Grade: 5.4 YDS
Pitches: 3, trad
Location: Lover’s Leap, Lake Tahoe, CA
Last Monday (Memorial Day) I had the opportunity to do my first successful multi-pitch trad climb with my main squeeze. This was an awesome experience for both of us, as we haven’t climbed together in at least two months and I haven’t had the opportunity to do an easy trad climb without someone looking over my shoulder the whole time.
David led the first pitch, up to a small tree (pictured) following a crack the whole time. This climb was easy: a 5.4-5.5 depending on which website you go to for beta. I didn’t get bored though, mostly because the scenery was amazing and I was shitting my pants because, oh my gosh, it’s trad climbing. It was also pretty flowy and if you want to increase the challenge a bit, you can move onto the face and place pro in the crack instead of just climbing the crack.
There isn’t much to say about this one. We decided to swing leads, so I lead the second pitch (where I built a sweet, overly-redundant 16-point anchor because… nerves). The crux, I felt, was climbing up over my anchor. I ended up finding the ledge that has been mentioned, just past a wide crack, and built my anchor with four pieces and a jumble of cordalette. I also found a sweet spot for a tricam, that I realized only after I was already belaying David up the third and final pitch.
David, with way more pro than needed
Why does this matter? I didn’t just write about this to do a trip report. (By the way, it was hot as balls and easy as hell). I always try to take something away from each of my adventures. Whether it sticks is a question, but I actually learned a few things of value from this trip.
Climbing with a backpack sucks. David and I threw all of our stuff into his pack, which was ill-fitting for me and kept sliding up whenever I leaned forward. The route was pretty low-grade, so I was leaning forward a lot. It really put me out of my game, and even though I knew I was totally safe being belayed from above, it was enough to make me nervous the entirety of the first and second pitch.
Leading on trad is scary, but worth it. The second pitch I think was the most fun. It was a total crack, tons of amazing placement (although the new BD #4 was only placed twice and by David both times), and very flowy and exciting. My only regret is that I placed a lot of gear in the beginning, which really slowed me down and might have run us into trouble had we not totally over-prepared and brought two full racks of pro ;).
Aside from basic knowledge, the best thing you can bring with you is an equally knowledgeable climbing partner. The third pitch of the climb did not take long, but it was up and over a ledge with a short scramble at the end. With the highway nearby and the wind blowing, we couldn’t hear each other’s commands, and as it was a relatively shortclimb with no beta describing this particular obstacle, we hadn’t designated certain rope tugs to represent commands. After David had pulled up all of the rope (with me still not taking him off belay), I realized that he was probably ready to pull me up. But I still hadn’t heard him. I was determined not to start climbing until I knew for sure I was safe and on belay. Maybe I was being a little overly safe, but I figure good safety practices on an easy first trad climb will just help to solidify it for the harder climbs we go on in the future.
Short scramble at the top, with the lip we had to climb over
So I waited, knowing David has the resourcefulness to tie me off or put a catastrophe knot after his belay device in guide mode and rappel down to talk to me. This is exactly what happened, and after talking with him and then several rather annoying rope tugs later, I was breaking down my anchor and climbing to the top. This was probably the situation that I learned the most from since it could cause the most potential for danger in the future. Next time we will set up a system for rope tug communication. Still, it’s nice to know that I have a partner I can rely on to be resourceful, and, most of all, safe.
Now, here are some more photos because I know that’s what you all really want.