It’s always an excellent adventure when Planet Granite staff members get to spend time together climbing outside.
Here Stephanie Moy from PG San Francisco shares tales from a recent staff excursion to Bishop, CA. Accompanying her prose are the breathtakingly beautiful shots from the camera of fellow PG SF staff Megan Mack.
Read on for an entertaining tale of birthday twins, ‘glamping’, highball boulder problems, a sunrise photo shoot and much more. Enjoy!
What do you get when you take a rusty but skilled technical route climber (Julia), a sidelined climber/photographer extraordinaire (Megan), a show-stopping Bishop highball-virgin (King Kevin), a set of birthday-celebrating fraternal twins (Wombmate #1 and Wombmate #2, respectively Nick Moy and Stephanie Moy), a burrito-eating canine companion (Jasper), and throw them all into the mountains? A weekend grit show.
Megan, Jasper and the siblings Moy set out on a bright, sunny Thursday afternoon, making a couple of necessary stops: first at Planet Granite to stock up on supplies; next at superlative snack-shack Trader Joe’s to buy the store out of treats.
Eight hours later, after a requisite Chipotle stop and some coffee-fueled speeding, they arrived in the mule capital of the world: Bishop, California.
In honor of the aforementioned birthday (miraculously, the twins turned younger this year!) our motley crew had decided to forgo the cheap charm of the climbers’ campground (known to most simply as The Pit) in favor of “glamping,” and splurged on a weekend rental of a top-secret cottage we’ll call Fantasia. Upon arrival, they were greeted by a bowl of tangerines and salted pecan caramels garnished with a note of welcome. High on cottage charm and alpine magic, the travelers went to bed, eager to wake to the promise of a day in Buttermilk Country…
The next morning they rose, caffeinated themselves, and departed for the boulder fields. Nick, whose well-tread feet had never before walked the likes of the High Sierra desert, had officially turned 21 again a mere hour earlier and deemed that a visit to the Birthday boulders was in order.
With a chorus of cheerleaders spurring him on, Nick made quick work of a couple classic lines. Wombmate #2, Stephanie, begrudgingly greeted the footwork test-piece Birthday Direct after a couple of years as only old “frenemies” can (with a few choice words and a cathartic kick to the glassy footholds) before re-figuring the 5-foot-one-inch beta, chuffing her way up the problem with a little help from her friends (a pair of La Sportiva Miuras, a few short yells and a sprinkle of birthday fairy dust).
Megan, meanwhile, snapped industry-quality photographs of the scene: bite-sized boulders framed by snow-capped peaks towering all around, carving out jagged teeth against a clear expansive sky.
Late afternoon brought the arrival of King Kevin (from PG Sunnyvale) and former PG SF staff member Julia. After playing around in the Buttermilks until sundown, they retreated to the cozy warmth of their beloved Fantasia and whipped up a birthday dinner fit for vegan, gluten-free royalty. (No really, it was delicious!)
On Saturday, the fumbling five met up with PG Belmont route-setting foreman Danny Harris and PG San Francisco event staffer Giuliana both on an extended vacation in Bishop. A first round of bouldering on the Peabody boulders saw Kevin and Julia challenge the Southwest Arete of Grandma Peabody, a colossal “V0” (5.9) highball problem that demands bone-dry palms and nerves of steel.
Possessing neither of those things, the scaredy-twins pretended not to notice the 50-foot line and opted instead to play around on a set of problems around the corner which top out at a reasonable 15 (fine, 10) feet.
Later, Julia startled herself by hitting the glory jug at the top of classic V3 Funky Tut, offering a conversational “Oh … I got it,” as she topped out. Giuliana put down recent project King Tut on her first go and flashed Funky Tut.
After on-sighting King Tut, Nick waged a battle on Funky Tut, sending just before the sun dipped behind the mountains.
Immediately upon sunset, the temperature in the Buttermilks dropped precipitously, and in spite of the correspondingly improved friction, they packed up for the day…
Sunday was getaway day, but before our PG faithful set out on the road, they were solicited for one last mission; if they chose to accept it, they would have to beat the sun to Sunday morning. Megan, a grad student in photography whose thesis centers around climbing, had her heart set on a sunrise shoot.
Back at Fantasia, alarms went off at 5 a.m. Julia, Kevin, Nick, Megan, and Jasper roused themselves one by one, while the younger, lazier twin Stephanie crankily flopped around in bed, making disgruntled groaning noises as she tried unsuccessfully to force her eyelids apart.
Somehow, by 5:30 they were on the road, delirious and frozen but unequivocally psyched to bathe in Alpenglow and ham it up for a slate of what promised to be world-class climbing photos.
The setting didn’t disappoint (does it ever?) The sun rose red over the Buttermilks, lighting the mountains on fire and gilding a layer of low-hanging clouds. Megan, with co-pilot Jasper at her side, took hundreds of photos, immortalizing the grandstanders with skill and aplomb.
After an hour or two, dawn had given way to daylight. The time to head home had arrived.
They packed up one last time and drove to local climbers’ haunt, Black Sheep Coffee Roasters, to decompress and fuel up for the long trip home. There they sat, mugs warming their granite-bitten fingers, in relative silence: perhaps contemplative; more likely, still 90% asleep.
Either way, everyone had accomplished something they’d set out to achieve, and as always, the trip had served as an impetus for growth in each of its participants. They looked around the table at one another, smiling as they reveled in the glow of magic moments from Fantasia and beyond. The trip had been one to remember and to cherish. Dear Bishop: until next time! Love, PG.
WRITTEN BY – Stephanie never leaves any food on her plate, always makes wishes at 11:11, and laughs at approximately 120 dB. Ask her about high-fiving trees.
PHOTOS BY – With her canine co-pilot Jasper, Megan has lived and explored locations throughout her native East Coast and West. Most recently, she has found herself working on an MFA in Photography at Academy of Art University. When she’s not climbing or taking photographs, Megan can be found thinking up excuses to host theme dinners. She ALWAYS saves room for dessert. Follow Megan’s adventures on Instagram here.