Big Chief Lake Tahoe
Big Chief is one of North Lake Tahoe’s best sport crags. Offering a huge variety of ratings and styles, this mostly single pitch crag can keep you busy for 3 to 4 days easy. Big Chief is a long wall situated high above the Truckee River Canyon and like Indian Springs makes a great day or weekend trip from the Bay Area or Sacramento. Overall, the quality of the rock is excellent and the climbs are abundant and easy to find, what more could you want?
We started out at the Central Wall of Big Chief on two excellent 5.9’s, Warpath and War Paint. War Path is the easier of the two, running up nine bolts to a clean anchor. It’s a tall single pitch, just doable with a 50 meter rope. War Paint, directly to the right of War Path is another solid 5.9 climb. Most of the moves are easy and there is an interesting crux bulge about two thirds of the way up.
If you’re looking for some pump then check out the cave area directly to the left of the war series. Mohawk 10b is a well protected jug fest that is great for beginning leaders.
To the right of the war series about 30 feet are two great climbs. Force Feed 10c/11a has a fun cruxy start with some big moves to an easy slab finish. Too Light to Wait 10b has some fun crimps and technical feet.
When to go:
Big Chief makes a great summer destination. Even in the heat of August the elevation and exposure make it comfortable to climb all day.
How to get there:
IMPORTANT – the guidebook has the wrong driving directions in it! From the 80 in Truckee you need to get on 267 South and then turn right on Brockway Rd. Make a left at the stoplight at Palisades Drive and left again on Ponderosa Drive. Right on Silverfir Drive and left on Thelin Drive. Soon after you turn onto Thelin you’ll see a gate and the beginning of a Forest Service Road on the right. Take this road 5.2 miles to the parking area on you right. If it’s a weekend you’ll likely see some cars in the parking lot from the road.
The trail from the parking lot is only one mile and easy to follow. It will bring you to the pass between Central wall and North wall. To reach the climbs described above turn left when you reach the wall.
Where to stay:
Camping is free at the crag. Be sure to get a cook stove permit from the NFS office if you plan on having anything hot. There are no services so be prepared to pack out whatever you bring in. There are also many established campgrounds a short drive from Big Chief and hotels in Truckee.
Download the GPS Track here. The parking lot and the crag right in front of war path are marked with waypoints.
Mike Carville’s Rock Climbing Lake Tahoe, published in 1999 is the most current book on the area. You can get it at you local climbing shop or online here.
Have you been to Big Chief? Any beta to share? Questions about the area? Post it in the Comments below!