Trip Report By Avram Pearlman
Tioga Pass is Open! I know there are many other ways into the eastern Sierra, but there is nothing like driving through Tuolumne Meadows to get to a near endless supply of sport, trad and bouldering. Oh, and did I mention free camping and hot springs? And, unlike Yosemite, dogs are OK too...
To make the drive home a little easier after climbing in the Gorge we checked out a spot called Clark Canyon. The approach is easy (15 minutes on a slight incline) and the routes are nestled in the trees providing shade and a wind break as needed. The Canyon was chock full of moderate sport climbs (for me that means the 5.7-5.9 range), and many more in the 5.10s as well.
The rock is volcanic tuff, with a slight orange patina. Lots of pockets for hands and feet, as well as some decent cracks. We set up in a section called Area 13 and completed three routes each in an afternoon.
On the Center Wall we started with a 5.8 called Chop Chop. A combo of face climbing, side pulls and cracks that could be climbed clipping the bolts or placing gear (smaller pieces only). We set up a top rope and then climbed the route about two feet to the left, a dihedral 5.8 crack line called Scorpio. Towards the top of Scorpio, the crack got a little bigger and there was a perfect hold (out of sight) right where I needed it to be!
Finishing the day with a super fun and mellow 5.7 four star route called Ugly, Fat and Mean, Come to Mammoth, Be a Queen. Nine bolts to anchors with an amazing view! The bolts and anchors on all the routes were in really good condition, at most a few years old. Next time we head back there I would like to try a two-pitch 3.5 star 5.10a route called Cholito. It looked like a sweet line, with 17 bolts.
The parking area for the Canyon is less than an hour to the Mobile station in Lee Vining. In fact, Google maps estimates five hours and fifteen minutes from Touchstone's own Great Western Power Company to the trail head. Most of the forest service road was fine, but there was one section of road that we were glad to have a high clearance vehicle.
Big Springs Campground is only a few miles from the Clark Canyon trailhead, and is a free, established campground if you don't mind being close to your neighbors. Clark Canyon is all Inyo national forest so dispersed camping is allowed. The brush is thick in places, but there are plenty of flat spots for a truck or tent.
The staff at the gear shop in Mammoth dropped rumors of a new version of Mammoth Area Rock Climbs, by Marty Lewis and John Moynier. The coming book is to include many of the now established lines not listed in the 3rd edition. After being pressed for a release date for the guide, the guy behind the desk just shrugged. “Who knows when it will be out, we are talking about climbers here...”