Trip Report
Adventures With Elliot: The Bachar Lands

by Zay
Saturday March 2, 2019 1:16pm
Elliot Robinson would deny that any form of God climbs at his side. Perhaps it’s just a gift some have: to climb into unknown terrain- chossy and wild- with only pure optimism and grit. Does a prerequisite exist? Mere experience then? Who knows, but Elliot does have many sayings, and I heard a new one recently:

“A little bit of luck works out once in a while.”

But to that I ask,

When does the well run dry?

For now, I will disregard my usual sense of drama, and offer to you my most arid trip report yet.

This trip report is about finding first ascents with Elliot in places that are, for the most part, vastly unexplored. They exist all over California, they are small, and they are remote. Two specific locations were explored, the first is called “The Bachar Lands,” and the second is called “The Ostrov.”

Here is some back story:

Shortly before John Bachar passed, he and one Scott Loomis were passing around KMZ files that pinpointed areas with potential for climbing. Today, Loomis seems to have the proprietary key to knowledge in this regard, and for his sake (as well as the sake of the remote nature that these crags enjoy), I am sworn to a certain level of secrecy regarding their exact location.

Elliot and I have agreed to call these locations part of “East Side South.”



Part One: The Bachar Lands


Driving into The Bachar Lands
Driving into The Bachar Lands
Credit: Zay

The Bachar Lands, the first region explored, required some amount of driving on the 395, an Eastern turn, and then two hours of rugged off road driving before reaching camp. From camp, a 1.5-2 hour hike is required to reach the climbing area(s).

Some more backstory is required for The Bachar Lands. During a previous visit with another friend, Elliot had brought his Mitsubishi 4x4 SUV. It was a nice car, though it unfortunately leaned more towards luxury than reliability. On the way out, he popped all four tires, drove for several hours on metal rims, and damaged the suspension so badly that the car was deemed “totaled” entirely. He had bought it new, and only owned it for a short time.

He soon procured a brand new, Toyota 4Runner (with TRD of course).
During our slow march into the ever jagged roads, we kept remarking about how we felt as “Mariners of Soil,” sailing slowly across our tanned landscape as ever growing rocks and walls began to appear in the headlights. We also extrapolated the philosophy to climbing itself, though its soil is much harder… substrate is substrate. Climbing up and away from the civilized world, one enters a place where they truly do not belong. We do not belong on the water, we do not belong in it. We do not belong on giant peaks, and we do not belong on walls. SCUBA Divers, Sailors, Mountaineers, Climbers… we all seem to share a need to be where we shouldn’t.

But I digress.

Before long, we were running around the 4Runner, making fire, sipping whiskey, and chaining cigarettes. No tents: we lay out a tarp, and threw down our bags and pads (a little luxury never hurt). Lows were in the upper 20’s, and highs were forecasted for upper 40’s to mid 50’s Fahrenheit. I left my water bottle out of my sleeping bag the first night; I did not make the same mistake on the next.

This was found by camp. Wild, wild west...
This was found by camp. Wild, wild west...
Credit: Zay

In the morning, we met the only other humans we would see for the next few days: hunters. Deer season was scheduled to open the next day, and these guys had ridden out on their buggy to scope out the area. We welcomed them to our fire, and joked that the possibility of getting shot was miniscule, given that where we proposed to be climbing was far too away from wherever they were willing to leave their vessel.

After breakfast we geared up. A double rack, and some bolting equipment were carried for nearly two hours into a realm that I could only describe as a cross between Pinnacles National Park and Tuolumne Meadows. The formations we encountered were jagged, knobby, and very Pinnacles-esque, though granite reigned supreme here. Surely, years of climbing were to be had for anyone willing to commit so much effort into seclusion.

Credit: Zay

Credit: Zay

Credit: Zay

Suddenly, Elliot was pointing at “our” project.

The cave...
The cave...
Credit: Zay

What Elliot and I were heading towards was a cave. Imagine a large cabin with a triangular roof, about fifty feet tall. Now imagine the three dimensional shape of that cabin cut into the mountain. Three feet of bat droppings indicated that our depression was the domain of a large bat colony, but they seemed to have business elsewhere given the onset of a threatening winter.

Credit: Zay

At the apex of the cave was a roof crack, where one could employ a combination of hand jams and chimney-technique, as the constriction ran horizontally out for thirty feet before sweeping upwards. I will allow the photos to describe the proposed route better.

Credit: Zay

Without any hesitation or hint of doubt, Elliot merely racked up. After a few cigarettes, we decided bolts would not be required, and such gear was left at the base.

What scared me, was a giant “hanging tooth” that hung like a stalactite from a constriction above. Imagine now, a flake about thirty feet long, one foot thick, and about ten feet wide. It hovered from either side of the walls about two feet in space.

I did NOT trust that thing to be solid, given its appearance.

Next thing you know, Elliot is on lead, and chimneying up behind the flake and the main wall of the cave, declaring the flake “solid.” After about thirty feet of elevation, he discovered a most auspicious cavity in the tooth, that allowed him to tunnel through (head first and downwards!) before achieving the roof crack. A combo of stemming, stretchy hand jams, squeezes, and contortions soon found him outside the cave where the crack swept upwards.

Credit: Zay

Credit: Zay

Rope drag was a huge problem by then, and Elliot was forced to hang on a piece of protection for a moment before pulling the last few moves to an awkward- yet more than acceptable- belay stance.

Credit: Zay

Following the roof crack was not easy. Tunneling through the flake was the first challenge.

“Hey Elliot! Did you go feet first, or headfirst through the hole!?”

“Head first!!”

Holy sh#t, I thought to myself. I was twenty feet off the ground in a dark compartment behind the tooth in the cave, looking DOWN to a hole about two feet in diameter. The flake seemed to sweep outwards, allowing me to crawl a few feet before standing up in the ceiling’s sharp apex.

The next crux was where the apex constricted. My body was forced as low as possible to a point where I could no longer reach the roof crack above me. I had to take my helmet off to fit my head through the pinch, and I could not see what my next holds would be until fully committed. Surpassing this section took me roughly ten minutes of attempting and backing off until I no longer cared about the pendulum fall potential towards a piece of protection that seemed just a LITTLE too far away.

“I can’t believe Elliot led this.”

Soon, I was hanging in the exact spot where he hung, rested a second, and made my way up to the belay. A quick cigarette was had, and I was handed the rack. I pushed the route about fifty feet higher following a 5.6 hand crack that abruptly widened into a 5.6 offwidth. I made a belay, and soon Elliot joined me on the spacious ledge.

surveying the damage
surveying the damage
Credit: Zay

Credit: Zay

One more pitch was required to escape the formation, and it actually required a downward traverse to reach the base of a Bombay chimney that shot upwards to a chockstone about twenty feet up. After surpassing the chockstone with some 5.8 offwidth climbing that Elliot called 5.7, we were able to find a path to scramble down an around the formation back to our gear. Elliot led this last pitch. We called the route “Wild, Wild West” and deemed it 5.10+.

The Bombay chimney leads up and right of the chockstone.
The Bombay chimney leads up and right of the chockstone.
Credit: Zay

Credit: Zay

After a few more smokes, we decided we had had enough for the day, and that we would carry all of our gear back to camp. A shortcut turned out to everything but, though we did find the car after about two hours, so not much of a loss was had.

Credit: Zay



The next day, we ventured another hour passed the cave, eyeing formations of all shapes and sizes, until one caught our eye. If you have ever been to Pinnacles National Park: think “Condor Crag.” A large pinnacle, split at the top, hosted a large chockstone that bridged the two distinct peaks. Each summit resembled the skull of a vulture from a different angle, and we called it “Vulture Rock.” From the ground, I estimated the pinnacle to require at least two full pitches, but Elliot assured me that it would only require one. I could not believe him, but my disbelief fell to the wayside when he asked me,

“Are you going to bring the five inch cam?”

“What, you think I’m leading this???”

“Oh yeah, you really should.”

“Jesus Christ.”

Looking up Vulture Rock
Looking up Vulture Rock
Credit: Zay

There I was, racking up, scared witless. Peer pressure is a bitch.

Survey of Vulture Rock. Note that lower third of formation is obscured...
Survey of Vulture Rock. Note that lower third of formation is obscured by a closer one.
Credit: Zay

Superroughtopo of "Buzzard Bait."
Superroughtopo of "Buzzard Bait."
Credit: Zay

I headed up an easy chimney for a ways, and was able to find protection after about thirty feet of climbing. By that time, I was able to escape the chimney onto prominent broken flakes out right. Though quite steep, the features were easy enough that the climbing could only be called 5.6. Despite healthy runouts, I was enjoying myself.

Looking up after first rap.
Looking up after first rap.
Credit: Zay

After the first seventy feet of climbing the chimney and flakes, the formation cleaves to form a larger chimney, about three to five feet wide and about forty more feet before gaining the chockstone. Easy chimney-technique brought me to thankful protection under the wedge, and two 5.7 moves were required to surpass it and gain the summit.

I was stoked.

The Student.
The Student.
Credit: Zay

The Teacher.
The Teacher.
Credit: Zay

Elliot originally called the climbing 5.6, so perhaps it really was, but by the end of the day, he was calling it 5.7, a small victory for little-old-me. I named the route “Buzzard Bait.”

Two rappels were required with our 70m rope to reach the ground, and even after climbing it, I still could not believe I had climbed the formation in a single pitch.

… And a single pitch was all we needed to deem the day a success. We packed up, and made our way back to camp. One the way, the sunset illuminated a very small pinnacle, about fifty feet high, and Elliot and I both were drawn towards it… perhaps one more pitch couldn’t hurt?

Pick one.
Pick one.
Credit: Zay

After examining the rock, we deemed it best done as a free solo, and Elliot graciously offered for me to climb it first. A single 5.8 boulder move off the deck led to 5.4 climbing to the summit. We named it “Open Season Pinnacle.”

No bolts were added to The Bachar Lands.

---

Before I knew it, we were done. Four days off, with a 10 hour commute from Monterey meant only two days of climbing. We spent one more night under the frozen stars, and finished our cigarettes and whiskey.

It was absolutely worth it.

Credit: Zay



Stay tuned for Part Two: The Ostrov...

  Trip Report Views: 1,357
Zay
About the Author
Zay is a climber from Monterey, Ca.

Comments
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Comment on this Trip Report
skywalker1

Trad climber
co
  Mar 2, 2019 - 02:24pm PT
Elliot seems like a pretty fun climbing partner. I love your stoke! TFPU!

Cheers!

S....
T Hocking

Trad climber
Redding, Ca
  Mar 2, 2019 - 03:17pm PT
Well done men!
Seeking the obscure goodness way out there past the end of the road
and not another monkey in sight.
This is what it's all about!

Thanks for posting up,
Tad
Batrock

Trad climber
Burbank
  Mar 2, 2019 - 03:28pm PT
The "Bachar Lands" are one of my favorite summertime climbing destinations, endless possibility up there. Cant wait to see you Ostrov write up.
Loomis

climber
  Mar 2, 2019 - 10:15pm PT
Great trip report Zay!
In the Summer, one of the coolest places to be, while it is baking everywhere else.
I have never ran into other climbers there, so remote.
I still remember Elliott calling me when he popped all the tires on the old car,
was glad he was able to get cell reception and make it to Bishop!
Good to see that he now runs the champion of off-road tires on the new rig.
zBrown

Ice climber
  Mar 2, 2019 - 08:25pm PT
Before I knew it, we were done.
E Robinson

Trad climber
Salinas, CA
  Mar 3, 2019 - 10:12am PT
Ha - love reading your write-ups of oir adventures Bachar Lands is such a cool place...and the Wild, Wild West was definitely a highlight of the season. I hate it when my hat fall off and I scrape up my head :-) But for those of you reading - Wild Wild West is more imposing looking than hard...probably 10+ish...but I really don't know how to rate stuff. In my head, I'm still relearning the sport.
Ezra Ellis

Trad climber
North wet, and Da souf
  Mar 3, 2019 - 01:05pm PT
Really great adventure 👍👍
L

climber
Just livin' the dream
  Mar 3, 2019 - 03:38pm PT
Nice job, men!
hellroaring

Trad climber
San Francisco
  Mar 4, 2019 - 09:13am PT
Zay, very nice! I enjoy your trip reports, always an under current of adventure it seems. We will have to hook up in Pinnacles or elsewhere sometime down the road. I think my good friend and climbing partner David Knopp has your contact info. This place seems pretty cool. If too many people hit you up for a trip out there guess you will have to blindfold or put a hood over their head for the drive into the approach.
NutAgain!

Trad climber
South Pasadena, CA
  Mar 4, 2019 - 12:47pm PT
Great stuff! Keepin' the stoke alive for the rest of us :)
Nick Danger

Ice climber
Arvada, CO
  Mar 6, 2019 - 04:23pm PT
Well now, that was just wonderful. Going to obscure places is just SO COOL!
Good on ya, mates.
Zay

climber
Monterey, Ca
Author's Reply  Mar 6, 2019 - 08:29pm PT
wow guys thank you so much for the kindness, i can really use it right now...

say, hellroaring,

im in the process of moving back into mariposa... kinda homeless ATM but i got good things lined up.

my number is 209-sevensevensEvan-too-nein nein ate

give me a text! lets connect one way or another
Greg Barnes

climber
  Mar 7, 2019 - 09:02am PT
Fun exploring! Proud send on the big triangle roof! In the '90s we took a really old hex off the 2nd pitch of the big formation between your two climbs, and did a counter-weight rap off the summit/3rd pitch (5.9 poor pro), left no trace...but that hex had been there for decades! Steep 5.9 face climbing protected by slung knobs on the first pitch.

I just found this photo...September '97, but who knows if we were the first on that formation...we called that tower "The 4th Dimension", it's probably had a number of different names and ascents!

FA of Momentary Lapse in Gravity, 5.8, 9/26/97, Greg Barnes & Barry Hu...
FA of Momentary Lapse in Gravity, 5.8, 9/26/97, Greg Barnes & Barry Hutten.
Credit: Greg Barnes

If you scramble down to the east on the summit, you can rap off our 2-bolt anchor with only one rope - it's a half-rope rap to maybe 30-40 feet of high 4th class downclimbing...and yes that was a 50m rope so a 70m might reach the ground...
Zay

climber
Monterey, Ca
Author's Reply  Mar 6, 2019 - 11:03pm PT
how silly of me to think we were the first to climb that awesome formation!!!
tom woods

Gym climber
Bishop, CA
  Mar 7, 2019 - 06:42am PT
Well done. I knew where you were by by the first photo of the toilet. It's beautiful up there.

That weird fin thing on the way to the toilet actually has a name passed down through the ages by the cowboys, it's the "Blessed Virgin Mary." Don't know why.
RURP_Belay

Big Wall climber
Bitter end of a bad anchor
  Mar 7, 2019 - 08:05am PT
Nice Zay! A grand adventure!

Looking forward to the Ostrov report, as well.
mouse from merced

Trad climber
The finger of fate, my friends, is fickle.
  Mar 7, 2019 - 06:55am PT
Zay, Bachar is smiling, surely.

NEVER TELL WHERE! Good job on that.

I liked your "Mariners of Soil" digression, too.
E Robinson

Trad climber
Salinas, CA
  Mar 8, 2019 - 05:53am PT
Greg, that's so cool to see that old picture!
Zay

climber
Monterey, Ca
Author's Reply  Mar 8, 2019 - 06:01am PT
E

what are you doing up at this hour?!
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