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Home >> Climbing Areas >> High Sierra Wednesday, April 23, 2014 

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Russell Mitrovich, on the first pitch of
Mt. Whitney's East Buttress.

Photo: Chris McNamara
   

High Sierra Rock Climbing Info

Bordered by a great agricultural area on one side and an inhospitable desert on the other, California's Sierra Nevada is the highest mountain range in the contiguous United States, and some say it is the most beautiful. It has almost everything a climber desires: rugged peaks, glaciers, and splendid, isolated chunks of granite. And these attractions are set in a lovely locale of lake basins, streams, and high meadows. The rock is generally good, the weather during the summer months excellent, and the access is easy. What more could a climber want? If there is any disadvantage, it lies in the hordes of people who have recently found the range to their liking. The John Muir Trail, which runs the length of the High Sierra, is a very crowded corridor in mid-summer, yet the climber who is willing to wander just a few miles from it will find untrammeled lake basins at the bases of peaks that see fewer than ten ascents a season.

Steve Roper

High Sierra Climbing Skills
You need a solid base of trad climbing skills to lead a High Sierra route. Most climbs will involve a little bit of every technique from face climbing and stemming to hand cracks and ever the occasional chimney. Build confidence with these techniques on multi pitch climbs at a granite area like Tuolumne Meadows, Yosemite Valley, or Lover's Leap.

When choosing a climb, keep in mind that in the High Sierra, most climbers lead at least a number grade lower than their cragging ability. For example, if you lead 5.9 trad at the crags, you will probably only be comfortable leading 5.8 or even 5.7 in the High Sierra. This is because you are generally weaker at high altitude but also because you must not fall on Sierra climbs. Because of the ledgy terrain, even short falls are serious and rescue is usually at least a day away.

Brief ad break: please help support this site by checking out the High Sierra Climbing guidebook. There is a free sample download here

High Sierra Non-Climbing Skills
Technical climbing skills are only a small requirement for High Sierra routes. Routefinding skills, hiking fitness, and general "mountain sense" are just as important. Approaches typically involve at least a few miles of hiking off a main trail. Our High Sierra Climbing guidebook features the most detailed info ever provided for these approaches. However, you will still need some basic orienteering skills to navigate through cross-country sections. Also, High Sierra climbs ascend complex and confusing terrain that demands careful attention to the topo and some intuition. Important Tip: on the approach, keep the topo handy and study the route from a distance. Do not wait until you are at the base to look at the topo. At that point, much of the upper route will probably be hidden and it may be hard to orient yourself. Almost all climbs require a substantial approach at high elevation. If out of shape, you may be too tired to climb by the time you reach the base of the route. All High Sierra Climbing routes can be climbed car-to-car in a day by a fast team. Most parties, however, will prefer to camp near the base which means you will also need all the requisite backcountry camping skills.

Climbing Gear
Climb light. Carrying a heavy pack and rack at altitude will slow you down and, more importantly, remove the fun. Carry only what you need (but don't skimp on food, water, and a rain shell). For the High Sierra, slings are better than quickdraws because they are more versatile. A wandering pitch you will want a sling on every piece to reduce rope drag and on straight up and down pitches you can convert your slings into makeshift quickdraws. 50m ropes are preferred because they are lighter than 60m ropes and after 50m it is usually impossible to communicate with the belayer. (All the topos in the High Sierra Climbing guidebook are set for 50m ropes, but we tell you where you can link pitches with a 60m rope). A retreat rope may be helpful for some climbs. However, sometimes it is better to rappel with just one rope because long rappels in the High Sierra often result in stuck ropes or pulling loose blocks down on yourself.

SuperTopo Rack For High Sierra Climbs
Here's the rack we at SuperTopo bring when we climb in the High Sierra. This is just to give you a general idea of what to bring. Check to the SuperTopo guidebook before climbing each route to see specifically what you need.
d Dream High Sierra Climbing Rack

 

d d
d Water Cracks.
d
Photo by Jody Langford
   

Non-Climbing Gear
If the route does not have a lot of chimneys, I use a hydration pack or put a hydration bladder in a superlight daypack. Be sure to bring potable water tablets if drinking from a stream. Good approach shoes are strongly recommended for the longer approaches (remember, you climb carrying your approach shoes so don't bring heavy hiking boots). Sunscreen and sun hats for warmer periods, and warm gear and rain gear for the frequent thunderstorms (bring a water-resistant lightweight jacket: not a heavy gore-tex jacket). Don't forget the headlamp On popular routes, many people get hung up behind slow parties or take longer on the descent than they expect. A headlamp is essential to get down if it gets dark. A small knife is handy to remove old webbing at rappels. A cell phone could potentially save your partners life in an emergency (there is sometimes reception from the top of peaks) and/or a satellite messenger. For three weeks, usually in July, the mosquitoes are FIERCE so bring plenty of insect repellent. Trekking poles can save your knees on the big approaches (get ones like these that collapse real small to fit in your climbing pack). We used to bring a camera but now we go fast and light be bring an iPhone or other smartphone with a lanyard case. An ice axe and crampons may be necessary for climbs on Temple Crag (and on the couloir routes, of course).

Banner Peak.

Photo: Jody Langford
   

Good First High Sierra Climbs
The following list will introduce you to the climbing in the High Sierra. All these climbs are in our High Sierra rock climbing guidebook. We encourage you to check out the FREE SuperTopo of Red Dihedral to get psyched for a Sierra adventure.

Route            
Rating 
Pitches 
Description
Mt. Russell, East Ridge
3rd class
N/A
With a striking line, big exposure, and great rock, the East Ridge is one of the best 3rd class routes anywhere.
Laurel Mountain, Northeast Gully
5.2
N/A
This is a true "adventure climb" that derives its pleasure less from the technical difficulties and more from the unique rock, tricky routefinding, and sheer size of the mountain.
Bear Creek Spire, Northeast Ridge
5.5
N/A
The Northeast Ridge follows a striking ridgeline on mostly 4th class terrain.
Mt. Whitney, East Face
5.7
12
The exposure and commitment on this climb are intense making the route only suitable for experienced 5.7 leaders.
Mt. Whitney, East Buttress
5.7
11
Possibly the most popular climb in the High Sierra, the East Buttress climbs a sustained arete with short 5.6 or 5.7 sections on almost every pitch.
Temple Crag, Venusian Blind
5.7
11
The climb is packed with fun climbing and wild exposure. It is shorter than Moon Goddess Arete, more continuous, and arguably better.

Good Climbs for Returning High Sierra Climbers
Once warmed up to Sierra climbing, you may want to expand your tick list to the climbs listed below. All of these climbs are part of High Sierra Rock Climbing guidebook.

Route
Rating
Pitches
Description
Temple Crag, Moon Goddess Arete
5.8
14
There are few 5.8 routes in the High Sierra with more continuous exposure. The climbing is moderate but wild and follows a striking arete from start to finish.
Charlotte Dome, South Face
5.8
12
The rock and the climbing are reminiscent of Tuolumne Meadows: long, smooth faces that appear to be impossible from a distance are actually covered with knobs and texture, allowing for relatively easy climbing.
Bear Creek Spire, North Arete
5.8
10
The climb is typical for a Sierra route: lots of cracks, broken rock, and mostly face climbing and stemming with a few mandatory hand jams.
Mt. Russell, Fishhook Arete
5.9
8
The Fishhook Aréte is one of the more aesthetic aretes in the High Sierra. Nearly the entire length of the climb is exposed and on perfect golden granite.
Temple Crag, Sun Ribbon Arete
5.9
18
The route involves 18 pitches of fun climbing and a dramatic tyrolean traverse. It ascends a striking arete and involves mostly 3rd and 4th class climbing with a number of short harder sections in the 5.6-5.9 range.
Incredible Hulk, Red Dihedral
5.10b
11
The Red Dihedral is probably the best 5.10 route in the High Sierra.

Leave No Trace
Pack out all trash, don't crap near water, do stay on established trails when possible, don't burn wood above 10,000 feet, do camp in established sites. In some areas, like Mt. Whitney, you may have to pack out your own poop with a bag like Restop. Read a SuperTopo forum discussion about packing out poop and using disposable waste bags.


 
The third pitch of North Arete, Bear Creek Spire.
Photo: Chris McNamara
   

High Sierra Essentials
The following is an overview of the essential High Sierra info.

Getting There
Car Travel
Almost all climbs are accessed off of U.S. 395 and the small Eastern Sierra towns of Lone Pine, Independence, Big Pine, Bishop, Tom's Place, and Bridgeport.

Below are the general driving times (in hours) to the Eastern Sierra (times vary depending which trailhead you are heading for):

Tuolumne Meadows: 1-3, Yosemite Valley: 2-4, Reno: 2-4, Los Angeles: 4-6, San Francisco: 5-7, Las Vegas: 4-6, Salt Lake City: 9-11, Boulder: 18-20

Air Travel
Reno/Tahoe Airport is the closest airport to most High Sierra climbs. From there, you will need to rent a car and drive 2-3.5 hours to your climbing destination. You can also fly into Los Angeles, Oakland, San Francisco, Sacramento, or Fresno. Each of these places requires 5-7 hour drive to the East Side. Travelocity is one or our favorite travel web sites and if you book through this link, a portion of the sale goes to support this web site.

Bus Travel
The Eastern Sierra has little bus service or public transportation. The only town that can be reached by bus is Mammoth Lakes via the Mammoth Shuttle (760-934-3030).

When to Climb
Almost everyone climbs in the High Sierra between June and October. From November through April, the High Sierra is pounded with snow from big Pacific storms.

Note: Below, the snow conditions are listed for an average snow year. Most snow years are not average and the projections below will be way off if it has been a heavy or light snow year. Your best bet is to search for your climb on the route beta page to see what the conditions are like or check out the Backcountry.com Forum. If there is nothing there, ask a question in the forum.

May – Only in low snow years will climbs be easily accessible. In general, most of the approaches will be snow-covered and many of the access roads may not be plowed. May is mostly dry but expect a few storms. There are no crowds in May.

June – Aside from a rare storm, June is usually dry with warm temps and nice long days. Most of the access roads are plowed but there will still be snow on most approaches. Thunderstorms begin to develop so keep a close eye on the weather. The crowds start showing at the end of June and it becomes more competitive to get overnight camping permits. Charlotte Dome and Temple Crag are usually the first climbs to easily access.

July and AugustPrime Sierra climbing weather. Temperatures are hot at the trailheads but perfect on the climbs. This is also prime thunderstorm season so watch the weather closely. There are lots of crowds and it is competitive for overnight camping permits (get reservations at least a month in advance).

September – Still great climbing conditions but the nights are cool. Some north-facing routes may be uncomfortably cold in the shade. The crowds start to thin out.

October – Shorter days and cold nights mean less people. Climbing in the shade is no fun. Weather is mostly dry but the first winter storm can arrive late in the month. Easy to get overnight camping permits.

November – Frigid nights and short days keep most people out of the High Sierra. Winter storms begin to arrive more frequently. A rare time to get some solitude before the heavy snow sets in.

December-April – Got skis? Frequent winter storms and icy temperatures make the High Sierra only accessible to those that enjoy suffering. In exceptionally dry years, during a warm spell, you may be able to run up one of the peaks in-a-day in December.

 
Sarah Felchlin low on Mt. Russell's Fishhook Arete
Photo: Chris McNamara
   

Current Road and Weather Conditions
Tioga Pass Weather — Elevation 10,000 feet
Mammoth Lakes, CA — daily report of temperatures in Mammoth Lakes
Bishop, CA — daily report of temperatures in Bishop
Road conditions — in spring, see if the road to you trailhead is plowed

Thunderstorms and Lightning Strikes
The High Sierra has some of the best weather of any alpine rock climbing area on earth. That said, note that the High Sierra is still in a massive mountain range and receives severe thunderstorms and lightning throughout the summer. Check the weather before you climb and scope the retreat route beforehand. Most thunderstorms originate from the west, so if you are climbing an east-facing route, you may not see thunderstorms until they are on top of you. Always carry rain shells.

Lightning tends to hit high points, trees, and water, but will hit low points next to high rocks, flat areas near tall trees, and dry land in areas with lakes. Know how to perform CPR. Unlike with nearly any other type of injury that stops the heart, electrical shock victims can suddenly awaken even after extended CPR, so CPR should be continued indefinitely.

      NOLS Backcountry Lightning Safety Guidelines by John Gookin (396K)

Altitude Sickness
It takes a few days for most people to adjust to the rarefied air. Drink lots of water and don't run around too fast if you're just coming up from low elevations. It's a good idea to camp at least one night at the trailhead and a better idea to spend a few days cragging at high elevation. Tuolumne Meadows is the best place for high altitude cragging. If you can't make it there check out some the Eastern Sierra summer cragging areas.

Lone Pine and Whitney Portal Essentials
Nearby Peaks: Mt. Russell, Mt. Whitney, Lone Pine Peak

Getting There: 57 miles south of Bishop. View Map

Gear: Elevation (125 N. Main Street (Highway 395); 760-876-4560) sells climbing and mountaineering gear and rents crampons and bear canisters.

Groceries: Joseph's Bi-Rite Market (119 S Main St (Highway 395); (760) 876-4378‎

Restaurants: The Pizza Factory (301 S Main Street; 760-876-4707). Mt. Whitney Restaurant (Corner of U.S. 395 and Whitney Portal Road; 760-876-5751) is open 7 days a week and serves Buffalo, Ostrich, and Veggie Burgers. Totem Cafe (131 S Main Street; 760-876-1120) has American-style cuisine and patio dining. Season's Restaurant (227 S Main Street; 760-876-8927) is pricey, but serves good food and large portions. PJ's Bake and Broil (446 S Main Street; 760-876-5796) is the classic diner in town.

Services at Whitney Portal: Don't miss the hamburgers and french fries at the Whitney Portal Store (760-876-0030). The Whitney Portal Store also sells tourist stuff, maps, books, and they have a great deal on bear canisters, which you can also rent.

Trailhead camping: It is often a good idea to camp at the Whitney Portal before starting your climb. You will get an early start on the hike and start acclimatizing (Whitney Portal is at 8,300 feet). There are ten walk-in sites near the trailhead (follow signs to "Hiker Overnight Camping") reserved for hikers/climbers that cost $10 a night and are first-come, first-served. You can also stay at the Whitney Portal Campground but will have to shell out $17-20 a night and reserve your site in advance. Go here for more info: http://www.fs.fed.us/r5/inyo/recreation/campgrounds.shtml

Independence and Onion Valley Essentials
Nearby Peaks: Charlotte Dome

Getting There: 42 miles south of Bishop on US 395. View Map

Groceries: There is a small market in town but your best bet is to at Joseph's in Lone Pine or one of the three markets in Bishop.

Restaurants: not much to choose from but Jenny's Café (246 North Edwards Street; 760-878-2266) offers homestyle cooking.

Trailhead camping: Onion Valley Campground is located 9,200 feet, costs $16/night (reservations recommended by calling 877-444-6777) with picnic tables and piped water.

Big Pine and Big Pine Creek Essentials
Nearby Peaks: Temple Crag, Mt. Sill

Getting There: 15 miles south of Bishop. View Map

Groceries: Carroll's Market and the Mobil Station are limited and have the only groceries in town. Stock up in Bishop, which is only 15 miles north on US 395.

Restaurants: Uncle Bud's (120 South Main Street) has pizzas, salads, and sandwiches and Rossi's Steak and Spaghetti Restaurant (100 South Main Street; 760-938-2254) serves dinner.

Services at Big Pine Creek: Glacier Lodge (11 Miles West of US 395; 760-938-2837) has cabins for $135/night that sleep 2-9, a general store, and a restaurant. $4 showers are available between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Glacier Pack Train (0.5 mile east of Glacier Lodge; 760-938-2538) provides pack trips into the backcountry.

Trailhead camping: Big Pine Creek Campground and Upper Sage Flat Campground are located along Glacier Lodge Road at 7,700 feet and have picnic tables, rest rooms, and water. Both are $20/night (reservations recommended by calling 877-444-6777). If you are up for hiking in a mile to First Falls, there is a free walk-in campground with picnic tables, fire rings, and pit toilets (your must get your own water from the creek).

 
Joey Papazian climbing the great 5.8 hand
crack on the sixth pitch of Red Dihedral.
Photo: Chris McNamara
   

Bishop and South Lake Essentials
Nearby Peaks: Mt. Goode, Mt. Emerson, Mt. Humphreys, Cardinal Pinnacle

Getting There: 2.5 hours east of Yosemite Valley (when Tioga Pass is open), 5 hours north of Los Angeles, and 6 hours east of San Francisco. View Map

Groceries: Vons (North Main Street) is the gigantic grocery store located next to K-mart, Joseph's BI-Rite Market is in the center of town, across from The Gear Exchange, and Manor Market (3100 West Line Street) has a great beer and wine selection as well as a deli and basic groceries.

Restaurants and Cafes: The Black Sheep (232 North Main Street; 760-872-4142) is an excellent local coffee shop and a perfect rest day hang out. Across the street is another café, The Looney Bean (399 North Main Street; 760-873-3311). Bishop has several great places to eat. The Burger Barn (2675 West Line Street) makes delicious homemade burgers, fries, and shakes. Jack's Waffle Shop (437 North Main Street; 760-872-7971) serves breakfast. Schat's Bakkery (763 North Main Street; 760-873-7156) has every type of pastry and excellent sandwiches and bread. Thai Thai (703 Airport Road; 760-872-2595), at the Bishop airport, has the best and most authentic Thai cuisine on the East Side. For Mexican food there are three options: At Amigos (285 North Main Street; 760- 872- 2189) try the carne asada, Taqueria Las Palmas (136 East Line Street; 760-873- 4337) has awesome burritos, and La Casita (175 South Main Street; 760-873-4828) has okay food and a full bar (that means margaritas!). Whiskey Creek (524 North Main Street; 760- 873-7174) has a great bar with yummy salads, pub food, and a sit-down dining room with fancier choices such as filet mignon and ahi tuna. Upper Crust Pizza (1180 North Main Street; 760- 872-8153) has some of the best pizza we've tasted—try the "Illusian." There is also a Pizza Factory (970 N Main Street; 760- 872-8888).

Other: The Rubber Room (175-B North Main Street; 888-395-ROCK) is the best place anywhere for quality resoles. There is a Bank of America, Washington Mutual, and Union Bank of California in town. The Bishop Twin Theatre (760-873-3575) has two screens and new movies weekly. Galen and Barbara Rowell's Mountain Light Gallery (106 South Main Street; 760-873-7700) has beautiful photography of the east side and is definitely worth a visit.

Services at South Lake: There is a general store in Habbegers, which is 3 miles from Highway 168 on the way to South Lake.

Trailhead camping: Willow Campground is located at 9,000 feet on the road to South Lake and has sites for $20/night. Your need to get water from the creek. North Lake Campground lies at the Mt. Emerson trailhead, is open from June to September, and is first come, first served. There are also several other campgrounds located along Highway 168.

For a great map of downtown Bishop that includes restaurants click here.

Tom's Place and Rock Creek Essentials
Nearby Peaks: Bear Creek Spire, Petite Griffon

Getting There: 24 miles north of Bishop. View Map

Groceries: There is a little grocery store at Tom's Place, but for major groceries head south (20 minutes) to Bishop or north (15 minutes) to Mammoth Lakes. Bishop has three large stores (see Bishop "Groceries") and Mammoth Lakes has a Vons (off Old Mammoth Road).

Restaurants: Tom's Place Resort (right off US 395) has lodging as well as a restaurant and bar (next to the store). Don't miss Pie in the Sky, (760-935-4311) located up Rock Creek Road, with amazing homemade pies. They go fast, so stop by in the morning. For a more extensive selection, cruise down the grade to Bishop or up to Mammoth Lakes.

Services at Rock Creek: Rock Creek Lodge (Rock Creek Road; 877-935-4170 or 760-935-4170) has a small store and a restaurant.

Trailhead camping: Mosquito Flat Trailhead Campground is a free walk-in campground only for persons with an overnight backcountry permit for the following day, and the stay limit is only one night. The campground is located across the bridge that leads to Eastern Brook Lakes. There are 12 other campgrounds to choose from between Tom's Place and Mosquito Flat that cost around $15-20 a night. Most of these campgrounds do not require reservations. For more information, visit Rock Creek Camping

 

Mammoth Lakes Essentials
Nearby Peaks: Crystal Crag, Clyde Minaret, Mt. Ritter

Getting There: 30 miles north of Bishop. View Map

Groceries: There are only two options in Mammoth: Vons (off Old Mammoth Road) and a small health food store, Sierra Sundance, which is located in the Rite Aid Plaza off Main Street.

Restaurants: Black Velvet Coffee (3343 Main Street Suite F) has by far the best coffee around. Try an americano or their unique cold brew. Across the street, Stellar Brew Natural Café (3280 B Main Street; 760-924-3559) offers coffee, baked goods, and excellent breakfast burritos and lunches, all with vegan and gluten free options. Try Roberto's Mexican Café (271 Old Mammoth Road; 760-934-3667) or Gomez's (100 Canyon Boulevard; 760-924-2693) for great Mexican food and strong margaritas, Shogun (452 Old Mammoth Road; 760-934-3970) for fresh sushi, Good Life Café (126 Old Mammoth Road; 760-934-1734) for healthy food and fresh eating options, Burgers (6118 Minaret Road; 760-934-6622) for awesome burgers and fries or Z Ranch (4 Alpine Circle; 760- 934-4492) for unique bar fare, including fried beets and pickles. For pizza, there is Z Pizza (26 Old Mammoth Road; 760-934-5800) or Nik-N-Willie's (100 Old Mammoth Road; 760-934-2012).

Camping: The Mammoth Lakes Basin has five campgrounds that put you in close proximity to Crystal Crag. Twin Lakes Campground is open the longest in the summer and costs $21 per night. Sites can be reserved ahead of time by calling 1-877- 444-6777. Lake Mary Campground, also $21 per night, is first come, first served. For campsites that serve as a launching pad for Clyde Minaret or Mt. Ritter, there are seven forest service campgrounds near Devil's Postpile. Agnew Meadows Campground and Reds Meadow Campground are the most convienient and cost $20 per night, but also require a $7 fee for riding the shuttle past the Devil's Postpile Entrance Station.

Alternatively, there are a few campgrounds right as you arrive into town, such as New and Old Shady Rest Campgrounds. They are less scenic than the Lakes Basin sites, but incredibly easy to access, and cost $20 per night.

Trailhead camping: Mono Village Campground (760-932-7071) at 7,100 feet is $!2/night. Lower Twin Lakes Campground (760-932-7070) is at 7,000 feet and $10/night. Honeymoon Flat Campground (760-932-7070) is at 7,000 feet and $10/night.

Tuolumne Meadows Essentials
See our Tuolumne Meadows Beta Page

Bridgeport and Twin Lakes Essentials
Nearby Peaks: Incredible Hulk, Matterhorn Peak

Getting There: 90 miles north of Bishop. View Map

Groceries: There is a small market in town.

Restaurants: Hays Street Cafe (21 Hays Street; (760- 932-7141) is the diner at the far end of town. There a number of other cafes and restaurants in town.

Services at Twin Lakes: The Twin Lakes Resort (760-932-7751) has a small store and a restaurant that serves great burgers.

Trailhead camping: Mono Village Campground (760-932-7071) at 7,100 feet is $18/night. Lower Twin Lakes Campground (760-932-7070) is at 7,000 feet and $20/night. Honeymoon Flat Campground (760-932-7070) is at 7,000 feet and $17/night.

Backcountry Camping Permits
When camping overnight in the backcountry, you always need a permit, which can be picked up at one of the ranger stations listed below (sorry, no mail order permits). A quota system is in place in the summer and fall, which means only a limited number of permits are issued each day. Of this number, 25-40 percent are available on a walk-in basis for free at the ranger station the day before you plan to leave, and 60-75 percent of the permits can be reserved in advance for a fee. Most of the classic Sierra climbs are accessed off popular trails where permits are in high demand, especially from June to August. During this time, you may need to reserve your permit more than a month in advance. If you show up for a walk-in permit, you may be denied.

The Mt. Whitney Zone, which includes Keeler Needle and Mt. Russell, has its own permit system with a daily quota from May 1 to November 1, and permits are required even for day use. This means that you are required to have a permit to climb in this area, even if you do not plan to camp. Walk in permits are not set aside for the Whitney Zone area, meaning that the number available can vary. It is highly recommended to reserve your permit in advance if you plan to climb in this high demand area.

Questions about pick-up times and instructions can be directed to the Wilderness Permit Office: 760-873-2483.

Ranger Stations
Mt. Whitney Zone
Popular peaks: Mt. Whitney, Mt. Russell, Keeler Needle
f Eastern Sierra InterAgency Visitor Center (Junction of Highway 395 and State Route 136 2 miles south of Lone Pine; 760-876-6222) All Mt. Whitney Zone permits must be picked up at this location.

Inyo National Forest (permit reservations 760-873-2483)
Popular peaks: Mt. Whitney, Mt. Russell, Temple Crag, Palisades, Mt. Goode, Bear Creek Spire, Laurel Mountain, Clyde Minaret, Mt. Ritter
White Mountain Ranger Station (798 N. Main Street, Bishop; 760-873-2500)
Mammoth Ranger Station (2500 Main Street, Mammoth Lakes; 760-924-5500)
Mono Basin Scenic Area Visitor Center (On US 395, Lee Vining; 760-647-3044)

Toiyabe National Forest/Hoover Wilderness (permit reservations; 760-932-7070)
Popular peaks: Matterhorn Peak, Incredible Hulk
Bridgeport Ranger Station (On US 395, 1/4 mile south of Bridgeport; 760-932-7070)

Kings Canyon National Park (trail conditions - permit reservations 559-565-3708)
Popular peaks: Charlotte Dome
Road's End Wilderness Permit Station (located at Road's End)

Bears
Every year the bears seem to get smarter and more aggressive. If you do not take precautions, then YOUR CAR WILL BE BROKEN INTO. Bears are active both at the trailhead parking areas and popular camping areas in the backcountry. Learn more about Yosemite Bears

Bears at the trailhead parking areas
While the Whitney and Onion Valley Trailheads currently have the worst problems, all Sierra trailheads experience bear break ins. If you have any food or anything smelling like food in your car it will be broken into. If you are lucky they break a window. If you are unlucky, they will peel the upper part of the door down causing thousands of dollars in body damage to your car. However, even if your car is free of food, a bear may break into it just because he sees enough clutter (bags, backpacks, clothes, etc). For this reason, it is essential to clear out your car as much as possible before you reach the trailhead and put any loose items in the trunk. Make the car look empty. Food lockers are provided at the trailhead but they are often full and not always secure so don't plan on using them for more than a night.

Bears in the backcountry
A bear's natural habitat is the forests and shrub lands below 8,000 feet (2,438 meters), but they will frequently roam above these elevations in order to steal food from backpackers. Don't even thing about "bear bagging" your food (the bears figured this one out) or sleeping with your food (a backpacker has been mauled by a bear). The only way to protect your food is in a bear canister. These large black plastic containers are bulky, heavy, and a pain in the ass to deal with. However, they are also the only way to protect your food from a bear and are mandatory in many popular backcountry areas. Bear canisters can be rented for between $5 and $10 per week from any ranger station as well as the Whitney Portal Store. To own a bear canister, you will need to fork over $80 at a ranger station or you can get one for the great deal of $57.25 (shipped) at the Whitney Portal Store.

A marmot chimneying with Upper Boy Scout
Lake in the background.

Photo: Sarah Felchlin
   

Marmots and Mosquitos
Above 11,000 feet, the marmots are more of a problem than the bears. These fury little critters act cute, but if you drop your guard for a minute they will devour your food with the grace and speed of a garbage disposal. Hang all your food and anything scented (toothpaste, sunscreen, garbage) from a large boulder or, better yet, bring a bear canister (for rent at the ranger stations).

During a one month period around June and July, the mosquitos are so dense that even repellent may not prevent bites. Their arrival varies from year to year, area to area and depends on the snow year. Come prepared (especially if you are camping) with long pants, long sleeves, and DEET repellent and ask rangers and the SuperTopo forum what the current mosquito conditions are like.

Climbing Guides
- Sierra Mountain Center (174 West Line Street, Bishop; 760-873-8526). They guide just about every classic climb in the High Sierra and every climb contained in the High Sierra Climbing SuperTopo guidebook. Be sure to check out their great web site which is loaded with photos, route descriptions, slide shows, and extensive gear lists for most classic High Sierra climbs.

- Sierra Mountain Guides - 148 Willow St, Bishop; 877-423-2546). They teach and guide all aspects of climbing in the rock, ice, and alpine realms, as well as backcountry skiing, ski mountaineering, avalanche education and mountain trekking.

- Mountain Adventure Seminars - Guiding Matterhorn Peak, Incredible Hulk and other areas in the Sierra Nevada.

- Sierra Rock Climbing School - (877-686-7625) Guiding throughout the Sierra as well as Red Rocks, Joshua Tree, Bay Area and more.

Climbing Gear
There are two great climbing shops on the East Side that have everything you need for any climbing or backpacking adventure: Mammoth Mountaineering (3189 Main St, Mammoth Lakes; 888-395-3951) has ever type of backpacking and climbing gear you will need as well as rentals of climbing shoes, sleeping bags and other backcountry gear. Wilson's Eastside Sports (224 North Main Street, Bishop; 760-873-7520) has an extensive collection of climbing and backpacking gear.


East Side Summer Cragging Areas
First-rate cragging abounds on the East Side. It is a good idea to crag at high elevation before climbing a High Sierra route to both acclimatize and get comfortable on sierra granite. The areas listed below are between 8,000 and 10,000 feet and are climbable from May-October. There are a number of other crags and boulders at lower elevations such as the Buttermilks, Happy Boulders, and Owens River Gorge. These areas are too hot in the summer.

Whitney Portal: Great climbing... if you climb 5.10 or harder. The rock and lines are as good as Yosemite and present a mixture of splitter cracks and face moves on 80-degree white granite walls. The season is spring and fall and unfortunately there is not a good guidebook to the area.

Cardinal Pinnacle: Another great area... if you climb 5.10 or harder. The fine-grained granite has numerous edges and splitter cracks. The routes are all 3-4 pitches and end on a cool summit. The guidebook is Bishop Area Rock Climbs by Marty Lewis.

Rock Creek/Iris Slab: Rock Creek has excellent (hard) bouldering along the river and super fun sport climbs on perfect granite edges (there are not many routes under 5.10). Iris Slab has more easy and moderate climbs. The guidebook is Bishop Area Rock Climbs by Marty Lewis.

Dike Wall and Crystal Crag: Located above beautiful alpine lakes and easily accessed, the Dike Wall has excellent 5.10 and up sport climbs. Crystal Crags has more moderate climbs also of excellent quality. The guidebook is Mammoth Area Rock Climbs by Marty Lewis and John Moynier.




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