Hiking the Trail – Hiking Poles, Good or Bad?

There is some debate over the usefulness of hiking poles. Do they actually help you, or are they just added weight and something to keep track of? For those who like hiking poles the debate goes a step further, do you use one pole or is two better? Each of these are personal preferences, but there are some advantages to hiking poles you may want to consider.

Qualities of a Good Hiking Pole

Unless you are purchasing a walking stick for show, or for a short day hike, there are certain characteristics you will want to consider. Certain options and features make a difference in selecting the proper pole for your needs.

  • Weight, as with any gear for hiking weight is always a consideration regardless if it goes in your pack, or in your hand.
  • Easily adjustable to different heights.
  • Comfortable grip.
  • Sturdy – you use these for support and balance and they need to be up to the task.

Advantages of Using a Hiking Pole

There are several advantages to carrying a hiking pole, or two. These advantages change depending on the type of hiking you are doing. Will you be on snow, extremely rocky terrain, crossing wide streams? In each of these hiking poles can be very helpful.

Balance – one of the best reasons to carry a hiking pole is to maintain your balance. A stumble or fall on the trail can be serious and anything which helps prevent or protect you from this threat is worth considering.

Joint Protection – the use of anti-shock hiking poles when hiking downhill has been shown to reduce impact on your knees and other joints.

Prevent Muscle Fatigue – Using hiking poles will take some of the strain off your back and transfer it to your shoulders and arms.

Double as Tent Poles – A number of the ultra-light tents no longer come with tent poles. Instead, you use your hiking poles as tent poles. With this application, you are carrying no extra weight and you gain hiking poles att he same time, a win-win situation.

Top Brands of Hiking Poles

There are several companies which make fine quality hiking poles. The key will be to select the model which has the features and options you desire and which best fits your needs. The drawback to all of these is the cost. A good hiking pole is expensive and if you decide to use dual poles for added comfort and balance, the cost will obviously be doubled. A good hiking pole can cost $100 with the top of the line going for as much as $200 or more.

  • Black Diamond
  • Levi
  • Komperdell
  • Nordic

Year-Round Missouri Wine Trail Weekends: Hermann Wineries Offer Seasonally Themed Tastings

Wine lovers in the Midwest need not travel to grape growing terrain in a Mediterranean climate to savor the tannins of this alcoholic treat. In the German settlement of Hermann, native Missouri grapes produce award-winning wine, while its wine trail makes for an enjoyable tasting that is a casual and fun outing for friends and family.

Hermann Missouri Wine Trail Weekends

Although many of Hermann’s wineries are open daily at specific times, visitors who sign up for a wine trail ticket will get a souvenir wine glass, a glass of wine paired with a sample of food, tasting opportunities, and a chance to enter a drawing to win a night’s stay at a B&B in Hermann with $30 gift certificates from each participating winery.

Hermann’s wineries lure visitors with seasonally themed wine tasting weekends throughout the year. Participating wineries include: Adam Puchta Winery, Bias Winery, Hermannhof Winery, OakGlenn Winery, Röbller Winery, and Stone Hill Winery.

Hermann’s Chocolate Wine Trail Weekend in February

On the weekend following Valentine’s Day in February, six of Hermann’s wineries host the chocolate wine trail. A unique chocolate dessert is paired with a glass of local wine, different at each location.

Hermann’s Norton Wine Trail Weekend in May

The first weekend in May at the Hermann wineries celebrates the Norton grape variety, native to Missouri and the official state grape. The Norton does well in Missouri’s climate and has a full-bodied dry taste, making a great red wine for cold nights and hearty dinners.

Hermann’s Berries and Barbecue Wine Trail Weekend in July

On the last full weekend in July, visitors to Hermann can enjoy wine paired with summer fruits and meat. Wineries generally offer recipes for the delicious snacks paired with the wines so that visitors can recreate the tasting experience at home. Summer is a good time to enjoy the shaded outdoor tables on site while listening to live music or simply pick-nicking.

Hermann’s Holiday Fare Wine Trail Weekend in November

On the third weekend of November, just before Thanksgiving, visitors can sample wines paired with traditional holiday treats like beef burgundy, stuffing, and mulled wine. November in central Missouri brings a slight chill to the air, but makes for perfect hiking weather, particularly around the picturesque vineyards.

Hermann’s Say Cheese Wine Trail in December

A new addition to the end of the year is the Say Cheese Wine Trail Weekend on the second weekend of December. Besides nibbling on cheese and sipping wine, this weekend presents the perfect opportunity for purchasing holiday gifts or stocking up on wine for holiday meals.

Visitors must buy tickets in advance online (with a PayPal account) or by phone: 1-800-932-8687.

Those interested in attending should purchase tickets early as they can sell out.

Good wine doesn’t always require far travel and good weekends don’t always have to be expensive.

Best Climbing Plants for Autumn Foliage-Why Leaves Change Colour

What the autumn garden lacks in flower colord is made up for with fiery leaf shades initially on the plants then by carpeting the earth beneath in a dazzling blanket.

Why Leaves Turn Colour Before They Fall

In spring and summer leaves contain an abundance of chlorophyll, the green pigment which traps the energy from sunlight for use in photosynthesis. As the shorter, duller days and cooler nights of autumn approach, chlorophyll production ceases. Any remaining chlorophyll in the leaves breaks down and pigments which have been masked by chlorophyll are able to display their colorful hues.

Carotenoids which are responsible for the colouration in carrots and pumpkins give us the yellows and oranges in leaves. Xanthophylls are the yellow pigments found in dandelions and sunflowers and are also responsible for yellow leaves.


Before leaf fall layers of cells develop where the leaf stems join the branches. These cells block the transfer of water to and from the leaves. Sugars are trapped and anthocyanins are produced in the leaves. These are the pigments which produce blue, red and violet colours.

The duration and intensity of autumn colour is largely down to the weather. The best autumn colour comes with a combination of mild days and cool, crisp nights. This blaze of glory seldom lasts long as the foliage often falls over-night after a severe frost.

The Virginia Creeper is the Most Popular Climber for Autumn Foliage

The Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) is the most popular of the climbers grown for their brilliantly-coloured autumn foliage. The name comes from the Greek parthenos, virgin; kissos, Ivy. The specific epithet quinquefolia refers to the leaves, which are composed of mostly 5 leaflets measuring from 2.5 to 10cm long. These are coarsely toothed dull mid- green leaves above, pale and rather glacous beneath. They turn brilliant red in autumn. This vigorous climber can reach a height of 15 metres.

Other Excellent Members of the Parthenocissus Genus

  • Parthenocissus henryana (Chinese Virginia Creeper) is only slightly less hardy than the true Virginia Creeper and not quite so vigorous yet still capable of reaching a height of 10 metres and a spread of 6 metres. The dark green leaves composed of 3-5 oval toothed leaflets have conspicuous silvery-white veins which turn a glorious bright red in autumn.
  • Parthenocissus tricuspidata (Boston Ivy) is an extremely vigorous plant reaching 20 metres tall with variable, three lobed, deeply toothed bright green leaves often up to 20cm long which turn a brilliant red to purple prior to leaf fall.
  • Parthenocissus tricuspidata ‘Veitchii’ gets up to 15 meters high and spreads to 6 meters. The large lush green leaves turn purple and red before they drop.

Growing Tips for Parthenocissus

These vigorous creepers are suitable for growing through large trees and on fences or walls. They all cling by disc-like suckers on the tips of tendrils, but often need a helping hand after planting before they get a grip. A dab of blue-tack to stick the the young stem to the fence or wall will do the trick.

Preferring fertile well-drained soil they are happy in sun or partial shade. Pruning consists of trimming in winter to fit the available space. Do keep the stems clear of eaves, doors and windows.

Vines for Excellent Autumn Leaf Colour

Two species of the Vitis genus are renowned for their autumn foliage:-

  • Vitis coignetiae (Crimson glory vine) is very vigorous (20 meters high and 10 meters across) requiring plenty of room to display its large (up to 30cm across) dark green, heart-shaped, leaves which turn glowing, rich-red and amber before hitting the deck.
  • Vitis vinifera ‘Purpurea’ is the purple-leaved version of the common grapevine. It has burgundy-purple foliage all summer with dusty grey leaf tips. The leaves go a darker purple color in autumn. It eventually reaches 8 meters tall with a spread of 3metres.

Growing Tips for Vines

These plants climb by means of tendrils which need support to twine around. They are ideal for growing over a trellis, pergola or fence or against a wall as well as through a large shrub or tree. Fertile well-drained soil in sun or partial shade is required. Winter pruning is the same as for Parthenocissus.

Finally the Climbing Hydrangea

Hydrangea anomala subsp. petiolaris (Climbing hydrangea) is a vigorous, deciduous climber with an eventual height of 15 meters and a spread to match. It clings by means of aerial roots. Thriving in sun or partial shade it does well on a north facing a wall. The 11cm long ovate-rounded leaves have heart-shaped bases. The fresh green spring foliage goes dark green in summer then some turn a beautiful yellow and others take on a ginger hue in autumn. Pruning is simply a matter of trimming to keep the shrub within its allotted space.

Where to Find Biodegradable Soap: For Eco-Friendly Camping, Hiking, and Backpacking

Campers, hikers, and backpackers love being out in nature. It’s good to keep one’s environmental impact low when out in the woods, in the mountains, or on the trail. One way to make a camping or backpacking trip eco-friendly is to wash up after a long day’s hike with natural, biodegradable soap. Here are some companies that make effective but eco-friendly cleaning products for campers, hikers, and backpackers.


Found at AllTerrainCo.com, this company specializes in “natural remedies for outdoor enthusiasts.” Useful products include:

  • The Grime Bar. This hefty bar soap, made in part with hemp seed oil, is perfect for scrubbing away even heavy dirt from a long day on the trail.
  • The Foot Bar. Ideal for hikers and backpackers who are spending long days on their feet. This bar soap soothes tired feet with ingredients like tea tree oil, eucalyptus, and pumice.
  • The Ditch the Itch Bar. This bar soap helps alleviate the effects of dry and itchy skin.

All-Terrain provides an online catalog and a store locator to help users find local businesses that carry their products.

Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps

Located at DrBronner.com, Dr. Bronner’s is a certified organic, fair trade company that has been in business for decades. Their biodegradable offerings include:

  • Classic organic bar and liquid soaps. These products are scented with organic oils like peppermint and lavender and are biodegradable. The Baby Mild Organic Soap is unscented and appropriate for those with sensitive skin or allergies.
  • Hair Conditioning Rinse & Creme. For those who will be bathing at campsites or in bodies of water, this organic shampoo/conditioning product is a good option if regular bar soap just won’t cut it.

The Dr. Bronner’s website offers monthly specials. Check out their 18-in-1 uses page (found in the FAQs section) for more ideas on how to use their products.

Campsuds Soaps

These products are distributed through sites like REI.com and Altrec.com. Highlights include:

  • Campsuds Soap with Citronella. This liquid soap, useful for outdoor dishwashing or scrubbing clothes, is made with citronella, a natural insect repellent.
  • Campsuds Soap. The original product is all-purpose and completely biodegradable. Available in several sizes, it only takes a small amount of this concentrated liquid soap to create plenty of foam.

Customer reviews indicate that Campsuds is most handy for washing dishes or clothing rather than being used as a body or hair wash.

Just Soap

This company has a unique, eco-friendly way of producing their soap: by bicycle-powered blender. Their low-impact soaps are natural and biodegradable:

  • Regular bar soap. This line of standard, 3.5-oz. bar soaps are available in natural scents like Oatmeal Honey and Lemongrass Ginger.
  • Extra-gentle bar soap. Made with avocado oil and available in lavender or no scent.
  • Shampoo bar soap. Ideal for use on the trail, these shampoos are made with jojoba, almond, and castor oils.

Just Soap products are available indivudally or in bulk packs at justsoap.com.

Using Eco-Friendly Soap

While all of these products are vegetable-based and biodegradable, overuse will still have a negative effect on the environment. Use of any cleaning product should be sparing – saving money and the natural areas in which they’re being used. To carry soap safely in a backpack or duffel, look for a quality camping soap dish, available through companies like Coleman or Woolrich.

Personal Locator Beacons and Their Use: What They Are, How to Use Them, and When to Use Them

Lately, there has been a lot of discussion about personal locator beacons in the news. What exactly are these devices for, and how can they be effectively utilized by hikers in distress?

What are Personal Locator Beacons?

Personal locator beacons are small, electronic devices that can be easily carried by a hiker or other backcountry traveler when in remote locations. When activated, the beacon sends a signal to satellites, which is then retransmitted back to Earth and alerts local law enforcement or E.M.S. A hike in distress does not need to talk, just push a button. Thus, even if somehow incapacitated, as long as the hiker can push the button, the equipment will work.

Advantages of Personal Locator Beacons

The major advantage of having a personal beacon is that it can cut down on the time needed to alert search and rescue personnel of a problem. It can also be used in places where cell phone reception is non-existent or where hand-held radios won’t work.

Criticism of Personal Locator Beacons

The major criticism of these devices is that they are being used for situations that would not require a rescue if those in need had some basic outdoor knowledge. Also, by having this equipment, a hiker or climber may be tempted to try a riskier route, under the belief that help will be on the way at the push of a button.

Another thing to consider is that although a beacon can reduce the amount of time to alert authorities, it could still be many hours or days to reach a stranded party. This is dependent on organizing the rescue team, getting to the trailhead, and ultimately to the patient. In some states, it is the person being rescued who may have to pay for emergency services.

How to Use a Personal Locator Beacon Correctly

First, read all instructions carefully before taking the equipment into the hills. It may be necessary to enter some data into the device or online, such as where it will be used, who is using it, etc.

When in the field, keep the beacon readily accessible, such as in the top-loader of a backpack. Even though it should be waterproof, it wouldn’t hurt to keep it in a plastic, resealable bag for extra measure. If part of a group, make sure that everyone knows where the beacon is and how to use it, and under what circumstances it can be activated.

Conditions Under Which to Activate a Beacon

The circumstance and decision-making process can vary greatly depending on the situation. However, some possible scenarios could include:

  • An immediate, life-threatening condition.
  • A traumatic injury in which the victim cannot evacuate themselves.
  • Becoming lost, in which the individual or party is completely turned around and has not been able to reorient themselves for 24-48 hours.

What has gotten some people in trouble is activating a beacon when conditions are not life-threatening, but where the party did not have enough knowledge to solve the problem themselves.

Remember, the personal locator beacon can be an effective tool when used correctly and for an appropriate reason. However, nothing substitutes for having a good first-aid kit, wearing appropriate clothing, and of course, knowledge.

A Walk down the Higueron Valley in Andalucia

Route Description and Map to Walk from Frigiliana to Nerja in Spain

From the scenic white hill village of Frigiliana, this walk drops into the cool depths of the Higueron valley, then winds along its rocky course through a spectacular gorge to its junction with the Chillar River, and finally to the attractive coastal town of Nerja.

When the river is in spate, it’s often easier to paddle than go dry-shod, but wet feet are amply rewarded by the wonderful variety of scenery: glorious views of the gorge and surrounding mountains, cascades of scarlet oleanders and golden broom tumbling down their slopes, shaded pinewoods and open hillsides carpeted with flowering shrubs and herbs, avocado orchards and olive groves, meadows and verges ablaze with spring flowers, dancing butterflies and singing birds.

And it’s downhill almost all the way!

Start and Finish

The start point is the Paraje del Ingenio in Frigiliana, map reference 203723. (Mapa Topografico de Sierra de Almijara, 1:25000)

It’s best to take the bus to Frigiliana from main bus station by the Plaza Cantarero in Nerja, as the walk ends conveniently back at this bus station.

Route Directions for the Walk to Nerja

From the Paraje del Ingenio, take the concrete sideroad signed “Ruta Turistica” running between the Bar Virtudes and the Guardia Civil post, which then drops steeply into the Higueron gorge. At the bottom (map reference 204724, distance 0.400km) cross the (sometimes dry) riverbed, and take the footpath leading downstream on the far side.

This path winds along the river bed, sometimes actually in the river, at others running along one or other bank for about 800 metres. The water is rarely more than ankle deep, but it’s wise to use a stick or walking pole, and to avoid this route after heavy rain.

About a kilometre down stream, the path diverges from the stream to and begins to climb diagonally up above the left bank (map reference 204714, distance 1.600km). After a short distance, steps have been cut into the rock to provide a safe and easily negotiable path through a tight gorge, with the Higueron rushing down a series of falls and rapids 20 or 30 metres below. A rope handrail has also been erected, but looks somewhat precarious, and probably shouldn’t be tested too severely.

Below the last and biggest waterfall, concrete steps descend once more to the stream bed, which now winds for about 300m between two sheer 15-20m high faces of rock barely 5m apart.

Soon the path emerges into a broad open valley to join a rough track running from La Molineta down the Higueron to its confluence with the Chillar (map reference 217695, distance 4.050km). Crossing the Chillar, the route now follows the well graded and occasionally metalled track down that river’s left bank to Nerja.

Skirting below Nerja for sveral hundred metres, still following the river course, the track passes a ruined honey factory on the left.

(map reference 216679, distance 6.400km) Take the footpath immediately beyond the factory.This emerges at the top of the cliff onto a road leading directly back to the bus station.

Frigiliana-Nerja Route Data

Distance: 6.4km.

Vertical Interval: 550m.

Time: 2 ½ – 4 hrs.

Difficulty (1=Easy, 9=V.difficult): 2. But take care when wading the stream.

Walking in Andalucia – Caution

Mountain walking isa delight, but also potentially dangerous, especially in bad weather. Always:

  • Wear stout, non-slip footwear and carry a walking pole.
  • Carry water and weatherproof clothing.
  • Tell someone your route and return time.
  • Be prepared for sudden storms or mist.

Other Walks in Axarquia

 Full downloadable walk directions and map for a walk in the Salares Valley and other walks in Axarquia.

The Liman Trail

Climbing El Fuerte

A Walk in the Alpujarra

Climbing Ideas for Rainy Days: Tip for Rock Climbers Looking for Gear and Beta Online

So it is supposed to be a nice, fall day. All of the gear is packed in the car, ready to go, and the schedule has been cleared so that the whole day is available to climb. However, just as the garage door opens that beautiful fall day has turned into a rainy, cold, ugly Saturday.

If it isn’t possible to get one’s climbing fix, here are a few ideas that can work for those rainy days.

Finding Beta on the Internet

Looking to do some research on new climbing sites? A great research tool is Rockclimbing.com, a website with a catalog of climbing areas and routes, with photographs and descriptions. For instance, the site will list a route with its name, grade, and the number of ascents. There is also a section where the climb is rated on a five-star system. Click on the route and the site also includes directions on how to climb it plus reviews from previous climbers.

Shopping for Gear

There are several online retailers that have rock climbing equipment available to purchase. There are also specialty websites that cater specifically to climbers. One such site is Mountaingear.com. This site has an array of climbing clothing and equipment, with a special sales section for discounted items. Do not forget to visit the website of the local climbing shop, and help support local businesses.


While on the internet, the Access Fund is worth checking out. The Access Fund is a non-profit organization that advocates for climbers and seeks to preserve climbing areas from development as well as keeping those areas open for climbing. They also have a calendar of events, including presentations and regional activities.


Just because the weather isn’t cooperating doesn’t mean one can’t practice. For instance, try learning a new knot while sitting in front of the TV, perhaps while watching a climbing video for inspiration! A climber can also organize equipment, practice tying multi-directional anchors off of furniture, such as table legs, or curl up with a good climbing book.

Hit the Gym

If the climbing itch is so great that the only way to quench it is to climb, there is the local climbing gym to feed the need. Pulling on plastic is not the same as real rock, but it is better than nothing, and there are some great climbing gyms out there. Indoorclimbing.com has a listing of climbing gyms and walls not just in the United States but in other countries as well. That way, no matter where in the world or what the weather, there is always a way to get out and climb.

Day Walks At Carnarvon Gorge, Australia: Single Day Hikes Through Carnarvon Gorge In Central Queensland

Carnarvon Gorge is located in central Queensland about a full day’s drive (600 kilometers) from the Queensland capital, Brisbane.

The following full day walks can be undertaken at Carnarvon Gorge. This full day walks start at the park information center. The track layout is easy to follow and is well signposted. The main track winds up Carnarvon Gorge from the park information center, and the following side tracks branch off this main backbone track.

It is possible to combine some of these sidetracks to make a longer day.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends three days is needed to comfortably visit all the sites Carnarvon Gorge has to offer.

The tracks are classified under the “Australian Standard For Walking Tracks”.

Moss Garden Walk

7km return (2–3 hours) Class 3

The Moss Garden is a small micro-habitat tucked away in a fissure in the sandstone wall of the gorge with ferns and mosses fed via a stream. The EPA has constructed a low-impact boardwalk to enable walkers to get close enough to fully appreciate the fauna in this unique environment.

Amphitheatre Walk

8.6km return (3–4 hours) Class 3

The amphitheatre is a spectacular chamber accessed through a narrow walkway. The sheer sandstone walls keep the chamber cool. Sound echoes off the walls. The chamber was formed by water gouging a path through the sandstone over thousands of years forming a cave. Final,ly the roof of the cave collapsed resulting in the formation of the huge amphitheatre.

Ward’s Canyon Walk

9.2km return (3–4 hours) Class 3

Ward’s Canyon is a narrow cleft in the side of the main gorge. A stream, surrounded by mosses and ferns. runs through a small chasm then cascades in a waterfall past the track. It is a short uphill climb to the main section of Ward’s Canyon and this provides a good spot on a hot hike as it surprisingly cool due to the sandstone features and water creating a cooling affect.

The Art Gallery Walk

10.8km return (3–4 hours) Class 3

There are over two thousand Aboriginal engravings, ochre stencils and freehand paintings on this huge expanse of sandstone. It is over 62m long and the EPA claims “the Art Gallery contains one of the best examples of stencil art in Australia.”

Cathedral Cave Walk

18.2km return (5–6 hours) Class 3

The Cathedral Cave is one kilometre from the Big Bend campsite at the end of the main walking track. Like the Art Gallery, it is a huge expanse of sandstone rock the Aborigines used as an art canvass for thousands of years.

Aboriginal Art

Both the Art Gallery and Cathedral Cave contain stencils, engravings and paintings of various Aboriginal art including fish, birds, people, leaves, boomerangs and body parts. It is thought that Aborigines did not live in the gorge due to a lack of food and only visited the gorge for ceremonial rituals. Around 1870, when the area was settled by Europeans, saw the last of the Aborigines visiting Carnarvon Gorge. Aboriginal dreamtime stories say that the Rainbow Serpent formed the gorges.

Some of the art sites are monitored by cameras to prevent vandalism.

Carnarvon Gorge has other spectacular sites other than the day walks. Bush camping can be undertaken at the Big Bend campsite at the end of the 10 kilometer main track.

Rock Climbing Donner Summit

Many rock climbers know about the easily accessed, high-quality granite routes found along Old Highway 40 on the Western end of Truckee, collectively known as Donner Summit or Donner Pass. For local climbers, “The Summit” is an excellent training ground for the more lengthy and involved climbs to be found in nearby Lover’s Leap, or Yosemite (a 3.5 hr. drive to Tuolumne Meadows from Truckee). For others, the predominantly single-pitch traditional style climbs, offer all the entertainment needed for a full season’s worth of excellent granite adventure.

Let me say this outright: Donner Summit is a great climbing spot. What you’ll find on the summit is a myriad of climbs on high-quality granite akin to Tuolumne’s coarse-grained rock. At around 7000’ elevation the area offers perfect climbing temperatures all summer long, and though it can be crowded on the weekends, the volume of climbing available makes it fairly easy to find some solitude. A large percentage of the climbs are single-pitch trad routes, though there is a selection of multi-pitch routes, and many routes can be top-roped with a 60 or 70-meter rope. The only thing that you will have a hard time finding on the summit is moderate sport routes. There just aren’t very many. However, there’s a good assortment of hard sport routes, and nearby Big Chief offers a high concentration of sport climbs from moderates to super hard. The sheer multitude of low-commitment trad leads, with solid bolted anchors, makes it super easy to bottom-up climb virtually everything, and the short approaches are a rock climber’s dream come true. Top that off with awesome views of Donner Lake, Donner Peak, and the whole Truckee Basin and you’re in for a really special climbing day.


Rock Climbing History and Guide Books

Climbing on Donner Summit began developing as early as the 1960’s, though the climbing history of the whole Lake Tahoe area is patchy. The earliest climbs in the Tahoe area were Sierra Club endeavors over at South Tahoe’s famous Lover’s Leap. The development of the Donner Summit region specifically holds a long list of first ascensionists and credit for the development of the area can be dished out to a number of individuals. The first formal written guide of the climbing in the Tahoe area was written by Erick Beck and published by the Tahoe City Department of Parks and Recreation; entitled Climber’s guide to Lake Tahoe and Donner Summit, it has a lengthy section on the climbing of Donner Summit and old topos. An updated guide to Lake Tahoe climbing written by Mike Carville and published by Falcon Guides in 1999 is entitled Rock Climbing Lake Tahoe and offers a fairly accurate description of Donner Summit climbing. The majority of the topos are beautiful hand-drawn creations by artist Mike Clelland, but some remain rudimentary sketches and are thus difficult to decipher. Chris McNamara’s Supertopo offers high-quality guides for South Lake Tahoe Climbing and Lover’s Leap but has yet to produce a guide for Donner Summit and the other climbing areas around Truckee and North Lake Tahoe.

Donner Summit Rock Climbing Areas

The climbing areas encompass several formations along Old Highway 40 the largest being Black Wall, which plays host to a number of excellent climbs and offers the longest climbs on Donner Summit (4 pitches). You’ll find thin face, splitter cracks, hollow flakes, and towering roofs within the labyrinth of Black Wall’s many ledges and ramps. One could spend a large chunk of the season exploring Black Wall alone. Most of the anchors are bolted, and the hardware is almost all bomber. Two of the area’s finest moderate hand cracks: Black September (5.9+) and pitch 1 of One Hand Clapping (5.8) are on Black Wall. Just a mile up the road and a 2-minute approach away is Snowshed Wall. As home to the highest concentration of climbs on a single cliff, Snowshed wall can periodically take on the appearance of a climbing gym and offers excellent climbing on cracks, faces, arêtes, and chimneys ranging anywhere from 5.6-5.13b. The classic Peter Principle (5.11a) offers excellent sustained crack climbing that runs up the vertical west face of Snowshed Wall. Expect to employ an arsenal of techniques on “The Principle” including stemming, fingerlocks, jamming and a stiff lieback crux, so bring your finest technique. Cruise around to the East face of Snowshed and test your offwidth skills on Nova Express (5.9+) or check out the hard face climbs Nice Dreams (5.12b) or Death Tongue (5.12d). Other stellar climbing areas include Grouse Slabs where 1-2 pitch bolted and traditionally protected climbs await, and School Rock which is home to the largest concentration of moderate 1-3 pitch climbs on Donner Summit.


Excellent bouldering can be found at the Southwest base of Grouse Slabs, as well as on an array of high-quality boulders atop Snowshed Wall. The longest traverse in the area (~100ft!) sits atop Donner Peak and within the confines of nearby Donner State Park lies a classic Truckee bouldering spot: Split Rock is a 25 foot tall glacial erratic cleaved in half by ice wedging, leaving perfect arêtes, some cool slab problems, a few pumpy overhanging problems and a wicked hand traverse to a dyno with a tenuous top out (The Dyno V6). Beware the height of Split Rock, at about 25-30ft tall each problem, is a highball and some experienced climbers found themselves wishing they had a rope. All the boulders in the area are the same high-quality granite common to all the cliffs at Donner Summit.

As with all climbing areas, make an effort to preserve the areas you enjoy. Bury all human waste and pack out all garbage. If climbing on Snowshed wall, please use the outhouse in the parking area. The outhouse has been generously provided by local gear shop Granite Chief specifically with climber’s use intended. Please respect this contribution to our climbing community and use the facilities provided. Snowshed wall is a high traffic area and any human waste left behind will make its way into the runoff at the base of the cliff and eventually into Donner Lake. The residents of the Donner Lake area drink Donner Lake’s water. Enough said.

Beginner Rock Climbing in Squamish, B.C. Best Crags for the Novice Climber Near Vancouver, Canada

Squamish, British Columbia (B.C.), dubbed “The Outdoor Recreation Capital of Canada”, is a world-class rock climbing destination with the granite monolith, “The Chief”, overlooking Howe Sound. With the wide variety of rock climbing routes and the magnificent view, Squamish attracts climbers from all over the world year round.

The popular climbing documentary, First Ascent by Sender Films, documents the epic struggle of Didier Berthod against the then-unclimbed Cobra Crack located in the deep of the Squamish forest. Even though such an incredibly difficult route does exist, Squamish also offers a wide variety of top rope-able, novice-friendly climbs.

Getting to Squamish

Getting to Squamish from Vancouver, B.C. is quite straightforward. If leaving from Vancouver East, simply get onto Highway 1 West and keep heading north along the Sea to Sky corridor.

If leaving from Downtown Vancouver, heading towards the Lions Gate Bridge via W Georgia St. will get you on the right path. Simply follow the Highway 99 sign and you should be able to make your way onto the highway. Once you are on the highway, there will not be any more detours until the final destination.

Most of the highway construction has been completed and the traffic is quite smooth even on a busy weekend. Expect about an hour for travel time.

The Beginner Crags

Murring Park: Murrin Park is about 9km south of Squamish. When heading north, look for the Murrin Park sign and the entrance on the west side of the highway. It is paid parking if the parking pay station is functioning.

The Sugarloaf: A popular cliff within Murrin Park with easy to set up top-ropes. To get there, find the trail right next to the toilets at the south end of the parking lot. The trail curves uphill for just a few minutes leading to the base of the cliff. Walk up around the right side of the cliff to get to the top.

Easily top-rope-able beginner routes:

  • Flat Battery 5.4
  • Magnet 5.4
  • Little Spark 5.4
  • Jump Start 5.6
  • Lieback Crack 5.7
  • The Mechanic 5.7

The Smoke Bluffs: This area offers close proximity to downtown Squamish with excellent top-rope slab climbing for beginners. When driving on Highway 99 towards Squamish, turn right at the Cleveland Avenue intersection where a brand new Squamish Adventure Center is clearly visible. Follow the paved road past the Adventure Center until reaching a dirt parking lot on the right side with the Smoke Bluff sign.

Burgers and Fries: The most accessible, top-rope friendly crag within the Smoke Bluffs. Follow the main, big trail on the south end of the parking lot. Keep going forward along the main trail while avoiding turning onto any other trails and eventually, you will reach a crag with houses visible on the top of the cliff. Top ropes can be set up by scrambling up the easy class 4 rock on the leftmost side of the cliff.

Recommended beginner routes:

  • Dusty Eyes 5.4
  • Wisecrack 5.7
  • Burgers and Fries 5.7

Recommended Guide Book

For more detailed topos and maps of the wonderful climbs that Squamish has to offer, the climbing guide Squamish Select by Marc Bourdon is highly recommended.

Go Rock Climbing in Squamish

Choose a nice sunny day and go visit one of the beginner crags in Squamish for an experience like no other. Remember, you don’t have to be an extreme athlete to enjoy rock climbing!