Now that we have wrapped up our stay in Bishop, I thought I would write up a brief overview of the area. All in all, we found Bishop to be exceptionally convenient, with a huge concentration of superb bouldering and a town with everything you need just a few miles away. The locals (even cops) seem to be very friendly and laid-back. It was hard to leave this place!
Due to weather constraints, we were only able to climb at the Buttermilks, Happys, and Sads. I would have loved to check out the other areas at higher elevation, but I guess those will have to wait until next fall. We were incredibly impressed with the overall stone quality at the main Buttermilks area as well as the Happys and the Sads. In the Tablelands (Happys and Sads), there are TONS of easy lines (Vb-V3) for newer climbers that aren’t too tall and have very safe landings. I found the Buttermilks to be better suited for the intermediate to advanced climber due to the taller nature of the boulders and the sketchy descents. The stone at the Buttermilks is also brutal on the fingers, so it pays off to have skin that has had a chance to toughen up. Not to say that a newby couldn’t have a great time in the Buttermilks, but they’ll want to be more cautious about scoping out descents and landings before ascending any stone.
On the whole, I agreed with the guidebook star ratings in the main Buttermilks area, but less so in the Happys and Sads. We found some killer, zero or one star lines in all three areas, so don’t be afraid to wander and try less traveled climbs. Some of the highly trafficked problems in the Happys are falling apart, unfortunately. We enjoyed staying away from center canyon in the Happys and thus away from the crowds. However, the landings on the whole are worse on the East and West rims of the Happys. If you really want to get away from the crowds, check out the Sads. The stone is a bit rougher and the landings are a bit trickier, but there are some really fun climbs around. The descents in the Happys and Sads and typically walk-offs, too.
The roads out to the Buttermilks and the Happys and Sads are all two wheel drive. While we were there, the roads were in poor condition with severe wash-boarding, so be sure to take it slow to avoid further damage to the road and your vehicle. We see far too many people flying through which is disappointing. It should also be noted that the main Sad parking area has been moved to just a mile past the Happy parking area along Chalk Bluff road (when approaching from The Pit).
We stayed the entire time in The Pit, which charges $2/night/vehicle. On busy weekends, this place can fill up fast and be quite loud. Otherwise, it’s a convenient spot with nice individual campsites, individual firepits, and four pit toilets. The camp ground hosts won’t hassle you unless you haven’t paid your camping fee. They are vigilant and check every campsite, every morning at 6AM. We found the best thing about the Pit to be the lack of theft. We felt comfortable leaving our tent up and our stove out 24/7. Beware about leaving food out, however. The critters aren’t as polite as the climbers! The Buttermilks camping is supposed to be hassle free, although temps are cooler due to higher elevation. I’m not sure whether it’s as safe to leave your items unattended as in the Pit. It’s also a bit further from town.
Cheapest place we found was The Trees Motel for $50 even/night. Water was hot, rooms were fairly clean, and it was quiet. Free wifi, too. We had to book a room during a terrible wind storm.
You can climb in Bishop all year round. Precipitation is exceptionally low. In just over a month, we saw one day of rain. The wind can and does often pick up, and you can REALLY feel it out in the exposed Buttermilks. The Tablelands is the place to go on windy days. Full nylon tents are the way to go out here, unless you want to return from a day of climbing to a sand dune in your sleeping bag. Not pleasant. In December, we typically saw highs in the 50’s and lows in the teens. I am a VERY cold sleeper, but double bags ensured I slept comfortably at night. Chris and I both have 0 degree Marmot sleeping bags that are worth their weight in gold. Long johns can also come in handy. It gets cold and dark by 5pm, so be sure to bring some evening activities (i.e. good reads)!
We filled up water for free at the City Park. I also washed my hair in the sink once. It was COLD!
The beta in the guidebook is accurate, minus the hours. Showers are available at The Washtub daily at 5pm and from 8-10pm for $5. The water DOES get hot, but sometimes it takes a while! Showers are also available at the Keough Hot Springs, but are pricier.
The only local restaurants we checked our were The Petite Pantry, Jack’s, and the Loco Frijole. The Petite Pantry is somewhat odd, with chips and salsa on the table at every hour of the day, but you get quite a bang for your buck. Chris ordered a breakfast consisting of eggs, hash browns, toast, and biscuit and gravy for about $7. He couldn’t even eat it all with me helping. The meal was HUGE. Jack’s was similarly priced, but the quality and quantity were both reduced. We also went to Denny’s for a dinnertime breakfast, but I won’t describe it since it’s a chain. We both got vegetable burritos at the Loco Frijole for $8. The thing was as big as an infant and tasted decent.
We mainly visited Wilson’s and The Gear Exchange. Wilson’s is somewhat pricey, but the people are nice and it has a good selection. The Gear Exchange can have some awesome deals, plus we were able to sell a used and abused crash-pad there for a decent price in a matter of days.
We hung out at cafes almost every rest day. We hit up Starbucks and the Black Sheep. Starbucks is comfier, has more room, is quieter, and is open longer than the Black Sheep. The Sheep has better coffee, is a major climber hangout, has an attached book store, and better food. It is often packed to the gills and can be very noisy, however. The Looney Bean is another local cafe, although we never checked it out. All three have free wifi.
Pick up a Safeway card at Vons and score some sweet buys as well as money off of gas. You don’t have to register the card for it to work. With the card, Vons typically has the best prices for fuel in town.
Schat’s is a fantastic local bakery with a ‘Day Old Rack’ with reduced price items. The best deal we found was two loaves of bread and a bag of bagels for $1.05. Go in the mornings for the best selection.
Toxic Avenger/Mr. Happy Wall – Shady most of the day. Great rock. Short, but interesting problems. Safe landings.
• DESCENT – To the climber’s right. Hop down a couple of large stones then follow the maze.
• Mr. Happy V5 – A super fun climb. Climb up on fairly tweaky, but deep pockets. Slap to a big sloper, then slap to another smaller sloper. Just plain fun.
Tom Peter’s Slab – Shady most of the day. Good rock quality. Tall problems with scary landings.
• DESCENT – To the climber’s right. Easy down climb/walk off.
• The Pursuit of Wow V0 – Good problem with thought-provoking movement. A bit sequence-intensive for V0. The feet thin out as you go up, which makes it especially intimidating. Not recommended for a beginner climber.
Classique Boulder – Shady most of the day. Good rock quality. Tall problems, but the landings are decent.
• DESCENT – To the climber’s right. Hope across to the Sunburst boulder. Easy down climb/walk-off.
• Too Much for Mike Pope V0+ – Straight-forward pocket pulling. A little intimidating at the top, but the holds are there.
• Classique V0+ – Fun. Large, positive pockets the whole way. Great feet, good movement.
• It’s the Altitude V2 – I didn’t enjoy this one as much as its neighbors to the left. Seems very thin for V2 with a questionable landing. Big moves at the top!
Sunburst Boulder – Shady most of the day. Good rock quality. Short problems with safe landings.
• DESCENT – To the climber’s right. Easy downclimb/walk-off.
• Sunburst Seahorse V2 – What a blast! Ginormous jugs to a long move, then mantle. We took this one a bit right onto the face. Recommended!
• Lack Luster V0- – Also good, but not quite as much fun as its neighbor to the left. Some sharp holds, but interesting movement on the whole.
Corner Boulder – Sunny most of the day. Good stone quality. Fairly tall but with a decent landing zone.
• DESCENT – On the back side of the boulder. Down-climb on jugs.
• Corner V0 – Great problem. Aesthetic with thought-provoking, stylish moves. Unique.
Action Figure Cave – The cave itself is shaded, but sunlight is just a step away all day. Good rock quality. Short problems. Some of the landings are safe, others are sketchy. Pad accordingly.
• DESCENT – Down climb on easy terrain on the right side of the cave.
• Cholos V9 – Intense pocket/crimp climbing. Some sharp, greasy holds and glassy feet, but that comes with the three stars. Fun movement. Stays on you the entire way.
Savannah Boulder – Sun and shade depend on orientation. Good rock quality. Average height with safe landings.
• DESCENT – Easy down-climb on the back of the boulder.
• Kling and Smirk V2 – Fun and powerful with a LARGE move at the end. Chris climbed this one great, I did not. Glassy and greasy.
Fred boulder – Shady most of the day. Good rock quality. Average height with safe landings except for a large stone on the climber’s right side of the boulder.
• DESCENT – Easy down climb on the climber’s left side of the boulder.
• Carrot Top V3 – Short but decent. Not sure it is three star worthy, but it was enjoyable. Beware of the glassy left crimp just before the lip as you mantle! Chris nearly lost it when his foot cut on that thing.
The Slight Inducement boulder – Sunny most of the day. OK rock quality. The two ‘classics’ have sketchy landings.
• DESCENT – Downclimb on the back of the boulder toward the climber’s left, then hop over to another large boulder and downclimb it.
• Secret to Success V2 – Easy jug-hauling with a few sharp pockets. Move to a seam then up. Easier top-out than its neighbor on the right.
• Slight Inducement V1 – Easy jug hauling to a funky top-out. Pretty fun, although a little nerve-wracking at the top. Beware of the boulder at the base.
Parrot Fashion Boulder – Average rock quality low, worse up high. A bit tall. Mostly sunny. Not the best landings.
• DESCENT – Walk off the back.
• Parrot Fashion V0 – Overhanging pocket climbing to choss up high. I just downclimbed this one. Pad the stone behind you.
Norwegian Blue Boulder – Poor landings. Fairly short. Mostly shady. Good stone quality.
• DESCENT – Walk-off the back of the boulder.
• Blue V2 – I liked this problem quite a bit. Pocket climbing to a slopey top-out. Fun. Be sure to have a spotter and pad the boulders behind
Sad Parrot Boulder – Good stone quality. Descent sun exposure depending on your orientation. Fairly short. Soft landings.
• DESCENT – Walk-off around to the left.
• Flake Vb – Slightly-off balanced jug-hauling.
• Sad Parrot V3 – Hard! I basically had to mantle a vertical face. It took me a few tries to figure out how to set my feet so that I could reach
up into the higher slot. Worth attempting! You’re bound to learn something on this sucker.
• Mad Parrot V0 – A boring toss to a jug then up.
• Bad Parrot V0 – I didn’t find the ‘pull-hard’ part. Easy moves between pockets, then finish on a slab.
• Rad Parrot V7 – Sharp pockets and thin, slopey crimps. If you like traverses, it’s worth trying. I found it to be a bit tweaky.
• Bob Parrot V2 – Excellent. Flexibility required for the initial high-step off the ground! Rock up into a pocket, press it out, and finish on a
Hauck A Loogie Boulder – Tall, but with a flat landing. Good stone quality for the most part. Sits in the shade with a draft from the
ice caves. Chilly.
• DESCENT – Walk-off to the left of the boulder.
• Hauck a Loogie Sit Start V5 – Difficult sit start if you’re short. Another high-step and crank. Cool movement. Not a difficult top-out, just a
little nerve-wracking. The business is at the bottom.
• Hauck a Loogie Eliminate V7 – Another difficult sit start if you’re short. Really interesting pocket climbing. I certainly recommend this one.
The business once again comes at the bottom, just keep your head during the top-out.
Prozac Nation Boulders – Decent stone quality, some less-than-ideal landings. Might want a couple of pads. Average height. Most climbs receive sun, but Flawless is in a shaded alcove.
• DESCENT – Walk-off the back side.
• Flawless V7 – Great problem. Begins in a dihedral. Awesome, core intensive movement to a powerful throw. Rock quality up high is worse than
down low, so be careful. Pad the large boulder to the side of/behind the problem.
• Pencil Dick V5 – Beware of the hollow flakes to the left at the top. Average movement, somewhat sharp. Not highly recommended.
Pop-A-Wheelie Boulder – Good stone quality, blobby and sharp. Average height, average landings. There are a couple of protruding blocks you’ll want to pad. Sits in the sun.
• DESCENT – Walk-off the backside.
• Pop-A-Wheelie V4 – Good problem with good movement. Involves a traverse along the lip and arête of the boulder. A long throw at the end to a
hold you can’t see is a little heady. Overall enjoyable.
Parking Boulder (Mr. Frosty area) – Good stone quality with flat landings. Very short. The alcove Mr. Frosty sits in is shaded.
• DESCENT – Walk-off to the right.
• Mr. Frosty V8 – A blast of a problem. Pocket climbing, compression moves, crimps, trickery, to an insecure mantle in a scoop. A must do!
• Unnamed V7 – Long, difficult initial move leads to an awkward slab with poor feet. Technical, strange, but fun.
Slunk Boulder – Stunning boulder that gets afternoon sun. Average height with flat landings. Slick, strong stone.
• DESCENT – Unknown at the moment.
• Slunk – What a stunner! Phenomenal arête with funky movement. Better be good with your pinches and slopers!
Clapper Boulder – Beautiful, secluded area that gets sun almost all day. Great on a cold winter day. Overall quality of climbs is superb. Good landings.
• DESCENT – Easy walk off to the left. Hop across from the Clapper Boulder to the Pig Pen Slab, then down.
• Needle Across the Groove V2 – An awkward start leads to more enjoyable climbing. A ‘launch’ is not required. I was able to do some smaller, more precise moves. Decent stone quality. Pad the small stone behind you.
• Pig Pen V2 – Really fun and interesting. A balancey mantle is involved. Good top-out jugs. Excellent problem overall.
• The Clapepr V6 – Fun, quirky. Outside-of-the-box movement with pinches and crimps. Very aesthetic. Thin, hold your breath top-out. We liked this one!
• Standing Ovation V7 – One of the most beautiful climbs in the Happy area. Long moves between sharp crimps with glassy, tiny feet. Worth putting some time into.
• Not the Clapper V1 – Funky! Hard for V1 if you’re short. Slopey, slanting start holds with glassy feet lead left to a huge move to the lip. The start alone is worth doing.
Pig Pen Slab – Good rock quality, sunny most of the day. Good landings.
• DESCENT – To the left. Easy walk-off.
• Unnamed V1 – Both of these climbs will teach you to use your feet. Short. You never feel very solid. It’ll teach you a lot!
• Unnamed V2 – Footwork intensive. Trust the feet. Typical thin slab climbing.
Happy Boulder (South Face) – Soft landings, medium height. Sunny most of the day. Excellent rock quality, but highly trafficked.
• DESCENT. On the left side of the boulder if you’re facing The Hulk. V0 down climbing, not a walk-off.
• Indecision V0- – Loved this climb. Not your typical jug-hauling V0. Climbs up a slanting crack to an easy top out. Great movement.
Cilley Boulder – Average stone quality. The lines are not terribly inspiring. Sunny most of the day. Short. Soft landings.
• DESCENT – Walk-off/minimal down-climb on the back side of the boulder.
• Circle of Life V0+ – Average at best. A decent warm-up if you’re climbing in the area.
• Cilley Mantel V0 – Awkward, one-move wonder. Get your butt of the ground and pendulum up to the lip.
Space Suit Boulder
• The Space Suit V3 – Awesome roof! Trickery makes it V3. Yes, it really does start alllll the way back there. Needs good pad placement. Pure fun.
Rio’s Crack Left Buttress
• Strength in Numbness Sit Start V9 – Sharp! Low, awkward start. I enjoyed the movement, however. Try this one on a thick skin day.
Rio’s Crack Wall
• Rio’s Crack V6 – Powerful climbing on an angling crack. Becoming worn and slick, but a very cool and unique problem. Shorties will have few foot hold options. Worth trying!
• Molly V5 – Another one move wonder. Pockets to a big throw to a sidepull, then up. Uninspiring.
• Molly Variation V6 – Skip this one and do its neighbor, the left start.
• Molly Variation Left Start – Pockets, pockets to sharp crimps to a huge move. Loved the beginning of this one. Neat, thought-provoking movement. Enjoyable.
• Chewed Out V4 – We didn’t enjoy this one much. Big throw at the start to boring climbing.
• Spacehopper V0 – Easy warm-up with a nice landing. Somewhat sharp.
• Bouncing Babies V0 – Confusing start. Sharp holds.
• Sleeping Gas V2 – Cool. Start in a shallow scoop then turn the arête. Figure out what feet you need to continue up. Interesting for the grade.
Pow Pow Area
• Ow Ow V8 – Yes, it lives up to its reputation. Short, but it pours it on. Interesting moves with crap feet. Oh, the hands are crappy too. Save it for a thick skin day!
• Still Life V2 – Sharp and funky. Not as ‘stylish’ as the book claims. Watch out for the boulder below you.
The Sun Spot Boulder
• Sun Spot Right – Sharp, but the movement makes it worth it. Funky and powerful! Worth a try if you have skin to spare. Pad the protruding boulder below the top-out.
• Pappachubby V7 – Steep, fun pocket/crimp problem. Good quality rock, thought-provoking movement. Bring your overhang game!
• Run With Me V2 – Good moves for the grade. Good quality.
• Hair Loss V1 – Fun jug-hauling to slick crimp top-out. Tall.
Slap Happy Boulder
• Slap Happy V3 – Fun sloper climbing with an awkward top-out. Big moves.
• Pirate Booty V3 – Pockets, slopers, crimps. Climb a short arête to a short face. Good movement.
Water Saps Cave
• Pokeriotous V0- – Very easy pocket pulling. Nothing terribly interesting. Sketchy top-out with lots of loose rock.
• Fluke V2 – Not sure where this one was supposed to start, but I started on the glossy, diagonal crimp at about 3.5 ft high. That start allowed for some neat movement. Strange, confusing top-out.
Coen Brothers Boulder
• Ethan V3 – Average. First couple of moves are all right, but turns to turns to choss for the top-out.
• Oh Brother V0 – Pretty darn cool for a little prow. Sit start is hard for V0. Located on the only part of the boulder that is of good quality.
Action Figure Area
• Big City Boy V6 – Beware of the sharp rock at the start. Overhanging crimp climbing. Trickery involved. Very enjoyable.
• Little Country Girl V6 – Unique! The start is deceptively easy once you figure out the beta. Awesome pocket pulling, sloper slapping climb.
More Water, Less Power Boulder
• Groundwater V5 – One move wonder. Height dependent. Overhanging pockets to a big throw at the lip. Short, boring.
Happy Boulder (South Face)
• The Hulk V6 – Another one move wonder. V1 climbing to a big huck to a horn. Nothing inspiring. Overdone and becoming very worn.
- Front Block boulder
- Latona Basin V0- – Short with a fairly loose down-climb. Probably not worth the trouble.
- Sacre Coeur V3 – One move wonder. Boring movement.
- Grand Trianon V0+ – Funky moves with some very sharp holds. Could stand some traffic to clean it up, but recommended anyway.
- Jesus Chrysler Boulder
- Auto-gedden V2 – Uninspiring traverse. Pretty much the first boulder you see when you get to the Happy Boulders. Good way to get a quick feel for the stone.
- Paranormal in West Country V1 – Straight up jug hauling.
- Headbangers Cave
- Headbangers Ball V1 – Fun and powerful for V1. Cool territory for the grade.
- Beer Tumor V3 – Funkalicious. Beta might be very interesting for short climbers. Super fun!
- Beer Tumor Right V4 – Not as height dependent as the original. Quite fun, with a long and core intensive move to an undercling. Really fun top out.
- Slow Dance Cave Left
- Rave V7 – Worn. Out. If you ever want to see what a Vegas hooker will look like in 10 years, come see this problem.
- Gleaner Boulder
- The Gleaner V6 – Fun and sharp. Unique start in to powerful moves. Need to come back and finish this!
- Safe Surfer Boulder
- Froz V7 – Wow. Amazing movement and great rock quality. Far better than it looks. You should bring some fight to this problem.
- Safesurfer V3 – Fun. Maybe a touch easy for V3. Great moves and really good stone. Be very careful with your pad placement.
- Son Of Claudius Rufus V5 – Must do. The line is obvious from the trail. Traverse the sloping rail into a pretty wild mantle. Pumpy!
- More Water, Less Power Boulder
- Comfort of Home V2 – Chris didn’t like it, Nicole did. Small, sharp holds cause some finger numbness. Awkward topout. SCRAPPY!
- Happy Hooker V0+ – Fun and easy. Bucket hauling that is good for beginners.
- Solarium Boulder
- Solarium V4 – Tougher and sharper than it looked. Called a three star classic, but probably not that good. Climbs like a route.
- Shadow Play Main Boulder
- Rheinstor V6 – Really cool. Various types of climbing and vastly different beta at different heights. Sharp pockets and hard moves.
- Cue Ball V4 – Probably better in cool conditions. Long move to finish.