February 6, 2014

Off The Beaten Path in The Owens River Gorge

It's no secret that we're having a dry winter here in the Sierra. California's drought was even a headline on the BBC's website last week. For those whose first love is skiing and snowboarding this has been disappointing. That disappointment can be heard at house parties, pot lucks, restaurants, and bar stools all over town. For everyone else, it's been a great season for sport climbing in the Owens River Gorge.

Recently my friend Maarten and I made plans to head down to the Gorge for the day. We chose to head down to the Sub Gorge - a rarely visited area that looked good in the guidebook. Usually, dragging partners to obscure crags leaves them (and me) questioning if we'll ever climb together again. This day was different.

After few warm ups we headed down to the Silent Pillar Wall. The trails aren't very well established so this involved wading in the river itself at a few points. It was only knee deep at the deepest and a pleasant temperature, a nice change from the generally loose dusty approaches to other crags in the Gorge. The routes at the Silent Pillar were great. They had high quality rock and fun moves. There was almost no chalk on the holds, so we had to actually figure out our own beta instead of follow the chalk highway. And there was no waiting for the multi-starred routes.

Visiting a scenic, quiet area with beautiful climbing and a great partner is a pretty good silver lining in a dry winter. Though I would hesitate to use the word "adventure" to describe a day of sport climbing, it was definitely a fun variation on the usual day in the Gorge.