The Owens River Gorge is California's most concentrated sport-climbing area. It is really a year-round crag, although summers can be a bit hot. There are many moderate sport climbs in the sub 5.10 range, but the best gorge climbs seem to be in the 5.10-5.11 range. The climbing is on volcanic tuff and features edges, pockets and cracks. Most of the climbing is close to vertical but there are some steep lines as well, namely at the Eldorado Roof and the Dilithium Crystal. Most climbs, whether face, crack, corner, even off-width and chimney, are fully sport bolted. There are some good trad lines, but sport climbing is why you're here. The gorge is often crowded but if you hike a little further you can usually find some solitude. The Warm Up Wall, the Pub, the Social Platform, the China Wall and the Dilithium Crystal are the most popular areas. Please buy Marty Lewis' "Owens River Gorge Climbs" if you are going to climb here. It's a great guide to the hundreds of climbs and you'll feel good supporting the guy who put up a huge percentage of the climbs and did a large amount of work (trails, research, bridges, talking with the LADWP that owns the gorge). It's a small price to pay for a great climbing area.
From Bishop go North on 395 to the Paradise Swall Meadows exit and turn right. At the T intersection turn left (Gorge Rd). There are 3 parking areas to choose depending on where in the Gorge you wish to climb. The first (the road) is 3.3 miles, the second (the central gully) is 4.8 miles and the last (the Upper gorge) is 6.4 miles. The first approach is down the middle power plant road. It's about a mile downhill on paved road. The middle approach is down a steep 2nd/3rd class loose gully. Be careful not to dislodge anything because there are climbs below the gully. The far approach starts on the upper power plant rd and then drops in to the left down a 3rd-class gully.
For novelty, length, and position, an ORG must-do. P1 (11a) -- the grand traverse. Start in alcove at lower right of roof. Crux bet. 3rd and 4th bolt. If you're tall you can clip the 3rd bolt from a secure stemming stance. The rest of the pitch is fairly manageable unless you indulge the rookie impulse/mistake and get too high on the traverse. 15 bolts.P2 (11a) -- Excellent right off the belay with a definitive crux through the small roof, near the 5th bolt, then backs off. 10 bolts.P3 (10...[more]Browse More Classics in CA
This is probably my favorite sport-climbing area. The characteristic climbs feature endurance vertical edge pulling (with a lot of pockets) -- gym fitness really pays off here. There are enough decent trad climbs to keep you honest.
One note of caution is that walking by the river exposes one to some extremely potent stingy nettles, the buzz from which can last many hours; learn to identify and avoid these or wear long pants and socks.
The locals have put a lot of time, money and effort into really setting this place up with trails, bridges, belay platforms and drop in anchors. Please repay their generosity by taking care of what they've created. In particular, DON'T TOPROPE DIRECTLY THROUGH THE ANCHORS. Despite the fact that heavy-duty steel anchors are used, many are worn almost all the way through (some all the way). This dangerous state of affairs is primarily caused by toproping directly through the anchors which is completely avoidable -- whoever sets up the rope should clip a quickdraw through each anchor and run the rope through the draws; the last person up then puts the rope directly through the anchors, cleans the draws and lowers, or even better, rappels.
I spent a good part of July and August in the Gorge for two summers in a row when I first got into climbing- you can definitely climb there, but you for sure want to stay in the shade because it will be brutally hot in the sun. The Gorge runs roughly North-South, and there are some walls that face Northish (Gorgeous Towers for one), so you can typically find shade on one side or the other throughout the day.
@Thomas Bukowski Temps in the 50's will be fine in the sun. Warm Up wall and Banana Belt in the morning, China wall, Dilithium or Warning Signs in the afternoon. Days are really short down there right now and it'll probably be real messy after all the rain/snow we had this week.
About that new route on the Penstock Wall... Kelly and I put that in last year. Very fun! Pretty easy 10a. Can be done w/70m, but better as two pitches. !st: short, 5.8 crack, 3 bolts. 2nd: steep face w/ mondo buckets after the crux, 12 bolts. Upper holds are really good! Derik (firstname.lastname@example.org)
@ derik olson, the 2 pitch route on Penstock Rock you said you and kelly did is super fun, i must be a sandbegger, i thought it was 5.8 the whole climb, good job guy's really like it happy climbing mike a.
What is up with the trail wars at the start of the Central Gorge approach? Why do we need 2 starts. For as long as I have been climbing in the Gorge there has been one trail with an occasional person going off and starting another. Several methods have been used to try to keep people on the normal start and for the most part have been successful. But now someone is intent on going there own way regardless. I watched a couple of awesome folks spending a fair amount of time blocking out the unnecessary superfluous trail. They even made a sign. I should have thanked them for their work. Regardless their work was just wasted time, someone erased all the work they did. Why so intent on going your own way, I don't get it.
I was originally posting to warn folks headed to the Central Gorge (in the warmer/hot months) to be aware of the rattlesnakes that live underneath the "steps" and crevices while heading down the gully from the lot. You don't always hear their rattles, especially if they are surprised. I don't think it's too frequent but watch your step. Ran into one this past weekend and it was a very close call.