Rock Climbing at South Lake Tahoe Airport

It is very rare to have a climbing area within walking distance of an airport, maybe because they don’t usually build airports near rock cliffs.  Duh.  But they did in Lake Tahoe, and you can walk just over two miles from the airport to the Pie Shop climbing area.  We drive to Pie Shop because we live nearby, but I’ve always thought it would be a good place to fly/climb.

Although there is better climbing around Tahoe, Pie Shop is a nice little area, best to visit in spring, fall and surprisingly enough, even winter.  But it’s exposed and facing south, and it’s just too hot in mid-summer.  For a winter visit, wait for the inevitable “mini-summer” where it warms up and dries out for a few weeks mid-winter.  You’ll still hike through some snow (usually following a packed out trail), but the rocks will be nice and dry.  There is a massive flat rock aptly named “lunch rock” and it is one of the nicest places to hang out on a sunny winter day (you can even belay right from there).

The first thing to do in arriving in the area by plane is to identify Pie Shop and scout the approach from the airport before you land.  It is easy to find.  There are two rock formations just west of the airport, thus the landing pattern for both runways is east of the airport.  If you flew a landing pattern west of the airport you would hit Pie Shop or its neighbor.  Pie Shop is the westerly rock formation (the one furthest from the airport), and you can easily identify the climbing area on the south side.

To get there from the airport, walk out to Highway 50/Emerald Bay Rd. and take a left. Look for that first rock formation (there is a red and white pole with beacon on top), and then cut low around the south end and then over to Pie Shop.   There is a climber’s trail right along the very base of Pie Shop, otherwise there is some bushwacking.

In order to avoid post-holing in the winter, walk down Highway 50/Emerald Bay Rd. to the first real street, Sawmill Rd and turn right.  Walk down the road about 1/4 mile and look for small but well used turnouts where climbers park.  Look on the right for a packed out climber trail(s) heading up, and take one.  You’ll soon see the rock and the obvious crack systems / climbs, the most prominent crack being Crepe’s Corner, 5.7.  Pie Shop is not in the SuperTopo guide to South Lake Tahoe, but it is in the Falcon Tahoe guide by Mike Carville.

Airport with Pie Shop on left
Lenticular Cloud over Eastern Tahoe Basin

2 thoughts on “Rock Climbing at South Lake Tahoe Airport

  1. Hi!
    I’m the content strategist for the new site, set to launch in November 2011 – the official site for the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority.
    I love your blog and I’m wondering if we can use it for the new site?
    We would of course give you credit and link back to your site or anywhere else you request.
    Please let me know yeah or nay.

    1. Thank you for the compliments. Of course you may use the blog and glad to help promote the area. Thanks for the credit and a link. – Ney

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