Published: October 14th 2008October 10th 2008
a nice view of the eastern sierras and Buttermilk Rd
With our gear selection limited, as well as our patience with the crowds, we decide to pack it in and head back down to Bishop where we had already stopped briefly before heading into Yosemite. We got back into town early enough in the day to stop at the local outfitters, East Side Sports, and unlike every other shop we visited, there was a combination of great service, great selection and reasonable prices. I highly recommend it if you ever find yourself in the area.
Stef replaced the bouldering pad since Bishop is home to some of the best bouldering in the world, and was one of the places that I really had wanted to see after reading about it and seeing some pictures. The town of Bishop does not disappoint. It is small-ish but very well laid out, easy to navigate and friendly. I have already mentioned a growing love in my heart for the burgers of Carls Jr, but I must go one step further and say that the food is only surpassed by the service and the friendliness of the staff. I have been through a number of similar establishments on the course of this trip but
taken from our first nights camp near the "get carter" boulder
NOWHERE did I find anything like this. Absolutely outstanding.
Now for the climbing. There actually exists a WIDE array of climbing opportunities very near Bishop and we only had the time to really explore two of them. The town proper is located directly adjacent to the Owens River Gorge at about 4000 feet of elevation. A few miles north of town is the Sherwin Plateau which sits at 7000 feet. The interesting thing about the climbing in this area is how varied it is. The Sherwin Plateau and the Owens River Valley contain a wide assortment of volcanic rock which is highly featured but quickly becomes monotonous. A few miles west of town lie the Buttermilk Boulders, which were the initial "big deal" of the area. Unlike the Sherwin Plateau the climbing in Buttermilk Country is granite monzonite. Huge boulders, some larger than houses lie scattered along a characteristically heinous dirt road. What makes this golden granite unique is its rough crystalline structure. Many of the climbs appear featureless but the incredible friction of the rock allows for mind blowing/extremely tenuous moves to be carried out with incredible success.
Day one climbing at the Buttermilks turned out to
Us at our camp site
In the background is the Owens River Valley. Not visible to the left (west) are the Sierras and to the right, the Eastern Sierras on the east side of the Owens River Valley.
be our most social outing as it was a Sunday afternoon and there were many locals out climbing. They were all very welcoming and friendly and bared with our blatantly Noobish questions and comments: "wait, where are the handholds?!" , "V0? This has to be at least V4" and so on. We actually met a guy there who had lived in New Paltz about 15 years ago and had worked for the preserve (Mohonk).
The days of climbing that followed were amazing- I learned more about the value of footwork than anywhere else so far. The camping was also fantastic, albeit rustic. The area is all forest service land so primitive camping opportunities exist virtually everywhere. A five minute drive past the boulders on the dirt road offers up campsites sitting on the foot of the Eastern Sierras. With no running water, no bathrooms or outhouses and no neighbors, I would be hard pressed to think of a more scenic place to while away the hours.
We took a few days to head up to the Sherwin Plateau and got to sample a completely different kind of rock. After being shredded by the granite of the Buttermilks, it
Owens River Valley
this was taken near our camp and you can see the dark gorge in the background, running roughly north-south.
was refreshing to climb some highly pocketed volcanic rock. The downside of the volcanic tuff is its friability. It is far less dependable and there were a few scary moments when a hand or foothold gave way under pressure. The Sherwin Plateau was much much more isolated than the Buttermilks. We were there for four days and saw no evidence of any other human activity there other than a few errant chalk marks on some of the rocks.
After that we headed down into Bishop again and spent a couple more days in the Buttermilks to wrap things up before heading to San Diego to see Christie. One of the coolest things we saw so far was on our next to last day when it rained on us-- and snowed on the mountain ridge just adjacent to our campsite.
With the misery of our loss not completely forgotten but certainly under control, we really had an awesome time and spent a lot more time taking pictures and enjoying the area. The town of Bishop really had a strong effect on me. When we left it behind to head to San Diego I felt very sad to be leaving
and anxious to return. Bishop is very high on a very short list of places I would like to re-locate to. On to the comforts and nuisances of civilization...
There are more photos below