Let us be the first to welcome you to beautiful Bishop, CA in the Eastern Sierra. We think this is one of the greatest places on Earth. We have prepared some information for you that will make your life a little bit easier so you can spend less time planning and more time enjoying the wonderful, outdoor activities that attracted you here in the first place.
The first thing to know a bit about is the weather. Bishop is in the high desert of California; this means that the weather, while generally sunny and dry, can still swing in some different ways. First of all, Bishop is at 4000 feet (1260 meters), with the Buttermilks nestled even higher than that. As such, the sun beats down pretty hard, so sunscreen is advisable. This also means that, generally, if it is sunny, it is likely to be warm. However, because it is the high desert, nights will often get very cold, down to freezing and below. Please plan accordingly! Sage to Summit rents tents and sleeping bags if you find you need more camping gear. Another factor to consider is the wind. Often, the wind is more of a hindrance than rain, as Bishop averages more than 300 days of sunshine a year. The wind is generally an issue in the Buttermilks, where the elevation and proximity to the mountains can allow for some howling days. The Tablelands (Happies and Sads), on the other hand, are lower and in more protected canyons.
There are a variety of camping options in Bishop, CA. Much of the land surrounding the town is either BLM or National Forest land; this means you are allowed 2 weeks of free camping a year here, including up at the Milks and in the Tablelands above the Happies and Sads. The local ranger station, on Main Street, has maps detailing where BLM and NF land are. If you choose to camp for free, please be aware that this is a privilege, not a right; if we climbers do not take care of the environment in which we recreate, this option may not be there for future generations. Please camp only in already established spots (don’t just drive off the road anywhere to set up), please clean up after yourself, and PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE be careful with campfires. The area is incredibly dry, and fires happen quickly, especially on windy days. Better yet, do without a fire! If you do wish to have a fire, permits are required and can be found here.
There are also a number of paid camping sites surrounding Bishop. The Pit, a BLM campground near the Tablelands, is popular with climbers for its affordable price. Click here for more information. The Bishop Visitor website outlines the various campgrounds of varying levels of cost and facility here. The Bishop Climber's Coalition has created a map with camp grounds and public lands toilets here.
Finally, if you need a little more comfort than camping offers, the Bishop Hostel, the Eastside Guesthouse, and Airbnb are worth checking out.
Bishop, while small, has everything you need to enjoy your trip. Below are just a few of the local necessities and favorites.
Bishop hosts four grocery stores, three large and one local. Vons carries everything you can expect from a large chain supermarket. Smart and Final has a bulk section that can be useful. Grocery Outlet carries cheaper products, though less of a selection. Finally, Manor Market is a small, local shop that sells local produce and meat, as well as the best beer selection in town.
The following establishments are some of our favorites here at Sage to Summit:
The Mountain Rambler - locally brewed beer, good food, and a music schedule worth checking out. Wifi.
Black Sheep - the original Bishop climber coffee shop. Wifi.
The Burger Barn - damn good burgers served by climbers. Excellent milkshakes.
Las Palmas - delicious Mexican food and the largest margaritas you’ve ever seen.
Amigos- also excellent Mexican food. The debate about which is better, Palmas or Amigos, rages on.
Schat’s Bakery - definitely a tourist trap, but the cheese bread is worth checking out.
Imperial Gourmet - good Chinese and good servings
Thai Thai - out at the airport, but worth the drive out of town even if you don’t plan to fly. BYOB.
There are a few options for showers in Bishop:
The Hostel - cash only!
Wash Tub- with laundry too.
Keough Hot Springs - a bit pricey and south of town, but full service and nice.
All the coffee shops in town have Wifi. Pick your caffeinated poison.
One of the wonderful things about climbing in Bishop is that the 2 main areas, the Buttermilks and the Tablelands, are distinct in rock type and style. Generally, no matter what you are into, there is some climbing here for you!
Known for huge blocs and amazing views there are few bouldering areas in the world as picturesque as the ‘Milks. The rock here is a form of granite called quartz monzonite; the climbing trends towards the tall, the technical, and the crimpy.
Best Warm Up Area
There are basically two options for warming up in the Milks. The first is at the southern end of the boulder field on the north side of Grandma Peabody (that’s the MASSIVE boulder behind the first MASSIVE boulder you see when driving up). This overhanging face has a number of good, juggy, drops offs as well as some crimpy lines to get your fingers ready. The other option is on the North end of the field at the Birthday Boulders. These tend to be more vertical and technical warm ups.
Hero Roof v0
Buttermilk Stem v1
Green Wall Essential v2
Birthday Direct v3
Iron Man v4
Go Granny Go v5
High Plains Drifter v7
Flyboy Sit v8
Soul Slinger v9
Stained Glass v10
Evilution v11 (v10 to the lip)
The Mandala v12
The Buttermilker v13
The Happy Boulders and the Sad Boulders, the two main areas in the Tablelands, are so different in feel and style from the Buttermilks that they might as well be on a different planet. Where the ‘Milks are thin and techy, Tableland climbing tends towards the steep and physical. Expect big moves, steep climbing, and some pockets as well. The Happies is perfectly named; more open than the Sads, there is a ton of climbing here in every grade. The Sads tends to have the harder stuff, and there is less of it. Both are definitely worth checking out!
Best Warm Up Area: Happies
The very first major sector you come up to in the Happies, the Rave Cave/Acid Wash has a number of excellent warms up and climbs from v0 all the way into the double digits. Another option is Central Happiness near the Hulk and Solarium. This sector has less easier stuff, but, being central, makes it easier to access the majority of the climbing here.
Celestial rail v0
Heavenly Path v1
Monkey Hang v3
Keatron Classic v4
The Hulk v6
Acid Wash Right v7
Disco Diva v8
Acid Wash Right Sit v9
Acid Wash Left Sit 10
Kill On Sight v11/12
Best Warm Up Areas: Sads
The best warm up area in the Sads is in the very back (or the very front, depending on where you park) near the entrance to the Ice Caves. Here, there are a number of short and easy lines to play on, as well as some short and steep ones to get those big muscles ready for thuggin’ through some caves.
China Doll v0
Kipper Snapper v1
Prozac Nation v2
The Fang v4
Strength in Numbers v5
Rios Crack v6
Lawnmower Man v7
Pow Pow v8
Wheel of Beef v11
The Aquarium v12
The rocks we love to climb are also the natural home of Panamint rattlesnakes. In the winter and spring, rattlesnake females depend on stable dens in the rocks where they stay warm with their sisters and care for their young. Please be mindful of your hands and feet while climbing. If you do see a snake or hear a rattle, give the snake a wide birth and go around.
Even though you may want to, climbing everyday is not really possible; rest is often the key to sending! Luckily, the Eastern Sierra is every outdoor enthusiast’s dream, so here are some ideas for what to do on the inevitable rest days.
The are here is packed with beautiful and easy-to-access hikes. Regardless of the weather, there is almost certainly somewhere to go check out the natural beauty on display. Below are a few of our favorites, as well as links to more information:
Big Pine Creek North Fork Trail
This strenuous hike out Big Pine, just south of Bishop, offers those willing to go the distance access to seven incredible, glacier-fed lakes and views of the imposing Palisades. The first lake is about 5 miles in and the last lake about 7 miles, for a total trip of 10-14 miles. You can find more information here
Red Mountain Petroglyphs
The Owens Valley has been inhabited by the Paiutes for thousands of years, and these ancient people left their mark on the rocks in the area. This easy hike, less than a mile round trip, will transport you into the past of the Owens Valley with some stunning art on display. For more information, go here.
The ocean is pretty far from the eastside, but we still have our own version of a beach here. Located just North of Bishop in the white mountains, this white pumice beach makes for an easy 4 mile round trip hike and a great day out. As it is tough to find information online, here are some directions: take the 6 out of Bishop for 3.8 miles and then turn right onto Silver Canyon Road. After .4 miles, make a left onto Joe Smith Rd. !.3 miles gets you to Jean Blanc Rd., where you turn right and go for half a mile to a left on Churchill Mine Rd. After 1.06 miles, make a right onto a dirt road. Be careful here, as the road gets pretty rough. The parking is on the right at 2.3 miles. From the parking, hike up the road 1.1 miles to the beach! Keep your shoes on, as there are bits of wire and glass hidden in the sand. There is another beach .8 miles farther up the road; this one has less potential hazards.
One of the more amazing natural elements in the area are the ancient bristlecones, some of which are more than 4000 years old. The Discovery Trail is an easy hike, less than a mile round trip, that takes you through a grove of these trees that have been alive since before the Roman Republic began. For more information, go here.
Due to the volcanic activity in the area, there are a number of hot springs within a short drive from Bishop that can be enjoyed, offering relaxing times and soothing heat for sore muscles. There are very few things as wonderful as a cold night under the stars warmed by the hot water and steam of a naturally fed hot spring. There are a number of free hot springs in the area; an internet search will get you the information you need. There are also some paid springs; these are nice as they have other amenities on offer as well. Click herefor more information.
Though small, Bishop is not bereft of local culture. If you like history, then there are some very interesting sights to see. Of special interest are the Paiute-Shoshone Cultural Center Museum and Manzanar National Historic Site. For more information on those, as well as information on some other museums and cultural sites in the are, gohere.
Finally, we would like to let you know that we at Sage to Summit are here to help, be it by answering questions or by offering the products you might need to make your visit more enjoyable. Just so you know, here are some other things we offer that you might find useful:
Sage to Summit has a full service climbing gym including frequently reset walls, an adjustable angle Moonboard, and a training room in the back with weights, hangboards, and more! Perfect for warming up for the project, for getting some more fitness in after a day of climbing, or for the occasional bad weather day, we hope you’ll come check it out. For photos and more information, check out our site here.
We rent crash pads, guide books, sleeping bags, and backpacks.
If you prefer to buy a guide book, we have them for sale as well!
We also carry all your climbing basics, from chalk, tape, brushes, pads, training tools, and skin care products.
We hope you consider coming to us should you need anything to make your trip more productive!