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Adventure of the Week: Another Amazing Eastern Sierra Weekend

November 9th, 2011 By   

The storm clouds break on the Sierra Crest as seen from the Buttermilks

Who: Greyson, Matt and Adam

What: Bishop bouldering, Eastern Sierra road tripping

Where: Bishop, Buttermilk Country, the Happy Boulders

When: November 5th and 6th

Gear: Our Bishop Bouldering Guidebook once again proved indispensable, my Nemo Astro Insulated Sleeping Pad with Pillow Top was totally cush, I lived in my Mammut Schoeller Dryskin pants and Icebreaker Wool the whole time, and my Jetboil provided crucial quick hot water for the cold weather.

If it seems like we blog about bouldering around Bishop a lot here at Tahoe Mountain Sports, it’s only because we do. I made my first trip down in June, and Lis wrote about taking a break from the snow to boulder in the Buttermilks last December, where she found 70 degree weather.

Well, my buddies and I didn’t get as lucky as Lis, but we still had a blast in what has to be one of the best bouldering playgrounds in the world.

We left Tahoe Friday after work, which meant missing much of the scenery of the Eastern Sierra drive, only imagining the snow-capped peaks looming in the darkness around us. Snow flurries came and went from the cone of light projected from the headlights, leaving a sense of foreboding for our plans to camp that night.

And sure enough, when we got to our campground at 11 p.m., it was cold. Really cold. We lingered around the fire for as long as we could stand, and brought every scrap of clothing we had into our respective sleeping bags, our tents already coated in a crunchy shell of frost.

Evidence of a cold night's sleep.

The Buttermilk Boulders where crawling when we got down to them Saturday morning, parking turnouts packed with camper vans and shelled pickup trucks. We were both a little intimidated by the scene, and nonplussed by the blasting death metal coming from one car — but as always, the climbing community proved our fears false.

If there’s an unfriendly, elitist or territorial climber out there, I haven’t met them. Strangers pool crash pads, cheer each other on, and stand ready to spot one another within minutes, or even seconds of meeting. And as with last time, the rock didn’t disappoint.

Topping out with the Sierra Crest in the background (Photo by Matt Renda)

After our fingers, forearms and bound toes could take no more, we wandered the streets of Bishop, getting advice at local gear stores, grub at a local restaurant and of course bread at Schat’s Bakery.

Braced for another cold night, we boiled water for hot water bottles and bedded down. The hot bottle worked wonders, as did the fatigue of a day well spent, and I only woke once to hear the sound of snow softly falling on the nylon skin of my tent.

With possible showers forecasted for Sunday, we weren’t sure what to expect when we awoke that morning (with an extra hour thanks to the end of Daylight Savings!), but the sun was shining and a new-to-us climbing area was beckoning. We drove out to the table lands north of Bishop, and joined the conga-line of crash pad–backed climbers approaching the Happy Boulders.

Matt getting after it in the Happy Boulders

I now understand what climbing gyms are trying to emulate. There were intricate and interesting boulders stacked side by side as far as I could see, all with a dizzying array of jugs, huecos, pockets and edges. Despite still-protesting fingers and forearms, we were drawn up each route, tacking as many problems as we could fit into the time we had left.

But the open road beckoned — or more accurately, Mammoth Brewing Company and one of the many hot springs you can find along the way (or in this book). A resupply at the brewery and a good long soak in the hot spring while watching the sun set over the Sawtooths was the perfect ending to another amazing weekend in the Sierra.

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