Adjusting to Climbing in the Eastern Sierra

A peak-baggers ascent attempt of Blacksmith Mountain

I’ve spent almost three years out here in the Eastern Sierra and its been a big climbing adjustment. Before, from the San Francisco Bay Area, the process was frequent, hard gym climbing, one season of the pure crack style in Yosemite followed by the foothills season of mostly crack practice. However, out in the Eastern Sierra I’ve found much more of a face-crack style of routes that has had me evaluate my generally weak face-climbing skills. Also, adjusting to a different seasonality of climbing that doesn’t involve Yosemite Valley (which is inaccessible for the best seasons from the Eastside).

Pine Creek (Late-Spring, Summer, Fall)

Most of my trad climbing has been in Pine Creek which supports hundreds of routes and a great guidebook. Most of my routes have been on PSOM slab which has an abundance of moderate multi-pitch routes that move between some bolted slab/face moves to traditional crack climbing. However, I’ve recently got on The Main Line which was a beautiful alternative with a fully crack route. I’ll throw a shout out to another loved area which is mainly a summer-fall area: Patricia Bowl out of Rock Creek.

Patricia Bowl

Alpine Routes (Late-Summer, Fall)

Routes such as Bear Creek Spire and Temple Crag are mega classic routes up in the mountains that require a good hiking approach with sections off trail. These routes have a variety of rock quality and support mostly crack climbing with some good exposure. My main deterrent from doing more alpine has been the commit/fitness for such long days, the uncertainty of 4th class sections and the wild exposure you can get on these climbs. Some great next peaks might be Mt. Emerson and Mt. Humphreys if I can get my mind around them.

Owen’s River Gorge (Winter)

Owen’s is a huge climbing area near Bishop which is a draw from all over the state. I found the rock generally good aside from how it can sometimes look.. Its nearly all face climbing which means its not a huge draw for me, but I should go more to get better. There are also a few bolted cracks in the Upper Gorge / Dihedrals region. I’ve done much of the moderate face climbing in Banana Belt, Great Wall of China, Pub Wall and Warning Signs.

Bishop Bouldering (Winter)

I admit this is my biggest weak spot. World Class bouldering just 45min from Mammoth Lakes, but I’ve had a hard time with re-trying routes over and over while remaining mentally engaging. Its probably the best thing I could do to help my face climbing, but haven’t gotten around to implementing it into my climbing .

Where I’m at with Climbing

View from Backpacking Trip to Hopkins Lake

I’ve been climbing outside for six years and have done a decent amount around North America including Yosemite, Banff, Red Rocks, City of Rocks and beyond. However, I’ve also had three accidents: a broken foot, a ground fall and an anchor failure that have really tampered my desire to go climbing and have me reconsidering risk. A year after the anchor failure, I’m finally getting into enjoying climbing again. Doing the safe activity of backpacking in the mountains a bit more this past season helped a lot to reestablish my relationship with the mountains.

I personally think that if Mammoth Lakes had a climbing gym I’d be a lot better at face climbing and I would have developed my mental fortitude faster instead of relying solely on outside climbing. Mentally I know I can climb 5.9 trad but also I have a hard time with confidence when reflecting on the sources of failure for each of these situations. Luckily I’m coming out of it and can probably up my frequency and target these mental and technical weaknesses. I’ve experienced several times the ebb and flow of climbing ability over the years and each time its hard coming back into it. Hopefully I’m getting back into the swing of things for this upcoming season. This is what I call growth, even if its into an area I’ve been before.