Saturday, December 6, 2014

Climbing: Bishop

Bishop is probably one of the best winter climbing destinations in North America. It's most famous for bouldering, which consists of climbing boulders without a rope. Instead, you use a thick foam pad called a crashpad to cushion the ground if you fall off. Walking through an airport with a crashpad on my back is a sure way to attract lots of attention, and I always feel a bit silly when I explain what it is and what it's for. 

The most popular bouldering areas are the Happy Boulders in the Volcanic Tablelands, and the Buttermilks. The Happys are made of volcanic tuff and the problems there tend to be fun and gym-like with lots of pockets. The landings are flat, and there are lots of good moderate and easy problems.

A bluebird day in the Happys
The Buttermilks are made of monzonite and the problems here tend to rely more on friction and crimpy edges. When I think of the Buttermilks, I think of highballs... high boulders that are really more like cliff faces. Some of the highest boulders are 45 feet tall. I'll admit I'm more of a lowball person. I like to be able to jump or fall off at any point and not die.

Weekday bouldering in the Pollen Grains, just behind the main area in the Buttermilks
There are a few other bouldering areas near Bishop that are worth checking out. I like the Druid Stones, and they're a good place to check out on a weekend... the 45 minute approach tends to keep the crowds away. The Sad Boulders are similar to the Happys, but the good problems there are mostly out of my ability so I can't say I've climbed there much, although we had fun the one day we were there.


  1. Oh my gosh! I am scared just reading about a 45 foot tall boulder. Wow. You are amazing. Do you ever get scared? And if so - how do you talk yourself out of it so you stay safe? I find this type of sport so fascinating, Liana. Thank you so much for sharing! I also love the names - the Happys - the Sads - the Buttermilks!

    1. I do get scared. I am pretty sure I would never climb a 45 foot tall boulder without a rope. I am actually not good when it comes to not getting completely freaked out, but the times it has happened I have focused on where I'm putting my feet, breathing, and trying to decide whether it's safer to go up or try to go back down.

      I like the names too. We also climbed at the Druid Stones, and the Pollen Grains (a subset of the Buttermilks). The bouldering problems all have names too... things like "Buttermilk Stem", "Evilution", "Jedi Mind Tricks", "The Hulk"...

  2. I had to look up what a crashpad looked like to imagine what you are talking about carrying through the airport. That thing is huge! And it does not look like it would offer a lot of cushion if you fell. Have you ever had to use one? Have you ever fallen? You are amazing! Like Lara Croft!


    1. We have a pretty good crashpad. We use it all the time. I rarely fall (I usually just jump off if I don't like something). But it works!