Trip Report
Lover's Leap obscurity adventure TR: Between the Lines

by Trad
Thursday October 1, 2009 9:39pm
There are a lot of routes at Lover's Leap that apparently don't get climbed much and sometimes I wonder if I'm missing out on something fun up there. (There was actually a whole thread about non-ST leap routes here last year.) Between the Lines is one of those obscure routes and I've been thinking about it ever since I saw some folks toproping the first pitch one Memorial Day weekend a few years ago.

(Sorry, just testing out the new ST Trip Reports section and how to migrate reports. I think this is one of the first TRs I posted on the ST forum. Original post is at:;

The first pitch is 5.8 with rap anchors at the top, but what really caught my attention was the 2nd pitch .10a crack shown on various old topos. Like Pavlov's dog hearing a bell, the thought of it made me salivate. Probably increasing the attraction was that I've ever only talked to one other person who's even climbed the 2nd pitch. It was some bartender - forget his name but I think it started with a "P" - who said something about runout before a hard-to-protect crux. But who was this guy? Probably just some soft-climbing poser! How hard could it be? In any case, once past that the 3rd pitch is the usual run to the top from bushy ledge.

So anyway, a few weeks ago I recruited my friend Paul to help me pursue this quest and here is the report.

WARNING: There's a lot of beta below, so if you're the kind of climber who likes to figure things out for yourself then please avert your eyes! Also, even though we climbed the route in the absolutely one-and-only best way possible, your mileage may vary.

Between the Lines wanders up East Wall between East Crack and Bear's Reach something like this:

The first time (note foreshadowing) Paul and I attempted the route we dispatched the 1st pitch easily and it's a lot of fun. There's some (easy) runout dike-hiking at the start, followed by a mix of crack and face, and the crux near the top is protected by a fixed piton. It's not a bad way to kill some time if you're waiting for one of the other nearby routes on a crowded weekend, but you'll need 2 ropes to TR and/or rappel. We followed the first pitch about like this:

Once at the bolted anchor I found myself gazing up the rest of the route. Topos show the 2nd pitch of Between the Lines as wandering past several roofs before continuing up to the .10a crack, but I'd never really looked at it very closely before. A view from the ground that I took later looks like this:

Credit: Trad

The roofs were imposing and impossible to miss, of course, but there at the anchor they blocked any view of the rumored crack. But it had to be there so once Paul arrived and got set I began the 2nd pitch. The start looked hard and I had to think about it for awhile. Then I traversed a few feet left, reached waaaayyyyyy up and placed a small nut into a narrow angling crack, high stepped my right toe onto a sloping dike, and carefully rocked up to reach a finger jam. Whew! Tricky, but over fast! (see also postscript.) Well OK, at least I was on my way.

The next 60 or 70 feet was relatively easy but also what I would call "adventure climbing". First you angle up to the left to get around the first roof, then back up right underneath another larger roof. This last part involved traversing on (mostly) decent yet thickly lichenated dikes. There's occasional less-than-ideal pro, and then you make a big step across a void onto another small dirty dike. Shortly thereafter you can finally see straight up around the right side of the roof to ~30 feet of steep yet straightforward dike-hiking ending at, finally, the base of a narrow finger crack. WHOO-HOO, this is what I came for! I generally don't mind a bit of runout if I can see a crack up ahead.

Unfortunately, and much to my dismay, when I arrived there the anticipated "finger crack" turned out to be shallow and barely wide enough for finger tips. Pro placements, even for psychological pro (my second-favorite kind), were lacking. Not only that, but the dikes vanished and I found myself at the base of this narrow, angled, shallow crack bisecting an otherwise blank and steep section of granite! This is 'only' .10a??? And my last piece of pro was so far down I couldn't even remember what it was!

Undaunted, I took a DEEP BREATH, toe-stepped onto a TINY NUBBIN as high as I could, and LAUNCHED myself in a DESPERATE DYNO TOWARDS a SLOPING DIKE ten feet above my head!

Yes, I certainly would like to believe that's what happened but the truth is I chickened out and bailed left along a dike towards East Crack where I was relieved to find, only a few feet over, a perfect placement for an orange (I know it's good because I fell on it once) alien. Feeling much better I continued left to a dirty fissure, then up and over right until I found myself above the crack section, looking down upon my taunting nemesis.


It went sort of like the dotted line here:

A somewhat sketchy (but protectable) section continued more-or-less straight up to formerly bushy ledge, where I set an anchor so that Paul could follow.

Well OK, so I "led the 2nd pitch" but I didn't feel too good about it. Later back at home it nagged on me. I laid awake at night, and eventually if came to me: "Hmmmm, maybe with that orange alien nearby then maybe, just maybe, the crack wouldn't be so hard AFTER all..." But on the other hand, I didn't want to wander up through all that dirty lichen-covered rock again. What to do?

"Climb East Crack instead," said the voice inside my head, "skip all that dirty wandering stuff, and then traverse BACK to the base of the crack!"

Paul is a good friend and climbing partner but also a neighbor and hence it's hard for him to avoid me sometimes, so back we went a week later to finish the job. Cruising up East Crack, in no time I'd placed the orange alien and found myself back at the base of the shallow, flaring finger crack.

Now, originally I had a long paragraph here describing in great detail how I puzzled out and effected the delicate moves required to prevail over the adversarial crack, but in the end I deleted it so that you, the reader, can figure it out for yourself when you go up to climb the route. You'll probably do it different than me anyway. Suffice it to say that (a) no dynos were involved, (b) I placed my blue-black hybrid (don't worry it's a good one) alien from the last good stance as psychological pro, and (c) once I made one move up there was a bomber blue (definitely one of the good ones) alien placement.

OK just one more hint. It's like that line from Cool Hand Luke: "You gotta get your mind right."

Unfortunately I was too scared, er... I mean, focused to remember to take a picture of the crack from below, but from above it looked like this:

(I removed the blue-black hybrid after placing the blue alien since I figured it wasn't good for much more than rope drag anyway; the runner on the 2nd-last piece is from the orange alien.) Here's looking down towards Paul back at the East Crack 1st belay:

And yet another view, so that I could play some more with Photoshop:

Soon enough I'd set the anchor at bushy ledge and belayed Paul while he followed easily up to the crack, where he had to think about it for a few minutes. This view is from the anchor at bushy ledge:

In the end Paul had no problem getting through the crux, and before long we were on top of East Wall enjoying the beautiful weather of a quiet, late-summer Lover's Leap afternoon. Obscure route, yes, but fun nevertheless!

POSTSCRIPT: Remember that first move off the Between the Lines 1st pitch bolt anchor that I said seemed pretty hard? To my surprise, when I watched Paul following on that pitch he made it look effortless! I'm glad he's an honest guy. As soon as he reached the belay that day he admitted, "Hey, you know that first hard move? I just stepped on an anchor bolt and it was easy!" (In other words 'first crux can be aided...')

Alternately, for anyone interested in climbing that crack section via East Crack, you start up the usual East Crack 2nd pitch and continue past the first 2 bulges. You can't see the crack from there, but you'll know you're about in the right place when you can see the second large roof on Between the Lines (the one I originally traversed around on the right) above which is a dike-covered section of granite. The crack you're going for is just above that.

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About the Author
Trad Muenter is a trad climber from northern CA.

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Chris McNamara

SuperTopo staff member
  Oct 1, 2009 - 11:44pm PT
very cool. a great reason to go back and check out the east wall. there is so much rock on lovers leap.
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