Trip Report
Newbie Chronicle Part 3: Risk vs Reward at Lovers Leap
Monday June 10, 2013 1:03am
When I tell people that climbing is my new found hobby, most people who prefer to keep their feet solidly planted on the ground, will tell me that it’s too risky. By no means am I an adrenaline junky or someone who loves heights, but after I have been climbing now for a few months, I can’t help but laugh since I can think of many things I do on a daily basis that are far more riskier on paper. Driving on the freeway, road biking down a steep hill or just down the street in traffic for example- are all things far riskier than climbing. The trick with minimizing risk in climbing, and perhaps in life as well, is finding that safe partner in crime to enjoy the challenge with. My grandparents who were each other’s partner in crime for over 63 years had a cabin within walking distance to Lovers Leap, so as a child I grew up with my grandmother telling stories about the legend of two lovers who came from two different tribes – who supposedly plunged to their death on purpose to be together. Now in no way am I saying that is a romantic option I’d like to ever pursue- it’s just that this location had many fond family memories from growing up near the infamous climbing site, so perhaps it is fitting that I’ve always wanted to climb Lover’s Leap.

Last month there were seven of us who traveled to my family cabin for a weekend climbing trip to both Lovers Leap and Phantom Spires. The seven of us were comprised of four experienced lead climbers, while the remaining three newbies included two Germans and myself. With a late start on Saturday to climb the Leap, and a realization that a water pipe had broken at the cabin so we would have no hot water for the weekend, the climbing trip was starting a bit off from our original plan. As we hiked into our planned route destination, I was excited not only to finally climb this mountain that I grew up gazing at as a child, but furthermore, I’d get to share this experience with my newfound climbing friends and a German whom had unexpectedly become very close to me. But about 30 minutes into a hike to find our planned route, our hikers in the lead kept searching our climbing route maps, while the rest of us in the back were worse than five year olds on an long road trip, constantly asking “Are we there yet?” and “How much further?”

At one point our hike became an off route scramble to where half of us decided scrambling upon mossy ledges was worth the risk to find the route faster, while the other half decided to safely hike around. Although I started in the original scrambling group, I soon did a gut check risk assessment and decided that if I were to break a limb, I’d rather do it climbing, than ungloriously scrambling upon moss on the way to the route. After about an hour hike, and being entertained by learning the kind of German words I would have never learned from my Deutsch father’s side of the family, we finally heard our lead climbers call out that they found our climbing route- or at least what appeared to be on paper.

As we assembled our gear and decided not to split into two climbing groups, we realized it would take much longer on a multi-pitch route with so many climbers; however, again the risk in going slower was well worth the reward that day for some quality bonding time while waiting on ledges. I was deemed the stewardess of the group, being in charge of carrying the pack with water and snacks up the famous dike system walls. All was sunny and warm until on the third pitch, a gust of wind nearly knocked me off my already precarious balance from carrying the food laden pack. Upon reaching the last ledge to the final pitch at the top, it was cooler, but nothing note worthy of the weather at the time. But being the second climber of the group, I had plenty of time to sit and wait, while the wind gusts became more frequent and the cloud cover became more prevalent. By the time we began the last pitch to the top, I had already begun shivering between laying against the rock hard granite and a rock hard German trying to keep me warm. Despite frequent bouts of laughter, I couldn’t hide my teeth chattering, and the lead climbers couldn’t dispute the increasingly darker clouds hovering over us.

After very little debate, we decided that the suddenly foul weather wasn't worth the risk of going the final pitch to the summit. But as I sat there disappointed and waiting for my turn to rappel, I also couldn't help laughing at the nonstop crass jokes from my climbing mates. When it was finally my turn to rappel down the 350ft ledge, my stomach ached from laughing and I had to take a moment to compose myself. I looked out across the beautiful, massive view of the valley of mountains, I looked up toward my close climbing friends at the anchor whom I'd only met a few months before by chance at the gym, and I slowly lowered myself down to the German who had never been on my radar til I bumped into him at Beer Festival a month or so before. And it's then that I realized, once again, climbing had widened my perspective, yet this time, it wasn't in the successful act of climbing up, it was in the vulnerable act of rappelling down. After all, everything in this moment was never planned in my life on paper: from the very act of climbing anything other than a career ladder, to the new people I let into my life- none of it makes sense on paper, yet all of it makes perfect sense in my life. Rappelling off Lovers Leap reminded me once again that planning is all well and good but sometimes the best and most beautiful moments in life come from having the courage to let go of desired plans and just let life take us where we need to be.

Once I let go of the anticlimactic climb that day, we ended up having an incredibly memorable climbing weekend. Perhaps it was the ample supply of jäger while BBQing off the back deck later that night, perhaps it was the great unplanned climbing routes we did the next day at Phantom Spires, or perhaps it was the eclectic yet amazing group of individuals with whom I made lasting memories with. All of it was well worth the risk of doing something unplanned and nonsensical on paper. And the reward? Well the reward was well...perhaps the best way to describe the reward is to use the lyrics from a recent Macklemore song...

"And we danced, and we cried, and we laughed and had a really, really, really good time.Take my hand, let's have a blast. And we'll remember this moment for the rest of our lives."


Staying warm on the third pitch
Staying warm on the third pitch
Credit: Letting go
The off route hike
The off route hike
Credit: Letting go
The jäger :)
The jäger :)
Credit: Letting go
Phantom Spires
Phantom Spires
Credit: Letting go

  Trip Report Views: 1,435
Letting go
About the Author
Letting go is a climber from Sacramento, CA.

Comments
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ß Î Ø T Ç H

Boulder climber
extraordinaire
  Jun 10, 2013 - 01:57am PT
I drove past the leap for the first time on a job leaving someone in Sacro last month. The American River area etc there is awesome looking.
mcreel

climber
Barcelona
  Jun 10, 2013 - 02:00am PT
Thanks for the TR. It's true that you have to be ready to adapt to the circumstances.
Rudder

Trad climber
Costa Mesa, CA
  Jun 10, 2013 - 02:14am PT
Great spirit and nice writing! TFPU
Charlie D.

Trad climber
Western Slope, Tahoe Sierra
  Jun 10, 2013 - 09:04am PT
Thanks for sharing, sounds like you're on the way to becoming a lifer. Enjoy the journey, safe passage to you.
johntp

Trad climber
socal
  Jun 10, 2013 - 09:10am PT
Yay! TFPU
Ezra Ellis

Trad climber
North wet, and Da souf
  Jun 11, 2013 - 11:11am PT
Great writing, thanks for sharing!!!!!
Friedo

Trad climber
South Lake Tahoe
  Jun 11, 2013 - 02:02pm PT
What route were you climbing? Looks to be on Hogsback (or Hogwylde). I can't really think of any 4 pitch routes over there except "it's better with bacon" which is not a good beginner route.

It seems like it would be faster to climb the last pitch and walk off than to rap three pitches back down...
Ron Anderson

Trad climber
Relic MilkEye and grandpoobah of HBRKRNH
  Jun 11, 2013 - 02:06pm PT
Good Job on letting go!
labrat

Trad climber
Auburn, CA
  Jun 11, 2013 - 02:28pm PT
Thanks for sharing your fun!

I'm thinking It's Better with Bacon as well. Reports say last pitch not of the same quality as the first four.
Letting go

climber
Sacramento, CA
Author's Reply  Jun 11, 2013 - 04:13pm PT
Wow- Yes it was better with bacon...I'm impressed by how you all know the routes so well. The rap down was faster because my cabin is on that side of the Leap so it was a faster hike back to cold showers and beer.
Vitaliy M.

Mountain climber
San Francisco
  Jun 11, 2013 - 11:07pm PT
Nice to see you are having fun with your new obsession! Lovers leap is an awesome place. CLimbs there never get old, and there are soooo many!

Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
  Jun 12, 2013 - 04:27am PT
Driving on the freeway, road biking down a steep hill or just down the street in traffic for example- are all things far riskier than climbing.

I don't agree.
This sort of statement is made on a regular basis, even in this forum, but I don't think there are any realistic statistics behind it.

In my 40 years of climbing, many of my climbing partners have been seriously injured and killed climbing. None of them have been injured or killed freeway driving. I offer that as a statistic with moderately small N.

It's true that you can often reduce risks by climbing with an experienced climber. Especially if they are doing all the leading. But you are still at risk when rappelling and on approaches / descents, where you are normally not belayed (you are essentially soloing). There are also cases where your partner is experienced, but is really not looking after you very carefully. Such as my friend Wendy, who thought she was being lowered, but she was "on her own" and fell about 160'.

The following may be true, though:
"Both climbing and freeway driving involve some level of risk, and climbing is more fun, so I choose to do it. I think I can survive it if I'm careful enough."

P.S. Sorry to pick out that one sentence for a critique and ignore the main trip report. But I think it's important to have a realistic view of the risk. Have fun out there, but please realize that part of the thrill of the sport is "beating the odds" and surviving it. Like getting away with a "crime", as you might phrase it.
Norwegian

Trad climber
dancin on the tip of god's middle finger
  Jun 12, 2013 - 04:45am PT
thanks for sharing.
i hope to see you around strawberry.
Charlie D.

Trad climber
Western Slope, Tahoe Sierra
  Jun 12, 2013 - 09:32am PT
Clint speaks the truth and I'm glad he posted up. We've all heard that argument and it's one I use to tell my parents way back when, but the truth is there are many things that can go very wrong so don't let your guard down with just one hand on that wheel. Enjoy the ride, climbing and the mountain life has fed my soul and sustained me through all of life's trials and tribulations.......a hardy Berg Heil to you!

Charlie D.
Jebus H Bomz

climber
Old West Crackramento
  Jun 12, 2013 - 10:45am PT
Hearty? Well, either way, at least the Berg Heil will be resilient. Heil and Hardy Ice Berg Lettuce to ya, ya freshly minted climbers!
GhoulweJ

Trad climber
El Dorado Hills, CA
  Jun 12, 2013 - 01:00pm PT
Word
Letting go

climber
Sacramento, CA
Author's Reply  Jun 12, 2013 - 10:22pm PT
Thanks Clint for your comments. In no way am I saying that climbing is safe; of course there is always risk, even when you do your best to be safe. But yes, I made the comparison to highway driving and road biking because I work at a level 1 trauma hospital where we see patients on a daily basis for car accidents. The only patient I've seen so far for a climbing accident was because he was free soloing. But yeah I'm sure if everyone over the age of 16 was climbing as frequent as we drive on the highway, I'm sure it would be different. I also admit I'm biased about the danger of bikes due to a bad injury I had last year with one. Every time I'm going down a steep hill during a triathlon at over 40mph on a road bike with nothing but a swimsuit and helmet on, I do think it's crazy nothing is keeping me from hitting the asphalt other than gripping the handle. Regardless, you're right, we can't be flippant with safety and it doesn't matter which is more dangerous, we all just do the best we can to be safe, but must also recognize it's a gamble we choose to take. Anything can happen. Thanks again and you didn't need to apologize for being critical, I like meaningful discussion and appreciated your post. After all, I'm a newbie and still have a lot to learn. :-)
kennyt

Trad climber
Oregon
  Jun 12, 2013 - 10:37pm PT
I feel far safer climbing than driving on the freeway
Charlie D.

Trad climber
Western Slope, Tahoe Sierra
  Jun 12, 2013 - 11:12pm PT
^^^ exactly
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
  Jun 13, 2013 - 03:04am PT
Thanks for sharing your views on risk, "Letting go".
I'm glad to hear you have a realistic view of the risks after all.
And sure, biking has its hazards as well!

It could be that one of the good things about rock climbing risk is that it can be largely under our own control.
As opposed to, say, having unknown people driving past with fatal results if they happen to veer into our lane....
I guess the trick is then to make good use of our control and also hopefully avoid situations where we are climbing but no longer have the control (loose rock, climbing tired, noisy/poor communications, etc.).

Have fun,

Clint
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