From the quaint Eastern Sierra townships of the Owens Valley, Highway 168 slowly rises westward from the subdivisions and shops of Bishop to the formidable crest of the High Sierra. Best known as “the road to the Buttermilks,” in the busy winter months the vast majority of its users will speed halfway up the highway’s steep grade and make a sharp right turn onto Buttermilk Road. Yet during the much calmer months of autumn the Bishop locals know the secret: that there are many other crags and boulder fields just a few miles further up the road.
At an elevation of 6,500 feet, the rock found at Little Egypt bears a striking resemblance to the stone at the famed Buttermilks bouldering area just a few miles away, with ivory white granular and heavily featured quartz monzonite that is well-suited for steep face climbing.
Like the nearby Buttermilks, Little Egypt offers a huge variety of featured climbing on bullet-hard stone, but the gems of Little Egypt are found in the area’s magnificent cutter crack systems which split the crag from its western buttress all the way to the tallest walls on the eastern flank.
Just beyond the short but physical approach to the crag from Highway 168 lies the premier wall at Little Egypt called the Frontier Wall. The Frontier Wall has an excellent sampling of both sport climbs and crack climbs, and hosts an incredible diversity of featured rock.
Much of the rock at the Frontier Wall is so perfectly sculpted that it appears as though it was specifically engineered for rock climbing. Here you’ll find typical monzonite features like pinches, fins, edges, and knobs, but you’ll also encounter amazing granitic tufa features, enormous in-cut jugs, and water-warn scoops.
The Frontier Wall boasts a few of the best monzonite sport climbs in the Bishop area, including the striking granite arête Welcome to the Dark Side (5.10c), the sculpted pockets and technical dime-edging of Warrior Waitress (5.10a), and the intimidating, overhanging monzonite tufa climb Crème del Este (5.13b). A few of the best crack climbs at the area can also be found on the Frontier Wall, including the picturesque Espresso Crack (5.11c) and Classic Crack (5.9).
For a number of years, Bishop locals have investigated the enormous boulders below the walls at Little Egypt for bouldering potential. Because the most obvious boulders that lie below the Frontier Wall are almost completely devoid of climbable features, most of the boulderers that have visited the area have left discouraged.
Then came the winter of 2015, when Bay Area resident and Touchstone Athlete Ethan Pringle took a longer walk around the backside of the main walls and investigated the boulders below a large wall known as Lambada Dome. It was here that Pringle discovered an incredible highball boulder and established the first high-quality boulder problem at Little Egypt: Old Greg (V11R).
The crags and boulders in the Little Egypt area still hold plenty of potential for new routes and boulder problems; but on a sunny Autumn day, it is the views of the Sierra Crest to the West, the Owens Valley to the North, and the White Mountains to the East that make Little Egypt so special. Combine these panoramic views with the cool waters of the stream below and the high concentration of quality routes, and Little Egypt should rank very high on your Eastern Sierra ticklist.
From the town of Bishop take Highway 168 west for about 10 miles. Just beyond the first yellow left turn sign, turn left onto an unnamed paved road that takes you to a gated reservoir. Park here (please do not block the gate) and walk down the road until you see an obvious river crossing and a diagonally sloping trail up a steep hillside towards the cliff.
Crème del Este (5.13b)
Espresso Crack (5.11c)
For Those About to Rock (5.10d)
Welcome to the Dark Side (5.10c)
Warrior Waitress (5.10a)
Bishop Area Rock Climbs by Marty Lewis and Peter Croft. Get a copy at your local Touchstone Pro Shop.
Trip Report by Dean Fleming