Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Bishop: A Trip Report

A look back on our short week to Bishop:

Day 1 :

Enduring a little over half the drive (10 hours) in constant rain we stopped in the Tahoe area for the night. The next morning we drove the remaining 6 hours and reached The Pit in the early afternoon. After setting up our home for the next week we decided to get in some bonus climbing at the Happies.

Home sweet home.

It was warm in the canyon, but the sun was beginning to drop and to our surprise we had the area nearly to ourselves. I was just hoping to switch gears from plastic to real rock and warmed up slowly, running the obligatory lap on Heavenly Path, arguably the best V1 on the planet.

Fleeing the shadows on Heavenly Path, V1. Photo: Liberty Herring.

After walking around and reacquainting myself with the classics I decided to hop on Disco Diva, a problem I had worked on the previous year without success. After a couple warm up burns relearning the movement I was stunned to find myself at the top of the boulder. So much for unfinished business.

As far as I was concerned that was a good first day and I was happy spotting Lib as she almost flashed Groundwater, V5. The fatigue from the trip was slowly starting to set in, and after the Groundwater session we were talking about calling it a night, however Lib convinced me to jump on Acid Wash just to try it. This climb was one of my trip goals, and I was really psyched to try it, but skeptical as to how well I would perform. By now the sun was barely flickering over the west rim. The air cooling off and settling in for the night.

We walked up to the problem thew down a few pads with a guy from Brazil, furiously working on pulling out a send before he left the next morning. The psych was high, and before long I had my shoes laced and my hands on the start holds. My flash burn brought me all the way to the final hard move, a full extension bump off a poor sloping hold. My fingers grazed the final incut hold, but I wound up on the foam instead of the top.

Though I didn't flash, I was beyond motivated. This thing was going to go! My excitement got the best of me for the next hour as I struggled to get back to the crux, but as the headlamps came out and the sluggishness set in like a big meal I managed to stick the final hard move from the beginning and hung on all the way up, topping out in complete darkness save the light from my headlamp and a bright half moon.

Day 2:

My unofficial goal for the trip was to send something V8 or harder. With the pressure off we headed out to the Sads. Lib had tried the classic Anti-Hero last year and was ready for a rematch with the beautiful overhanging problem.

After working out all the movement, a series of big powerful moves to positive holds to a very core and bicep heavy undercling crux that left her stretched to her full extension, Lib was understandably tired. Steep climbing is tricky that way. You have to spend all this energy isolating moves and linking sequences, and by the time you're in redpoint mode there's no gas left.

I experienced the same thing after an hour or so relentlessly working Beefy Gecko later that day. I was more than happy to complete all the individual moves to a V11 in a day, regardless if the only thing I sent was a warm up V3. It's all about the progress.

That night we had some fun with long exposures of the Sierras in the moonlight.

Check out Orion's Belt!

Day 3:

Good ol' rest days.

Sore muscles and skin made for an obvious rest day. Had we gone to the Buttermilks to climb without fresh skin I'm sure we would have regretted it. Instead we spent the day hiking around and getting psyched and groping holds. I had to make sure only to bring my camera, and not climbing shoes because my self control is non existent.

Highlights of the day:

-Checking out the Pollengrains and the Get Carter boulder.
-Standing at the bottom of some of the most classic and inspiring lines in America such as Jedi Mind Tricks, Suspended in Silence, Evilution, and Ambrosia.
Lib being completely unimpressed with Lucid Dreaming.

HP40 invades Bishop!

Day 4:

Kind of a bummer day. Woke up to a ferocious wind beating on the tent. A storm from the night before was lingering in the Sierras leaving the Buttermilks wet and miserable. We met up with a good buddy of ours from Chicago and decided to have an active rest day seeking shelter in the Sads.

I worked on Beefy Gecko, Los Locos, and flashed the classic Shizaam, however my mind was elsewhere, and we all knew we were just killing time. Here are a couple shots Mike Chung snapped of me on Los Locos.

Crossing to the pinch.
Entering the crux.

Day 5:


We had a full on 8 hour session at the Milks. It was cold and windy, but I'll be damned if it wasn't dry enough to get some work done. First and foremost I wanted to get on High Plains Drifter. After numbing out and blowing the flash I felt the blood enter my fingers and it was just enough to carry me to the top. This climb is undoubtedly classic, but it is so much more. This is without a doubt the best V7 I have ever done and likely one of my top 5 favorite boulder problems. If you can climb the grade and you are in Bishop do yourself a favor and get on it.

Next up, Evilution to the Lip. The full line is, as the guidebook says, probably one of the best lines anywhere. Until I am strong (read: crazy) enough to even attempt it I was psyched to get on the steep belly. The movement is great and the holds are all there, but the line managed to escape me this trip. One of the biggest cruxes is finding enough pads!
Speaking of which big thanks to the Washington crew for donating some foam to the pit.

Setting up for the big move... Photo: Liberty Herring.
Catching some air. Photo: Liberty Herring.

By the time I had hogged half the day Lib was ready to work Cave Route. This line doesn't get the attention or status of other lines in the Buttermilks, but it is definitely worth doing. If you're there and you're bored you can try One Mule Wonder as well. It's definitely not worth 10 points, but it does have a couple hard moves on it.

Lib on Cave Route.

We finished up the day as the sun fell behind the Sierras, thinking we would cool down on the classic Green Wall Essential. The climb turned out to be pretty stout for the grade, and whether we were tired or just bad at vert climbing, it didn't feel like a cool down.

That said it was a great finish to a great day at the Buttermilks.

Day 6:

Active rest day. It looked like a patch of weather was heading our way so we decided to climb a bit at the Happies. We warmed up slowly, our skin screaming on every crimp. I managed to crank out Action Figure and didn't see the appeal.

Lib tried Groundwater again, but the skin just wasn't there.

Lib on Groundwater.

We walked over to the Slow Dance cave and saw some people working the recently (2008) established Standing Kill Order and Kill On Sight. The movement looked really fun and I decided to work in with the group. One of the guys wound up giving me some good beta for the stand, and I managed to put together a line called Dance the Night Away. This line gets 11 points in the guidebook, which is absurd. I was sore, feeling pretty weak, my skin was in bad shape, and I finished this line faster than Acid Wash. It is a couple hard moves into a V3. I am not sure how hard it really is, but after thinking about general difficulty of other things I have done it seems to fit in the V7 range.

That said the movement on this prow got me totally energized, and I decided to call it a day and save skin for the next day.

Day 7:

Split day between the Buttermilks and the Happies. It was cold. Run around the boulder in your puffy until you can feel your fingers cold. Lib gave a few really solid attempt on Howard Carter Sit Start and Cave Route, but the route she was really invested in, Fly Boy Arete, was covered in ice!

"Ice on my proj? WTF?!"

At the Happies I was psyched on Standing Kill Order. After getting some feeling to my fingers I began to warm up on the moves slowly. The climb boils down to one very hard tension move off the ground that requires all points to align and work together perfectly in order to pull it off. The move is like none I have ever practiced, and yet it felt right up my alley. Bearing down on a toe hook, gripping a wide pinch, and standing off a glassy pimple while holding tight enough to release a left hand to an undercling sidepull edge at full extension. Perfect.

I was happy to make quick progress on the move, and before long I was stopping briefly on it and holding weight. From there the pressure was off and I felt like if I stuck that move then I could get to the top. Luckily, I stuck the move within the next few goes, crimped the hell out of the sidepull undercling, and fought to the top, nearly blowing it on every move.

It was a great accomplishment, and felt incredibly rewarding to be on top of that boulder.

Finally sticking the crux on Standing Kill Order, V11. Photo Liberty Herring.

With the sun setting on our day and our trip I ran a couple victory laps on Heavenly Path. Lib proceeded to make short work of the entire Slap Happy boulder, flashing everything she touched.

On our way out I decided to stop and try the moves on Kill On Sight, the full value sit start to the line I had just done. The sit adds roughly five movements (including a tough toe hook placement) and climbs so wonderfully that I would just sit and stare at the boulder between burns. Just before calling it a day I was able to link into the crux move of the stand from the sit, effectively breaking down the climb into two halves. I couldn't believe it.

Day 8:

My psych was through the roof. I barely slept, tips sweating from thinking about sending the hardest climb I had ever tried. Unfortunately the weather had other plans. It was raining, cold, and the wind was howling. Still, I had to see for myself.

Nearly running up the hill to the Happies I had a faint hope that the overhanging prow would still be dry. Turning the corner into the cave I saw the climb. The bottom was dry, the middle holds and the pinch untouched, but then I saw the drops. Big drops falling off the final slopers. The top was completely soaked. Without even touching the holds I turned and headed back down the trail to the car, and back to Portland.



  1. It was a great trip. Short, but great. I can't wait for many more.

  2. Nice trip report, Max! Can't beat living vicariously through someone else when you (I) can't get out on the rock. Sucks about the weather putting the axe in your sending plans for Kill On Sight. That's part of climbing though ... at least that's what I tell myself. Great photos too!

  3. Thanks for reading! It was a good trip, but with all road trips it could have been just a bit longer. Do you have plans to be back in the U.S. any time soon?