I’ve spent the majority of my life around the ocean surfing and body surfing. Surfing is fun, but it just started to feel like a crowded and competitive endeavor, and I started really feeling a lot more joy and peace out of body surfing. This piece is not about surfing, however, but with professional surfing being the only real sport I’ve ever followed I learned the term Dark Horse, which I found out referred to the underdog. I also learned in surfing through obsessively checking wave and weather forecasts that sometimes we just need to leave our expectations behind and go enjoy things with an open mind, despite what the professional forecasters say, because sometimes life throws us those dark horse days, and a lot of those dark horse days are the ones that I truly remember most.
Still in Lake Tahoe, eating lunch and talking about what great climbs Surrealistic Pillar and Corrugation Corner were, Dave and I lounged in the shade thumbing through the South Lake Tahoe Climbing Guide avoiding the midday heat. We moved our feet back and forth from bench to ground to ward off the giant black ants that never bit us once, and I brewed up a french press of my infamous overly potent coffee. I think that knowing this was our last day in Tahoe Dave caught a second wind, because he was super eager to get on a climb called It’s Better with Bacon. I would be lying to say that I didn’t coerce him into it by promising a bad ass pizza dinner in town and a rest day Saturday–little did he know I’d drag him into Yosemite on Saturday!
We started the approach around 4pm, and being that I’d spent some time scouting out the beta a few days before on my solo circuit there were no complications on approaching or finding the start of the route. Sometimes trad climbs can be difficult to navigate–especially for newer climbers. I’m pretty bold and often brainless, so it never seems to be much of a problem and I often find myself accidentally on-sighting new variations to these routes without knowing.
The route begins up a runout easy slab, which I missed, and actually did this really blank seam before looking up and right and seeing the actual seam the topo (route map) was describing. From there I climbed straight up a flawless friction slab with the occasional dike crimp–linking the first two pitches. My feet were bothering me, and the rock was pretty hot which didn’t help my tender torn toe.
Technically we were on the third pitch according to the guide, but it was our second, and that was where the meat and potatoes of the climb were. Leaving that bolted belay put me right into the first crux on some friction slab with long reaches. From there it’s sustained climbing up to an overlap where the second and technical crux of the climb is located with a delicate slab move up onto the overhang. With my feet in the condition they were in, even with the climbing being easy, it did not feel super secure and I was really not trusting my sore numb toes. We linked pitches “three and four” into a stellar second pitch up to a bolted belay, and then finished a short pitch to the top which summed up our vertical adventures in Lake Tahoe and beelined back to the car to grub down some amazing greasy Bob Dog Pizza.
Yep… Bob Dog Pizza.
So why all that talk about the Dark Horse? Because It’s Better with Bacon turned out to be a superb climb, and an all together different style than I had found on any of the climbs I had done at The Leap. The clean slab climbing caught me off guard, and was a really pleasant surprise. I think that the sun setting over the mountains as we topped out the climb played a lot into it, and also that there were no expectations left. My mind was at ease and I was content, as was Dave. It was just a perfect ending to that part of our trip. There’s something relaxing about knowing you have nowhere to be in the morning, no serious logistics to work out.