Granite that makes other regions drool. Technical climbing routes that even the most grizzled veteran climbers will be challenged on. And yet at the same time, hundreds of places for first-timers to get a sample of what rock climbing is all about. When it comes to rock climbing in California, the Sierra Nevada is a GREAT place to try it. Here’s a few of our favorites.
This wouldn’t be a list about rock climbing in California High Sierra without mentioning Yosemite National Park. Standing within Yosemite Valley and looking to the sky, you can understand why climbing history in this place goes back to even John Muir. And to this day, Yosemite is still the measuring stick world-class climbers ascend to. It’s where films like Free Solo and the Dawn Wall were shot. And, you can see the history and celebrate its culture by visiting the Yosemite Climbing Association Gallery & Museum. If you’re wondering where to start – Rock Climbing in Yosemite Mariposa County: Wall-to-Wall Thrills. Want to learn more about the stories & legends that were created on this granite? Check out this 5 part series narrated by Ken Yager, president of the Yosemite Climbing Association (YCA) and himself a long-time climber:
Bishop’s Big Backyard
On the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada, you’ll find the outdoorsy mecca of Bishop. In the spring, throngs of skiers descend upon the surrounding peaks to go backcountry skiing and hunt the elusive corn snow. Summer, it’s about world class fishing in its lakes and streams. What it’s home to for year-round fun… that’s rock climbing. Don’t believe us? Check out the webcams…
How Is This Possible?
It’s true that the mountains surrounding Bishop receive hundreds of inches of snow, but due to the town’s high desert location and low elevation, it only receives EIGHT inches of snow annually. Even in January or “Juneuary”, temps hover in the mid-50s creating the perfect winter weather to climb.
Bouldering, Climbing, Oh My!
Bishop is surrounded by some of the best bouldering and rock climbing venues in the world. There are over two thousand bouldering problems from steep Bishop Tuft at theHappy & Sad Bouldersto the iconic granite at the Buttermilks. For sport climbing, head over to the Owens River Gorge. Here you’ll find some of the finest rock climbing in California, nearly 1000 routes ranging from 5.6 to 5.13.
Rock, Rock, Ice In Mammoth
A few thousand feet higher you’ll find the town of Mammoth Lakes. Although rock climbing in this region is typically a summer outing, you’ll find another unique activity in the winter months – ice climbing. Instead of grasping onto granite footholds, you use axes and crampons to dig into frozen waterfalls. If you’re curious, we suggest taking a two-day lesson with either Sierra Mountain Center or Sierra Mtn. Guides. You’ll learn the basics such as equipment selection, axe, and crampon usage as well as moving on ice.
Cooling Off In Lake Tahoe
As the heat of summer falls upon the lower elevations, climbers begin their ascent to the upper reaches of the High Sierra. For beginners, a great way to get a taste of what rock climbing is like in a safer environment – try Via Ferrata at Palisades Tahoe which is not too far from the historic town of Truckee. Or if you want to try the real deal Holyfield, Donner Summit is the crown jewel of climbing in Tahoe. You’ll find spot, trad, and multi-pitch all on high-quality granite. Perched above Donner Lake, there’s guided rock courses which are great for families, friends, & groups. This is all easily accessible from Truckee too. Not enough? Pinch grip into Truckee’s rock climbing guides. And on the south shore of Lake Tahoe, if you have your own equipment you’ll find climbing routes with names like Cajun Hell and Huntin’ Gator.
As you can see, regardless if you’re a seasoned pro or a beginner, you’ll find something to try and tackle in the assortment of rock climbing in California.
Alex founded Local Freshies® in 2014 to be the #1 website providing the “local scoop” on where to eat, drink & play in mountain towns throughout North America. When he’s not writing and executing marketing strategies for small businesses & agencies, he’s in search of the deepest snow in the winter and tackiest dirt in the summer.