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Owens River Gorge

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Owens River Gorge  

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Elevation: 5,000'
Location: 37.50908, -118.57525 View Map  Incorrect?
Page Views: 625,957
Administrators: Aron Quiter, John Robinson, Euan Cameron, Adam Winters, M.Morley, Adam Stackhouse, Salamanizer, Justin Johnsen, Kristine Hoffman (sitewide)
Submitted By: Tom Helvie on Jul 21, 2006
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My Mom Can Crank (5.12a), Owens River Gorge


The Owens River Gorge is California's most concentrated sport-climbing area. It is really a year-round crag, although summers can be a bit hot. There are many moderate sport climbs in the sub 5.10 range, but the best gorge climbs seem to be in the 5.10-5.11 range. The climbing is on volcanic tuff and features edges, pockets and cracks. Most of the climbing is close to vertical but there are some steep lines as well, namely at the Eldorado Roof and the Dilithium Crystal. Most climbs, whether face, crack, corner, even off-width and chimney, are fully sport bolted. There are some good trad lines, but sport climbing is why you're here. The gorge is often crowded but if you hike a little further you can usually find some solitude. The Warm Up Wall, the Pub, the Social Platform, the China Wall and the Dilithium Crystal are the most popular areas. Please buy Marty Lewis' "Owens River Gorge Climbs" if you are going to climb here. It's a great guide to the hundreds of climbs and you'll feel good supporting the guy who put up a huge percentage of the climbs and did a large amount of work (trails, research, bridges, talking with the LADWP that owns the gorge). It's a small price to pay for a great climbing area.

Getting There 

From Bishop go North on 395 to the Paradise Swall Meadows exit and turn right. At the T intersection turn left (Gorge Rd). There are 3 parking areas to choose depending on where in the Gorge you wish to climb. The first (the road) is 3.3 miles, the second (the central gully) is 4.8 miles and the last (the Upper gorge) is 6.4 miles. The first approach is down the middle power plant road. It's about a mile downhill on paved road. The middle approach is down a steep 2nd/3rd class loose gully. Be careful not to dislodge anything because there are climbs below the gully. The far approach starts on the upper power plant rd and then drops in to the left down a 3rd-class gully.

One of the coolest things I have ever climbed!
One of the coolest things I have ever climbed!

Climbing Season

Weather station 17.9 miles from here

442 Total Routes

['4 Stars',49],['3 Stars',210],['2 Stars',143],['1 Star',37],['Bomb',0]

The Classics

Mountain Project's determination of some of the classic, most popular, highest rated routes for Owens River Gorge:
Babushka   5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c     Sport, 1 pitch, 80'   Central Gorge : Warm Up Wall
Child of Light   5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a     Sport, 1 pitch, 90'   Central Gorge : Great Wall of China
Heart of the Sun   5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a     Sport, 1 pitch, 90'   Central Gorge : Great Wall of China
Slip 'n Slide   5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a     Sport, 115'   Upper Gorge : Lower Elbow Room
Dr. Evil   5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a     Sport, 130'   Upper Gorge : Gotham City
Show Us Your Tits   5.10b 6a+ 19 VII- 19 E2 5b     Sport, 1 pitch, 90'   Central Gorge : Emergency Room
Sendero Luminoso   5.10b 6a+ 19 VII- 19 E2 5b R     Sport, 1 pitch, 115'   Central Gorge : Solarium
Gorgeous   5.10b 6a+ 19 VII- 19 E2 5b     Sport, 1 pitch, 90'   Upper Gorge : Gorgeous Towers
Superfly   5.10c 6b 20 VII 20 E2 5b     Sport, 180'   Upper Gorge : Gotham City
Hardly Wallbanger   5.10c 6b 20 VII 20 E2 5b     Sport, 1 pitch, 90'   Central Gorge : Pub Wall
Yellow Peril   5.10c 6b 20 VII 20 E2 5b     Sport, 1 pitch, 105'   Central Gorge : Great Wall of China
O.R.G.asam   5.11a 6c 22 VII+ 22 E3 5c     Sport, 1 pitch, 90'   Upper Gorge : Dihedrals
Pick Pocket   5.11a 6c 22 VII+ 22 E3 5c     Sport, 1 pitch, 60'   Upper Gorge : Holy Trinity
Hungover   5.11b 6c 23 VIII- 23 E3 5c     Sport, 1 pitch, 80'   Central Gorge : Pub Wall
Grindrite   5.11b 6c 23 VIII- 23 E3 5c     Sport, 1 pitch, 100'   Upper Gorge : Gotham City
Expressway   5.11b 6c 23 VIII- 23 E3 5c     Sport, 1 pitch, 80'   Central Gorge : Social Platform
Towering Inferno   5.11b 6c 23 VIII- 23 E3 5c     Sport, 5 pitches, 480'   Inner Gorge : Eldorado Roof
From Chocolate to Morphine   5.11d 7a 24 VIII 25 E5 6a     Sport, 1 pitch, 110'   Central Gorge : Faulty Tower
Darshan (aka Ripoff)   5.12b 7b 26 VIII+ 26 E5 6b     Sport, 1 pitch, 90'   Central Gorge : Social Platform
Looney Binge   5.12c 7b+ 27 IX- 27 E6 6b     Sport, 1 pitch, 150'   Inner Gorge : Eldorado Roof
Browse More Classics in Owens River Gorge

Featured Route For Owens River Gorge

Crybaby 5.12c 7b+ 27 IX- 27 E6 6b  CA : Sierra Eastside : ... : Faulty Tower
This is a classic Herbert rig that follows a seam up an immaculate wall. The crux comes early and is just a few moves long (Id guess about V4 or 5). If you boulder or know how to campus its bound to feel easy. But, you still have to have enough fitness to romp through some fun 5.11 at the top. Great route; very striking. ...[more]   Browse More Classics in CA

Photos of Owens River Gorge Slideshow Add Photo
Lauren McGeoch floating 'Crash Landing' .11a
Lauren McGeoch floating 'Crash Landing' .11a
Red-pointing in the Owens River Gorge at Solarium. The ruins-of-Mordor ambiance and occasional self-chalking slopers might deter some.  But the view of the Sierra from up at the cars makes up for the gloominess.  And the awesome quantity of great routes on bullet-hard, pocketed, basalt places the Gorge a cut above all other western sport areas, (except maybe Smith Rock).  Thank you first-ascensioneers!
Red-pointing in the Owens River Gorge at Solarium....
Unknown free-soloist in the Gorge, 10/17/08
Unknown free-soloist in the Gorge, 10/17/08
The late John Bachar in the Gorge. Rest in peace.
The late John Bachar in the Gorge. Rest in peace.
Rainbow over the Eastern Sierra, as viewed from the rim of the Upper Gorge.
Rainbow over the Eastern Sierra, as viewed from th...
Climbing in Owens River Gorge. <br />Photo by Blitzo.
Climbing in Owens River Gorge.
Photo by Blitzo.
Amy Wilkins at the Hot Cold Tub/ Hilltop.
Amy Wilkins at the Hot Cold Tub/ Hilltop.
Mt. Tom.
Mt. Tom.
The view from the rim, Owens River Gorge
The view from the rim, Owens River Gorge
Two new fun routes on the All You Can Eat Wall.
BETA PHOTO: Two new fun routes on the All You Can Eat Wall.
Looking north at The Gorge from Little Egypt
Looking north at The Gorge from Little Egypt
The chalk is as close to gym tape as it gets for climbing outside.
The chalk is as close to gym tape as it gets for c...
Topo to Health Club
Topo to Health Club
The Gorge. <br />Photo by Blitzo.
The Gorge.
Photo by Blitzo.
Unusual climber:  Look closer
Unusual climber: Look closer
Camping in the Pinyons, April 2009: Friday night...
Camping in the Pinyons, April 2009: Friday night.....
The approach into Central Gorge
The approach into Central Gorge
...and Sunday morning. <br /> Great scenery, no scene.
...and Sunday morning.
Great scenery, no scene.
Topo to Banana right side
Topo to Banana right side
Mike Arechiga on, Flex Your Bazooka. 5.9.
Mike Arechiga on, Flex Your Bazooka. 5.9.
Topo to Narrow East
BETA PHOTO: Topo to Narrow East
White Mountain peak from the lower gorge parking area.
White Mountain peak from the lower gorge parking a...

Show All 48 Photos

Only the first 24 are shown above.

Comments on Owens River Gorge Add Comment
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Comments displayed oldest to newestSkip Ahead to the Most Recent Dated Sep 3, 2014
By david goldstein
Jul 29, 2006
This is probably my favorite sport-climbing area. The characteristic climbs feature endurance vertical edge pulling (with a lot of pockets) -- gym fitness really pays off here. There are enough decent trad climbs to keep you honest.

One note of caution is that walking by the river exposes one to some extremely potent stingy nettles, the buzz from which can last many hours; learn to identify and avoid these or wear long pants and socks.

The locals have put a lot of time, money and effort into really setting this place up with trails, bridges, belay platforms and drop in anchors. Please repay their generosity by taking care of what they've created. In particular, DON'T TOPROPE DIRECTLY THROUGH THE ANCHORS. Despite the fact that heavy-duty steel anchors are used, many are worn almost all the way through (some all the way). This dangerous state of affairs is primarily caused by toproping directly through the anchors which is completely avoidable -- whoever sets up the rope should clip a quickdraw through each anchor and run the rope through the draws; the last person up then puts the rope directly through the anchors, cleans the draws and lowers, or even better, rappels.
By alpinglow
From: city, state
Mar 14, 2007
I just took my first trip here. I wanted to praise Marty Lewis for releasing a superb guide (imho). I found it very clear, concise, and ontop of the area.

I consider myself a climbing geek, and fairly well-travelled. This guide was probably one of the better organised guides I have ever used, and well worth the money.

Nice job sir.
By 426
Mar 26, 2007
Many routes are LONG; if you bring a 60 or less, plz tie a knott. I've witnessed several deckings over the years from 'short' ropes. Best bet is a 70m or longer.
By brthomas6
Dec 6, 2008
Here is a list of links on climbing & other recreation in Owens River Gorge and nearby.

Owens River Conservation & Recreation Directory. (1=whitewater, 2=rafting, 3=conservation, 4=fishing, 5=climbing-camping-hiking, 6=local-info)
By Crimp Nasty
Sep 14, 2009
Is ORG climbable Nov-Feb?
By Euan Cameron
From: Redlands and Mammoth Lakes
Sep 16, 2009
ORG is climbable year round. On the colder winter months watch out for ice on the steep central descent. You can find spots in the sun on really cold days.
By RNclimber
From: Riverside, Ca
May 6, 2010
How is climbing here during summer months of June, July, and August? Are there north/east facing walls? Walls with shade in the morning and change to different wall with shade in evening? Thanks...
By Shannon Moore
May 25, 2010
I spent a good part of July and August in the Gorge for two summers in a row when I first got into climbing- you can definitely climb there, but you for sure want to stay in the shade because it will be brutally hot in the sun. The Gorge runs roughly North-South, and there are some walls that face Northish (Gorgeous Towers for one), so you can typically find shade on one side or the other throughout the day.
By trying hard
From: Sierra East Side
Sep 9, 2010
Amazing training area to get stronger. There are so many variations of climbing here. Some of the best climbing is even through the winter. Bachars stomping grounds!
By Thomas Bukowski
Dec 21, 2010
I've never been to ORG before. Thinking of heading there this weekend, temperatures in Bishop are in the mid-50s. Is it worth going given the cold temps? Any beta on which walls tend to see sun?
By Tom Helvie
From: Bishop, CA
Dec 21, 2010
@Thomas Bukowski
Temps in the 50's will be fine in the sun. Warm Up wall and Banana Belt in the morning, China wall, Dilithium or Warning Signs in the afternoon. Days are really short down there right now and it'll probably be real messy after all the rain/snow we had this week.
By Jonathan Howland
Mar 21, 2012
By Jonathan Howland
Mar 22, 2012
Anyone have info. about the new route just right of Funky Cole Patina at Penstock?

By derik olson
Mar 30, 2012
About that new route on the Penstock Wall... Kelly and I put that in last year. Very fun! Pretty easy 10a. Can be done w/70m, but better as two pitches. !st: short, 5.8 crack, 3 bolts. 2nd: steep face w/ mondo buckets after the crux, 12 bolts. Upper holds are really good!
Derik (derikolson@gmail.com)
By mike arechiga
Mar 27, 2013
@ derik olson, the 2 pitch route on Penstock Rock you said you and kelly did is super fun, i must be a sandbegger, i thought it was 5.8 the whole climb, good job guy's really like it happy climbing mike a.
By Jeff Scheuerell
Dec 7, 2013
What is up with the trail wars at the start of the Central Gorge approach? Why do we need 2 starts. For as long as I have been climbing in the Gorge there has been one trail with an occasional person going off and starting another. Several methods have been used to try to keep people on the normal start and for the most part have been successful. But now someone is intent on going there own way regardless. I watched a couple of awesome folks spending a fair amount of time blocking out the unnecessary superfluous trail. They even made a sign. I should have thanked them for their work. Regardless their work was just wasted time, someone erased all the work they did. Why so intent on going your own way, I don't get it.
By Jeff Scheuerell
Mar 2, 2014
Anyone know of a recent accident? I saw a carryout earlier in the year but I heard of a more recent one. I wonder how often someone is hurt in the Gorge???
By Xtine
From: Sierra Eastside, CA
May 20, 2014
Jeff, you might be thinking of this accident where the leader had a ground fall at the China Wall. He's lucky to be alive and well, it seems from the forum link:

I was originally posting to warn folks headed to the Central Gorge (in the warmer/hot months) to be aware of the rattlesnakes that live underneath the "steps" and crevices while heading down the gully from the lot. You don't always hear their rattles, especially if they are surprised. I don't think it's too frequent but watch your step. Ran into one this past weekend and it was a very close call.
By mike arechiga
Sep 3, 2014
i would like to give a super big thanks to kelly corder for putting up a bunch of new routes this year!!!, for a guy that they said in the 9th edition of the owens river gorge guide book " low on talent and experience" lol :-) on putting up routes in the gorge, he had done an awesome job in all these years in my opinion, it takes a lot of sweat, hard work, and money to do so, and thanks for posting info on his new routes here on m.p. next month it will be 9 years since a new ownes river gorge guide book has been put out, it's super helpful to have these up grades, and once again thanks for all the fun and new stuff in the gorge, happy climbing mike a.