforward pro. Much easier than "Haysatck", this line would be a great intro to the East Wall climbing.
We go down the usual, sweet descent. It is now mostly sunny again. We're back at our packs at 5:30PM. We almost have time for another short one but it's past beer time already...
Bear's Reach (5.7, 3 pitches) - May 27, 2004
Today, we climb "Bear's Reach", the classic 5.7 line on the East Wall. I wanted to warm up on "Pop Bottle" but there is already a party on it. Although it is still relatively early and the wall is still in the shade, there is a party on every climb except "Bear's Reach". So "Bear's Reach" it is...
I'm worried about the 15 ft runout, 10 ft off the deck but it turns out to be pretty easy - 5.5 face climbing on good, positive holds. The rest of the pitch is a blast - layback and face moves off big flakes with good pro (BTW, the topo indicates pro to 3.5" but don't bother taking a #4 Camalot: it won't fit). I reach the ledge and set up a belay using pro in the small crack just above the ledge (nut and a yellow alien) and behind the flake up and left. I sit down and belay Eric up.
He quickly joins me and I'm ready to start the second pitch. This pitch is more sustained and a little less straightforward. I put as much pro as possible in the first 20 feet before reaching "the bear's reach" move. I'm only 5'6'', so this will likely be a big bear... With pro at my feet (red alien), I undercling a flake and move my feet as high as possible to to reach the next flake. If you're 5'8" or taller, you can probably reach the upper flake while standing on the lower one. It is also possible to climb right on very small face holds but it looks harder. The rest of the pitch is easier and follows a series of 5.6 flakes and overlaps to a ledge. This ledge is shared with two other lines, "East Crack" and "East Wall". When I reach the ledge, it's crowded: two parties are already there and another one is coming up behind. I set up a belay where I can and bring Eric up.
Eric climbs quickly and joins me before the last party comes up. That still means we have to wait for two parties to climb up before we can leave the ledge (we would later find a variation to the right of the standard exit pitch that allows bypassing crowds: about 5.7 and a bit runout but not bad). After waiting a while, I take the last lead. I've already led it when we climbed "East Crack" so it seems much more straightforward now.
Back at the base, we hike up toward "The Line". Unfortunately, another party is at the base, debating whether to start up or not. The weather does not look good at all: big clouds and rain in the air. They start up the first pitch but soon give up. It's now all ours if we want it. After another look at the sky, we decide against it. We walk toward the Main Wall to scope out "Eagle Buttress". It does not look so striking but we talk to a local who says it is actually pretty good. We may be back for it. It starts sprinkling as we reach the car.
East Wall (5.7, 3 pitches) - June 12, 2004
We've been at the Leap for almost three weeks now. We've been camped on National Forest ground along the "42-track" road. Today, we get a visit from the rangers… they want us out by tomorrow morning, by virtue of the 14-day limit. I guess we got 3 weeks of free camping… not so bad. We were actually going to leave this morning originally anyway, until we decided that very morning to finish off the classics with East Wall.
We get to the East Wall parking lot early afternoon. When we get to the base of the route, we find no lines (!) but a party is finishing the first pitch. We get ready and I set off to lead the 1st pitch. Nice, steep flakes and cracks in a dihedral. Comfortable belay on a huge ledge.
After Eric comes up, we have to wait for a while for the other party to clear the traverse. I hand off the rack to Eric. He finds the traverse very easy and fun!
When Eric gets to Bushy Ledge, it is so crowded that he ends up setting up a belay a few feet to the right of the ledge. The party of two that was on East Wall in front of us is there as well, waiting for a third group to clear the exit pitch. After chatting with them a bit, we decide to avoid the all too familiar last pitch and climb straight up a somewhat runout but pretty easy variation to the top (maybe 5.7 or so).
We're down and back to the bus in no time, where we start getting ready to leave the next morning - direction Mount Shasta.
The Line (5.9, 3 pitches) - May 31, 2004
"The Line" is the most famous route on the East Wall and has an exceptional first pitch. Problem is that there is always a huge... well, line, waiting at the base. After several tries, we finally find the climb available after coming down from "Psychedelic Tree".
The party of three that had started up the route when we were racking for "Psychedelic Tree" is still in the middle of leading the last pitch, but we figure they'll be out of the way before we get there.
We both want to lead the first pitch. After some negotiations, Eric ties on the sharp end (we agree to be back in a couple of days so I can have a shot at it too). It turns out to be a long (155 ft) pitch of sustained 5.8 climbing with a couple of 5.9 cruxes. Not so easy but definitely classic. Terrific nuts for pro the whole way. Very clean rock and a lot of finger locks with thin feet. A very good pitch (though maybe not quite "one of the 10 best 5.9 pitches anywhere" as Robbins is reported to have said).
I take the 2nd pitch, an easy looking but actually pretty tricky 5.8 pitch with one awkward move over a bulge.
The last pitch looks like a wild one: an exposed exit over the summit roofs. I gladly let Eric lead it. It turns out to be easier than it looks. Decent pro but one heady move…
A good line, though the climbing is not as varied as some of the others on the wall (like "Bear's Reach" for example, which really stands out).
We're back at the base again to find that our packs have been raided. They were hanging from the rock a good 12 feet above the ground and there wasn't even any food in them! Damn those critters! If I get my hands on one of them... This time they actually tore a hole in the side of Eric's pack and chewed through our Platypus bottle!
Psychedelic Tree (5.9, 3 pitches) - May 31, 2004
Alpine start today: we make it to the East Wall around 9:30AM! There are already parties on most routes, including The Line, which we were hoping to do. Oh well... We decide to climb "Psychedelic Tree" instead, which is correctly described by McNamara as "The Line's uglier sibling". A great line (straight up) and a wild finish (similar to "Scimitar", up overhanging overlaps), but the climb is quite gritty, mossy, grassy, and today… wet! The climbing is not bad though, and actually very sustained at 5.8 and 5.9. The wetness and moss detract a bit from the purity of the line though, and make a lot of the climbing feel insecure and awkward. With 50 meter ropes, the route goes best as 4 short pitches.
Lucie leads the first two pitches (5.8, 130 ft, and 5.9, 60 ft), while I take the last two (both short at 5.9). The first pitch is a sustained affair of somewhat awkward 5.8 stemming on mossy and wet rock. Not the most confidence inspiring warmup, but Lucie does a great job on it. The pitch ends at a decent stance just left of the crack and just below a short wide section.
The next pitch is short (60 ft) and much cleaner. It tackles the wide crack section (about 4") at 5.9 then continues on easier terrain to an obvious bushy ledge.
The third pitch goes from the bushy ledge to the "psychedelic tree" - another short 5.9ish pitch.
From this point, you can see why the original line climbed the tree (!) to the top: the severe overhangs above do not look inviting. However, a 5.9 line goes straight up those, with a couple of wild moves and pretty good pro. Kind of fun actually.
All in all a good climb, but not exceptional. There are some loose blocks on it but nothing too bad, though I'd rather not follow another party up this route.
Note: no need for two #4 Camalots as recommended in SuperTopo; one is enough. Two #3 Camalots may be useful but are not necessary.
East Wall, Lover's Leap, CA
|The East Wall can get crowded... (the belay ledge on "East Wall")|
|Typical busy weekend. Left to right: parties at the first belays of "Fantasia", "Scimitar", "East Crack", and "Bear's Reach".|
|The left end of East Wall with "East Corner" to "Bear's Reach".|
|Eric leading the first, 5.8 pitch of "East Corner" (5.11b).|
|Starting up the crux pitch.|
|Ready to pull the 5.11b crux move.|
|"Haystack" follows the obvious crack through the prominent roof. A great route!|
|Lucie leading the first pitch of "Haystack".|
|Higher on the first pitch.|
|Just below the crux roof on the second pitch (5.8).|
|The top of the East Wall with the Main Wall in the background.|
|Eric leading the first pitch of "Scimitar", a great 5.9 route, with slight runouts on easier terrain.|
|Higher on the same pitch.|
|Lucie following the second pitch (5.9).|
|"East Crack" (5.8) makes a good introductory climb to the East Wall: great pro and straightforward climbing.|
|Lucie starting up the first pitch of "East Crack".|
|Turning the crux bulge of pitch 1.|
|Lucie on the second pitch.|
|Higher on the second pitch.|
|At the crux bulge of the third pitch. This pitch is common to "Haystack", "East Crack", "Bear's Reach" and "East Wall"... expect a wait.|
|The belay ledge at the top of the third pitch. With a 60m rope, you can skip this belay and make it directly to the top.|
|"Bear's Reach" is one the greatest 5.7's anywhere. Well protected, except for a 15' runout at the beginning of the 1st pitch.|
|Lucie on the runout traverse of the first pitch (5.6).|
|Starting up pitch 2 (5.7) with the "Bear's Reach" flake just above.|
|Higher on the second pitch.|
|Lucie leading the first pitch of "East Wall" (5.7).|
|Almost at the belay ledge.|
|Eric taking a nap on the big belay ledge atop the 1st pitch while waiting for another party to move on.|
|Eric leading the second pitch (5.6).|
|Traversing left to join the exit pitch.|
|Two great 5.9's at the right end of the wall: "The Line" and "Psychedelic Tree".|
|Lucie starting up the first pitch of "The Line" (5.9).|
|Resting above the crux.|
|Higher on the same pitch.|
|Reaching the belay stance.|
|Lucie on the second pitch (5.8).|
|Higher up on the second pitch.|
|Eric starting up the third pitch (5.9).|
|Turning the wild roof.|
|Lucie leading the first pitch of "Psychedelic Tree". A great stemming exercise, though a little dirty.|
|On a good ledge, higher on the same pitch.|
|Lucie leading the second pitch (5.9) on much cleaner rock.|
|Eric leading the third pitch (5.9).|
|Eric on "Unnamed", a good single pitch 5.9/10a to round up your day.|
|Higher on "Unnamed".|