Bishop 101

Our trip to Bishop reminded me how much I love climbing and my house. So much that I want to take notes for next time.

Tip 1. Drive. Yes, 14 hours is a long way for the weekend and it makes you pretty worthless right after, but it’s a spectacular drive through southern Oregon and the Sierra Nevadas. Especially at sunrise.

Tip 2. Choose your front passenger carefully. We split up the drive into four shifts where two slept in in the back while front passenger followed the golden rule of keeping driver company. Mapping out our buddy system was like those logic puzzles from 4th grade. A takes first shift (moi, because I no longer like windy roads). C wants the graveyard shift (so she can drink Coke). But B isn’t passenger when C is driving (Couch Potato claimed Slow Boy is quiet–really?). Ideally, D sits out two in a row to optimize sleep and once two sit together, they don’t again for variety. So can you guess who sat with whom?

Tip 3. Make CD mixes. Ok, if that’s too pre-21st century, then go for playlists. You don’t want to be picking music in the middle of the night and the same artist becomes reptitive. Among the most popular: cheesy hip-hop/R&B, the Forrest Gump soundtrack, and the Bishop 2009 Mix.

Tip 4. Camp near the yellow tree. As winter is Bishop’s climbing season, the campsites off the main road to the Buttermilks, the most popular climbing area, were full. After some rough roads (Slow Boy requested this shift), we set up camp at the lone tree, a yellow cottonwood, in the whole valley. Not right next to the creek, but we were far from the other climber bums who were having a grand time Saturday night.

Tip 5. Climb at Happy Boulders. If it’s not too hot, there are great, classic problems down near the town and it appears to be less crowded. We played on a rare 4-star V6 in a 3-star rating guidebook called the Hulk. The moves were so fun and I made it far enough to try the crux! It’s also a great place to start the trip of pain (that’s what climbing outside is all about) because the rock is less sharp on the fingers.

Tip 6. Sadly: drive, don’t walk, to the Buttermilks. Clearly we all had a poor memory of how FAR the actual bouldering was from the camp area, or else we wouldn’t have walked the grueling 2.5 miles. I know: this shouldn’t be anything compared to our daily run, but it is when all you want to do is climb. Instead, we walked uphill, in the heat, with crashpads and packs sweating against our backs, as the other climbers passed their car dust into us and got to the rock first. RebK kept reminding us that October 24th was International Day of Climate Action.

Tip 7. Top out early. Get that first spooky top out out of the way, and you’ll climb much more at Bishop. It’s true that the boulders are higher and more exposed and the downclimb can be less-than-easy. But the landings are good and you learn to trust your feet on the rock and your spotters.

Tip 8. Name your problem. My favorites: Crappy Feet and Shut the F*** Up Annie, the latter courtesy of RebK (who didn’t hold back on the other letters). Couch Potato’s claiming Who’s Your Granny for somewhere on the Grandpa Peabody boulder.

Tip 9. Sleep under the stars. Inspired by the Andersons, we can’t believe we’ve never done this before! Being in the high desert (at 5500 ft.), Bishop was the perfect place for this: cool, clear, hardly any dew, and NO bugs. Slow Boy saw at least 15 shooting stars; I kept a gap open to feel the fresh air on my face.

Tip 10. Cook, don’t eat, in town. Saturday night’s dinner required groceries, and after a long day of climbing, we thought might as well eat out if we’re going into town. Think again. I got food poisoning at the recommended local Mexican place, and my beautiful sleep under the stars was interrupted by a 30-second window to make it somewhere in the field to…well, you know. And what did I eat differently from everyone else? Chicken! Why did I stray from my plan?

Tip 11. Send Iron Man on your first try. The famous v4 traverse, across a ledge where the crimps get smaller and smaller, only to finish with a dyno to a sloper, is long and burly. Anderson and I gave good bids but quickly had diminishing returns; Slow Boy, however, was the real Iron Man.

Tip 12. Tell everyone down below you’re OK. I ended on King Tut, a V3 high baller, where halfway up, I had the Moment. Legs where shaking, breath was heavy, and I started to smear my body to the rock. In my head, I knew I could either climb down or keep going; I decided to finish it and climbed on. Of course, I neglected to tell those spotting me below my confident thoughts, so for all they knew I was stuck, very high up.

Tip 13. Go with awesome friends. Not anyone would do this kind of trip; that is, drive 14 hours overnight to climb and camp for a few days only to be terribly sleep deprived at work Monday morning. We actually tried this many years ago and it ended sadly (long story). In a way, some of us wanted to recreate the Bishop Trip, and well, I think we did.

More pictures at Couch Potato’s FlickR site.

Additional notes:



  1. It’s hard not to be inspired with scenery like that – stunning! Glad to see and read about the trip.

  2. you’re a badass. living in your house sounds like so much fun. and a sure fire way to get in shape, too!

    pouy made fun of me when i mentioned making mix CDs awhile ago 😦

    1. well tuti, then come out and visit! 🙂

  3. […] been climbing strong. Two exciting trips were to Leavenworth, WA and an epic road trip down to Bishop, CA where we drove overnight both ways. For her big 3-0 birthday, Annie was given such a special party: […]

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