The Incredible Hulk, nestled in the backcountry of the High Sierra and boasting a summit elevation of over 11,000 ft, offers some of the highest quality granite multi-pitch climbing in the country. If you’ve ever seen the Reel Rock video “Origins – The Hulk” with Peter Croft and Lisa Rands, you know what the Hulk is all about. If you haven’t seen it, go check it out, and this place will soon be high on your list.
Set aside at least two or three climbing days for this backcountry adventure. The approach is 5 miles, gains 3,400 feet in elevation, and takes roughly 3 hours with overnight gear.
Even before you arrive to Bridgeport, you will want to fill up on gas. I have no idea why, but the most expensive gas station I saw on my entire 9 month road trip was in Bridgeport. With a full tank, make your way to the permit office located on the southern end of town for your backcountry permits for the Incredible Hulk. We recommend trying to do your climb during the week for a higher chance of obtaining the permit, as well as a lower chance of crowds on the climbs. Since there are two extremely popular routes on the Hulk (Red Dihedral and Positive Vibrations), it is a good idea to avoid going for them on a weekend.
Once you get your permits, you can stock up on food and gear if you need them in the town of Bridgeport. The parking area for the approach is 13 miles southwest of town at a campground called Mono Village. The parking fee is $10 for 7 days.
You want to locate the Barney Lakes trail and hike it for about 2.5 miles before taking a left onto a climbers trail. We missed this turnoff which is not so obvious so make sure you are looking for a big rock in front of a big pine tree (GPS coordinates are on the map above. Best way might be to load these coordinates on your phone ahead of time). You’ll soon cross a river using some logs and from there, the hike gets a lot steeper for another 2.5 miles before you reach the base of the Hulk.
As stated earlier, we really recommend spending a couple days out there if possible, and keep an eye on the weather! There is no cell service so check the forecast before you leave. Positive Vibes is very exposed to the wind, and Red Dihedral has no good bail options. We learned both of these things the hard way on our trip.
- Red Dihedral 5.10
- Positive Vibrations 5.11a
The season window is relatively short, though will vary year to year, as with any alpine adventure. July and August are definitely the prime months for the High Sierra.
After hiking for three hours, you’ll not only be awarded with majestic views of the giant monolith that is the Incredible Hulk, but also a perfect flat area to pitch your tent. Our camping spot is pinned on the map above, though there are multiple spots to choose from.
Right nearby there should be some streams for you to treat water. In some especially dry years, you might have to hike up a bit further to find it.
Food and supplies can be bought in the town of Bridgeport. There is a grocery store and gear shop if you need to buy gas canisters as well.
You’ll probably want a nice hot shower after two or three days in the wild. Luckily for you, right at the trailhead there is a campground where you can pay for a hot shower using quarters.
After getting soaked to our bones on RD due to not anticipating a thunderstorm rolling in, we were happy to get back to civilization. With no more food weighing us down, it took us just two hours to hike back to the car. We stuffed ourselves with burgers and fries at Jolly Kone and then made the beautiful drive down the east side of the Sierras to Bishop, CA for some low commitment sport climbing at Owen’s River Gorge.
By James Huang