When the first snows start to bury the Sierras, one need not retreat to the gym. To the north of Reno, near Pyramid Lake, lies Pig Rock–a volcanic outcropping in the desert that stays warm enough to offer shredded tips all winter. If the temperatures outside are chilly to frozen, the wall stays in the sun till around 1pm. In the spring, while Donner is still melting out, the wall gets a little greasy, but afternoon shade climbing is always possible. I grew up with this crag, often hitting it up before classes at UNR, or grabbing an after-work burn. Take this to mean I may be a little biased, but I have a soft spot in my heart for this little desert canyon, even with its graffiti-covered walls and remnants of high school parties. Over the years, Pig Rock has seen a decrease in the number of climbers cragging, which is regrettable since there really are some fun climbs out there in the Virginia foothills.
The Pig itself features a few slab routes between 5.4-5.7. They are pretty fun, and a great diversion for mixed parties with varying climbing experience. As well, there is quite a bit of bouldering in the canyon–just about everything can be climbed, but beware the crumbling rock. A good warm-up is a run further up the canyon road, past some cool orange-red caves that are great for exploring.
The routes on the Little Shop of Horrors wall range from 5.11-5.13. Following water streaks up the tuff, the little pockets and crimps will rough up your pads for ~70 feet. Some desert rats have shot out some of the bolts on Son, Be a Dentist (12b) and Elastique (12b), so leading these might not be the greatest idea. Doug, one of the original bolters and my climbing partner, and I have discussed replacing them, but we worry that it seems more and more folks are using Pig for shooting than climbing. If you’re looking for a gymnastic challenge, Ton-Ton Makout (13c now?) has some great movement, and Blade Runner (12b) features an intimidating arete.
Avoid climbing here after rain, as the rock absorbs the moisture and holds can break off easily. Also, weekends might find climbers sharing the crag with shooters or teenagers getting ready to party. In one of the most surreal episodes of my climbing career, a catering company set up an entire banquet right next to the wall in preparation for a company that showed up with models in bikinis to film a commercial. Weird scenes in the desert.
Best routes: Plant Food (11d), Son, Be a Dentist (12b), Blade Runner (12b), Ton Ton Makout (13c? hold broke at crux)
Features: Winter sport climbing, semi-solitude, vertical to overhanging, small crimps and pockets.