I recently returned home from my first trip to Bishop, CA – a destination that has been on my list of places to visit since early in my climbing career.
Bishop had been built up in my head by pictures, videos, and stories from friends, and the experience did not disappoint.
On Wednesday afternoon, I headed out of Berkeley with Hayden and Rigel, two friends from Cal, along with my good friend Helen, a fellow employee from Earth Treks in Maryland. Despite traveling on the worst travel day of the year, we made decent time and got to the Pit (Bishop’s climber campground) before midnight.
A handful of people had arrived in the days prior to our arrival, and others trickled in as the week went on. All told, we had around 30 or so members from Cal Climbing gracing the Eastern Sierras for Thanksgiving.
On the first day, I spent my time in the Buttermilks and enjoyed working on some classic problems. I was stoked to send Iron Man Traverse (V4) on my second go, and I managed a flash of Fly Boy Arête (V5). I also spent some time working on Stained Glass (V10) and Soul Slinger (V9), both of which surprised me with how doable they felt. Stained Glass is definitely a next-level project for me, and I’m excited to work on it over future trips to Bishop. Soul Slinger was a lot of fun, and the cooler temps definitely seemed to add some friction and make the moves feel possible.
The rest of the day was spent working on High Plains Drifter (V7), and though I didn’t pull out a send on this trip, it’s one that I’m confident will go on my next visit. The movement was some of the best I’ve ever worked, and I absolutely loved the crimps through the beginning of the problem – sharp and painful though they are! We also hit up Seven Spanish Angels (V6), but the cold and setting sun sapped our psych before anyone could send.
That night was Thanksgiving, and we did our best to celebrate the holiday the right way. Everyone brought some food or drink to share – and even better, two friends prepared a 20 lb turkey earlier in the week and brought it along for dinner. We had potatoes, green beans, stuffing, pies, muffins, cakes…it was absolutely fantastic! The rest of the night was spent around a roaring fire, and a few people busted out a guitar, mandolin, and harmonica. Good times for sure, and one of the most unique (and special) Thanksgivings I’ve ever had.
After just one day, my tips were already hurting, so I was psyched to spend Friday at the Happy Boulders – an area I was told was a bit friendlier on the tips (but a bit rougher on the hands overall). I don’t know whether or not this is true, mostly because I avoided crimpy climbs! I sent Monkey Hang (V3) and the Weekender (V4) to start the day, and I gave the Gleaner (V6) a few goes before setting my sights on one of the main climbs on my to-do list: the Hulk (V6).
From what I had heard from friends, I knew I would struggle with some of the more traditional ways to maneuver through the “boss hold” on the Hulk. At 5’3″ with a -1″ ape index, the toe hook and big cross felt impossible for me. Almost from my first go, I was set on some sort of dyno. It took me longer to decipher the particulars of the dyno than I would have liked (maybe 10 attempts?), but after throwing myself repeatedly off the hold and onto the pads, I stuck the move and sent the climb. It is definitely my proudest send to date, and I’m beyond psyched to have completed this classic.
On Saturday, we headed back to the Buttermilks, and I had one objective in mind: Fly Boy Sit (V8). On our first day, unfortunately, the majority of the top of the Fly Boy boulder was covered in snow and ice, so I wasn’t able to get on the climb with fresh skin. Luckily for us though, some kind SoCal climbers had brushed off the top of the boulder on Thursday, and by Saturday, it was dry and clear up top.
Coming into the trip, I had the crazy idea of wanting to flash Fly Boy Sit. I knew it would be a huge stretch and very unlikely, but I thought it was a good (and at least marginally attainable) goal to have. After getting beta from friends and watching a few videos, I could tell it would be my style of climb – powerful crimp moves to a huge dyno (well, for me at least). Right up my alley!
As expected, I did not flash the climb, but my first go showed me that it was definitely a manageable project. By my third go, I was moving through the bottom crimp moves with ease and arriving at the final throw consistently. On my best go, I could feel the lip of the left hold on my fingertips, but I was never able to engage and control the fly boy move. I took a gnarly fall or two off the top, but I now know that it can be well-padded and safely protected. And though I wish I had sent it this trip, a part of me is happy to have such an amazing project to return to next time!
The rest of Saturday was spent relaxing in the sun and not climbing anything else all day, and on Sunday, we headed back to the Happies for our last day of the trip. I put in some more work on the Gleaner, and I definitely made progress. It doesn’t feel like a short person-friendly climb, but I think with a little bit of focus, it could go down. Just need to get a bit stronger!
I went back to the Hulk to get some picture/video footage, and I stuck the dyno and sent on my second go of the day. I really do love that dyno! Unfortunately, I smashed my right pinkie pretty badly and ended up bleeding all over the place. My finger looked far worse than it ended up being, but it still brought an end to my climbing day. I guess that’s a little karma paying me back for my vanity!
Even though I didn’t climb the rest of the day, I really enjoyed hanging around the boulders and meeting and talking with climbers from all around the world. I love hearing people’s stories and sharing in their passion for climbing. Bishop is definitely a world-class destination, and all sorts of amazing people congregate their to take part in our sport. It was also awesome seeing my fellow Cal Climbers have some success on the boulders, and I managed to snap a few pictures, too!
We made our way back to Berkeley later that afternoon, and though I was bummed to see the trip end, I was pretty psyched on a hot shower and warm bed. Bishop was a very special, dare I say almost magical place, and I intend to spend as many days of my time as a California resident down in the Eastern Sierras.
Beyond the climbing, it was great hanging out with so many friends and meeting many new ones. It was so awesome having such a large crew of Cal Climbers there, including many I hadn’t met yet or gotten to know very well. It was great climbing with Helen again, and I’m a bit jealous that her first extended outdoor bouldering trip was to Bishop. I hope we’ve got her hooked now! And to add even more, Veronica (one of my best friends from Earth Treks and current SoCal resident) decided to make the trip…and so did Christian, another buddy from San Diego…and so did Jules (all the way from Salt Lake City!), Veronica’s cousin and another friend from ET. I know a lot of my family was worried I’d spend Thanksgiving alone – but trust me, that was far from the case, and I was certainly not lonely out there!
In terms of my climbing, this trip was probably the most significant I’ve ever taken. For the first time in my career, I dedicated a whole season to bouldering, and the results were surprisingly positive. In the past, spending so much time solely bouldering never ended with anything short of a raging case of tendinitis and a whole slew of rest days.
But this “training period” was different, and I think at least part of the reason is because I didn’t necessarily train. I climbed a lot in the gym and a little bit outside, but I didn’t do much else other than the occasional core workout. With that said, this is my first “healthy” season since injuring my finger, and a lot of what I needed to do leading up to Bishop was simply get back on the wall and try hard again. I definitely did that, and the moment I realized I could crimp hard again without pain or mental limitation was just so awesome.
Everything about this trip was a success, from the experiences I took away from it to the climbs on my tick list. I was absolutely floored by the beauty of Bishop and the Eastern Sierras, and the quality of the climbing at both the Buttermilks and the Happies was stunning. I haven’t been to many places that have lived up to such hype and high praise, but Bishop exceeded my expectations.
I simply cannot wait to go back!
Of course, I want to thank my sponsors, Skratch Labs, for helping fuel the pursuit of my passions and keeping me hydrated on this awesome trip. The HOT Apples & Cinnamon was fantastic and such a great way to keep hydrated and warm in the cold desert. It’s been an amazing year representing Skratch, and I’m really thankful for all the love and support!
Thanks for reading everyone – and I hope you had a lovely Thanksgiving. This year (and every year, every day), I’m thankful for my family, friends, and climbing. What are you thankful for?
Stay stoked and climb on!