Owens River Gorge

17-20 Oct. 2017

random trip report

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I go with friends D., C., S., and L. on a rock-climbing trip to the Owens River Gorge, just north of Bishop in the eastern Sierra.

The Central Valley is hazy with smoke from the still-burning North Bay fires.

Driving through Tuolumne Meadows on the way, I stop to climb Mt. Hoffman, ~4 hours car to car. There's no one else on the mountain.

This is where Noah got tired last time up

Summit plateau

Smoke from the Empire Fire burning along Glacier Point Road in Yosemite

Looking down the back side; 1000' drop-off

Weather station at summit

The Thumb. One of these days I'm going down there and climbing it

I said Hi to Martha, the Ponderosa pine

The next day we rendezvous with S. and go to the Warm-Up Wall in the middle gorge. The climbs are 5.7 to 5.9, which sounds easy, but after not climbing outside for a long time it's challenging.

S. on the lead

Is my butt really that big?

We have dinner at a climber-friendly brew-pub in Bishop.

The next day we meet up with D. and C. in the morning, then go back to the same area.

Me at the start of a hard-ish 5.9

The hard part was here

My left index finger has two stitches from a recent watch-battery-replacement mishap involving a chisel

We eat at the same brew-pub, and look in the windows of the Mountain Light gallery, which apparently is closing soon.

On Friday we all drive to Pine Creek Canyon, which reaches pretty far up into the mountains north of Bishop. Several gullies offer spectacular and varied sport climbs.

It's cool and the wind is blowing about 40 MPH. Not ideal. We stop at the first route, rated 5.9+. Dan leads it and leaves in the draws. I go next, cleaning the draws. The climb itself is extremely fun, but the rock (in the shade) is ice-cold, my hands quickly go numb, as a result unclipping the draws is hard, and the wind blows unbelievably hard. It adds up to an epic, brutal experience. But as you probably know, I like that sort of thing.

S. top-ropes it, and that's enough for everyone. We drive up 395 a ways and sit in a natural hot spring called Wild Willy's, the ideal temp and with beautiful view. The perfect antidote.

View from the hot spring

L. and I drive back to the bay area; the others are staying a couple more days. Tioga Pass is closed because of overnight snow, and supposedly Sonora Pass is too, but the signs are ambiguous so we go over it anyway without issue. There's about 4" of snow about 8,000', but the road is clear.

I climb a roadside tor near Sonora Pass

This stretch of highway 108 may be the most beautiful road in the world

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