An early summer heatwave combined with smoky air quality drove us out of Squamish this July. Lured by the appeal of adventure and endless rock climbs, we packed the car and headed South to Tahoe. With two weeks of free time we aimed to visit as many of the areas as we could - a daunting task when the guidebook is written in three volumes.
Tahoe was literally a breath of fresh air. The bouldering areas featured no crowds (we actually never ran into another climber during our trip), high rock quality, endless boulders, and amazing scenery. If you are willing to hike for it you are often rewarded with some stand-out lines.
An equation to represent Tahoe bouldering could be:
Flat landings + big boulders x good features = fun times.
Coming from Squamish where there has been an explosion of bouldering traffic over the last few years, it was nice to get away from the crowds and the noise and do some wilderness bouldering in amazing settings. My favourite thing about Tahoe is the variety. You can choose to hike a little or a lot. You can choose techy climbs on smooth and glassy rock or to jump on something with a bit more bite. No matter what you are in the mood for you can probably find it in Tahoe.
Before you pack your bags, call in sick, and get on the CA-89 let me tell you this: it wasn’t all rainbows and unicorns. Sometimes not being able to find the boulders is funny, other times it’s downright frustrating. We experienced a lot of both. We also wished we had come down with a crew. We had a few friends down there, and the days when they were able to make it out with us were amazing. The days we were on our own, not so much. In Squamish we are spoiled with easy access and a high concentration of boulders. You could say that bouldering in Squamish is like skiing in a resort. Tahoe, then, is the backcountry: wilder, more adventurous, and less predictable. In Tahoe you are gonna get lost. Probably daily. Learn to map GPS coordinates on your phone and don’t even considering heading out without having done this ahead of time. Carry as many pads as you can, and then strap on one more for good measure.
Here’s what we learned from our time in Tahoe: The weather is variable, the rocks can be hard to find, and you may get more of an adventure than you bargained for. But as long as you plan ahead and don’t mind when things go a bit astray, it’s definitely worth the trip.