"I really like it here," Cathy says as we lounge in the warm California sunshine, drinking Mexican beer, by a clear mountain brook, after a day of climbing perfect granite. "What if we look for a place here?"
To dedicated Alaskans, hearing this kind of statement creates panic attacks, but I've learned to take these bucks in stride during each visit to California. They're due to irrational thinking from sun poisoning.
Cathy and I recently visited South Lake Tahoe for a Flanagan family reunion and climbing at Lover's Leap. Before meeting the Flanagan mob, we climbed a day at Donner Pass near Truckee. Here is Cathy sticking the rope up there for me, in real sun and wearing shorts and no sleeves. What she's not thinking about, is that after a long stint in Alaska, where she's mostly dressed in a Ski-Do suit, is that my belay technique decreases as my perving level increases.
During the reunion we took our nephews climbing near Eagle Lake. This is Sean Kirk. He is psyched. On the approach hike to his first rock climb he said, "I'm a weally good wok cwimber."
Flynn Kirk blasted up the rock, like a regular granite cowboy.
After the reunion we went to Lover's Leap for several days. Lover's is one of the many unique crags that make the western US the best rock climbing zone in the world. Lover's has solid granite lined with horizontal intrusions of harder rock that have eroded into a perfect ladder of incut holds every two to four feet.
The quintessential Lover's route that climbs endless edges is Corrugated Corner. This route is more popular than the nearby Fifty Classic Climbs of North America route Traveler's Buttress. On this day, Cathy and I started at very base of Lover's Leap formation and linked up several routes and finished with the four-pitch Corrugated Corner. Although the sun felt great, it was too much to climb in. We climbed in the morning shade, while the Californians were still sleeping.
The ancient pins at Lover's are either so manky that nobody uses them. Or they've been whipped on and that seems to make them worth clipping.
The mega-corrugated third pitch of Corrugated Corner.
Walking down from the top through colossal Jefferies Pine, Cedar and Sugar Pine.
Back to a stash of Mexico's finest export at the campsite, before heading to the creek for sunning and a soak.
Another super-classic at Lover's Leap is The Line, a three-pitch 5.9. Here is Cathy calmly placing a micro cam just below the route's crux. Andrew Burr calls this the “Direttissima from your dreams" in his Classic Climbs article in Climbing magazine. This is the Comici line of Lover's Leap. A route that follows the line of a falling drop of water.
Second pitch of The Line. Cathy looks happy. Like I should be really concerned about getting her back to Alaska.
Cathy leading the summit overlaps on the third pitch of The Line.
On our last day we climbed the Fifty Classic Climbs of North America route Traveler's Buttress. Despite being the most famous route a Lover's Leap, we didn't see anyone else climb it. On the second pitch we found out why. It was old-school 5.9 off-width, ie. almost impossible. We somehow scratched up the OW and loved the route.
Twenty three years ago I climbed Traveler's Buttress on a stopover during a Yosemite roady, but I have no memory of the 5.9 OW. Back then we didn't have a #6 Camalot, which makes a nice handhold in 5.9 OW. That means the route should have been harder back then. Perhaps my memory lapsed because 5.9 OW with rigid Friends was normal in 1989, or maybe because I was 17 and my memory was clouded by teenage things.
On the summit with my lover, but I don't think we'll leap. We plan on more California rock roadies to climb solid rock in the warm sun, but that of course, hinges upon Cathy signing the I'll-Never-Move-Away-From-Alaska contract.