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The Emeralds

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Bear's Lair, The 
Dollar Store 
Emeralds, The - Upper Gorge, Upper Wall 
Fast Food Wall 
Flume Face, The 
Fortress, The 
Kudos Cliff 
Negativity Cave, The 
Negativity slabs 
Oasis, The 
Pebble Beach 
Steel Monkey Wall 
Two Unknown Climbs 
Wishing Well, The 

The Emeralds 

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Location: 39.3212, -120.6538 View Map  Incorrect?
Page Views: 18,645
Administrators: John Robinson, Aron Quiter, M.Morley, Salamanizer, Justin Johnsen, Kristine Hoffman
Submitted By: Aron Quiter on Oct 7, 2002
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BETA PHOTO: Guide to the Emeralds. Page 3

Getting There 

From I-80, exit onto Hwy. 20 and drive four miles toward Nevada City. After 3.5 miles turn north onto Bowman Lake Rd. and drive for 1.3 miles. Just before the bridge that crosses the Yuba River There is a dirt access road (this road is now gated and locked so you will have to walk in). After walking 750 yards on this dirt road you will see a cairn on the right take this trail to access the Benches section (except Steel Monkey and Three Unknown Climbs). Continue on this dirt road another 470 yards and you will reach some boulders on your right with a cairn that this trail 100 yards and you will come to Steel Monkey Wall on the right. (Continue above Steel Monkey Wall for Three Unknown Climbs) For a Topo of all these locations and GPS coordinates see the “Photo’s of the Emeralds” on this page. If you are only going to the Gorge the easiest way to get there is to park in the Spaulding Lake boat launch parking and walk over the dam to the first set of flood gates (approx 1/4 mile past the dam) Just before the flood gates go to the outlet side of the flood gates and cross the drainage. Continue on the rim of the drainage approx 300 feet until you come to some Metolius Rap anchors located about shoulder high. (There are other anchors located at your feet or over the edge before you get here but don't rap on these) Rap off these anchors using a 70m rope and you can climb back out the same way you rappelled on a 10c climb.


If you are looking for an area where you can climb without crowds and be in a beautiful mountain setting, this is the place. There is even a huge world class swimming hole that is Emerald green. (expect beautiful people here with little on in the hot days of summer) Most of the climbs in the Benches section are Westerly to Northerly facing so you can chase shade all day in the hotter months. (When the temperature is 110 in Sacramento, head for the gorge where you will need a sweater. Carville's 1999 Guide to "The Gorge" is the lasted published info but much of the routes changed due to flooding in 1997. In 2010 to 2012 Carville and friends restored many of the original lines and added many more but in the winter of 2013 another flood made much of the gorge deeper so the first bolts on many of the climbs were very high. That problem was fixed in the summer of 2013 and the area is again ready for some great climbing. Very little specific route info is available on Mountain Project but Josh Horniak is getting a new guide out that will rectify that problem in the spring of 2014 The Gorge and the Wishing Well are located below the outlet gates of Spaulding Reservoir and in the spring and winter can be subject to flooding if the gates are opened or if water is going over the gates. Once the lake level is below the bottom of the gates, which usually occurs in the spring, there is no possibility of flooding. It is easy to determine the level of the lake by hiking to the gates and looking. This potential flooding only refers to the Gorge and the Wishing Well. The Benches section including Fast Food Wall, Steel Monkey Wall, The Fortress, Bear’s Lair, Three Unknown Climbs and Kudos Kliff are well away from flooding potential) Now back to the Benches areas: The rock is generally steep (not much face climbing here) and well featured. It often feels like limestone. There has been a lot of new development in the area since 2008. The approaches are moderate and well marked especially if you use the 3 page guide at the bottom of this page. If you are a 5.7 to 5.9 climber, this area is not for you. (Yet, anyway. Brad has plans to change that but you know Brad) There is a lot of potential for new routes even in the 5.7 to 5.9 range. This area is climbable all year except for winter if it has been snowing or raining and the routes are wet. There is an organized campground at Spaulding Lake or nice dispersed sites on the Bowman Lake road and elsewhere. The Emeralds are divided into two distinct sections as defined in Mike Carville’s 1991 Tahoe Guide Book. One section is The Gorge which includes The Wishing Well and the other section is called The Benches and includes Fast Food Wall, Kudo’s Kliff, Fortress, Bear’s Lair, Two Unknown Climbs and Steel Monkey Wall.

WARNING! (This Warning only applies to the Gorge Section and not the Benches Section). As the sign posted at the parking lot reminds you, this area is subject to sudden and severe flooding, especially in run off times (spring and winter). Most of the climbing routes in the gorge are in the potential flooding areas, as walls of the gorge sit below several LARGE floodgates from Spaulding Lake. These gates may open at any time, and as the sign in the parking area states, there may or may not be warning. Being in the gorge when the gates open would probably mean death, and being in the other climbing areas will mean that your exit is blocked until flood waters reside. Read all posted signs in the parking area, and also beware that these may not be updated.

68 Total Routes

['4 Stars',3],['3 Stars',32],['2 Stars',19],['1 Star',8],['Bomb',0]

The Classics

Mountain Project's determination of some of the classic, most popular, highest rated routes for The Emeralds:
Bushmaster   5.8 5b 16 VI- HVS 4c     Sport, 1 pitch, 60'   Dollar Store
Price Check   5.9 5c 17 VI HVS 5a     Sport, 1 pitch, 60'   Dollar Store
Closed for lunch   5.9+ 5c 17 VI E1 5a PG13     Sport, 60'   Dollar Store
Rebirth   5.10a 6a 18 VI+ E1 5a PG13     Sport, 1 pitch, 60'   Kudos Cliff : Kudos Right
Push to open   5.10- 6a 18 VI+ E1 5a PG13     Sport, 1 pitch, 60'   Dollar Store
Solar Winds   5.10c 6b 20 VII E2 5b     Sport, 50'   The Fortress
Step into the Light   5.10c 6b 20 VII E2 5b PG13     Sport, 1 pitch, 70'   Kudos Cliff : Kudos Left
Please Pull Forward   5.10d 6b+ 21 VII+ E3 5b PG13     Sport, 1 pitch, 60'   Fast Food Wall
Theory of negativity   5.10d 6b+ 21 VII+ E3 5b PG13     Sport, 1 pitch, 40'   The Negativity Cave
Charlie and the Stick Factory   5.10d 6b+ 21 VII+ E3 5b     Sport, 70'   The Fortress
Super Size Me   5.11- 6c 22 VIII+ E3 5c PG13     Sport, 1 pitch, 80'   Fast Food Wall
Shadows on the Earth   5.11a/b 6c 23 VIII- E3 5c     Sport, 70'   The Fortress
Duppy Conquer   5.11c 6c+ 24 VIII- E4 6a PG13     Sport, 1 pitch, 70'   Kudos Cliff : Kudos Left
Browse More Classics in The Emeralds

Featured Route For The Emeralds
Andrew on Step Into the Light. One of his first outdoor climbs!

Step into the Light 5.10c 6b 20 VII E2 5b PG13  CA : Tahoe Vicinity : ... : Kudos Left
Just Left of Duppy Conqueror. See Mike Carville's 1991 guide book or the current topo on the main Emeralds page for information and location. Shade till noon then shaded by trees....[more]   Browse More Classics in CA

News and Events For The Emeralds
Photos of The Emeralds Slideshow Add Photo
Guide to the Emeralds. Page 1
BETA PHOTO: Guide to the Emeralds. Page 1
Guide to the Emeralds. Page 2
BETA PHOTO: Guide to the Emeralds. Page 2
Josh heading up Whirl Pool .12a. Need a 70 meter rope. Emeralds, Upper Gorge.
Josh heading up Whirl Pool .12a. Need a 70 meter r...
Deep water soloing on a great boulder problem at the Emeralds. Probably a V2. Great holds and fun movement with a safe and deep landing (always test the water before DWS or cliff jumping). <br /> <br />For those curious on how to get to this swimming hole /problem: <br /> <br />Take the trail across the road from the parking lot downstream along the river for about 1/3 mile. You will see the first swimming hole pictured above on your left. Scramble down the third class terrain to get to it. There are additional places to jump as you go down river.
Deep water soloing on a great boulder problem at t...
The mega classic Resurrection .11c. Emeralds, Upper Gorge.
The mega classic Resurrection .11c. Emeralds, Uppe...
 5 Minute Hero .12- Emeralds, Upper Gorge.
5 Minute Hero .12- Emeralds, Upper Gorge.
Hansi sending 3 Minute Hero .12a. Emeralds Upper Gorge.
Hansi sending 3 Minute Hero .12a. Emeralds Upper G...
I believe this route is called Atlantis and is in the 5.11 range, photo circa 1992
I believe this route is called Atlantis and is in ...
Peter Mayfield on an early ascent of the steep and blocky Fight Club .11d at the Bear's Lair. Emeralds, CA.
Peter Mayfield on an early ascent of the steep and...
I believe this route is called Atlantis and is in the 5.11 range, photo circa 1992
I believe this route is called Atlantis and is in ...
Super Alpine Route Direct .11a. Emeralds, CA.
Super Alpine Route Direct .11a. Emeralds, CA.
Dylan on Separation Anxiety .11d. Wishing Well. Emeralds, Upper Gorge.
Dylan on Separation Anxiety .11d. Wishing Well. Em...
Hansi - third ascent of Drama Queen .12a. Emeralds. Upper Gorge.
Hansi - third ascent of Drama Queen .12a. Emeralds...
Guide to the Emeralds Page 3
BETA PHOTO: Guide to the Emeralds Page 3
Comments on The Emeralds Add Comment
Show which comments
By Cave Man McElroy
From: auburn
Jun 25, 2012

(Before accepting the following comments regarding the flooding potential of the Emeralds, please read the Emeralds "Description")

There are several climbing locations in and around the emeralds area. The (sort of sketchy/often flooded area (upper gorge etc)) is more easily approached via lake spalding (i.e. park on HWY20 and ride bike down and over the lake spalding dam...better for end of the summer/when it's been dry for a long time.

Some other (more safe/non-flooded) climbing is more easily appraoched via bowman lake road. This area includes a climb called "Steel Monkey" '12a' epic 4/5 star sport climb on a slightly overhanging wall.

By mike carville
Feb 16, 2013

Great new climbs by Brad Johnson and John Robinson at the Kudos/Fast Food cliff. Walk another 15 minutes northeast and you'll find the old Emeralds' Gorge. A new Tahoe Guide book from Josh Horniak will have all the routes in the Emeralds/Bowman Area (fall 2013).

There are now 27 newly bolted lines in the Gorge ranging from .10-.13. The greatest concentration of routes is in the .11 range. Some of these routes require a 70 meter rope. Dam Release/high water in spring is a very dangerous issue here. Other than that the Gorge climbing is great and the Wishing Well remains cool even in July/August when the rest of the Emeralds is hot.

Cheers, Mike

By mike carville
Mar 30, 2013

Emeralds is bone dry and in season as of 3/30/13!