This rock climbing town is the place to be, if you have no place to be for a while.
Here is what a typical day might look like for you: Wake up at your gorgeous, free campsite in the Tablelands as the sun peaks over the mountains and starts to warm up your tent (or if you’re lucky, van). Sip coffee around the fire ring filled with ash from the night before, discussing where to climb for the day. With the variety that Bishop offers, settling on a location can surprisingly be difficult.
The variety of climbing is quite impressive. Technical and difficult bouldering can be found at the Buttermilks, while more burly problems abound at the Happys and Sads. Bring a pad and make some friends, the atmosphere is extremely friendly.
The Owens River Gorge hosts countless long and pumpy sport routes on dead vertical rock. Crimps and edges are the name of the game here, and to succeed you’ll need to have your endurance in top shape. A 70 meter rope and lots of draws will do you well here.
If you feel like plugging gear, Pine Creek has excellent granite multipitch adventures. Some classics like Pratt’s Crack require two 60’s as well as some big gear. If you find yourself in Bishop in the warmer seasons, this is your best bet to escape the heat as the canyon is at a higher elevation and in the shade most of the day.
- Solarium V4- (Happys)
- The Hulk V6 (Happys)
- Expressway 5.11b (Org)
- Darshan 5.12b (ORG)
- Pratt’s Crack 5.9 (Pine Creek)
- Sheila 5.10a/b (Pine Creek)
October-March. The summer is way too hot to climb in Bishop, but you could make your way to the High Sierras, Mammoth, or Tuolumne, all not very far away.
I was in Bishop January and February of 2018 and was blessed with many t-shirt climbing days. We might have gotten lucky this winter, but if you are finding yourself looking for a winter destination, don’t rule out Bishop, CA.
The Pit is probably the most popular campground among climbers for its reasonable price ($5/site), well maintained bathrooms, large picnic tables, and friendly vibe. Do keep in mind that there is no water.
Some prefer the Tablelands for the quieter and more peaceful atmosphere (and probably because it’s free…), but on the downside, there are no picnic tables, fire rings, or toilets,. Most of the climbing areas require a drive back through town anyways, so you can take a restroom break at a gas station or public restroom in town. Take a look at the map for location details.
Bishop Visitor Center, located right in the middle of town, has a spigot behind the building, making it very convenient to fill up your tank.
Cooking at camp is the most convenient option, but when you feel like a meal with a roof over your head (mainly on rain or rest days) head to The Rambler Mountain Brewery, Burger Barn, or the Taco Stand. The Taco Stand sells a freaking giant burrito for just six bucks.
Hostel California offers showers for $5. I even think they provide you with a towel!
All the good hot springs are up north near Mammoth, a 40 minute drive from Bishop. The best one in my opinion is Crab Cooker, though it is also fun to do a tour and try them all. They are all free, but can be crowded on weekend nights.
Mount Tom (13,652’) is the giant mountain that looms over the Pit campground, and you have likely been staring at it as you drink your morning coffee. Hiking to the top of this monster is no small feat. The round-trip hike is 20 miles with 6,729’ of elevation gain, about 10 hours car to car for normal fit humans not in a rush. The views from the summit are spectacular, but we chose a day with whiteout conditions (couldn’t spare a fair weather day away from climbing). The location of the trailhead is pinned on the map above.
By: James Huang