I was breathing hard and my palms were sweating. I moved my hands and feet across the rock the way the muscles in my body remembered to, and I didn’t dare look down. I told myself I had to make it… and when I finally reached the top, a huge wave of relief washed over me… And that, my dear friends, was the story of how I climbed my first V0 highball. .

There was no grace, there was no finesse, and I’m sure I could have climbed (what is considered the easiest bouldering grade in climbing) with a bit more grace, but Mrs. Never-Doing-a-Highball finally he made his first lob

Location: Bishop, California
Coordinates: 37.3635° N, 118.3951° W
Elevation: 4200 feet
Type of Climbing: Bouldering, Sport, Traditional
Geology: Volcanic Tuff, Monzonite Quartz
Known For: Premier Highball Boulder
Main season: November-April
Star rating (out of 5): 5*

It was 4 months into our relationship that David and I went on our first week-long road trip together. I for one thought it was a relationship survival test disguised as a rock climbing trip, but what better way to find out if your boyfriend is the one for you than to be locked together in a metal box on wheels for 20 hours? Fortunately, the relationship came to light, and 20 long hours later, we arrived in the land of highballs.

The actual town of Bishop is quite large, and the residents and visitors consist of not only climbers, but other outdoor enthusiasts as well. Locals are lucky to have the popular bakery known as Erick Schat’s Bakkerÿ, famous for its original Sheepherder Bread®. For us, their chili cheese bread was a great way to recharge our bodies after a hard rock climbing session, although I’m sure many high performance athletes would have disagreed…

For $2 USD per night, we stayed at “The Pit” campground. Our housing unit was David’s Green Honda Element, commonly known as “the Hulk.” The rear of the SUV cleverly became our sleeping space, cushioning the hard plastic flooring with a sad-looking, tattered Madrock crash pad.

During the week we were there, we had a simple routine. I called it, the “Valley People Routine”… (for no apparent reason other than it sounded pretty awesome). The days always began with the sweet light of nature’s alarm clock, the sun. After grabbing an easy breakfast of yogurt and cereal, we’d clean up, pack up the crash pads, and head straight into town for our first stop. We needed our daily caffeine boost and our “go to” was Looney Bean, a coffee shop just off the main road. There, we updated ourselves on our social networking sites and wrote home to inform our family and friends that we were still alive.

After our morning chores, we go outside to play!

There were three main areas of bouldering that David was most familiar with:

1) The Buttermilks (his favourite)
2) The Happy Rocks
3) The sad rocks (my favorite)

On our first day, we came to Happy’s. It was pretty cloudy that afternoon but conditions were good. The warmer days made the ascent difficult due to less friction; cooler days were favorable. Happy’s was where I got on my first highball. I wasn’t all that enthused at first, but when you’re in highball land, you have to climb a highball…

After our first day of preparation for the following week, we headed back into town and grabbed a few essentials, namely food and toothbrushes. Our meals weren’t too fancy, but they surely outdid many other campers’ meals. (That happens quite often when your boyfriend is an amazing chef, even with the most limited of resources.)

On the consecutive days, we would mainly climb in the Leches. This climbing spot is arguably the best known, if not the most popular area in Bishop. It is home to some of the toughest routes in the world, such as the Mandala V12 and Evilution V11 on the milks.

A unique feature of Milks includes the highballs, which could reach up to 5 stories high at the top. While highball climbs are the ones I stay shy of, it’s impressive and inspiring to see other climbers push their mental game.

During our entire stay, we had two days off. One was spent at a natural hot spring in a slightly secret location (which I’ll only reveal the whereabouts of in exchange for your favorite secret spot… or “the Google”); Our other rest day was spent on a secluded stretch of brush and scrub where we sunbathed, played games and drank beers. We also had a “plucking body hair with tweezers” game, but it became outdated very quickly.

Some nights, we’d have big campfires and invite our neighbors over for a few beers. One particular night, I took out my ukulele and our neighbor Yve brought her mandolin. Together, we play over the dancing flames and into the night. It’s pretty wild but clear how one place can bring together so many people from different avenues.

Bishop, hands down, has been one of my favorite places to climb. It is a land where the desert plains are covered with sand-colored rocks that look like colossal eggs; where the view from the top is strikingly different but immensely magical all the same. Bishop, we will meet again some day.

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