5 must-do California activities for a climber / backpacker / dirtbag [025]

1. Tahoe – I just got back from Tahoe today, where the rock climbing is legendary. Lover’s Leap is a rock formation with dozens of routes, a nearby campground, and free roadside camping just a quarter-mile west of Lover’s Leap (on Strawberry Creek Rd). There are great easier routes for beginners like myself (i.e. 5.7-5.8). Corrugation Corner was a serene and beautiful 5.7, while Psychedelic Tree (5.8) knocked me for a loop with it’s combination of two trees and several burly ledge/roofs at the top of the final pitch.

The bottom of Corrugation Corner. Strawberry, California.

2. In-N-Out Burger – The freshest fast food you will ever taste. And so cheap. A burger is like $2.65, double burger $3.75. Ask for your burger “animal-style,” or better yet, ask for your burger “veggie-style” or “doggy-style” and just see what happens. Anyone can order off the secret menu. You gotta try the make-believe menu though.

3. Yosemite – It’s reputation preceeds it. Yosemite is like Disneyland for rock climbers. With El Capitan and Half Dome looming overhead, this is a great park to show up and find some bouldering buddies. Skip the message board and just show up to Camp 4 with your climbing shoes. I found two bouldering buddies and our group eventually grew to 7 or 8 climbers by the time we started flailing around on Midnight Lightning (V8). 

Some camping tips: Show up in Yosemite Village around 11am and you can probably get a backcountry camping permit, available at the Wilderness Station. This permit will, for a small fee (possibly free? I forget) allow you to camp 4 miles up a trail, which is not ideal, but it also permits you two nights in Backpacker Camp, which is in the Valley. One night is before your backcountry camping, one night is after. Campsites are only $6 a piece at Backpacker Camp.

4. The Pacific Crest Trail – I did the section from Mile 650 to 702 (Walker Pass to Kennedy Meadows). Going 10 miles between water sources and often as many between human being sightings was humbling and trippy. On my first day I didn’t pass another person all afternoon. In a matter of hours I was mistaking bushes around the bend for backpackers. 

Kennedy Meadows was the quintessential California high-Sierras where-the-heck-is-civilization mountain village. Dozens of thru-hikers pitch create an ever-revolving tent City behind the local general store cum burger joint. My second night, the NBA finals game was shown on the front patio’s TV. A front patio, by the way, where everyone applauds when a hiker arrives from the trail.

5. Bishop – Sport climbing in Owens River Canyon. Bouldering in the Buttermilks. This climbing and hiking mecca is also close to Mount Whitney, the highest mountain in the continental US at like 15,000 feet. I did 3 days on the Pacific Crest Trail and hitchhiked from Kennedy Meadows to Bishop in a matter of hours. Check out Pine Creek Canyon. There is free camping along the nearby river if you don’t get creeped out by old rusted mining equipment.

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