Consumnes River Gorge is just outside of Placerville, about two hours away from the East Bay. Itching for some more experience trad leading, I ventured out for a climb with my friends Sarann and Kotaro on a sunny Sunday in May.
The approach is a fairly gentle 15-25 minute stroll from the car. “I just wear my flip-flops,” Kotaro said. As a beginning trad leader, I enjoyed the shorter walls, the top-ropeable climbs, and the bolted anchors.
We climbed Test Piece (picture on left), did some chimney silliness nearby, and struggled on a route called Unconquerable. And then, Dinkum. Dinkum (pictured below) was my first 5.9 lead.
I had climbed it clean on top-rope, and knew that my little fingers worked to my great advantage at the crux, but I still had to rack up quikly and tie in before I lost my nerve. This was a moment when I had to tell myself not to get caught up in insecurities about what grade I felt capable of climbing and to remember that grades are relative— some of the cracks that average dude fingers find difficult to squeeze into are perfect for my petite digits. And so it was with Dinkum. I sent it without a hitch!
My first climbing partner said to me once “If you can climb it clean on top rope, you should lead it.” It felt good to decide to do it, pushing past the nervousness. Afterward, it was also good to have a more experienced climber check out my placements, and Kotaro said they were fine. Whew!
When the noon sun got too hot, we retreated down to the icy cold river to cool our toes. I jumped in and splashed around in the freezing water, but I couldn’t convince the boys to do the same. We made our retreat in the late afternoon, when the mosquitos started biting ever more fervently.
Consumnes River Gorge made for a nice, mellow day of climbing and lounging, and is somewhere I’d even dare take non-climbing friends along. It was nice to get a few more leads under my belt on the less-committing shorter walls. Now that summer’s here and I’ve blown a paycheck on a basic rack, I’ll be roaming farther northward toward Tahoe and Lover’s Leap. And of course, there’s Yosemite looming. Heading out? Take me with you. I’ll climb all the thin pitches.
Narinda Heng has been hanging out in Babytown (aka Child Care) at Berkeley Ironworks since 2013. When she’s not doing that or climbing, she is usually found working or volunteering with GirlVentures, drinking Raxakoul coffee, writing, and driving to Los Angeles.