Sunday, September 7, 2008

Spicer Terraces Day Trip

Action Report - Climbing at Spicer Terraces
Bear Valley, Alpine County, CA
September 9, 2008

Saturday morning, Squishy, Amber and I headed up the Ebbet's Pass Scenic Byway to one of our new favorite spots, Spicer Terraces, for a little crack climbing fun. Amber and I were especially excited since we had been sick the last week and done little to no climbing since our trip. Squishy also hadn't been out much lately besides his scrambling trip on Middle Palisade (the trip report even made the Summitpost front page!).

New Spicer Meadow Reservoir

You have to expect Hwy. 4 to be a 'leisurely' drive. There may not be as much traffic as some of the other Trans-Sierra highways, but it's windy and often slow. Regardless its within the reasonable distance for a day trip from Sac. or the Bay Area and we arrived at the parking lot around 11 am.

Squishy liked the reservoir, but was not very impressed with the "wilderness" quality of the reservoir's dam. Fortunately for us the dam itself makes up the bulk of the approach and is a super-highway to some super climbing, which otherwise would be a far more harrowing approach to cross the deep, now flooded valley.

Squishy and Amber leading the way across the dam

There's no guidebook here, which is half the fun, but Amber and I had been before so we roped up two of the easer routes. The first was a fun, wandering 5.7 with fingers and hands and an awkward move or two. The second was a 5.8/5.9 that starts with good hands and then turns into a combination of awkward friction stemming and shallow fingers at the top.

Two routes roped and ready to climb

Everyone gave a shot to the 5.7 first, although most opted to skip the boulder crack start at the bottom. Squishy wandered left of the crux the first time and did an amusing 5.8 'beached whale' variation. Amber quickly found her way up and then I decided to wrestle with the funky boulder at the bottom. This boulder has a big crack in it to climb but no hand-holds for the finish. The trick for me was to go hands -> fist -> and then an arm bar. The arm bar made it possible to get far enough up to mantle over the lip and I then dubbed the boulder 'the man crack' since no one else wanted to try it.

Squishy and I sharing beta

After the first round I tried to get everyone on the 5.8/5.9 route, since I remembered getting halfway up before and it being very challenging but still rewarding. This time I got further through the crux, but not into the clear. When the climb spreads out into the stemming and friction footholds, it really wears my toes out. Maybe I need to focus on pushing with the ball of the foot more directly but either way my toes just pump out. Regardless I was able to exploit some shallow finger locks I hadn't gotten into before which were barely anything but it felt really awesome to hang on them. If I can just get the next foot positions dialed I'll be able to grab the big bucket and finish the route.

YouTube: High - Low

A man who doesn't believe in sunglasses (maybe his handle should be Squinty instead)

Amber was willing to give the route a shot, since she's climbed the bottom before, but we were trying to talk Squishy into it, but he just didn't want to give it a go. I'm not sure why its a struggle, but it's really fun, technical climbing. We're at almost the same level and he really has more experience on real rock so he could have given it a good go. Instead we conceded to work on a mock lead of the 5.7 crack and before Amber got a chance to climb the 5.8 he pulled the rope down to use for leading.

Regardless, mock leading on the 5.7 was fun. The crux is a little dicey for a real lead, but either Squishy or I would be comfortable doing it upon returning. The first half is really thin and requires smart placements to ensure your gear will both hold and not take all the good hand and foot holds. After that it's just easy, awesome placements as long as you avoid the dishearteningly hollow flake.

YouTube: High - Low

Amber got her first chance to clean gear following Squishy's lead. I'd done this before on Knapsack, but Amber hadn't tried it yet. She was a little anxious at first but at least she was on top-rope and could leave anything that was too much trouble. In reality she didn't have to leave anything, once she found the rhythm she was ok with stopping to dig the gear out and trucked right up, cleaning all of the placements with no problem! She actually seemed to really enjoy it and it gives you a good idea of how to manage everything when you follow a big route or start leading and have to do things on the rock besides just climb.

Amber digging gear out near the crux (5.7)

After Amber cleaned the pitch, I got my first chance to do a realistic mock lead. I used Squishy's rack since mine is not complete yet (feel free to send me $$ to buy cams). I placed a couple small cams in the crux which I was comfortable with and left myself just enough room to have hand and foot holds left then powered up over the lip. After sinking another piece in quickly, I took a minute then headed up the easy 2nd half of the climb, placing a few more nuts and cams along the way. I was very happy with all of my placements and Squishy mostly agreed upon cleaning them. It was a great experience and I'm looking forward to trying some easy leads on the sharp end sometime soon.

After a good afternoon of hanging out on the terrace, we headed back across the damn to find the lunch we forgot in the car (doh!). There was a lot of daylight left so we stopped at Hells Kitchen Scenic Overlook for some beer and wine and some easy boulder problems. When we had thoroughly worn ourselves out we started down the highway and out of the Sierra. We topped things off with a stop at the Snowshoe Brewing Company in Arnold for some grub. Thought it was a bit pricey at first glance, but the portions more than made up for the price so it's worth the stop and the beer is great! Can't wait to head up that way again!

Bouldering time!

Photo Gallery:
Spicer Terraces


Tio Stinky said...

The names of the climbs are:
Lighting Crack-5.7
Venus Fly Trap-5.9

I saw my self in a couple of pictures you took at the bouldering comp at Hells Kitchen. Never made the problem. Cheers TS

Eric said...

Venus Fly Trap is really fun!