A 14-hour round-trip car ride for a day-and-a-half of adventures at Mammoth Lakes doesn’t seem worth it. It is.
By Hannah Heimer
When we were invited up to Mammoth Lakes for the weekend I was pretty hesitant to go at first. I mean, come on, a 7-hour one-way car ride for just a day-and-a-half to play around? I had never been to Mammoth so I wasn’t sure if it was worth it, but boy was I proven wrong. It was the most adventure-packed and beautiful day-and-a-half I’ve spent outdoors in a long time.
Here’s what made the 14 hours total in the car completely worth it.
The trip was worth it for many reasons, but reason number one was the vast amount of activities you could do in one afternoon.
We got to Mammoth around 12pm, immediately hopped on some hiking trails, and meandered from lake to lake, from mountain ridge to mountain ridge, and from cliff jump to cliff jump. We took advantage of all of the rope swings and cliff edges to jump off of and enjoyed the refreshing water of the Sierras.
After about 4.5 hours of hiking and swimming, we found ourselves at reason number two why Mammoth was completely worth the long car ride: The Warming Wall.
The Warming Wall is volcanic rock—which isn’t too bad on the hands, by the way—that houses a bunch of sport climbs, from 5.7s to 5.11as, and is located right next to Canyon Lodge.
We got to the Warming Wall as the sun was going down and climbing would be best. We only had about 2 hours to climb, but we were able to get in some great routes, including a fun 5.7 warm-up, a 5.9, and a 5.10a.
The 5.10a, called The Gimp, was a cool puzzle of a climb with some bigger moves at the beginning and end, and a cruisy middle section.
The 5.7, aka Bush Jr., had a fun undercling buldge that requires a bit of technique and courage when clipping into the second bolt—well, that’s if you’re short like me and have to really reach.
One of the best parts, though, was that we were able to put some of our friends up on top-rope for the first time and help them send. It’s such a gratifying feeling!
Reason numero tres why the drive was worth it? The Sunshine Wall.
Fast-forward to the next morning and we’ve made our way to Horseshoe Lake where the trailhead to Sunshine Wall lives.
The short approach to the Sunshine Wall took only 10 minutes, but it was one of our favorite parts of the trip; we crossed streams, walked by the still lake in the morning, and ventured up into a patch of woods that made us feel like we entered a scene from The Lord of the Rings.
We arrived to the Sunshine Wall—which is made up of granite and is mostly slab with a few amazing routes that have overhanging sections and traverses—around 9am thanks to the spot-on instructions on the Mountain Project website. We should’ve gotten there earlier because, like the name suggests, Sunshine Wall was blazing hot and sunny. Plus, there were already some people climbing on the somewhat small wall.
We warmed up on a super slabby 5.8, called Little Gem, that has a great ledge at the top for setting up an anchor, and then moved on to reason number four the drive was worth it: The best 5.9 that exists (to our knowledge).
We wanted to hop on a 5.10a, but it was taken, so we climbed a 5.9 called Hedgehog that turned out to be one of our favorite all-time climbs.
The climb starts off really slabby, but then gets to a nice ledge where you follow the bolt line up to another ledge that has the best jugs I’ve ever felt. Then, you do some fun beta and a slight traverse to get you through an overhung section that takes you to an undercling. From there, it’s a bit more slabby until you reach the top.
This climb has so many different types of movements arranged in an order that felt so good. Both my partner and I on-sighted the climb and loved every second of it.
After a few more climbs, it was unfortunately time to go. But, before we left, we experienced reason number five why the drive was totally worth it: Jumping in the freezing cold lake after being sun-soaked for 3 hours.
We took the trail away from the crag and back to the lake, dropped our gear and dove into the refreshing water. There was seriously no better way to end the trip; we got to cool down and clean off before hopping back into the car for the 7-hour ride back to San Diego.
Needless to say, my partner and I were pleasantly surprised by all of the climbing and activities we got to do in that short amount of time.
So, if you ever get a chance to take a car ride up to Mammoth—even for the weekend—we highly recommend it. Your climbing itch and outdoor cravings will be satiated enough so that when your partner begins to snore loudly in the seat next to you, you won’t mind at all.