Elevation: 6,982 ft
GPS: 39.25, -120.191 Google Map · Climbing Area Map
Page Views: 227,459 total · 1,913/month
Shared By: Lurker - on Sep 21, 2012 · Updates
Admins: Lurker -, Aron Quiter, Mike Morley, Adam Stackhouse, Justin Johnsen, Vicki Schwantes, Salamanizer Ski
Access Issue: Seasonal Gate Closure Details

Description

The Big Chief area sits high on a ridge above Highway 89 and commands outstanding views of the Truckee River Canyon. The rock is volcanic and is generally vertical to slightly overhanging, with a few very steep sections. The vast majority of the routes are bolted and the highest concentration of sport climbing within or near the Lake Tahoe Basin is found here. The area includes the namesake wall, Big Chief (which itself is comprised of a number of walls in close proximity), as well as a few satellite walls including the Light Deprivation Buttress, Sawtooth Ridge, and Little Chief.

Big Chief is primarily a summer-fall destination, although summer can be quite warm due to the southwest-facing aspect of most of the walls. If it's over 70 degrees in Truckee, consider climbing elsewhere or accept the potentially sweltering conditions. There is a US Forest Service gate that often prohibits access until early summer, typically June or July, depending on the snow year. Winter can offer prime conditions, but unfortunately, the road is closed due to snow.

Most of the routes here were developed in the early 1990s, but new lines continue to be put up sporadically. All of the climbing is on public lands administered by the US Forest Service.

Big Chief Conditions forum.

Getting There

 Driving directions:

Exit the central Truckee exit and take a right. Go into the traffic circle, and take your first right, which will wind down to West River Street, where you should take a left. Follow this about 1/2 a mile to Bridge Street, where you should go right. Bridge Street becomes Brockway Drive.

From Brockway Drive, turn right on Palisades Drive, turn right on Silver Fir, and turn left on Thelin Street. Shortly after turning on to Thelin, take a right on a paved road with a gate, which quickly turns to dirt/gravel. This is National Forest Road 06 - follow it for 5.2 miles to the parking area on your right. The parking area is a large dirt circle with a number of pullouts for vehicles. GPS coordinates for parking: N39.24959, W120.19069.

Hiking directions:

The approach to the main Big Chief areas takes 15 - 30 minutes, depending on which wall you're heading to.

From the parking lot, head down the obvious trail to the west, which is an old/closed Forest Service road. After about 1/2 mile (and shortly after crossing the new Sawtooth trail), you'll reach the old parking lot, which is basically just a flat area before the trail continues up the steep hillside.

For the majority of Big Chief's walls, head up and slightly right from the old parking on a trail for about 5 minutes to an obvious notch/saddle (the "North Pass"), then go briefly downhill. Taking a left here will access (left-to-right if facing the wall): Three Towers, Main Cave, Center Wall, Mini Buttress, Honeycomb Wall, South Wall, and South Cave. Taking a right here will access (right-to-left if facing the wall): North Pass Pillar, The Oven, North Wall, and some other obscure crags.

There's another trail that forks left from the old parking lot - this trail offers alternate access to South Wall, South Cave, and South Buttress. Follow this trail across slope for a few minutes, then up a steep hill. Similar to the main approach, this trail crosses the ridge (the "South Pass")and drops down the opposite side. Head right after dropping down for the South Wall and South Cave, and left for the South Buttress.

The Light Deprivation Buttress and Sawtooth Ridge are separate from the rest of Big Chief - see below for specific approach directions.

Light Deprivation Buttress and Sawtooth Ridge

Light Deprivation Buttress:

Park as for the main Big Chief area. About halfway along the primary approach trail, a trail forks left in a small clearing. Follow this for about 10 minutes to the wall.

Sawtooth Ridge:

Sawtooth Ridge is entirely separate from the rest of Big Chief, including parking and approach. Just before the main Big Chief parking lot, look left for an obvious, long buttress of rock - this is Sawtooth Ridge. Park in a large open area on the left and head for the middle of the buttress. The trail from the parking is hard to find, just hike downhill and cross a dry creek. Once across the creek, look for cairns marking a trail through the brush up to the wall.

98 Total Climbs

Route Finder - Best Climbs for YOU!

Location: Big Chief Area Change
Type:  to 
Quality:
Pitches:
Sort by:   then:
 

Classic Climbing Routes at Big Chief Area

Mountain Project's determination of the classic, most popular, highest rated climbing routes in this area.
5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a
 173
War Path
Sport
5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a
 163
War Paint
Sport
5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a
 66
Times Up
Sport
5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a
 38
Infra-Red
Sport
5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a
 74
Route Stealers From Hell
Sport
5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a
 60
Festus
Sport
5.10b 6a+ 19 VII- 19 E2 5b
 140
Mohawk
Sport
5.10b 6a+ 19 VII- 19 E2 5b
 50
Too Light To Wait
Sport
5.10c 6b 20 VII 20 E2 5b
 56
Witch Doctor
Sport
5.10+ 6b+ 21 VII+ 20 E3 5b
 61
Sweating Bullets
Sport
5.10d 6b+ 21 VII+ 21 E3 5b
 36
May Cause Drowsiness
Sport
5.10d 6b+ 21 VII+ 21 E3 5b
 33
Flamethrower
Sport
5.11a 6c 22 VII+ 22 E3 5c
 108
Pow Wow
Sport
5.12a 7a+ 25 VIII+ 25 E5 6a
 46
Raindance
Sport
5.12b 7b 26 VIII+ 26 E5 6b
 36
Totally Chawsome
Sport
Route Name Location Star Rating Difficulty Date
War Path Center Wall
 173
5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a Sport
War Paint Center Wall
 163
5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a Sport
Times Up Honeycomb Wall
 66
5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a Sport
Infra-Red Light Deprivation But…
 38
5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a Sport
Route Stealers From Hell Mini Buttress
 74
5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a Sport
Festus S Wall
 60
5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a Sport
Mohawk Center Wall
 140
5.10b 6a+ 19 VII- 19 E2 5b Sport
Too Light To Wait Mini Buttress
 50
5.10b 6a+ 19 VII- 19 E2 5b Sport
Witch Doctor Center Wall
 56
5.10c 6b 20 VII 20 E2 5b Sport
Sweating Bullets Honeycomb Wall
 61
5.10+ 6b+ 21 VII+ 20 E3 5b Sport
May Cause Drowsiness S Wall
 36
5.10d 6b+ 21 VII+ 21 E3 5b Sport
Flamethrower Three Towers Wall
 33
5.10d 6b+ 21 VII+ 21 E3 5b Sport
Pow Wow Center Wall
 108
5.11a 6c 22 VII+ 22 E3 5c Sport
Raindance Center Wall
 46
5.12a 7a+ 25 VIII+ 25 E5 6a Sport
Totally Chawsome Center Cave
 36
5.12b 7b 26 VIII+ 26 E5 6b Sport
More Classic Climbs in Big Chief Area »

Weather Averages

High
 
Low
 
Precip
 
Days w Precip
 
Prime Climbing Season
J F M A M J J A S O N D
J F M A M J J A S O N D

Photos