27 Oct The Happiest Place on Earth

I remember the first time I visited Bishop, CA for my first big outdoor climbing trip.  Though I had been to Bishop many times when I was young, I had little memory of the town or surroundings, so to me it felt like the first time.  I remember driving up late that afternoon as the sun was setting.  The sky was a cathedral of pinks and oranges and reds, supported by the White Mountains rising up to my right and the Eastern Sierras to my left.  Taking in that landscape, I was instantly in love and I knew Bishop would be a place to which I would return time and time again!

And I have! Several times a year for the past five years, I have driven out to Bishop to climb or paraglide and every trip has been just as magical as that first moment. It was in Bishop that I onsighted both my first 5.11a and my first 5.12a; It was here I did my first big hike and fly off Mt. Tom and celebrated my 200th paragliding flight; in Bishop I learned to drive a stick shift, took my first solo climbing trip, and slept under the stars for the first time in my life. Bishop has been a place of milestones and incredible memories, so I was understandably super excited to spend four days there this past week.  And I was absolutely not disappointed!

My long weekend started out in Pine Creek Canyon, where my partner Micah and I, climbed our hardest trad route yet, Chips Off The Ol’ Block, 5.10a. Though a late start kept us from completing the 6th pitch, this was still an incredible route that offered a bit of everything; hand cracks, finger cracks, squeeze chimneys, slab, etc. With bolted anchors for easy belaying and rappelling, and fun, challenging moves on every pitch, I would absolutely rate this a five star route!

The next morning we took a quick stop off to enjoy the views at Lake Sabrina, before heading down to The Buttermilks, where we would spend the next two days crushing boulder problems. I had an amazing run and was feeling super strong!  My sends included: Birthday Direct V3, Funky Tut V3, Boy/Girl Boulders Unnamed V4, Go Granny Go V5, Milk the Milks V6, and my hardest boulder yet…Junior’s Achievement V8.

After two days of hard bouldering, on Sunday we were all pretty tired, so we spent a fairly easy day in the Owens River Gorge climbing 10s and 11s.  I mostly repeated climbs I had already done, but was happy to onsight one new route, Crash Landing 5.11a.  This is a short, beautiful line up an arete, chalk full of crimpy, technical moves.

All in all, Bishop was amazing and I felt like every day was a success in its own right. Overall though, I think the one thing I was most happy about was just how clear headed I felt on every climb.  I’ve been struggling these past few months to overcome some fears and doubts and this trip really seemed to be a breakthrough in that respect. Every time I found myself growing nervous or panicked, I tried to re-focus on breathing and taking the route one move at a time, being very deliberate and incremental in my climbing.  This approach helped me get through some big runouts while trad climbing and kept me focused and calm on some scarier highball boulder problems.

I realized that when I stopped thinking about the moves below and above me or all the things that might go wrong, I was better able to focus, wasn’t making panicked decisions such as poor gear placements or rushed movements, could better negotiate falls while bouldering, and better navigate tricky climbing as I was thinking much more clearly.  I think this kind of clear headed climbing is not only safer, but also more enjoyable, and definitely helped me get up some of my most difficult routes to date!

I’m really proud of the mental gains I accomplished on this trip and after being home only a few days I’m already aching to get back to Bishop!  Hopefully soon, but in the meantime I’m also super motivated to get back to training and see where this great mental streak might take me next!

I hope everybody out there had a great weekend as well!