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Went Climbing at Phantom Spires along hwy 50 on Dec 2nd. Really cold week, like 20 degrees in the morning. By noon it was probably 60 degrees for a few hours on the south facing climbs we did. Nice last day of climbing before the snow, which has fully taken over the area today. I hope to check out nearby Sugarloaf on skis in a dry mid-winter period, but you certainly couldn't drive up the Wrights Lake dirt road once it snows a foot or more.
Doesn't look like much from the drive in, but these larger formations are a full rope length high. There are lots of high quality granite boulders around everywhere too. This is a great climbing spot near Lover's Leap, just a few miles west down hwy 50. It took us about an hour from Tahoe City and would be maybe 20 minutes from South Lake Tahoe. You turn up Wrights Lake Road and then take a left onto a dirt road for another mile when you see the formations. A large flat parking area sits just 2 minutes walk from the climbing. There is nice quite backcountry camping out here too.
looking at upper spire and Lost John, the south and east sides
looking at middle spires and upper spire's east sides
Greg had been here before, but it was my first time. We started out with regular route on the middle spire. I led the first 5.8 hand crack pitch shown here on the right. Sweet! Above that it gets flat before a short second pitch, so we broke it up and Greg led the second 5.8 chimney pitch option. There are a few ways up both short pitches right next to each other ranging from 5.5 to 5.9.
Greg is leading up through the 5.8 chimney on the regular route of middle spire here. It's not steep, but pretty tricky getting around that large stuck boulder.
Pic on left is from the top of the middle spire climb. On the right here, Greg is leading up the 5.9 just to the left of Reg route. This was a great short undercling called Anal ***. It's called Runout in the Supertopo Guidebook because of the upper 5.7 face climbing. You don't have to do this, you can walk off half way up or do the 5.8 chimney climb above reg route crack like we did.
Then we went up to Upper Spire, and Greg was patient watching me lead Fear of Flying 5.9. This was a fitting last climb of the season for me, being the hardest lead I've done yet. Nearly a full rope length high and really fun with every type of climbing somehow mixed into just one pitch. I didn't have too much trouble, although at one point a sling came off my neck and was wrapped around both arms somehow. I'm anxious to try more 5.9's next year, I've only done a few on lead. If I go up a grade every year leading like I've done in my first 2 seasons, let's see...5.7, 5.8, 5.9....I'll be a 5.15 climber in only 6 years! I'll be lucky to get comfortable leading easy 10's in my lifetime really though!
Here's Greg going up the north side of middle spire on Lean and Mean 5.9. One balancy 5.9 move where you're really only able to get enough foot friction by leaning your shoulder hard into the corner. He brought me up to the little ledge up there next to the chains, and then led the 10a bolt climb Penny Candy. We realized this would have been easy to do in one pitch, although the Penny Candy anchors on top where BAD. Rusty bolts with spinning, rattly hangers. We kept some draws in until the last rap off the top for more security, but this anchor needs fixing. I need to learn how to do this for next season.
Sunset at 5pm