This has been one of my favorite legs of the trip. With great memories and ample happy vibes stored in our pockets, we anxiously traveled out of Tahoe, and farther away from too many people and god-awful traffic. Shortly after, we entered what I believe to be some of the prettiest terrain out there. Imagine fragrant pine (Jeffrey and Ponderosa), sweet juniper bushes, and sage tickling your senses. This arid, high desert landscape was meant for me. Patches of Quaking Aspen and pristine building-sized boulders line 395, which kindly guided us to our next destination. This place is truly magical. It’s in the middle of nowhere and everywhere in the nowhere, it is seemingly wild, pure, and beautiful.
Aside from the unbelievably giant Redwoods, this California scenic drive is immeasurable to any other California pit stop we’ve seen to date. Gobs and gobs of must-see views and unique terrain spread vastly over hill sides and mountain tops. Valleys, marshy meadows, and sub-alpine granitic fields have been an uber pleasant welcome as we traveled south bound toward the cozy mountain town of Mammoth Lakes. Taking a small detour east, we excitedly made our way to the next climbing hot spot: Clark Canyon. After climbing at Clark for only two days, I would like to add to my original statement. Clark Canyon is definitely a ‘hot’ spot, but its also really neat. The nicely featured crag emulates the best of two fine climbing meccas: Smith Rock and the Red River Gorge.
For example, Smith is known for its overly technical tuff rock that’s loaded with chicken head-knobby features and delicate moves. The Red, on the other hand, attracts vagrant climbers from all over, with the promise of solid rock on overly-hanging rock bluffs and multi-featured face climbs. Both areas are excellent for climbing; some of the most classic routes in the world can be found at both, and a little taste of both can be found at Clark Canyon.
With this kind of combination, we had a fantastic stay at Clark Canyon. Etrain logged another epic send – Dirty Dancing, 12b. Second go, he climbed through some sharp, fingery crimps, moving precariously through the crux and on up to the overhanging plates that tacked on the pump. He rolled over the top bulge to clip the anchors, displaying a victorious smile and later that evening, celebrating with fresh brews in Mammoth!
It was really inspiring to watch him analyze the route, work out the moves, and go for the send! Motivated and feeling sharp, I jumped on a pocket-pulling, tricky 10b called Pocket Pool, and to my surprise, flashed it right out of the sheets! Toward the top, this route rounded out to thin lip features and I found my arms lookin’ like salmon bellies as I clipped the chains. The dull pump felt really good and only had me craving more. With that, I tied back in and flashed a longer 10a called Craters, also loaded with silly pockets and thin plate-like features. It was a fine route that added to our already wonderful morning.
Next, we hiked down the sandy climbers trail, weaving in and out of brushy shrubs, over to an interesting 11a called Woodywhacker. This burly-lookin’ route turned out to be pretty cool. It started with round ledge-like features and finished with more small overhanging pockets. Unfortunately, this route went back and forth from solid rock to rotten rock, and although fun, it is no five star classic. Planning on only a half day due to high temperatures and blazing sunshine, we ended our morning here. We said adios to Clark Canyon and took Vincent south, back on 395, right in to Mammoth Lakes. We’ve heard some good rumors and stories about the area and plan to tour the cozy mountain town, possibly hike around some lakes, try a sampler of Mammoth brews and enjoy a tasty dinner, and get lost in another phenomenal Sierra sunset.
Sweet sunset or not, here’s hoping you have a very pleasant evening with a crisp brew in hand..