Climbing

From the Owens River Gorge to world-famous Yosemite, climbing opportunities are plentiful and challenging throughout this region.

The areas listed below are WORLD CLASS. You should have no trouble finding interesting routes at any of these. There are guide books around that will give you a lot more information, directions, and climbing specifics. And if you need a guide — or want some crack climbing advice — you've definitely got to check out the Mammoth Mountaineering School, composed of a group of individuals who offer a wide spectrum of activities in the world of mountaineering to the general public. Good people. And great climbers.

This guide will help you find a variety of interesting crags amidst the world's largest single-stand forest of sweet-smelling Jeffrey pines. Soon you will be pulling down on steep, pocketed faces with beefy 3/8" bolts and soft, pumice landings. This area boasts some of the best bouldering in California, as well as the finest granite climbing between Tuolumne Meadows and the Needles.

Much of the climbing in the Mammoth area is on welded volcanic tuff, similar in some respects to both the Owens River Gorge and Oregon's Smith Rock. The best of the welded tuff has a dark, smooth patina, with numerous pockets. There are also numerous formations that are high-quality featured granite.

The relatively high elevation of these crags (7,000'-9,000') and heavy local winters combine to make these primarily summer climbing areas. Furthermore, many of these areas are accessed by dirt logging roads which are not plowed (or graded) and may not be passable due to snowdrifts until late May or June. Daytime temperatures in summer are generally in the high 70's, with an occasional afternoon thundershower. Nighttime temperatures are chilly, and often dip below freezing. Fall usually starts with an Indian summer.

Camping
There are numerous camping options in the area. In addition to the many official U.S. Forest Service campgrounds (with nightly fees), there are also free campgrounds close by.

Lodging
Accommodations in the town of Mammoth Lakes range from budget motels to full-service hotels.

References
A guidebook entitled Mammoth Area Rock Climbs is available in local stores and provides thorough and accurate information. A cross section is reprinted here. These areas will provide the visitor with easy access to high-quality rock of diverse types.

Rock Creek Area

Rock Creek is a beautiful alpine canyon draining the 13,000' peaks of the Mt. Abbott region. The climbing routes are at an elevation of 9,000' on the west side of the canyon so they receive morning sunshine. The rock is excellent-quality granite, offering some of the best crack climbing this side of Yosemite. There are also some bolted slabs, but the steep, featured sport climbs of the Main Cliff should not be missed.

To get to the Rock Creek area start at the junction of Hwy. 203 and U.S. 395 and drive south on 395. After 16 miles is the Tom's Place/Rock Creek exit. Turn right here and head south up the canyon. The cliffs are all on the west side of the canyon and take about 20 minutes to scramble up to. The mileages indicated are measured from U.S. 395.

Iris Slab
To get to the Iris Slab, drive 4.1 miles up Rock Creek and park outside the Iris Meadow campground, hike through the campground, cross Rock Creek and scramble up to the crag. The Iris Slab has long been a popular teaching area with local guides services and is a great place for beginning climbers. Fixed anchors are found on top, making top-roping and lowering convenient. All routes are about 80' long.

Mammoth Lakes Area

Warming Wall
From Hwy. 203 head west through the town of Mammoth Lakes and turn right on Minaret Road, the second traffic light. Almost immediately turn onto Canyon Boulevard. Follow Canyon Boulevard to its end at the parking lot of the ski area's Canyon Lodge. The Austria Hof inn is the last building on the right; park just beyond it. From here, head up the first gully north of the ski area for 1/4 mile; the cliff will be seen on the right.

This interesting wall provides moderate sport climbing near town. The rock is sharp, grainy and of volcanic origin. The cliff has a forested southern exposure with good climbing from late spring to early fall.

Lakes Basin Area

Horseshoe Slabs
The crag is high-quality granite. This area receives heavy winter snowfall and holds snow well into the early months of summer. With an elevation of 9,000', this area is best in late summer or early fall.

To get to the Lakes Basin, head east on Hwy. 203 through town. At the second traffic light, Hwy. 203 turns right; instead, go straight ahead on Lake Mary Road, heading uphill under Chair 15 and past Twin Lakes. A mile farther is Pokonobe Lodge. Continue to the parking lot at the northwest end of Horseshoe Lake. From the parking lot, hike counterclockwise around the west side of the lake past the group camp to a small trail. Continue to the inlet stream on the southwest side of the lake, where the trail dips down to lake level. The Horseshoe Slabs are just beyond, toward the right in the forest.

Deadman's Bouldering Area

Deadman's I
Deadman's I is justifiably famous as a world-class bouldering area. The main cliff is over 30' tall and features a number of "off-the-deck" problems. These tall problems can be top-roped using large friends and trees. A second rope can come in handy to extend anchors over the lip.

At 1.2 miles north of the Crestview maintenance station, turn left at the only left-turn pocket on the grade. The road turns to dirt and "T's" immediately. Turn right so you are paralleling U.S. 395. At 0.2 miles past the "T" is a right turn leading to Deadman's I.

Deadman's II
At 0.6 miles beyond the "T" is a right turn leading to Deadman's II.

Deadman's III
At 0.8 miles beyond the "T" is a right turn. Follow this while it veers to the left and dead ends in the forest. From here, a short trail heads west up a slope to the base of Deadman's III. Just beyond the turn to Deadman's III, the road deteriorates as it climbs up a short canyon.

Big Springs Area

These crags are located in a dense Jeffrey pine forest on the east side of U.S. 395 just north of Mammoth. The cliffs are eroded outcrops of welded volcanic tuff. This area receives a large amount of snowfall in winter, so climbing is often not possible until summer. The roads in this area, although graded, are narrow and roughly washboarded.

To get to the Big Springs area, start at the junction of Hwy. 203 and U.S. 395 and drive north on 395. About five miles is the Crestview rest area. Just past the bottom of the hill, turn right (east) on the paved Owens River Road (2S07). Follow this road a few miles to a left turn at Big Springs campground (2S04). This road heads north past the campground, turns to dirt and begins winding up a grade to the Indiana Summit Natural Area. The following descriptions all begin at this point:

Clark Canyon

At 2.2 miles north of the campground, a sign marks the exit for the road to Alpers and Clark canyons (2S06). Follow this road just over a mile to the cattle gate. A half-mile past the gate, road 2S06 joins with 1S47 coming in from the left, and soon passes through a second cattle gate (please close all gates behind you). Continue on this road through a meadow and around a ridge into the main branch of Clark Canyon. At a 4-way intersection, turn right and follow this road to a loop parking area. From here, a trail leads north up a dry creek bed to the main cliff area.

Clark Canyon is the most developed sport-climbing crag in the Mammoth area. The routes are highly concentrated, with convenient anchors. The canyon is in a beautiful setting with views of Mt. Morrison and the surrounding peaks. The rock is very featured, with pockets galore. The routes tend to be short with cruxy bulges that must be passed.

The climbs are located in two primary areas. The trail to the main area heads right up a steep slope when the crag is reached. The trail to the Potato Patch goes left up a wash. Beyond Potato Patch, a quarter-mile up the gully, is the Swiss Cheese Boulder, which features a couple of steep top-ropes (11b/c) and some excellent bouldering.

When you are done climbing for the day, treat your appetite to one the many fine restaurants in Mammoth Lakes. Enjoy your stay!

 
 
 
 
 
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