Trip Report: Woodfords Canyon

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Climbers have been scouring the Lake Tahoe Basin for climbable rock since the early 1950s, and though a vast majority of the obvious lines in the region have been plucked, the exploration of the area has continued well into the 2000s. There is still a huge amount of rock to be discovered in the Tahoe Basin, yet in recent years Tahoe locals have been pushing the boundaries of Tahoe climbing and developing routes a bit farther from the lake’s waters. One such area, known as Woodfords Canyon, has yielded an incredible amount of diverse climbs and ideal year-round climbing temperatures.

Touchstone Climbing Trip Report
Nick Miley climbing Hand of God (5.11b)

Influential figures like Royal Robbins, Warren Harding and Jim Bridwell lead the charge for Tahoe route development in the 1950s and 1960s, passing the torch to climbers like Bill Price, Dan Osman and Tony Yaniro in the 1970s and 1980s. It was the Tahoe climbers of the 1970s and early 1980s like Osman, Price and others that would eventually hop the pass to Highway 88 and begin developing routes in Woodfords Canyon.

Woodfords Canyon is nestled between Hope Valley and the western Nevada town of Gardnerville; where the steep East Fork of the Carson River has cut a path through a jagged canyon of granite spires and towering talus slopes. This section of Highway 88 has long been a thoroughfare for traveling Tahoe area climbers, who most often blast through the canyon in route to sunny Eastern Sierra climbing destinations.

Touchstone Climbing Trip Report
Ryan Curry climbing Neutron (5.10a)

Many pass through Woodfords Canyon, but anyone who has made an effort to stop the car and explore the area’s terraced granite cliffs will surely tell of excellent, often Yosemite-quality, year-round climbing options that range from single pitch clip-ups and short cutter cracks, to four pitch routes on the sunny south-facing slopes. Inversely, the adjacent side of the canyon is ideal for the hottest summer days, offering full-shade and a cool breeze that sweeps up the cliff sides from the Carson River below.

The crags at Woodfords Canyon are spread out, with a huge diversity of rock quality that ranges from steep, perfect alpine granite to complete choss and moss-covered ledges. Though nearly 30 individual crags exist in the canyon, there are five major climbing areas in the area that offer a large selection of quality routes; these include the Apron Crags, Cloudburst Canyon, Crystal Springs Canyon, the Deadwood Crags and The Fortress.

The highest concentration of quality crack climbing and steep bolted sport climbing can be found in Cloudburst Canyon; a segment of Woodfords that offers the incredible High Energy Wall and the popular One of These Days Buttress. At High Energy you’ll discover wonderfully parallel cracks like Neutron (5.10a), Power Surge (5.11d), Proton (5.11b) and Amped (5.12b). The High Energy Wall’s northern arête features of the best bolted sport climbs in the Central Sierra; Dan Osman’s gorgeous arête called Lightning Dream (5.12d).

Nick Miley climbing the Cupholder (5.10c)
Nick Miley climbing the Cupholder (5.10c)

A short walk eastward from the Cloudburst Canyon parking area will bring you to an obvious steep granite wall with a small roof at mid-height. This is the One of These Days Buttress, which offers about six quality pitches, mostly comprised of long, steep, forearm pumping endurance climbs on glorious, high-quality rock. When visiting this cliff, definitely pack a full assortment of trad gear for the namesake One of These Days (5.10b/c), and don’t forget a large rack of draws for Paul Jensen’s amazing sport pitch Living the Dream (5.12b).

Neutron 5.10a
One of These Days 5.10b/c
Proton 5.11b
Living the Dream 5.12b
Lightning Dream 5.12d

The most up-to-date route information for this area can be found on Mountain Project.

Trip Report By Dean Flemming.