Epicenter: Bouldering in Bishop

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A winter climber's Heaven on earth

It's tough to find a bad day to climb in Bishop, California. With 300 annual days of sunshine and only six inches of rain per year, this is nearly year-round sending conditions. (It can heat up in late summer months, so it's best to visit in fall, winter, and spring.) While there are hundreds of sport routes at Owens River Gorge, most itinerate climbers travel to Bishop for the bouldering. It's home to over 1,000 problems and a wide range of difficulties on world-class blocs of volcanic and quartz monzonite. The geology of glacial erratics have a long history of ground-breaking ascents and some of the proudest, boldest, and most aesthetic lines in the world.

Happy Boulders (Volcanic Tablelands) | Photo submitted by MP user Michael Auffant

What to Climb: The 10 Best 4-Star Problems

As ranked by Mountain Project users

Sketchpad (V0+ R)
Buttermilk Country
"Fantastic problem! I enjoyed every move and wanted it to just keep going. I feel that it is one of the best problems of its grade around. If you like this problem check out the John Bachar Memorial Problem in the Pollen Grains."

Mike Brady low on 'Sketch Pad' | Photo submitted by MP user AWinters

Buttermilk Stem (V1)
Buttermilk Country
"Hardest V1 ever! Short beta requires strong stem at the base with a tiny foot crystal for the left and a hand/foot match with the right. Trust the right foot and press it out until you catch the decent side pull. Jugs and juggy pinches from then on."

The Hunk (V2)
Buttermilk Country
"The crux down low felt harder than a V2, but up high the climbing gets a lot easier, which is especially nice given the height (fun highball!!!!)."

Birthday Direct (V3)
Buttermilk Country
"This is not a gimme V3. Very foot work intensive and fun."

Jedi Mind Tricks (V4 PG13)
Buttermilk Country
"Great introduction to Bishop highballing! Crux for me was definitely in the middle, gaining the last right facing side pull before the jug. A fall from there could be ugly."

Adam Rahim on Jedi Mind Tricks, January 2015 |Photo submitted by MP user Tristan Greszko

Strength in Numbers (Original SIN) (V5)
Volcanic Tablelands (Happy/Sad Boulders)
"Very fun and just high enough to add some spice. One of the top 5 problems at the Sads—no doubt about it. A must do."

Saigon (V6)
Buttermilks Country
"That jug is sharp as hell. The topout is a lot of fun too—the holds are good, but you do gain some altitude up there."

Lawnmower Man (V7)
Volcanic Tablelands (Happy/Sad Boulders)
"A great problem. Although not too high the position as you go for the good slot up high gets the heart racing. Stellar rock."

Flyboy SDS (V8-)
Buttermilk Country
"I actually found the sit-start to be slightly easier than the standing start, although the ratings should probably stay as-is. The moves are less awkward for the sit start, even if they are slightly more strenuous. Don't let the V8 rating turn you away if you're looking for a good way to do this problem."

Stained Glass (V10)
Buttermilk Country
"Stained Glass can be started from the sit—or from the stand. The grade really is just the same. Because what matters is up high. Trust me on that. Hard, slick, technical, sharp, continuous... and then there is the final move, which is a heart breaker."

Unknown climber getting to grips with the last hold before the throw on Stained Glass |Photo submitted by MP user LeeAB Brinckerhoff

Live Like a Local

[Gear Up] Eastside Sporting Goods is your go-to gear store for any kind of climbing, ranging from alpine to bouldering. You can also rent crashpads from them if you want to avoid the hassle of flying with your own. Fix unexpected blowouts in your climbing shoes locally at Rubber Room, serving locals and climbers from all over for 30+ years.

[Sleep] The great thing about Bishop is that you never have to sleep far from where you climb. There's (free!) camping available—and campfires allowed with a California permit—starting just a couple hundred feet away from boulders in the Buttermilk area. Pleasant Valley "the Pit" Campground, just 10 miles away from Buttermilk Country, features fire rings and pit toilets and costs $2 per night to camp. Looking for something with four walls? The Hostel California is located right in town and grants you access to a kitchen for home-cooked meals.

"Camping out at The Pit. Can't say I've been to many campgrounds with better scenery than this one." Photo submitted by MP user Clay Zamperini

[Eat and Drink] Start your day with a visit to Great Basin Bakery, home to an array of baked goods, breads, and the extremely popular cheese jalepeno bagel. Owned and operated by local climbers, the Mountain Rambler Brewery is a perfect place to kick back with a beer and a meal (Try the empanadas!) after a long day of bouldering. You can often catch some live music there, too. Don't leave town without visiting what Women's Climbing Fest organizer Shelma Jun calls "the living room of Bishop," Black Sheep Coffee Roasters, where the staff are long-time supporters of climbers.

Women's Climbing Fest

On March 3, 2017, Flash Foxy's second annual Women's Climbing Fest begins in Bishop. Over the weekend, 200 female climbers will gather to participate in clinics, hear from pro athletes, check out demos, and climb. The goal? To build confidence, community, and new skills.

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