Craig Climbing Big Chief and Green Phantom in North Tahoe


A few weekends back I decided to go on a climbing trip with a bunch of people I didn’t know via a very active meet up group Get Your Climb On. What could go wrong? Actually, everything went right and I climbed the hardest sport route I’d ever done outside and met a ton of really great people I just clicked with. It was an amazing time. I couldn’t find a great guide book for North Tahoe (still waiting on this one), but there is one specifically on Big Chief which would have been helpful.


We camped at Goose Meadows which is just down the road from Truckee. It was super convenient to hop into Truckee if we wanted for food or grocery. Also the campground spots had plenty of parking ($5 for each extra vehicle) and trees for hammocks (my new favorite way of sleeping outside). We reserved two campsites next to each other and had a lot of fun giving each other trail names by the fire. πŸ˜€

Big Chief

Center Wall with a climber on War Path
Center Wall with a climber on War Path

It was a 45 minute drive to Big Chief parking lot from where we camped, about 20 minutes of that on dirt road. Looked like it could be easy to miss the trailhead or make a wrong turn. We were on the wall at around 9am with one other party on War Path. I led a couple routes and set up top rope on War Path (β˜…β˜…Β½ 5.9-) while someone else set one up on Wampum (β˜…β˜… 5.8). I had heard War Path and War Paint were supposed to be really fun, but it was mostly, “eh” like most of the stuff on the Center Wall.

After about an hour another group joined us and an hour after that a third group showed up. It got crowded and after leading and setting up TR on Route Steelers from Hell (β˜…β˜…Β½ 5.10a) and failing to reach the second clip on Force Feed (β˜…β˜…Β½ 5.11a) after many falls we migrated over to the Honeycomb and South Wall.

Thao climbing the fun and long Sweating Bullets on Honeycomb Wall

This is where the climbing became a lot more interesting and fun. I loved the long pitch (12 bolts) of Sweating Bullets (β˜…β˜…β˜… 5.10+) on Honeycomb and I set my personal best by leading May Cause Drowsiness (β˜…β˜…β˜… 5.10d+) which was a big struggle. Funny thing is I thought May Cause Drowsiness was actually the 10a to the right because I counted the routes wrong from the start of the South Wall. Boy did I get a surprise when the 10d+ move showed up! Without a guide book visual I’ve found mistaking routes like this is easy to do.

Rexon trying May Cause Drowsiness 10d/11a
Rexon trying May Cause Drowsiness 10d/11a

Overall it was a windy day which kept things really cool and I ended up leading 6 routes and climbing two additional ones. The other groups never came down to the South Walls so we had it to ourselves which was awesome. I’d say the climbing here was pretty fun and I’d come back for other three star plus climbs since there are many walkable areas from the center wall.

Donner Pass – Green Phantom

Setting up top top above Phantom Staircase
Setting up top top above Phantom Staircase

While Big Chief has many areas that are walkable, the areas around Donner Pass are a bit more spread out. We ended up going to Green Phantom which is pretty much underneath the main Donner Pass bridge and has a beautiful view over Donner Lake. We set up several top ropes (Phantom Staircase routes, Roccocater, The Unknown Phantom and The Undercling Thing) and climbed from them for the rest of the day. The sport leads here on Yellow Jacket (β˜…β˜…Β½ 5.10b) and Roccocater (β˜…β˜… 5.10) felt/looked pretty hard compared to others I had done of the same grade.

Climbing Phantom Staircase Right
Climbing Phantom Staircase Right

My feet were killing me from the first long climbing session in my TC Pros the prior day so I only ended up climbing four of the routes here. Mostly I feel like I hung out and ate food in the hot, intense sun. Green Phantom wasn’t too interesting of a climbing area, but it was still fun hanging with the climbing crew. We left at 2pm, but some people stuck around to watch the high line another group was setting up under the bridge and one of my climbing friends even took at shot at it!

Overall it was a great weekend and I met a lot of really great people I plan to climb again with soon.

Most of the climbing crew under the Center Wall before the sun came to warm us up! There was a lot of room at the base of these climbs.
Most of the climbing crew under the Center Wall at Big Chief before the sun came to warm us up!

More photos from the climbs (most taken by Rexon!)