I was breathing hard and my palms were sweating. I moved my hands and feet across the rock the way the muscles in my body remembered, and I didn’t dare look down. I told myself I had to make it… and when I finally reached the top, a huge wave of relief washed over me… And that, my dear friends, was the story of how I climbed my first V0 highball. .
There was no grace, there was no finesse, and I’m sure I could have climbed (what is considered the easiest grade of bouldering in climbing) with a little more grace, but Ms. Never-Doing-a-Highball finally made his first high ball
Location: Bishop, California
Coordinates: 37.3635° N, 118.3951° W
Elevation: 4,200 feet
Type of Climbing: Boulder, Sport, Traditional
Geology: Volcanic Tuff, Monzonite Quartz
Known For: Premier Highball Boulder
Main season: November-April
Star Rating (out of 5): 5*
It was 4 months into our relationship that David and I took our first week-long road trip together. I, for one, thought it was proof of relationship survival disguised as a rock-climbing trip, but what better way to tell if your boyfriend is the one for you than to be locked together in a metal box on wheels for 20 hours? Fortunately, the relationship came to light, and 20 long hours later, we arrived in the land of highballs.
The actual city of Bishop is quite large, and the residents and visitors consist of not only climbers, but also other outdoor enthusiasts. Locals are lucky to have the popular bakery known as Erick Schat’s Bakkerÿ, famous for its original Sheepherder Bread®. For us, their chili cheese bread was a great way to recharge our bodies after a hard rock climbing session, although I’m sure many high-performance athletes would have disagreed…
For $2 USD per night, we stayed at “The Pit” campground. Our housing unit was David’s Green Honda Element, commonly known as “the Hulk”. The rear of the SUV cleverly became our sleeping space, cushioning the hard plastic floor with a tattered, sad-looking Madrock impact pad.
During the week we were there, we had a simple routine. I called it, the “Valley People Routine”… (for no apparent reason other than it sounded pretty incredible). The days always began with the sweet light of nature’s wake-up call, the sun. After grabbing an easy breakfast of yogurt and cereal, we cleaned up, packed up our crash pads, and headed straight into town for our first stop. We needed our daily caffeine boost and our “go to” was Looney Bean, a coffee shop just off the main road. There, we updated ourselves on our social networking sites and wrote home to let our family and friends know that we were still alive.
After our morning chores, we go out to play!
There were three main areas of bouldering that David was most familiar with:
1) The Buttermilks (her favorite)
2) The Happy Rocks
3) The sad rocks (my favorite)
On our first day, we arrived at Happy’s. It was quite cloudy that afternoon but conditions were good. Warmer days made ascent difficult due to less friction; cooler days were favorable. Happy’s was where I got on my first highball. I wasn’t all that excited at first, but when you’re in highball land, you have to climb a highball…
After our first day of preparation for the following week, we headed back into town and grabbed a few essentials, namely food and toothbrushes. Our meals weren’t too fancy, but they sure did outdo many other campers’ meals. (That happens quite often when your boyfriend is an amazing chef, even with the most limited resources.)
On consecutive days, we would mainly climb Las Leches. This climbing spot is possibly the best known, if not the most popular, area in Bishop. It is home to some of the toughest routes in the world such as Mandala V12 and Evilution V11 in Las Leches.
A unique feature of Milks includes the highballs, which could reach up to 5 stories high at the top. While highball climbs are the ones I stay shy of, it’s impressive and inspiring to see other climbers boost their mental game.
During our entire stay, we had two days off. One was spent in a natural hot spring in a slightly secret location (where I’ll only reveal the whereabouts in exchange for your favorite secret spot…or “the Google”); The other rest day was spent in a secluded stretch of brush and weeds where we sunbathed, played games and drank beers. We also had a “pluck body hair with tweezers” game, but it became obsolete very quickly.
Some nights, we would have big bonfires and invite our neighbors over for a few beers. One night in particular, I took out my ukulele and our neighbor Yve brought her mandolin. Together, we play over the dancing flames and into the night. It’s pretty wild but clear how one place can bring together so many people from different avenues.
Bishop, without a doubt, has been one of my favorite places to climb. It is a land where the desert plains are covered with sand-colored rocks that look like colossal eggs; where the view from the top is startlingly different but immensely magical nonetheless. Bishop, we will meet again one day.