Thanksgiving is a time for turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, gravy, cranberries, gravy, choclolates, gravy and gravy. The gluttony is usually shared with family. But sometimes fighting over the last cup of gravy can be intense. So this year, with the help of Kris, Sara and many new friends, we celebrated with bouldering and climbing in one of California’s world class destinations, Bishop. Check out some photos from a truly amazing place.
The scene at the Buttermilks: Kris taking a spin on High Plains Drifter (V7)
Over the four-day weekend, we sampled bits and pieces of several phenomenal areas, including The Happies, The Buttermilks and Owens River Gorge sport climbing. A description of all the amazing lines we visited would type my fingers raw, so only a few highlights will occupy this page.
Day 1 flapper = Bad news
Above all, I’ll remember the trip for the great people who became fast friends. Kris and Sara are part of an outstanding group of climbers based in LA. They are too many to mention here, and they do things right. On Thanksgiving night, after getting torn up at The Happies, we returned to camp. There, every square inch of the picnic table was filled with traditional Thanksgiving feast, including plenty of gravy. Not really knowing anyone, I was hesitant to dig in, but they insisted that we share in the meal and basically forced a massive turkey leg into my paw. Several pounds of mashed potatoes and a couple gallons of gravy later, I barely had room for the homemade pumpkin, apple and pecan pies they brought for desert. A spare third turkey was on reserve and the deep fat frier kept hot in case we ran out of bird. After the pie sampler platter I took in, my innie snapped into an outie with a massive pop that sounded like a gunshot and echoed through the mountains. At least it’s easier to wash now. After the excitement, Evan Williams around the bonfire kept us warm into the night and the spotlight moon put the high Sierra backdrop in the forefront.
Thanksgiving night in Bishop
We began Friday back in the sharp pockets of French Connection, a techy V6 with a tough, reachy crux from a shallow basketball-sized sidepull. The line matches Sara’s style and she made great progress, giving the problem several inspired attempts. She’s bouldering strong and was already dreaming of the next session during the hike down.
Sara, who loves nothing more than warming up with a hot cup of coffee and a cozy winter coat in the middle of July, then took off for work in Chicago. I’m happy to report that she made it back to the LA sauna alive and much better at ice skating 😉
Sara + Shade = Sad
After the day in the Happies, the Buttermilks were next on tap. The Buttermilks are a playground of phenomenal, rounded boulders with all types of problems. Most lines are nice and high but benefit from large, flat landings. The area overflows with possibilities for anybody with a pair of climbing shoes. But if a diamond exists among the gems it may be High Plains Drifter. Incredible. The top photo is all you need to know.
With two days of hard bouldering in the books, we decided to explore some of the outstanding sport climbing down the road at Owens River Gorge with Joi and Asa, a couple awesome new friends and excellent climbers to boot.
Joi and Asa checking out an ORG relic
The ORG volcanic rock yields techy vertical routes of choose your own adventure horizontal slots and edges. It’s a gym climber’s dream.
We warmed up on a couple 5.10s and I couldn’t believe how sore my forearms were. There was no shaking the previous two days of try hard. Opening my autolocker, tying my shoes or scratching my hairy outie made my tendons feel brittle. Somehow I fought through an enduro 5.11 clean and I thought that would be the highlight of the day. Kris had other ideas and we wandered farther into the endless grey canyon.
Joi leading Owens River Gorge 5.11
Eldorado roof sticks out like a sore thumb among the vertical ORG terrain. The black alien wall is another of the climbing gods’ gift to the Bishop faithful. I was content to just marvel at the sight and dream of future dates with the intimidating lines. But one particular climb captivated Kris and he took the sharp end on the unknown route. Though the Gorge hosted many climbers, we had the tough lines of Eldorado Roof to ourselves.
Kris leading the way through the pumpy undercling traverse of Godzilla Does The Dizzy Tango (5.12)
After Joi followed suit, sending the line, I felt like a kid champing at the bit on the sideline while his soccer team struggles in a tough match. There was no denying reality. My forearms were just going to have to suffer through the awesome climb. I had the benefit of watching both Kris and Joi decipher the bouldery start and the huge undercling roof traverse and my mental notes paid off with a feel good flash.
The lower boulder problem crux on Godzilla Does The DIzzy Tango (5.12)
That night the PBR Kris bought at the Bishop grocer tasted like fine wine around the campfire with more new friends, Miguel, Matthias and company, who were kind enough to indulge my ever progressing Spanish. I returned the favor by TeAchINg Them a couple necessary English words.
Mt. Tom is King of Bishop
One more day was in order at the Buttermilks and we spent much of it at Flyboy, a crimpy V8 on an overhang that leads to a monster throw at the top. Kris, Joi and I were all very close, but couldn’t quite put it to rest. I think with a fresh go, we’d all send it in short order. As it stands, it’s a major motivator to get back. We all took huge falls from the top and the blanket of pads and spotters proved essential. Kris had the worst of it. After actually latching the top on his very first go, his heel poped trying to pull the lip and he came off straight sideways from about 15 feet. His feet touched down on a slanted neighboring face and I was convinced we’d be carrying him out. Fortunately, Kris was able to walk it off with no issue.
Joi going for a ride on Flyboy (V8) Photo: Kris Linstrom
Finally, I was really impressed with the town of Bishop. I expected the town to be a twin of Canon City near Shelf Road. But Bishop is much more progressive and even caters to the climber crowd. After a day on the rock, we would head to town for pizza, Mexican food or a surprisingly good Chinese meal. Coffee shops, restaurants and bakeries line the main strip and the local radio station plays classic Dylan, Springsteen, Petty and Floyd. Just in case you ever visit Bishop and are in search of climbing partners, I put together a tool to help you locate climbers in the area:
I’ve recently joined the puffy club. (Thanks for the birthday present, Kim!) I have to say, my fears were true – now that I have a puffy, I’ll never go back.
Welcome to the world, Leo Michael Powell. Congratulations Eli and Amy. A crusher in the making.