Lover’s Leap, A Trad Paradise


“You came all the way from Carbondale for this? Have you heard of a little place down the road called Yosemite Valley?”

Alex Honnold was giving me a hard time, as he casually waltzed his way up the first pitch of The Line, in approach shoes. I was making small talk at the base, and mentioned we were from Carbondale, staying at Lover’s Leap. And he certainly had a valid point, it was a long drive to visit a relatively small place, but we had actually chosen to come here over Yosemite, as we had a short window of time and didn’t want to deal with the scene in the Valley.

The funny thing was, everyone else we talked to during our stay was almost giddy with how good the place was, and how it was NOT Yosemite. The camping scene was super chill, we could sleep in our van, and at night it was almost eerily quiet amongst the towering pines. And then there was the climbing.


Tracy Wilson sets off on the airy third pitch of Traveler’s Buttress.

The Leap is unique in that the granite there is littered with horizontal dike features. That means you get moderate trad climbs that are steeper than they would typically be, especially on granite. In many ways, it reminded me of the Gunks, especially with all the horizontal features, though you couldn’t plug any gear into these. Also absent was the slick polish you’ll find in Yosemite, which was nice.

The climbing felt very trad, the grades old school. We clipped maybe three bolts the entire time we were there. Gear anchors were the norm, and I had a couple experiences where I got to the belay ledge only to find I didn’t have any of the right gear for the standard belay. Ah the joys of trad climbing.


Tracy Wilson following the second pitch of Corrugation Corner.

The locals were super friendly, and as mentioned above, everyone seemed to really appreciate this little gem of an area. While there aren’t a ton of routes, if you are looking for a spot with excellent two to four pitch trad routes in the 5.7 to 5.10 range, it’s absolutely worth checking out. A quick search on Mountain Project will reveal the classics, but it seemed like almost everything there was worth doing.

The Strawberry Lodge sits a casual stroll from the campground and offers ice cream, a restaurant, bar, and showers for $5. If you need more stimulation on your rest days, South Lake Tahoe is only thirty minutes away, and there’s always the casinos if that’s your thing.


The East Wall, home to many excellent two to three pitch lines.

We had the SuperTopo guidebook, though as usual I wished I had something more comprehensive to fill in the gaps in the ST book. The cliff faces northwest, and sits in the shade until early afternoon in June, probably later when the sun is lower in the sky. There are supposed to be some good swimming holes nearby, though when we visited it was too chilly to think about that.

I would definitely visit again, and the other crags in the area look interesting as well, including Sugarloaf and the Phantom Spires.


An unknown party topping out Traveler’s Buttress.

5 Responses to Lover’s Leap, A Trad Paradise

  1. no no no The Leap, Phantom, and sugarloaf are all choss piles that no one should visit. shhhhhhhh

    Cody July 15, 2014 at 1:04 pm
    • Oh right, that’s what I meant!

      BJ Sbarra July 17, 2014 at 12:43 pm
  2. Strawberry station, a general store across the way from strawberry lodge, is deserving of a good plug. Run by a super nice climber (plus his name is squirrel!). A good place to stop for snacks, beer and forgotten gear.

    Ned antell July 15, 2014 at 10:29 pm
    • Somehow we missed it, thanks for the info Ned!

      BJ Sbarra July 17, 2014 at 12:43 pm
  3. Absolutely ‘loved’ Lovers Leap. As a couple of Aussies we spent 3 months climbing around the USA and have really great memories of Lovers Leap. The campground was great and the whole place super chilled. Definitely
    stop at the shop across the road and say G’day to Squirrel.



    Jason McCarthy July 26, 2014 at 3:05 am
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