climber at Lover's Leap, El Dorado County

Interesting Insiders: The story behind Lover’s Leap Guides

“Do what you love, and the money will follow” is one of those sayings that holds true for many folks in El Dorado County. Whether it’s opening a restaurant, creating a legendary off-road trail, or becoming a climbing guide, you’ll find interesting businesses abound here – and they have the stories to prove it.

Lover’s Leap is one of the most iconic climbing areas in El Dorado County. The steep and striking granite cliff band is visible from Highway 50 and Strawberry Lodge, boasting over 150 established routes. It’s a popular climbing spot that dates back to the 1950s, one that also happens to boast world-class climbing.

Many of those climbing routes are thanks to M. “Petch” Pietrolungo, the low-key owner and lead guide of Lover’s Leap Guides. He’s lived in Strawberry since 1993, climbing existing routes at Lover’s Leap and adding numerous first ascents that are now considered classics.   

Petch landed in Strawberry at the end of an eight-month climbing trip. But before he returned to Humboldt County, he found work at the Strawberry Lodge, first in construction, then as a bartender in the winter. This gave him ample time to go rock climbing, discovering new routes along the way.

Bartending let Petch meet people – lots of them. Some of them became clients that he took climbing. One owned a guiding company, and in 1996, he found himself working as a guide, taking teenagers rock climbing and backpacking. That experience fueled his desire to run his own guiding company.

M. “Petch” Pietrolungo, owner and lead guide of Lover’s Leap Guides.
M. “Petch” Pietrolungo, owner and lead guide of Lover’s Leap Guides, in his happy place.

In 2003, Petch obtained an operating permit to work in the El Dorado National Forest and began Lover’s Leap Guides. For nearly 15 years he was a one-man show, guiding newbies and experts alike, from all around the world.   

In the last few years, he’s expanded and now has a team of experts that offer guided trips and educational courses that range from beginner rock climbing to self-rescue seminars. Clients vary from complete beginners who have only climbed indoors and want to try outdoors to corporate team-building retreats to people who are on vacation looking for a new adventure.

As Petch puts it, “We get everywhere from the complete beginner to the expert. Our ideal client is just someone who wants to go climbing. We love rock climbing, so it’s fun to guide people who enjoy it.”

While there are many classic climbs at Lover’s Leap, Corrugation Corner is quintessential Leap. It’s a three-pitch 5.7 climb up the main wall of Lover’s Leap with solid rock and a variety of types of climbing that’s about five hundred feet long big exposure even though the grade is not very hard.

Petch may be the unofficial ambassador of Lover’s Leap, but his expertise and knowledge go well beyond Strawberry. Phantom Spires, Sugarloaf, and Echo Lake are also nearby, all with unique rock, routes, and views. And he and the team at Lover’s Leap Guides are stoked to show you some of the routes there when you’re ready for a climbing adventure.

Learn more about Petch and Lover’s Leap Guides at LoversLeap.net (And let him know we sent you!).

Keep Exploring

Upcoming El Dorado County Events

Interesting Insiders: The story behind Lover’s Leap Guides
Interesting Insiders: The story behind Lover’s Leap Guides
Delfino farms at sunset
Jeep driving over rocky trail

Community Events Calendar

July 19, 2024
Logging Days
The Martian Chronicles
1:00 pm Gold Rush 2.0
1:00 pm Gold Rush 2.0 + Ice Cream Social
5:00 pm Dance Instructor & Brisco County LIVE at Skinner's Green Valley Ranch
5:30 pm Bunko Dinner Fundraiser! Shingle Springs July 19
6:30 pm Element 79 Vineyards - Dine in the Vines