Desolation Wilderness in Emerald Bay. This picture was taken right behind 90 Foot Wall

 

Another beautiful shot of Desolation Wilderness

Cool shot of the campfire smoke in the morning sunlight

 

My favorite route, One More For The Road

Profile shot of 90 Foot Wall

Another shot of 90 Foot Wall from the left

The trail head to 90 Foot Wall as well as Smoke Rock

The beautiful Emerald Bay

Smoke Rock in all its glory

Smoke Rock Topo

Lake Tahoe has some of the coolest climbs I've ever done, and the great part is that they are all close to my cabin. The late spring, summer, and early fall are the best times to climb here (unless you want to do ice-climbing). Every side of the lake offers many places to climb, so no matter where you are you can find a crag that is no more than 30 minutes away. The rock here is a special kind of granite found only in the Sierra Nevadas and offers great friction and many unique features. Every type of climbing can be done here, from TR, to sport, trad, multi-pitch, bouldering, and even some ice-climbing.

Climbs I've Done:

90 Foot Wall

Approach 10-20 min. up slightly inclined hill
Poison Oak None
Sun Exposure High midday, low in morning and late afternoon

 

 

 

This wall is in the Emerald Falls area inside Desolation Wilderness. The name is apropos, so with a 60 meter rope all of the routes can be top-roped. During the summer, this wall is one of the most popular crags in Tahoe because it has a really close approach from the parking lot (about 5 min.) and offers about 20 different routes that can be easily top-roped or lead via trad. To get here, park in the Emerald Falls trail parking lot area or off highway 89 and take the Eagle Lakes/Falls trail into Desolation Wilderness. Turn right at the Eagle Lakes Loop and then turn right at the vista point and you'll be able to see the top of 90 Foot Wall. Every route is protected by two bolts at the top that can be used to set up a TR, and each set of bolts offers about 2 to 3 different climbs.

Shuman the Human (5.7 **) TR: The is one of the left most cracks on the wall. Great climb for beginners.

Holdless Horror (5.7 ***) TR: This is the tallest route in the middle, spanning the entire 90'. By just looking at the name you'd think this route would be really hard, but it's actually a misnomer. There's tons of great hand holds as you follow up the right of two blocks and then continue up a crack. The only thing that makes this kind of difficult is that it is long, but there's amble spots to take a break before continuing on.

One More for the Road (5.10d ***) TR: This route is the furthest one on the right and starts next to a pine tree. Zig zagging all over the wall, this route ends up being a lot longer than it seems as you must do it in sections, either traversing left or right and then up. The holds are all really good, but it is still pumpy since it's slightly inverted and long. This was my favorite route at 90' Wall.

Smoke Rock

Approach 2 min. from parking lot
Poison Oak None
Sun Exposure Low (lots of shade under pine trees)

 

 

 

A Route Runs Through It (5.9- ***) TR: This is the first route we climbed at Smoke Rock, and is the right most crack on the large portruding face on the left side of the wall. Very nice holds in the large crack and on the face. The crux is at the very beginning, and at the end if you're not tall.

Cliffhanger (5.9 ***) TR: This is directly to the right of A Route Runs Through It and follows the arete on the right of the portruding face. A very pumpy route at the beginning, with a crux of getting over the overhanging roof.

Left Arete (5.6) lower half, Cobweb Crack (5.11) upper half, TR: An easy route following the left side of the portruding crack until you get to the ledge in the middle. If you go straight up, you'll encounter plenty of web filled cracks and holes.

Wanna Be Like Sharma (5.11 **) TR: The series of crack starts in the middle of the portruding face. I was able to climb the right middle one directly to the left of A Route Runs Through It. It took me many tries to get the start (and at one point my palm went numb from crimping so hard0 but I was able to finally make it.

Lover's Leap

Approach 30-45 min. hiking across dried up river rocks and slightly inclined hills
Poison Oak None
Sun Exposure Low (lots of shade under pine trees)

 

 

 

 

This is one of the best places to climb if you're looking for moderate multi-pitch trad climbs. The wall is massive and most routes are 300-1000' high. The granite formations on Lover's are really unique, as there are many dikes and veins running over the walls which offer great hand and foot holds. Also there's many great cracks similar to those found in Yosemite. This place is in Strawberry, which is a small city on highway 50 before you come to South Shore.

Surrealistic Pillar (5.7 **) TR: This is a crazy looking formation on the Lower Butress of Lover's. Most of the routes here go about 250-300' up, but this route can be top-roped by setting up an anchor on the belay bolts after the first pitch. The actual route starts to the right on top of a hill, and follows up a right facing crack. After you climb over the crack, you traverse up and to the left across a very steep and exposed face. The moves aren't hard, but the exposure makes it quite scary. Once a TR is set up, you get access to 2-3 great 5.8-5.10 routes.

The Groove (5.8 ***) TR: This route is on the far right of the Lower Buttress and follows a crack/corner up the first pitch. It starts directly to the left of a giant boulder and the first move is tricky and unprotected. After that, you have a continuous crack for 120' to the top of the first pitch. This route was a lot harder than it first looked, and there's about 5 or 6 cruxes that require you to really think (and stretch!). Luckily after each crux there's a good spot to rest and set up pro, making this route a classic. Unfortunately, by the time we got to the top of the first pitch it was already getting dark, so we were unable to climb the second pitch and had to rappel back down using two ropes. I heard the second pitch is really run out and offers little pro since the crack ends, so maybe it was a good thing that we had to leave after the first pitch.

Note on climb ratings: * - Good, ** - Excellent, *** - Classic

 

The entire Tahoe crew, starting from the left: Xerxes, Nicki, Anthea, Isabelle, me, Kate, and Meagan
Nicki reaches for hand holds inside the crack
The girls, Steph, Nicki and Maya, in front of 90 Foot Wall
The girls in front of Emerald Bay
Nicki on One More For the Road
Gotta love the candid facial expressions. Steph gets ready to belay Maya.
Maya caught in the act of using the tree! (it's a natural hold right?)
Maya makes it passed the tree crux
I take a second to chalk up my hands before continuing up the crack
Xerxes places some trad protection in a crack as he leads
Isabelle's first time climbing outdoors and she's already looking hard-core
Kate tears up Shuman the Human
Xerxes nears the top of 90' Wall
Justin makes it on top of the arête
My Spiderman impression
Xerxes makes it to the top and sets up a TR anchor
Gravir??
I'm just being silly
Xerxes trad leading
A shadow of a climber at dusk, with the beautiful Lake Tahoe in the background
That arête's really pumpy!
Gotta love the hand jams
Nicki climbing A Crack Runs Through It
Here I am casually belaying Nicki at Smoke Rock