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New Bouldering Zone Discovered on Donner Summit

By Seth Lightcap • Photos by Brian Sweeney

Ty Fairbairn pulls up into a Donner Summit sunset.

Sometimes all it takes for progression is good vision.

In the summer of 2006, Truckee rock climbers Ty Fairbairn, Dustin Sabo, Brian Sweeney and Scott Thelen opened their eyes to the obvious while driving along Interstate 80 and discovered one of the best new Tahoe rock climbing developments in recent years – the Castle Peak boulders.

Located 10 miles west of Truckee just off I-80 at the Castle Peak/Boreal Ridge exit, the Castle Peak zone is a wide swath of southwest facing hillsides and meadows that are home to over a dozen clusters of magnificent and massive granite boulders.

Over the last three summers the four pioneering climbers along with fellow locals such as Warren Bigness, Dave Fichter and Dave Hatchett, have developed the new hotspot establishing 300+ problems ranging from V0 to V11.

That they found so much, so close, still astounds Fairbairn and Sweeney.

“We’d been bouldering all over Donner Summit but we had never heard of any developments off the Castle Peak exit,” recalls Fairbairn. “When I got around to wandering in the woods up there I was shocked no one had been there before.”

“It was obvious there was a lot of granite near Castle Peak, but we never expected to find what we did,” adds Sweeney. “We thought we might find a few decent problems. First look we knew there were hundreds.”

The thrill of finding acres of virgin stones sent the crew into a frenzy that summer as they cranked on all the problems they could before word got out. Partially satisfied and ready for a few visitors, the crew slowly announced their findings on Fairbairn’s aptly named website – www.visionbouldering.com – in the summer of 2007.

Since 2007, the two Castle mini-guides found on visionbouldering.com have been the only details available about this epic new zone. And while the vastly incomplete info has drawn some traffic, the area is still relatively unknown despite the quality and quantity of problems to be found.

“The Castle area has some of the most featured and compact granite in Truckee,” says Fairbairn. “The boulders are young geologically so they didn’t get ‘egged-out’ by rolling around in the glaciers forever. You’ll find lots of overhangs with gymnastic moves and generally fantastic rock quality.”

Fairbairn also mentioned that there are equal amounts of moderates and testpieces to be found amongst the various clusters with plenty of slabby problems for warm-ups.

Having continued to put up new problems right up until last winter and with their eye on publishing a guidebook to the zone sometime soon, the Vision Bouldering collective has agreed to let ASJ release the first complete trail map to all the established boulder clusters.

As the terrain is still sensitive and hasn’t seen too many pad people yet, please respect the surrounding environment and make every effort to leave the bouldering areas even better than you found them.

For further information and video from Castle Peak check out www.visionbouldering.com and www.slickfootstudios.com.