Monday, March 2, 2009

Alabama Hills

In a word: slabtastic.

Opting for convenience over notoriety, Bret, Jared, Mara, and I went to Lone Pine for the weekend instead of Bishop. Bret's Dad owns a small cottage just off the main drag, and we bunked up there for a weekend of climbing in the Alabama Hills, a clump of Joshua Tree-esque formations. Apparently, during the Civil War, Lone Pine had significant sympathies with the South, so, naturally, they named the piles of queerly shaped quartz-monzonite after the Alabama, a Confederate Ironclad.

The climbing wasn't world-class, but maybe national-class, or at least west-coast class. I climbed a shit-ton of routes ranging from 5.8 to 5.12, with quality ranging from great to gawdawful. The approach for the Alabama Hills is unbeatable. The crags were literally 4.5 minutes from the door of our cottage (no joke), and we could almost belay from our car. And there was no human detritus from L.A. roaming about; I've rarely climbed in such an area with so few people.

Like I said, the climbing here was slabtastic. As I write this, my hands are not the least bit pumped from two days of climbing, but my calves and quads feel a bit sore. I haven't climbed this much slab and face in a long, long time. And I guess I can still stand on my feet, because I onsighted my first 5.12 face climb (Diamond blade, 5.12a, 6 bolts). Apart from that, I accrued tons of mileage on mostly 5.10 terrain, onsighting a bunch of routes. I know it's kinda silly, but here's a list with do's and don'ts:

Bananarama, 5.8: do
Banana Split, 5.9/5.10: not that great. Don't.
Tall T, 5.10b: do
Dream On, 5.10b: the hardest 5.10b I've ever done. Definitely do.
Diamondblade, 5.12a: do
High Plains Drifter, 5.10b: do
Hang 'em High, 5.10a: do
Shark's Fin Arete, 5.7: awesome. do.
Pirateson on Horseback, 5.10b: eehh. okay.
Fat Black Mama, 5.11: do.
Pop, 5.11a: definitely do
Fizz, 5.10b: do
Slab Route, 5.10a: dirty, but do.
Open Project, 5.13?: effing impossible.

In short, the Alabama Hills are (per the guidebook) "the poor-man's Joshua Tree". The view boggles the mind as well. Mount Whitney towers RIGHT behind you—a la' Buttermilks view—instead of the pervasive L.A. basin haze, like in J-tree.


Brian said...

Personally, I love AH. I have many circuits there. I used to run laps in the moonlight before striking nearby alpine objectives.

There is MASSIVE undertapped bouldering potential.

Andy Patterson said...

Agreed. AH suffers (or benefits) from the situated-near-famous-climbing-area complex: basically, people would rather drive to Bishop to climb on V-Famous problems than develop. Ah, well. More for us.