/ Bishop Bouldering ... your experiences

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Michael Ryan - on 21 Sep 2010
I'm just finishing off a destination article about Bishop Bouldering. Providing you with all the info you need to plan a trip and hopefully some inspiration for actually going.

I'd like to put some commentary from climbers who have gone bouldering around Bishop.

I'm interested in...

1. What did you think of the bouldering and the area.

2. How did you get there and how much did it cost?

3. Where did you stay and how much did it cost?

4. Did you have a good time?

And any other useful snippets, hints and tips that would be useful for those thinking or planning on going.

Ta

Mick
pamplemouse - on 21 Sep 2010
In reply to Mick Ryan - UKClimbing.com:

Hopefully going there in November for 3 weeks - staying in the Pit if it is still there. Was 2$ a night when I was last there (2005). Boudering is brilliant - lots of different styles depending on the area. Pretty highball sometimes. Probably a lot more than was in the guidebooky type things that you were involved with
andyinglis - on 21 Sep 2010
In reply to Mick Ryan - UKClimbing.com: Just get Stuart Stronach to write this one for you!!!!
TimS on 21 Sep 2010 - host86-161-128-59.range86-161.btcentralplus.com
In reply to Mick Ryan - UKClimbing.com:
>
>
> 1. What did you think of the bouldering and the area.
Bishop and the Buttermilk Boulders in particular are my favourite bouldering destination in the world. The lines are proud, obvious and non eliminate. The climbing is steep, positive an athletic and a lot of the boulders have the bonus of a highbal glory jug haul topout! I'm not that bothered about the bouldering at the Happies or The Sads, but I know a lot of lower grade boulderers who prefer those areas to the 'milks. Druid Stones is a long walk, but well worth it. I didn't really rate Rock Creek, but I know people who love it.

Bishop town has everything I want out of a town at a bouldering destination: A couple of good bars, lots of relatively cheap options for food, an independent supermarket (and a massive non independent one), a good coffee shop, a well stocked and well staffed climbing shop and cheap motels! Having the option of staying in the pit, a nicer campsite or a motel is also really good.

The aesthetics of the area can't be overlooked either, there aren't many places to go bouldering with such outstanding scenery.
>
> 2. How did you get there and how much did it cost?
Flew to LA then drove in a hire car, think the flights were about 700 return, but we flew with United and it was cramped and horrible!
>
> 3. Where did you stay and how much did it cost?
Pit most if the time, In the Ranchero motel on friday nights for a shower and partying in town. The pit is $2 a night for a pitch (I think?) and the Ranchero was about $60 a night, they also do deals if you want to stay for longer.
>
> 4. Did you have a good time?
The Best. The combination of the bouldering, the scenery, the friendly locals and a great town make it a hard to beat location for me.
>
> And any other useful snippets, hints and tips that would be useful for those thinking or planning on going.
Best conditions in the winter, but it's really cold. We had really good conditions all day in late feb/early march, but it was warm enough to camp (just about) meaning we saved a lot of cash on accommodation. If the Tioga pass is open I believe it's about equidistant from Vegas, LA or SF, so you can look at getting cheap flights to any of these.

I do kind of feel like I'm telling you things you already know here!

Anything more specific you'd like answering?

Cheers

Tim
Michael Ryan - on 21 Sep 2010
In reply to TimS:

Tim... thanks a lot. That's brilliant.

I want to put stuff in there that is from people who have visited, not just me who lived there for ten years and who, with Wills, wrote the guidebook.

Appreciated.

Thanks,

Mick
Stuart S - on 21 Sep 2010
In reply to Mick Ryan - UKClimbing.com:

> I'm interested in...
>
> 1. What did you think of the bouldering and the area.
Been there four times now, and love the place - if I won the lottery, I'd buy a house there. One of the best things about the Bishop area is the sheer quantity of bouldering on offer - we were there for 6 weeks this year, and didn't climb the same problem twice. When it was hot, we went to the higher altitude Buttermilks main area and the Pollen Grains, when it was cold, we climbed on the Tableland, when it was windy, we sheltered at the Sads, when we wanted to explore, we headed up to the Sherwin Plateau.

Although the Buttermilks in particular have a reputation for being highball, I managed just fine nursing a slightly gammy knee by finding problems with low cruxes (of which there were plenty), so you don't need to be too brave to have a good time at the Buttermilks (though obviously you've more options if you are!).

The other thing I love about the area is the scenery - you're climbing below a backdrop of Alpine scale mountains (in fact, a good rest day (for the fingers/skin at least) is to drive the 45 mins up to Mammoth and go skiing (they were open for business until July this year, I believe). You can then stop off on the drive back to town at one of the Benton road natural hot springs.

Bishop itself isn't particularly pretty when you're driving down the main street, but it has everything you'll need for your trip.

> 2. How did you get there and how much did it cost?

On different trips, I've flown to San Francisco, Reno and Los Angeles and hired a car for the last part of the journey. The drive from San Francisco was the longest but most scenic, Reno was quickest (though watch out for the change in speed limit going from Nevada to California) and Los Angeles was cheapest. This year's flights to LAX cost us 630 from Aberdeen via Heathrow with Virgin Atlantic.

I've always hired a car in advance. Again, this year I paid 500 for a 4x4 for 3 weeks. Having been stuck there by the volcanic ash cloud, I had to extend the booking by another two weeks at the rental agency desk and that cost an extra 1000, so booking in advance saves you a fortune.

We stopped for the night in Mojave to break up the drive. If you're going to stay there, it's worth booking a motel off the main highway because the adjacent train track is in use all night and is bloody noisy!

> 3. Where did you stay and how much did it cost?

On previous trips, I've stayed in apartments we've managed to find through contacts in town. However, this year, I went onto a local real estate agency website, found an apartment advertised for rent and asked if they'd do me a deal for 1 month. Net result was a furnished apartment for our trip for 750 (a lot less than staying in a motel, but obviously not as cheap as camping).

> 4. Did you have a good time?

We actually got married there this year, underneath the Get Carter boulder up near the Buttermilks, so yes, we definitely had a good time. Getting our climbing trip/honeymoon extended for a couple of weeks by the volcanic ash cloud was a bonus!

One other thing that's always impressed me about Bishop is how friendly and supportive the locals and other climbers have been - lots of positive encouragement, good beta and spotting.

> And any other useful snippets, hints and tips that would be useful for those thinking or planning on going.

First of all, make sure you take out BMC insurance before you go. In 2008, I tore my cruciate ligament in my knee in an inocuous fall, and required hospital treatment which was all paid for by the BMC. They also rearranged flights home for myself and my girlfriend (now wife) and were generally brilliant - can't recommend them highly enough. Also, if you need them, you can sometimes pick up second hand crutches for next to nothing in charity shops (a lot cheaper than they'd cost you new at the hospital!).

If you're going to be there a while, get yourself a Vons Card for your grocery shopping. It's free and instant to take one out, and you'll save yourself a small fortune. Even with the discount card, with the current exchange rate, we actually found the cost of groceries to be a bit more than back in the UK.

The Banff Mountain Film Festival comes to town in the spring - worth a visit if you're there at the time.

The Mountain Light Gallery is worth a visit - stunning photographs by the late Galen Rowell. Spellbinder books next door is well supplied if you run out of reading material.

You can hire bouldering pads from Wilsons Eastside Sports, but we selected Virgin Atlantic to fly with because they still have a free sporting goods allowance, meaning that we could take our own pads with us for no additional cost.

I've always gone there in the spring so that I could get in a little skiing too. However, this means that the Tioga pass has always been shut and I've not been able to visit Yosemite. If you're wanting a twin centre trip, autumn might be a better time to go before the snows shut the pass.

It's not essential to hire a 4x4 car to get about, particularly for the Happy or Sad boulders, but there are some rougher sections on the road up to the Buttermilks and it gets rougher still on the tracks to the Pollen Grains, Dale's Camp and the Druid Stones, so it's probably worth it.

If you're eating out at Whiskey Creek, get there for happy hour as most food is half price.

Finally, the rock in Bishop can be quite hard on the skin, so look after yours while you're there.

Hope that's the sort of thing you were after.

philpdr - on 21 Sep 2010
In reply to Mick Ryan - Senior Editor - UKC:
1.Been twice,had a superb time on both occasions,between the Happy's,Sad's and Buttermilks found plenty of variety to suit all.The area was great,went walking in the John Muir wilderness and used to go to some hot springs about 30 mins drive north away from the campsite or the swimming pool going south from Bishop again geo thermally heated .On the first trip had the good luck to meet Galen Rowell and his wife at the Mountain Light Gallery,this was the year before they were sadly killed in the plane crash.
Bishop's an o.k.little town and was amused to see one of the motels advertising they had a fish cleaning room.Kava was a good coffee house,hope it's still there and the climbing shop nearby had everything you could need.

2.First time drove down from Reno with friends so only fuel,was on a trip which started at El Potrero Chico in Mexico and finished 4 months later in Squamish.Second time drove down from Squamish,again with friends with various stops along the way, each time stayed for around 3 weeks.

3.Both times stayed at a free campground called Hortons about 15 mins outside Bishop.Each pitch had a picnic table and firepit but no running water on the site,however there were composting type toilets.

4.Loved it!!!Last time I was there was about 7 years ago but hopefully the place is still as good.

Michael Ryan - on 23 Sep 2010
In reply to philpdr:

Sad day when Galen and Barbara went. I remember the morning clearly.

Thanks Phil.

Mick
Michael Ryan - on 25 Sep 2010
In reply to Stuart S:

Gold Stuart. Thank you.

Mick
Jenn on 28 Sep 2010
In reply to Mick Ryan - Senior Editor - UKC:

I don't have much to add other than to echo what has already been said, but here are a few thoughts.

I had two visits to Bishop, once in April 2007 and again in Oct 2007. Each trip was about 2 weeks.

> 1. What did you think of the bouldering and the area.
The best I have encountered thus far! Bishop has the highball reputation, but there is so much more to it than that. I'm a bit of a girly wuss when it comes to highballs, but I found more than enough to entertain me over two separate visits.

I think the grades are a bit stiff (or the UK ones are too soft) on first acquaintance, but it eventually falls into place after a few top outs. I very much enjoy the gymnastic powerful style of the problems that is commonly encountered in Bishop, but the variety is such that other types are also abundant.

> 2. How did you get there and how much did it cost?
Being a US expat I tend to rack up the frequent flyer miles and I used them to defray the cost of flights with Virgin Atlantic. Not too sure how much actual money I ended up spending.

For our first trip we flew into LAX and rented a car and drove to Bishop the next day. The drive is long and boring, but easy (it's basically one road once you are out of LA). The second time we flew into San Francisco and rented a car the next day and drove to Bishop. If I remember correctly, the Tioga Pass was closed due to snow - so we had to drive fairly far North to find a road that was open. As others have said, this route was very scenic, but if I was to do it again, I would go with the easier LAX option.

A word of warning - I was in the US last week and was horrified to learn that Virgin is now restricting it's baggage allowance to one suitcase which weighs no more than 23 kg! Not too sure if the sporting equipment allowance is affected. Also, this was for a flight to New York, but I assume California is the same.

> 3. Where did you stay and how much did it cost?
Both times we stayed at the Best Western Creekside Inn. Not the cheapest option, but we had a room with a small kitchen, so we didn't have to eat out every night. I think it cost about 1,500 for two people for two weeks, but this was a few years ago now.

> 4. Did you have a good time?
Of course! From the climbing perspective it was one of the best holidays I ever had.

> And any other useful snippets, hints and tips that would be useful for those thinking or planning on going.
Train your crimp and pinch strength!
In reply to Mick Ryan - Senior Editor - UKC: It was wank. Sorry, my mistake, that's bishop bashing...
Offwidth - on 29 Sep 2010
In reply to Mick Ryan - Senior Editor - UKC:

Just went for a quick look as we are mainly into trad routes. Its all looks far too highball and hard for low V grade boulderers but there is stuff there, so prep up and ask before you go if interested. Our preference is to fly into Vegas as its less hassle getting anywhere (but not if Virgin cut baggage allowance to 23kg!). Bishop is a really cool place as US towns go, we usually stay in motels... always haggle and try non-chain for some of the best deals. Costs a lot these days with the humungous flight taxes (~$250 before the cost of the flight?) and car hire (or a local driver) being pretty much essential so go for as many weeks as you can! Sports climbing in Owens and mountain stuff close by is also good for mixing things up.

I'd always rather be in Yosemite, Tahoe, Red Rocks or Joshua Tree but can recognise the clear major attraction for boulderers.
TimS on 29 Sep 2010 - host109-154-40-167.range109-154.btcentralplus.com
In reply to Mick Ryan - Senior Editor - UKC: I forgot to mention the Toggery in Bishop! An actual cowboy clothing shop, so good, next time I'm taking an extra bag and filling it with check shirts and Carhart!
Michael Ryan - on 30 Sep 2010
In reply to Offwidth:
> (In reply to Mick Ryan - Senior Editor - UKC)
>
> Its all looks far too highball and hard for low V grade boulderers but there is stuff there

Yip, lots of it.

Lots of VB to V2 and not high.
SCrossley on 30 Sep 2010
In reply to Mick Ryan - Senior Editor - UKC:
Buy a Sandwich from Shatts, it will do nothing for your climbing but they are "probably the best sandwiches in the world"
TimS on 30 Sep 2010 - host81-151-117-156.range81-151.btcentralplus.com
In reply to Mick Ryan - Senior Editor - UKC: Ooooooh and Raymond's Deli, the best sandwiches, amazing Juke Box and a sign that says "this is not Burger King, you do not get it your way" http://raymondsdeli.com/
Stuart S - on 30 Sep 2010
In reply to TimS:

Agreed - had some very good food from Raymond's Deli!
Jenn on 30 Sep 2010
In reply to Offwidth:
> (but not if Virgin cut baggage allowance to 23kg!).

See here:

http://www.virgin-atlantic.com/en/gb/passengerinformation/baggage/allowances.jsp

Stuart S - on 30 Sep 2010
In reply to Jenn:

That's the same set-up as they had when we flew with them in the spring. We paid the extra to take a third bag between us, but our bouldering pads were free as sporting goods. When you're bouldering rather than sport climbing and don't have to worry about a rope or harness, 23kg is actually quite a lot (and I'm crap at packing light).
Jenn on 30 Sep 2010
In reply to Stuart S:

I had a 22 kg case when I went to visit my mom for 5 days last week and I don't climb any more!

Although I did bring back a few big text books...
adi3969 - on 01 Oct 2010
Hi Mick
Can't give this place enough superlatives, spent 5 days boarding at Mammoth an just two days at the Milks, great combo trip.
1. Stunning location and perfect conditions in feb being just below the snowline.Had to get the soloing head on which is always a bit harder miles from home and out of your comfort zone.Climb up to V8/9 at home but only managed V5, prob due to lack of time there to work something so mainly picked the easier classics. Hands were well trashed after two solid days, strolled round the Happys and the rock looks more skin friendly.

2. Flew with air NZ on a ticket to NZ and stopped off in LA for 8 days at no extra cost to the flight.Ticket was about 950 , but this took me right round the globe.

3. Condo in Mammoth $800 for 6 nights, La Quinta in Bishop was $80 for a room per night including continental breaker.

4. Amazing time...not many places in the world where you can combine world class snowboarding and skiing with world class bouldering 45 minutes apart( perhaps Castle Hill NZ but the skiing dosen't compare).

Rustys saloon in Bishop for the real wild west drinking experience. Whiskey Creek is a bit more sedate but the Pitchers of Paranoid Pale Ale at happy hour are a steal at $11 . The food there is pretty good too.
Cheap Cahart as mentioned previously, plus Wilsons for Mat hire $15 for 2 days. All other kit seemed more expensive than the UK.
A visit to one of the many hot spring is a surreal experience, however only go during the daytime, several friends have horror stories about drunk locals ( i'm sure your aware Mick).
All in all , it is well cemented in my top 5 bouldering destinations ( Bishop,Castle Hill,Albarracin,Font,Yorkshire)
Michael Ryan - on 01 Oct 2010
In reply to adi3969:

Thanks Adi.
dodfoster - on 01 Oct 2010
In reply to Mick Ryan - Senior Editor - UKC: i blogged about it here......http://outdooruk.blogspot.com/2009/12/those-were-weeks-that-were-bishop-and.html if thats any help?
dodfoster - on 02 Oct 2010
In reply to Mick Ryan - Senior Editor - UKC: haha thanks for the blog comment Mick! it was all meant in good spirit.
ads.ukclimbing.com
Michael Ryan - on 05 Oct 2010
In reply to dodfoster:
> (In reply to Mick Ryan - Senior Editor - UKC) haha thanks for the blog comment Mick! it was all meant in good spirit.

and was taken as that, my mum loved it


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