|Totally Subjective Area Guide|
|Best Free Camping: definitely at the Pinon Site, about a mile further North along the Gorge road from the Upper Gorge parking area. Dispersed camping (National Forest) in a gorgeous place, with incredible views of the Sierras and the White mountains. Spottily enforced 14-day limit, no water.|
|Best Restaurant Food: hands down Taqueria Las Palmas, on Line Street. All we've ever had there is the amazing "Buffalo Burrito", loaded with everything, and optional meat. The other mexican on the main road is nothing special. We do NOT recommend the small Thai/american place near Taco Bell.|
|Best Bread: Schatz, of course. Try the Volkoren (whole wheat) for sandwiches and their great Energy Bread for a climbing snack. The ice cream is to die for. Prices are a bit high...|
|Free Drinking Water and RV Dump: at the Shell station at the south end of town, as long as you buy at least 12 gallons of fuel.|
|Other Favorites: skin up and ski down the incredible Elderberry Canyon, on Mount Tom (you can see it clearly from the Pinon Site). Yoga with Sabine at the Pegasus Gallery, across from the Hardware store, every monday at 6PM ($5/person); or try Tadasan Yoga in Mammoth Lakes, they have some of the best instructors we've ever found. Have your climbing shoes resoled at the Rubber Room; they do some of the best work in the US. Browse the web for free at the library, or at the Kava Cafe, if you have your own wireless laptop (T1 line).|
After spending several days waiting for good weather at Red Rocks, we went looking for it elsewhere. We had always loved the Eastern Sierra, and the weather there is almost always clear, particularly around Bishop. It is still much too early in the season for any of the beautiful alpine rock routes in the high Sierra, but Bishop also happens to be 15 miles from the premier sport climbing crag in California: the Owens River Gorge (ORG). We had heard of the gorge many times before, but had never climbed there. Since it is only a short day's drive from Red Rocks, our next destination was set.
We arrived in Bishop under sunny blue skies. After exploring a number of options, we set up camp high above the Gorge, at the "pinon site", an area of dispersed, undeveloped camping in a pinon forest on public land. This is one of the best camps we've ever found: it sits high on a volcanic hill in the wide valley between the Sierra Nevada and the White Mountains, with isolated sites and fantastic views of the high peaks. We were to stay there for the next three weeks!
The Gorge is an interesting place. It is owned by the Department of Water and Power of the City of Los Angeles (L.A.D.W.P.). It has seen isolated mining activity many years ago and has been used for hydro-electric power in the last few decades. The gorge shows many signs of this industrial presence: old abandoned mine shafts, roadbeds, cabins, ruins of old powerplants and more recent operating ones. Not exactly a pristine wilderness... Despite those blemishes though, the Gorge exerts a strange attraction. It is a deep and - in places - narrow canyon, cut into the volcanic deposits from an ancient caldera explosion. The Gorge's lower walls are made of a very strong, dark, solidified tuffa, with an amazing number of sharp-cut horizontal edges, as well as pockets, cracks, and flakes. This is some of the most climbable rock anywhere, and it offers a good variety of climbing styles: a preponderance of "edge pulls", but also very good cracks, technical dihedrals, aretes, and slabs.
With over 600 routes - most of them (heavily) bolted single pitch affairs - the ORG is a sport climber's paradise. We usually prefer long traditional multipitch routes, but we must admit that we liked the Gorge (and its surroundings) so much that we almost did not want to leave. The weather remained consistently beautiful for all but one of the 21 days we spent there. We feared we might end up like these sailors who have their mind set on sailing around the world but never leave the first island they get to... We'd typically climb two to three days in a row and then take a rest day hanging out in Bishop and working on the website. There are a plenty of rest day options around Bishop, from soaking in hot springs to backcountry skiing. To give our fingertips a rest, we skied "the grand-daddy of Eastern Sierra descents": the Elderberry Canyon, an amazing 4500+ ft backcountry ski descent, plainly visible from our camp. Climb one day, ski the next. Paradise!
All good things have to end though. After three weeks of this regime, it was time to put the quickdraws and chalk bag away. We went back to Red Rocks to meet our friends from Los Alamos, Gary and Lynn, and hopefully find better weather than during our first stay.
Bishop, Eastern Sierra, CA
|Sun, mountains, cragging, free camping...paradise!|
|Our camp in the "pinon site", with the high Sierra in the background.|
|Most popular approach into the Owens River Gorge: the Central Gully.|
|Relaxing in one of the many hot springs around Mammoth Lakes after a day of climbing.|
|The Narrows, Owens River Gorge.|
|Eric on "Quail Trail" (5.10b, 2p) at the Lower Elbow Room area.|
|Superfly (5.10c, 2p), at the Gotham City area.|
|March 13, Lucie's BD!|
|Ruins of the Middle Power Plant, Central Gorge.|
|Lucie leading "Slip'n Slide" (5.9) - Lower Elbow Room area.|
|Lucie on "Lava Haul" (5.10a), Flavin Haven area.|
|Yes, that's Lucie; and yes, it's a chalk bag!!! (for those who know us).|
|Preparing the tick list for the next day.|
|Even on a sabbatical, there are still chores...|
|Lucie leading the powerful lieback section on "Valley 5.8" (5.10b).|
|The Narrows (looking North, or downstream, from the Lower Elbow Room area).|
|Hey! NO POSING!|
|Interesting rock formations...|