A Terribly Tough Week in Tahoe

Trip Start Apr 14, 2010
Trip End Apr 16, 2011

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Flag of United States  , California
Monday, September 5, 2011

Urr, or maybe not! Having made the most of Jacky & Ping's hospitality in Arizona when we first arrived in the US, after a month on the road we thought it was time to descend on them again with all our washing, this time at their gorgeous summer cabin in the Lake Tahoe area.  And what a tough week it was(n’t)!  It was great to see them both again, as well as Ping’s i-Pad which now not only boasted Angry Birds but also live HD streaming of the Rugby World Cup – we want one.  We spent the days hiking and climbing the nearby hills and canoeing the lakes (including a spectacular comedy paddle-off by Gordon leaving Sarah stranded on a tiny island in the middle of a lake), the evenings barbecuing and the nights playing some exceedingly tense games of Dyce v Wu snooker or even tenser Scattegories.  Competitive, us?  No, no, no!

Having only been to Tahoe for the awesome skiing in the past we were blown away by how pretty it is in summer.  There’s also some incredible rock climbing and we soon decided to test out all our new gear and expertise and go and sample some.  Having invested in a local climbing book we realized though that most of the routes are for 'trad climbing’ (where you put in you own bolts) rather than the sport climbing we are into (where you follow bolts already in the rock that you clip into).  We finally managed to find an area with something suitable for us and set off to a cliff that we had a picture of but only very vague directions; park near ‘Peanut Gallery wall’, follow the obvious path and go left at the two pine trees to find the climbs.  Well, we can testify that there was no obvious path of any description, nor any obviously distinct pine trees (we were a pine forest for goodness sake), and we quickly found ourselves crashing through thorny undergrowth resulting in some impressive scratches that would be commented on for weeks.  We eventually stumbled out onto a cliff-top looking like stars of the Blair Witch Project and realized we had somehow found not the bottom but the top of the wall we wanted.  After the stress of getting there it was one of the prettiest places we’ve climbed, with gorgeous views out over nearby Donner Lake and the surrounding mountains and we quickly belayed ourselves down for a surprisingly successful and very fun afternoon climbing which we left feeling quite pleased with ourselves.

Our next climbing adventure was less successful.  We thought we’d found another area with lots of ready-bolted routes, but on arriving at the bottom of the wall they looked a really long way apart – which means potentially long way to fall.  Gordon gamely set off up the route after Sarah completely chickened out (her own words) and was doing stormingly until the penultimate bolt which had some tricky manoeuvres to reach.  By this time he was 20m up the wall and to add to the suspense a thunderstorm was rolling around the hills around us leaving Gordon the only feature on a rock wall.  Eventually we decided to sacrifice a clip in favour of Gordon and gratefully got him back to the ground before the worst of the rain and returned to cocktail hour at the cabin shaking somewhat.

We mixed up the climbing with sampling some of the great hiking in the area and spent our first day touring the lovely nearby Mt Judah with Jacky.  Despite our being there in September and even finding some unseasonal snow the wild flowers carpeted the slopes of the mountains in a way we’d barely seen since Greece in spring 2010 and it was amazing.

Jacky, or rather her two brand-new-titanium knees, declined to join us on our next hike when we decided to head to Freel Peak, which at 3,318m is the highest peak in the Carson Range and the highest point in El Dorado county - of course we were going up it.  Our guidebook had warned us that the road was ‘a little bumpy’ which didn’t vaguely prepare us for the actual road.  It looked like an assault course; huge rivets and ditches and continual river crossings, at the end of which, to add insult to injury, the car park for the hike we were looking for had been scrapped so we had park an extra mile away.

The Tank had done us proud in getting as close as was possible and we duly set off and weren’t disappointed.  It was a fantastic walk with incredible views of Lake Tahoe.  The peak of Mt Freel was so good that after a chipmunk-besieged picnic (seriously, they are super-cute until they stalk your Doritos chips which is a little scary) we decided to carry on to the next peak, Job’s Sister, as it wasn’t too far away.  We then managed a cross-country route to the end of the loop trail at Star Lake by which time we were just a teensy-tiny-bit hot & the lake looked remarkably inviting.  Star Lake is one of the highest in the range and, as such, just about the coldest.  Gordon bravely led the way and assured Sarah it was ‘refreshing’.  A better description would have been ‘bone-numbingly-cold’ – in fact lung-stoppingly cold, which Gordon managed to eek out by suggesting Sarah keep swimming ‘just a little further’ for the perfect picture.  Despite the shrieks the water was definitely reviving and set us up for the walk back, although by the time we’d made it back to the car through more wild-flower meadows, we’d walked about 17 miles and were barely able to stand for that night’s snooker tournament.  It’s almost certainly why we might have (just) lost.

Our final weekend with Jacky & Ping we were joined by the friends Tracy & Stu plus Gordon’s cousin Helen and her gorgeous dog Coda.  Enjoying the un-seasonal sunshine we headed to a nearby lake that Jacky & Ping knew which had a rope swing.  It was even more fun that the other brilliant places we’d been in Tahoe; a deep cold glacial lake (although not so cold compared to Star Lake) set amongst rocky mountain forests and, best of all, complete with a rope swing.  Jacky and Ping had heard of it years ago when a rumour went round the local community that the lake had a rope swing and had been coming here ever since – and despite the sunshine there was still hardly anyone there.  It was so good in fact that we’ll only refer to it as Lake XXX so as to not have lots of people head there (name may be available for suitable payment).  We spent a very entertaining afternoon picnicking, laughing a lot, swinging into the lake with varying degrees of belly flopping/water up the nose and sunbathing feeling altogether very un-September-esque.

Sadly all good things must come to an end, although more so for the others who all had to go back to work than the skiving two of us who only had to end on to wherever the road would take us.  After a final few strolls, laundry loads, meals and (just a couple of) G&Ts it was time for us all to hit the road in our different directions.

Jacky & Ping – take this as the biggest thank you for all your wonderful hospitality both in Arizona and Tahoe.  You couldn’t have moved to more convenient locations to facilitate our Trip and couldn’t have been more welcoming and fun.  We’re gutted we can’t join the family back out in Tahoe for Christmas but we fear real life and a lack of holiday may intervene.  We look forward to hopefully seeing you in England next summer!
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