Photos and words by Kellen Mohr
We loaded up the truck, hopped on the 395 and rolled into Lone Pine by late afternoon. After a crucial stop at the skate park next to a McDonald’s, we headed up to the Alabama Hills in time to catch the golden light as the sun set behind Mt. Whitney and the Eastern Sierras.
On a previous trip we had found a killer campsite tucked under a large overhang and were gunning for it this time around, but we found another car already there. So we scrambled up some pinnacles to scout for a new site, reveling in the cooler temps and soft light as the sun slipped away.
From our vantage we saw the taillights of the car at the overhang turn on. It reversed and wound away down a dirt road. We sprinted back to the truck, hopping from rock to rock, dodging angry desert plants, and mobbed to our perfect campsite. Hooting and hollering, we set up camp, then split off to get cold beer from a gas station in Lone Pine while Chris and Michael stayed behind to gather fuel and get a fire going. We returned with provisions, swapped stories around the fire, then pulled a night exploration of the canyon behind our site, scrambling over huge boulders, navigating the rocky maze with our headlamps and guided by cairns.
The next morning we woke at 7 and headed up Whitney Portal road to skate its steep curves. After bombing the few sections that weren’t riddled with gaping cracks and cheesegrater pavement, we headed back into town to meet up with three friends who were living out of cars and travelling all over the West in search of killer climbing. After taking a quick dip in a roadside creek they took us out to a route in the Alabama Hills called Shark Fin. We climbed as clouds painted themselves onto the evening sky.
Next we headed up to Bishop, where our friends showed us a secret spot alongside a rushing creek overflowing its banks with snowmelt rolling down from the huge dark mountains towering above us. We pulled off the road, circled the wagons, feasted, and hit the sack beneath the shimmering Milky Way.
Chris and I woke before sunrise and explored our surroundings as the morning sun turned the peaks bright creamsicle orange. We headed back into Bishop to fuel up at Black Sheep, the go-to meeting spot for the many itinerant climbers living out of their cars, then headed out to a nearby river to cool off during the day’s hottest hours.
When the temps dropped to a sane level, we headed over to the Buttermilks, a world-renowned bouldering area home to some of the biggest bouldering problems in the world. We lugged our crash pads up to the surprisingly empty problems and gave them our best shot.
That evening I saw one of the most breathtaking sunsets ever. A continuous lenticular cloud hovered over the sierras, its edges illuminated in fantastic shades of orange and pink as the light in the valley turned a deep, apocalyptic orange.
Earlier that day Michael had found a $15 kids bike at the Bishop Gear Exchange, and decided then bomb down to the paved highway where he vanished into the darkness in a flurry of flailing pedal strokes. We followed his erratic track through the gravel, positive that we’d find him in a heap. Two miles down the road we caught up with him grinning madly, unscathed but covered in dust.
As the darkness grew deeper, we headed north to spend the night at one of the many hot springs that boil out of the Long Valley Caldera. We found an empty spring where we whiled away the night with many a brew. Hypnotized by the Milky Way glowing above our heads, we lost track of time, eventually retreating to the truck and turning it in at 4AM. Rising in the morning, we all went our separate ways returning from what felt two full weeks of constant exploration, though we had been gone a mere 4 days.