OverviewNesting restrictions are in place from April 21 through September 30 each year. For full details, visit the Lovers Leap page on the Eldorado National Forest page.
Alternatively, contact: Susan Yasuda, wildlife biologist, at 530-647-5317.
Lovers Leap is a large granitic formation alongside Highway 50 looming above the community of Strawberry. The Leap is nearly 600' tall at the main wall, and has quality routes from 5.3 to 5.12c. Royal Robbins once ran a rock-climbing school here, and my sandwich-eatin' brother-in-law claims his Uncle Scully, who formerly was employed by the USFS, ran him off for operating without a permit. This is, of course, unverified.
The rock is perfect, the approaches short, and the best routes often crowded on a weekend. The climbing at the leap can be divided as follows: The East Wall, home to many fine moderates, the Central Wall, the Main Wall, also home to many fine moderates as well as Traveler Buttress of Fifty Classic Climbs of North America fame, the West Wall, the Hogsback, and the Lower Buttress. There are a number of other worthy formations in the area, and just down the road a few miles are the Phantom Spires and Sugarloaf, home of Tony Yaniro's breakthrough 5.13c, The Grand Illusion.
The Leap has a long climbing tradition, with first ascents by Royal Robbins, Warren Harding, Steve Roper, TM Herbert, Bob Kamps, Ken Wilson, Dan Osman, Tom Higgins, Eric Beck (at either end of the social spectrum there lies a leisure class), Galen Rowell, Jeff Lowe, and many others. From the road, the cliff looks steep and blank, but when you arrive at the base, you find that while it is steep, there are holds literally everywhere, in the form of extruded dikes. There are many other features, cracks and flakes, that make most of the routes protectable. But some of the routes, like Fantasia, put up by RR himself, are waaay runout, with moderate (well, 5.9 is moderate for some) climbing.
The Leap is featured in the videos Masters of Stone III, with a free-solo by Dan Osman (RIP), and Pure Force Masters of Stone 4, in which Osman speed-solos Bear's Reach, a 3-pitch 5.7, in 4 minutes and change.
It has been reported that there are a lot of rattlesnakes in the area, but I have yet to see one.
Getting ThereThe Leap is 18 miles southwest of South Lake Tahoe on Highway 50, and 40 miles east of Placerville. From South Lake Tahoe, take US 50 West for about 18 miles, watch for the community of Strawberry on your left a couple of miles past Twin Bridges. From the Sacramento area, take US 50 East to Placerville, then 40 more miles to Strawberry. Turn in to the Strawberry Lodge, and follow the road that leads back toward the cliff. Cross the American River, and then at the fork take a left.
There is a paved turnaround with a limited amount of parking. If the parking is full, park down the road near Strawberry Creek, or better yet, drive back toward Strawberry and park in the pull-out alongside US 50, but please, do not park in the resident's driveways. They will have you towed, and this parking issue has been a source of friction between the homeowners and climbers/hikers. On weekends, the parking will be full, so be prepared to walk a couple hundred extra yards. This parking area is shared by the campground, hikers walking the Pony Express Trail, and a multitude of climbers.
The trail leads from this parking area to the north through the walk-in campground, continues past some stellar bouldering areas, and then to the cliff. There are several use trails through the brush and talus at the cliff base, and selecting the correct one is not always easy. To get to the East Wall, walk down the trail until you feel as if you are passing the cliff, and at a right-hand turn, take the use trail at the apex of the turn. For the Main Wall, take the use trail that goes directly at the cliff just after the bouldering area. Many routes on the Main Wall start on the Main Ledge. To gain the Main Ledge, follow the branch that contours the base of the Lower Buttress, follow the use trail left, and go up the gully. The use trail from here to the Main Ledge is obvious, but if you miss the turn, the gully goes up to the southwest slope, and all the way to the top. If you turn too soon, you will end up on Tombstone Ledge, a common route-finding error. For the Central Wall, there are several options, depending upon which route you aspire to. The Lower Buttress is a straight shot from the main trail. For the Hogsback, go just past the East Wall access described above, and the Hogsback will be on your left.
Red TapeAt this time, there are no permits required, no summit fees, but there are day use fees. This may change, as this area is managed by the same agency that is mis-managing Cave Rock. Again, on the parking, if the lot is full, do not park in the driveways of the residents, it's not worth the hassle of being towed, and the ill-will that is generated toward climbers. Instead, drive back toward Strawberry, and park in the pull-out alongside US 50.
There are seasonal falcon closures, for updates throughout the season or to learn more visit the Eldorado National Forest page. Nesting restrictions are in place from April 21 through September 30 each year.
Alternatively, contact: Susan Yasuda, wildlife biologist, at 530-647-5317.
When To ClimbSpring, summer and fall are the best, in the summer climb early to avoid the hot sun, and in the spring and fall, climb late to enjoy the sun. The Leap is infrequently climbed in the winter. There are some ice routes there, the most famous being Eeyore's Fantasy, W.I. 4-5, which is Eeyore's Ecstasy most of the time, when it's not iced up. Also sometimes done are Lovers Chimney and East Gully.
CampingLovers Leap is in the Eldorado National Forest, and there are camping ($10) and day use($5) fees. The campground has 21 walk-in sites with picnic tables, 2 smelly vault toilets, and a fresh water supply.
The Strawberry Lodge offers hot showers, a bar, and a restaurant. Across the street from the Lodge is the high-priced convenience store type Strawberry Market, in case you forgot some essential.
The campground is listed as open according to the USFS site (Placerville Ranger District). More info on the campground.
Good (free) camping is also available in the Phantom Spires area.
Mountain ConditionsNo webcams here that I am aware of.
The Spelling...There is some question, or debate, as to the spelling of the place name. The USGS spells it without the possessive apostrophe, while other sources, such as Tahoe Rock by Mike Carville and the Supertopo website, spell it as Lover's Leap with the apostrophe. So until I come across a definitve answer, I'll go with the USGS.
Here's the reason the apostrophe is left out on the USGS material, from yv:
The U.S. Board on Geographic Names has since its inception in 1890 discouraged the use of the possessive form, which includes the apostrophe and the s. The possessive form using an s is allowed, but the apostrophe is almost always removed. There is nothing in the Board's archives indicating why specifically, only discouraged use. There are numerous myths such as it looks too much like a rock in water, and is therefore a hazard, or that in the days of “stick–up type” for maps, the apostrophe would become lost creating confusion.
We suspect that the reason is simply that the U.S. Board on Geographic Names does not want to show possession for natural features because “ownership of a feature is not in and of itself a reason to name a feature or change its name.” Since 1890, there have been only five decisions by the U.S. Board on Geographic Names allowing the genitive apostrophe for natural features. These are: Martha's Vineyard approved in 1933 after an extensive local campaign; Ike's Point in New Jersey was approved in 1944 because “it would be unrecognizable otherwise”; John E's Pond in Rhode Island was approved in 1963 because otherwise it would be confused as John S Pond (note the lack of the use of a period, which is also discouraged); and Carlos Elmer's Joshua View in 1995 at the specific request of the Arizona State Board on Geographic and Historic Names because “otherwise three apparently given names in succession would dilute the meaning,” that is, Joshua refers to a stand of trees. Clark’s Mountain in Oregon was approved by the U.S. Board on Geographic Names in 2002 at the request of the Oregon Board to correspond with the personal references of Lewis and Clark. For more information contact the GNIS Manager.
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