Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Bouldering in Bishop

We fell in love with bouldering twenty-one years ago at Hueco Tanks, TX. We love the freedom of bouldering, of heading out with just our climbing shoes and a chalk bag. No roping up, no clipping bolts, no having to belay. Just you and the rock. We spent two months bouldering and living in the back our 1985 Subaru in Hueco during its heyday. At the time it was an international bouldering destination, arguably the best in the world. Since then access has been severely limited as the state tries to protect the cultural heritage of the park. Locals have vandalized the rock art and now access is restricted for all. Our last visit there was a bit depressing given the limitations.

With the demise of Heuco Tanks, Bishop, CA has become a bouldering hot spot. Nestled below the towering Sierra Nevada mountain range, it's a gorgeous setting to bask in the sun and boulder your heart out with fellow climbers from around the world. We were all totally blissed out in bouldering heaven.

Our first day we spent in the Happy Boulders. After warming up on some V0's we worked a V3 with an Indian guy from San Diego. Next we climbed Monkey Hang Roof, another V3, with some girls from Rhode Island. All the while I was checking out this kinda high traverse (Weekender, V3) another group was working on. It looked super fun but with our thin bouldering pad (the first bouldering pad to hit the market...it actually should be in a museum...you should hear all the young folks when they see it...some have called it a yoga mat or a lightly padded carpet), I was unwilling to give it a try. When the folks working Weekender offered to let us try it while their ginormous pads were under it, we jumped at the chance. With beta from the girl working it, I was able to climb it on the first try. Yay! It feels so good to be able to hop onto V3's and finish them. And it's so fun to watch my son and hubby follow. One of the climbers we were hanging out with here was a local. After seeing our climbing pad, he felt sorry for us and offered to let us borrow his pad during our stay. Wow! What a great climbing community here. Everyone we met was really encouraging, fun and helpful.

The next day we headed to the oh-so picturesque Buttermilk Boulders, a group of boulders perched beneath the mountains with fields of wildflowers stretching into the distance. In the guidebook it said the Happy Boulders would trash your muscles, but the Buttermilks would trash your fingers. Perfect. Our fingers were already tender from the day before. We bouldered with a group of guys who varied from a Chinese Australian to an Indian Spaniard. They were super funny and full of good advice. For example, when we were working on Iron Man, a V4, with them, one of them says that you should start by doing it without any feet and then when you do it with feet it will be really easy. One of them had actually done it that way and said it really wasn't as easy as it sounds (not that it sounded easy to any of us). The guide was right and it didn't take long before I couldn't even touch the rock any more much less grab on to a hold. Jason's hands hurt so much that it hurt to pet the chihuahua. We went back to the van for lunch and I did a bit of yoga because who can resist doing yoga in such a beautiful spot? After the Buttermilks we went to a nearby hot springs and campground. We soaked our sore bodies in the warm water for a while and then retired to our shady, grassy campsite where the boys caught up on math and Jason on work while I cooked dinner.

The next day we went back to Happy Boulders and climbed as long as our bodies would let us. We worked on the longer V4 version of Weekender. Jason got it his first try and much to my dismay I had to do it four times before I finally sent it. Each time I fell off two moves from the end. It's a long Boulder problem so it was painful to have to do it four times but I'm happy to have gotten it. After that I was pretty much toast and my hands hurt too much to touch anything. Soon Jason and Isaac were in the same boat as me. With thrashed hands and bodies we packed up to go. Back in town we met our new climbing friend and returned his pad before sitting down at a local Mexican restaurant to wolf down some serious calories.

Click here for photos.

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