The Main Wall at Lover's Leap is home to two mega-classic lines, "Corrugation Corner" and "Traveler Buttress". It also has a couple of harder climbs in the hard 10 to 11 range, such as "Tombstone Terror", "Power of Lust", and "Boothill". The West Wall has fewer good climbs except for the great 2-pitch line "Hospital Corner".
Corrugation Corner (5.7, 5 pitches) - June 3, 2004
"Corrugation Corner" is one of the most striking lines at the Leap. It follows a gorgeous corner for three pitches before ending on slabs below the rim. At only 5.7, it's a great climb: steep and exposed, and with very good protection. Go do it!
You can access "Corrugation" by hiking to the main ledge, or for more climbing, you can start with one of the routes on the Lower Buttress. We chose the latter. We started early in the morning and climbed The Groove, a good 2-pitch route on the Lower Buttress, then hiked from the top of this to the base of the Main Wall.
We were in luck. Nobody was at the base. We would have the climb for ourselves, a rare occurrence on this route.
The first pitch (5.6) follows a ramp, then traverse right under a big roof to a good ledge.
The second pitch is the business. It goes up the corner for 20 feet then traverses left to an arete just right of a chimney. Good pro can be found in the corner but it is better to put pro in the small crack on the left before traversing. The arete offers really fun and steep climbing on good incut holds. Don't be intimidated by the description of this pitch in SuperTopo as "a terrifying arete". That is really an exaggeration... It is just a little exposed and incredibly steep for the grade. Protection is good. You can clip two pitons along the way, in addition to other placements. The first piton is good; the second one more dubious. Make sure you back them up with other pro.
Higher up, you end up following the edge of a chimney - good, easy dike climbing, then somehow crawl or mantel onto the belay ledge (the infamous beached whale move). A #4 Camalot is useful to protect the move onto the ledge. I belly-flopped in great style on this move! Eric went further left and mantled. He said it looked easier. It probably is if you follow. I'd say the belly flop feels more secure on lead! Make sure you set aside a couple of cams from green to blue (or big hexes) to set up the belay on the ledge.
The third pitch starts with a short 5.7 chimney (easily protected), then traverses right, back to the main corner. You want to traverse where the chimney steepens and narrows to a fist crack. If you peek around the corner, you should see an old piton: that's where you start traversing. The traverse is easy - good dikes for hands and feet. The corner offers a couple of jams and good pro. You can also face climb on the dikes and just use the crack for pro. I belayed at a small stance right where the corner disappears.
The last pitch is easy dike hiking to the summit with an occasional crack for pro. If you have a 60m rope, you can make it to the top in one pitch. Just watch for rope drag.
The descent is nice and quick. Follow a climber's trail to a small saddle then down along the top of the East Wall, all the way to the Pony Express trail
Note: for this route, it is probably a better choice to gear up at the campground and take a small pack with water and some food to carry up the climb. This way, you don't have to go back up to the base on your way out.
Traveler Buttress (5.9, 5 pitches) - June 11, 2004
"Traveler Buttress" is the longest line at Lover's Leap and one of the Fifty crowded Classics of North America. We already climbed it years ago but this time, we're swapping leads.
I take the first one - a sustained liebacking affair. It starts with an unprotected mantel - not the nicest warm-up. Then it involves steep lieback and mantel moves on flakes and dikes. The protection is there, but can be a little tricky to place (mostly flared placements behind flakes). The top of the pitch is harder, with very awkward jams and offwidth moves, and deposits you on the huge ledge at the base of the crux pitch. Another party was occupying the belay at the end of the next pitch, so we waited a while on the ledge.
Eric takes the lead on the grueling second pitch, a sandbag 5.9 offwidth slot. The widest section is the crux. With your right side in the slot, it is fairly secure, but very hard to move up. It's hard to get any foot-bridging going because it's a bit too wide, so you end up smearing the left edge of the crack… very slippery. I'm wearing the pack while following so I don't fit in the slot and decide to lie back after retrieving the #4.5 Camelot. The rest of the pitch is easier and super fun with good, tight hand jams in a sharp crack (5.8 bliss!).
After a sip of water at the belay, I set off to lead the third pitch. I follow a wide crack for 10 feet and place the #4.5 Camelot, mostly to get rid of it, then hand-traverse left to the arete where I follow a crack for another 10 feet. You can clip a piton where the crack ends, then you end up face climbing on knobs on the exposed arete. The climbing is steep and exposed here. I clip another piton just below the roof (and back it up with an orange Alien) and continue up the arete for a couple of moves, following a flared crack. When that crack stops, I traverse left about 10 feet on a dike to a right facing flake, then pull a lieback to surmount the flake. You can place a nice #3 Camalot (blue) to protect that move. From the top of the flake, it's easy dike hiking - fun and mostly unprotected. About 130' feet up, I find a flake where I can set a belay to bring Eric up.
He takes the next pitch - 140 ft of low angle dike hiking (5.0) to a belay stance. He puts me on belay in no time.
I take the last pitch - more dike hiking, better protected (you can follow a crack system) and a little steeper toward the top (5.5).
A good route but definitely a notch above others in the area in terms of difficulty for the rating. In retrospect, we're impressed that we managed to climb this so many years ago. We go back down the easy trail leading to the base of the East Wall, retrieve the water bottles we left there earlier and drive to Strawberry Lodge: beer and nachos!
Hospital Corner (5.10c, 2 pitches) - May 21, 2004
We climbed "Hospital Corner" on our first day at the Leap. We started a bit late (10AM) after sorting the gear. We initially had in mind to link up Surrealistic Pillar Direct (5.10b, 2 pitches) on the Lower Buttress with "Hospital Corner" (5.10a, 3 pitches) on the Main Wall.
We took our time on the approach (we hadn't been at 7000 ft for a while), scoping out the routes at best we could, in spite of the relatively poor guidebook we had brought (get the SuperTopo guidebook, which is outstanding). After taking a look at "Surrealistic Pillar", we changed our mind and decided to start with "Hospital Corner", since the 5.8 first pitch provides a much more inviting warm-up for the unfamiliar rock. The rock is so different from Red Rocks, and pretty steep, that we were a bit intimidated at first. It's been a while since our last climbs on steep granite. At the base of "Hospital Corner", we were suddenly exposed to a steady and cold wind from the west. It was freezing! We almost gave up on the climb. We explored around for a while. Back at the base, we felt a little less cold, but almost gave up again. Ah, enough already, let's not be chickens again! We geared up and started the climb.
The first pitch is nothing exceptional but makes a good warm up for the unique rock features in this area. There's a short section of 5.8 tight hands that got my attention. From there, it's mostly a cruise to the bolted anchors on a good ledge at the base of the obvious corner.
The second pitch is reputed to be the best 5.10a pitch at the Leap. Once you've climbed it, that is not hard to believe. What really characterizes the pitch is the sustained climbing. The rock is incredible, the pro excellent, and the climbing varied, with inobvious moves involving hand jams, finger locks, stems, and a few face holds. With care, it is fair at 5.10a. More technical than pumpy. The crux comes two thirds of the way up when you stem between a crack on the left wall and the smooth right wall. One more hard move above that and the climbing eases to mere 5.9 to the good bolted anchor on the right. An exceptional pitch. I felt a bit shy on it, always expecting the climbing to get harder, and feeling a bit tense in the cold. Made it all clean though, and enjoyed the pitch tremendously.
Two straightforward raps bring you back to main ledge. A few drops of rain had started falling on and off as we were climbing the second pitch. By the time we were back at the base, the rain became steady, though still light. We packed quickly and went back down the way we came, around the south side of Lower Buttress and by the base of Dear John Buttress. The intermittent rain convinced us to give up on any more climbing for the day.
Before driving back to the bus, we stopped at the convenience store and bought the SuperTopos guide for the area (our other guidebook is confusing at best). It was just before 4PM when we made it to the bus. After eating, we spent the rest of the afternoon psyching ourselves by browsing the new guidebook.
Tombstone Terror (5.10c, 2 pitches) - May 26, 2004
We climbed "Tombstone Terror" that one day, after climbing Surrealistic Pillar Direct, a good three-pitch outing on the Lower Buttress. Once on top of the Lower Buttress, we weren't that far from "Tombstone Terror", which, according to SuperTopo is the best 5.10c pitch at the Leap. It is located just left of the first pitch of "Traveler's Buttress", a full ropelength below Main Ledge. Might as well go take a peek. The start of that climb is a few feet right of (thankfully not above) the scary looking tombstones that gave it its name (huge, thin, sharp blades of rock that point straight up from the ledge… not your ideal landing).
The first 50 feet of the route climb a clean stem corner with a thin crack. Looks hard... and it is, but the crack is actually a bit wider than it looks from the ledge and has bomber finger locks at reasonable intervals. The pro is fine as well. Climbed up, got pumped, hung a bit. As McNamara says: move fast, and don't stall. The finger locks are better than they look. After that pumpy start, the angle kicks back and large dikes bring a welcome relief from the steeps. This leads to a roof, and an airy hand traverse to the right under the roof.
We did not have the topo with us, but when we checked it later that day, we found that there is apparently a bolted anchor somewhere near the end of the hand traverse. I wish I had known. Instead, I continued up the easier terrain (5.7ish) to Main Ledge, with terrible rope drag. I barely made it to the ledge and the end of our rope.
Pulling the rope up to belay Lucie was brutal because of the drag. I wanted it tight though, as she would have to pull the crux moves right off the deck. She was well aware of that too, and told me she was a bit scared through that section. The rope stretch and total lack of communication were problematic. In retrospect, even without finding the bolted anchor, I should have set a belay near the roof and cut the climb into two pitches… next time, we'll bring the topo.
Main & West Walls, Lover's Leap, CA
|The Main Wall, West Wall, and Lower Buttress.|
|"Corrugation Corner", one of the best 5.7's anywhere.|
|The same climb, seen from the base.|
|Lucie leading the first pitch (5.6)|
|Higher on the same pitch.|
|Lucie starting up the second pitch (5.7), an amazing pitch!|
|The second pitch follows the corner for the first 20 ft then...|
|...traverses left to join the steep but well protected arete.|
|At the belay ledge, atop the second pitch - just after the "beached whale" move.|
|The third pitch follows a chimney then traverses right to a good looking dihedral. Eric on the exposed face traverse.|
|Eric on the third pitch of "Corrugation Corner" (5.7).|
|Eric using his best hand-to-foot stemming technique.|
|Lucie leading the last pitch of "Corrugation" (5.6) - casual dike hiking to the rim.|
|Higher on the last pitch.|
|Hiking back to the base.|
|The East Wall seen from the descent from the Main Wall.|
|"Traveler Buttress" (5.9), another great climb at the Leap. It's one of the Fifty Classics but the burly squeeze slot on the second pitch keeps the crowds away.|
|Lucie leading the first pitch (5.8).|
|Higher on the pitch.|
|Eric about to fight his way through the burly slot/offwidth of the second pitch (5.9).|
|Done with the hardest part.|
|Great hand jams finish the pitch.|
|Lucie starting the third pitch (5.8), a great pitch that climbs another exposed arete.|
|Contemplating the exposed arete.|
|About to step left around the corner (crux).|
|Lucie following pitch 4, a runout but easy pitch of dike hiking (5.0).|
|Lucie leading the last pitch to the rim (5.6).|
|Descending back to the base.|
|The second pitch of "Hospital Corner", a great 5.10a.|
|Eric on the first pitch (5.8).|
|Starting up the second pitch, an exquisite 5.10a corner.|
|Stemming up the corner higher on the second pitch.|
|Watch out for those tombstones!|
|"Tombstone Terror", a sustained 5.10c off Tombstone Ledge.|
|Eric leading "Tombstone Terror" (5.10c).|