Trip Report
Flying High in search of Excelsior (another Lovers Leap obscurity TR)

by Trad
Thursday September 13, 2012 10:24pm
A year or two ago, hiking along the Pony Express trail after a day's climbing, a friend of mine pointed up towards Eagle Buttress and a fun .10a crack climb he'd done called "Excelsior". Hmmm, intriguing...I'd never heard of it! A good, yet obscure, .10a crack at Lovers Leap?

Well the falcon restrictions were lifted last week, the weather is just about perfect, and Excelsior came to mind. Unfortunately neither of my two "comprehensive" Tahoe area climbing guides - Carville and Jenkewitz-Meyers - showed much for Excelsior besides a vague dashed line and/or an arrow or text saying '.10a cracks in side wall'. My other guide (of dubious nature) published in 1997 by "Soknik Press" (read it backwards) had the following written description:

Excelsior 5.10a - Essentially this route climbs the corner following the right side of Eagle Buttress. Walk in from the west on Main Ledge... Begin by climbing up and left over blocks to the corner. Continue up the crack in the corner until it thins out than [sic] traverse to the right. Just before reaching the belay, immediately before the steepest section of the corner, a tricky flake must be climbed (5.9). Pass and overhang [sic, again?] and climb steep jamcracks on the corner's left wall, belay. The final short pitch climbs easy 5th class rock to the top.

OK, to cut the chase, although Excelsior was our goal I'm pretty sure we ended up climbing Flying High instead.

Some views from Main Ledge:

Credit: Trad

Credit: Trad Muenter

It looked pretty obvious. Just follow up the corner, then traverse out right, and then up the corner again to some cracks, right? How hard could it be?

This was definitely not my speediest lead. Climbing left and up over the blocky start seemed harder than it really is because apparently the area doesn't get climbed much and a lot of the rock is coated with dried lichen and moss, which drains my sticky-rubber superpowers. At one point I was almost to the corner when I spotted an old piton with some webbing and a quick link up and right (why would anyone bail?), so that's where I went. After clipping the piton and extending with two runners, I headed back to the corner and up.

You can see where that was in the view looking down from the 1st belay (arrow):

Credit: Trad Muenter

Eventually I suspected I should go out more to the right, but at the same time it didn't look doable (or, at least, wise). Much mental analysis and anguish ensued, and ultimately I chose the wandering fist-to-wider crack up the slightly-overhanging left wall. This is what the crack looks like from above:

Credit: Trad Muenter

I assume this was the route called Flying High, that I only remembered seeing listed as .10c in one of the guides. Also, I had only one piece left to protect it (hence the aforementioned mental anguish). But the bottom line is that I chose the semi-known security of a fist crack vs. sketchy face climbing on dried lichen, which turned out to be really fun after it was over and I didn't fall. Another pictures from the awkward (but super-secure! if the big block doesn't detach) hanging-belay ledge:

Credit: Trad Muenter

From there it looked like a short burly scoot around the corner and we'd be on low-angle easy ground to the top!

However, sometimes imagination is more optimistic than reality and after turning the corner there were still a few more thought-provoking moves but it wasn't TOO far to a good belay stance and THEN it would be easy to the top. Some pictures from the 2nd belay anchor:

I got cobwebs on my shoes!!111

Credit: Trad Muenter

You can get an idea of the steepness here:

Credit: Trad Muenter

Credit: Trad Muenter

After that it really WAS pretty easy 5th-ish class to the top, and a fine late-summer afternoon at Lovers Leap!

Credit: Trad Muenter

Here's the way we went up until turning the corner, which is (I think) Flying High:

Credit: Trad Muenter

It's a fun route that I want to climb again but I'm still wondering: where exactly do you (presumably) cut over to the right to approach the belay for Excelsior (some of the topos show two pitons there)? Do the routes diverge at the point where the Flying High crack goes up the left wall? Do you continue up the corner (apparently thin seam, full of moss) crack there? Or traverse lower down...?

  Trip Report Views: 1,064
Trad
About the Author
Trad Muenter is a climber from northern CA.

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Footloose

Trad climber
Lake Tahoe
  Sep 13, 2012 - 11:26pm PT
Yeah, the Carville guide is pretty indescript if not confusing for this area.

Do you continue up the corner

Good question.

Several years ago, how time flies! I used to refer to this corner as the East of Eeyore area. My notes in the book read: "East of Eeyore looks harder than .8 but looks fun and doable!" Wrote this while scanning the area after climbing Eagle Buttress Right a couple of times and then rapping to scout things out.

Alas never got around to getting back to do it. Maybe at some point.

Flying High and Excelsior look to be your pictures. I'll have to go back now to see just what East of Eeyore is, then, as Carville shows it topping out, too, right in that corner area.

Thanks for the inspiration to get over there again!


P.S. Immediately left of your "B" (at second dot) is the famous bird nest, if memory serves.
caughtinside

Social climber
Oakland, CA
  Sep 14, 2012 - 01:08am PT
Nice! Taking a peek at the Jenkewitz-Meytras it looks like you did do Flying High. I have seen that prominent crack and always thought it was Excelsior also.

Both routes are .10a in the J-M guide and Jay Smith was on the FA of both. He told me in an email a while ago that he helped J-M with many of the leap topos in that guide so it's probably the most accurate for his routes.

So... how was that belay above the crack?
Ron Anderson

Trad climber
Relic MilkEye and grandpoobah of HBRKRNH
  Sep 14, 2012 - 01:16am PT
Sweeet... Never been there.. Looks like a fun line!
Salamanizer

Trad climber
The land of Fruits & Nuts!
  Sep 14, 2012 - 02:06am PT
Crawford pointed the two lines out to me one day and I believe you were on route (excelsior). Excelsior climbs the wandering wide crack on the overhanging wall and exits around the corner near the top, which is what you did.

Flying High traverses left much lower out of the corner where the huge eagles nest is. It then climbs discontinuous cracks and face up more or less the arete.

Did you climb through the big ledge with a huge nest on it?

I'm almost 100% you were on Excelsior.

Nice send anyway. It's good to get lost at the Leap once in a while.
Anyone want to climb a Central Wall route on Sunday?
schwortz

Social climber
"close to everything = not at anything", ca
  Sep 14, 2012 - 02:38am PT
looks sweet! sorry i missed it...next time...
Ezra Ellis

Trad climber
North wet, and Da souf
  Sep 14, 2012 - 10:36am PT
nice line, thanks for the great pics!!!
Trad

Trad climber
northern CA
Author's Reply  Sep 14, 2012 - 08:54pm PT
Both routes are .10a in the J-M guide...

While on route I was remembering the Carville guide, which showed Flying High as .10c, and then afterwards I saw the .10a rating in the other guides. To me it seemed .10a/b but the difficulty could probabaly depend a lot on your hand/arm size. Towards the top I had my entire forearm in the crack, so someone with smaller hands/arms might find that section almost off-widthy.

So... how was that belay above the crack?

The belay at the top of the crack actually was pretty bomber (I was joking about the block maybe pulling off). Three good cams, including a 3.5 camalot I was hoping to use in the crack but couldn't.

P.S. Immediately left of your "B" (at second dot) is the famous bird nest, if memory serves.

Did you climb through the big ledge with a huge nest on it?

Just around the corner from our belay was a ledge that certainly COULD be a peregrine nest, but it didn't look like it was this year (no bones, bird poop, etc). But I don't think they always nest in the exactly same place every year - in fact, the first time I climbed Eagle Buttress, Right (~10 years ago; pre-supertopo) I recall going through an obvious nest in a sort of alcove towards the top of the 3rd pitch, but I've never seen it there since.

Anyway, I'm still pretty sure we were on Flying High and not Excelsior for a few reasons (see annotated J-M topo below). For one thing, I was expecting to find a belay stance with 2 pitons, out on the right, but never found them. (And I looked a lot from the hanging belay - I think the roof/overhang on the right was in the way.) Also, the topo implies that the Excelsior cracks are above the belay. And finally, I clipped that piton shown above the nest area. (There was also an old 1/4 incher 15 or so feet below the piton, not shown in any topo. EDIT: Just looked again, and the old [yellow] Carville guide shows both the bolt and piton above the nest area on Flying High; the newer Carville topo shows only the bolt.)

Credit: Trad

Chad, get up there this weekend and check it out!
Trad

Trad climber
northern CA
Author's Reply  Oct 5, 2012 - 12:17pm PT
Was back in the area this week and got a couple pictures of the side wall area that (I think) is the 2nd pitch of Excelsior ("cracks on the side wall overhang," in the topo above).

View from Main Ledge:

Credit: Trad Muenter

And a view from Traveler Buttress (the crack we climbed a few weeks ago is at lower center):

Credit: Trad Muenter
nutjob

Sport climber
Almost to Hollywood, Baby!
  Oct 5, 2012 - 01:41pm PT
Nice stuff!
Trad

Trad climber
northern CA
Author's Reply  Oct 30, 2012 - 12:26am PT
Here are a few more pictures to add to the mix. (And if anyone has useful beta on that first pitch, from the corner where Flying High splits off to the 2-piton belay, please post up.)

A few weeks ago Maribel (last seen here in the Moby Dick, and/or the Whale TR) and I continued the quest for Excelsior. To make a long story short, Maribel was leading the first pitch but at some point didn't like the looks of things and set a belay. Then I STILL didn't like the looks of things either so took the "easy" way out by going up Flying High again.

It (Flying High) was just as much fun (or more) the 2nd time around. This time I checked out the belay ledge more carefully too and discovered numerous old bone fragments. (Didn't look like this year's nest, though.)

Anyway, for better or worse, we continued up Eagle Buttress and set an anchor at the top of (the presumed 2nd pitch of) Excelsior so that we could at least check it out on top rope. It turned out to be steep crack-filled goodliness so yesterday I went back for a TR solo and to take some pictures.

There's an bulge/roof section right above the 2-piton belay ledge and when it comes to TRing over roofs I'm sort of chicken (yeah OK maybe just chicken in general), so I stopped just above the bulge. But here's what it looked like from just over the roof. (Arrow indicates 2 pitons w/faded old rap webbing.)

Credit: Trad Muenter

Here's a slightly different angle, indicating the the enigmatic (for me) last part of the first pitch. Hmmm, doesn't look too bad...how hard could it be?!

Credit: Trad Muenter

And last but not least, here's the view looking up the last section. Fun but steep! As you can see, there are lots of options but if you like hand-sized cracks it's a blast. The only reason it's harder than probably 5.6 is because of the slightly-overhanging angle.

Credit: Trad Muenter

The Leap season may be drawing to a close, but it's always nice to have a project for next year...
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