Rock Climbing with NASTC

I went climbing with NASTC and this is what happened…

I recently met up with Chris Fellows, the owner of NASTC, for a morning of climbing at Donner Summit to see what it’s like to go out with a professional rock climbing guide. As I drove up the scenic Old Hwy 40, I took in the gorgeous views of Donner Lake and rocky outcrops. It was a perfect day – the temperature hovered around the high 60s and the sun was high in the sky. We met in the parking lot, gathered our gear, and headed down to Green Phantom, a crag below the iconic Rainbow Bridge, to try a few routes on the slabby granite.

Looking down at Donner Lake and Old 40 Hwy. from Green Phantom.

The beauty of climbing on Donner Summit is access. Most of the climbs are just a short walk from your car, making it easy to get to multiple climbing areas in a day. We parked at the Donner Lake overlook and from there, it was less than five minutes to walk to the crag. Once there, Chris set up the anchor on our climb and added an extra piece of gear at the top for redundancy and safety.

Chris sets up the anchor a the top of the climb.

After setting the anchor, he rappelled down to check that the rope was set up properly and met me at the base of the climb. Before I started climbing, we reviewed basic climbing knots and climbing commands, the safety language that serves as checks and balances before you step foot off the ground. It goes like this:

On Belay?
Belay On.
Ready to Climb?
Climb On!

And with that, I was climbing. The face climb was tricky but Chris expertly guided me through the hardest sections, known as the “crux” to climbers, and reminded me to use and trust my feet. Many beginner climbers try to muscle their way up the rock, grasping at tiny holds and exerting too much effort with their upper body. If you’re having a hard time on a route, it’s always a good idea to look down and use your feet!

Working my way up Phantom Staircase Left, 5.8

Much of the climbing on Donner Summit relies on friction between the rock and sticky rubber on your climbing shoes. This was no exception and although there weren’t many prominent features on the rock, I was able to move through blank sections by smearing my foot against the wall. I realized that one of the many advantages of climbing with a guide was that I got to tap into his wealth of climbing knowledge and learn new techniques that helped me move more efficiently up the wall.

The stoke is high when you reach the anchors at the top!

After a few hours of climbing at Green Phantom we packed up, Chris removed the anchor and we headed back to the cars. A successful day of climbing was on the books!

Now it’s your turn! Have you ever wanted to go rock climbing on Donner Summit? If you have been considering a climbing trip, a guided course is a great way to go! I had so much fun in a safe and encouraging environment. You’ll love climbing with NASTC’s friendly guides who genuinely want to share their passion for this incredible sport.

Tahoe Mountain Sports is excited to partner with NASTC for the summer! Make sure to ask your NASTC guide about your special in-store discount at Tahoe Mountain Sports.

Click here to view all NASTC rock climbing courses!

Who is NASTC?

NASTC, the North American Ski Training Center and Rock Climbing School, is a local Truckee guiding company that has been in operation since 1994. They started out by offering immersion and adventure ski training clinics and expanded to rock climbing in 2002. The company was dreamed up by Jenny and Chris Fellows, two longtime Tahoe skiers and climbers who have adventured all over the world. Their staff consists of world class climbers and skiers.

What kind of courses do they offer?

Regardless of whether you’ve never set foot on a rock wall or if you’re a seasoned expert, NASTC has a class for you. They offer private guided courses for individuals and groups of all ability levels, a climber self-rescue class, learn how to lead courses and more. If you’re a beginner climber, NASTC will get you moving on rock and teach you some of the basic skills and techniques. For advanced climbers, a NASTC course can help you accomplish specific goals, refine your techniques, and teach you the skills needed to keep yourself and your partner safe. Last minute bookings are no problem. Just call or text 530-386-2102 to book a same day guided trip.

If you’re trying to plan a fun group activity for a wedding, corporate team building event, birthday party, family reunion, etc., go rock climbing with NASTC! Group dynamics and teamwork are great things to work out on the rock, facilitated by their expert guides. It’s the perfect activity to get your group outside, enjoying some of Truckee’s most stunning scenery.

It’s important to remember that rock climbing is for everyone!

Your rock climbing experience is specifically tailored to your climbing ability and fitness level. Even if you have never gone climbing before, NASTC will make sure you have a great time on the rock.

What do you need for a day of climbing?

Taking in the panoramic views before climbing.

When you sign up for a climbing course with NASTC, they take all the extra work out of it so you can focus on climbing and having a good time. They provide all of the climbing gear (ropes, anchor gear, harness, helmet, climbing shoes, etc.) but if you have your own, you’re welcome to bring it. For everything else, stop by Tahoe Mountain Sports! We have all of the gear you need to have fun and be safe at the crag.

Here is what you need to bring:

  1. Climbing clothes – If you’re not sure what to wear for a day of climbing, that’s where we come in! Stop by Tahoe Mountain Sports and we will be happy to help you figure out what to wear at the crag. We have a great selection of climbing apparel, everything from UPF protective sun shirts (this one is our favorite!) to durable, lightweight climbing pants. Make sure to bring layers because the weather can change quickly in the mountains!
  2. Water – It’s so important to stay hydrated when you’re spending a day outdoors. The intense sun on Donner Summit coupled with the altitude makes a great recipe for dehydration. Bring at least 2 liters of water in your Nalgene water bottle or a Camelbak bladder for a full day climbing. And don’t forget about electrolytes! We love Nuun, Skratch Labs, and Tailwind Nutrition for a quick energy boost. Want to know the best ways to stay energized and hydrated in the mountains? Click here to find out!
  3. Sunscreen – You should always protect yourself from the sun anytime you head outside for an adventure. Never forget to use sunscreen when you’re spending a day outside, especially at this altitude where the sun is much more intense. You might not burn at sea level but at 7000 feet it’s a whole other story!
  4. Snacks – It’s a good idea to keep a few snacks in your pack, no matter what the adventure. We are loving Epic Bars and the new Clif flavors right now. Stop by Tahoe Mountain Sports to grab your favorite trail snacks and click here to learn how to fuel your next adventure.

The Bottom Line

✔️ Spectacular Views
✔️ Mental and Physical Challenge
✔️ Outdoor Adventure

Are you ready to go climbing?

Call or text 530-386-2102 for an immediate reply or email [email protected] to book your trip today!

Click here to view all NASTC rock climbing courses.

Read about recent TMS ambassador climbing trips to Boulder Canyon and Red Rock Canyon below!



Siobhan works at Tahoe Mountain Sports and currently manages TMS blog content. She loves everything about living in the mountains, from snowy winter days on skis to the hot, dusty trails of the Sierra's in the summer. Favorite activities include skiing, trail running and backpacking.


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