Wednesday, April 6th, 2005

Lynn Hill Climbing Camp, Bishop

It was not an easy decision. Going to the week-long camp required taking time off from work, and five days is one third of my yearly vacation quota, but I really wanted to join the camp to spend some time with the legendary climber, whom I had admired since the very early stage of my climbing history. (I have this to prove.) When Lynn heard about my struggle, she offered an accommodation, that was I could join the camp in the middle of the week and she would stay through the weekend with me. Five minutes after reading her email, I already signed up for the Bishop Camp. At 5 PM on Tuesday, April 5 afternoon, I found myself driving south bound on the busy highway. The pass through the Sierra was still closed for the season. The other option was to go north through South Lake Tahoe, which would be shorter. But I decided to go south through Bakersfield as driving through deserts was less stressful than through mountains, and even if my 1992 Nissan gave out on the way, it wouldn’t be as bad as getting stuck at a high altitude in the middle of the night. At 2 AM next morning, I collapsed in Robert’s house in Bishop after nine hours of driving. Jon Krakauer’s Eiger Dreams kept me from drifting into my own dreams.

6 AM, my alarm went off, and I had barely slept (at least it felt that way), but I didn’t want to miss out any activity at the camp now that I was so close by. I showed up at the camp when half of the people were up — it was the camp’s rest day. There were six people working for the camp: Lynn Hill (sponsor and organizer), Brad Lynch (organizer and chef), Craig Luebben (guide), Bernd Zeugswetter (guide), Jim Hurst (video cameraman), Jen (camp assistant), and there were four clients of us: J.T. from Ohio, Kim from Toronto, Ron from Arizona, and me. Lynn’s two year old son Owen and her friend Amy also spent the few days with us at the camp.

The five days went by fast. We went to Windy Wall area (near Buttermilks) for an anchor and self-rescue class by Craig on Wednesday. Thursday found us in Owens River Gorge on Warm Up Wall and Social Platform sport climbing, to supplement which, Friday was spent back at the Windy Wall area on slabby climbs and crack climbs. Bouldering leisurely at Happys made me very happy on Saturday. And then on Sunday, knowing that it was my last day at the camp and I did not need to preserve my strength any more, Lynn kept putting me on harder and harder routes until I couldn’t hang on any longer, which didn’t actually take that long.

Physically worked during the days, we were mentally entertained in the evenings. During my stay, I watched Lisa Rand present an amusing and impressive slideshow, and I admired the beautiful pictures Craig took on his Cuba and China trips as well as at his home turf, Vedauwoo, Wyoming. The cover photo in the new Climbing Magazine (April 2005) was taken by him. Lynn showed me a photo collection throughout her life along with some multimedia slideshows on her computer. Jim impressed us with his superb slacklining technique — he was spinning 3 hula-hoops while slacklining! Check out the movie Return2Sender, and you will find him there. Even if you are not so into slacklining, you will be thrilled by the crack climbing segment, Parallelojams starring top-notch climber and comedian Timmy O’Neil and his friends. It’s plain hilarious.

Kim was lucky enough to celebrate her birthday during the camp. Out in the desert, Brad managed to put together a beautiful and delicious chocolate birthday cake. However, the highlight was the piñata. If you don’t know what that is, here is what I observed that night — a cardboard doll, the piñata, sealed with goodies was hung on a tree. Kim was blindfolded, and handed a giant Big Bro (a piece of protection gear used by climbers that resembles a metal tube. It was invented by Craig.). She was spun multiple times and then was instructed by the crowd to walk towards the piñata. Now, she raised the tube and smashed it into the doll like a mad woman, the reason being she needed to beat the doll apart so that the goodies could fall out. Please remember that she was blindfolded the whole time, and the piñata was hung by a string to the tree and span and swung like crazy. It was hard work and took her more than a hundred swings before the doll completely fell apart. I felt lucky that I was not the birthday girl (yes, I changed my mind).

Even though we were out in the desert, the meals we ate were better than what I eat at home. From breakfast to dinner, Brad impressed us with his professional cooking. The fish he cooked was the best I’d ever had in my life. Even now, the tenderness and the taste still linger between my teeth.

I probably should stop babbling (even though I could go on and on) because I want to show you many photos from this camp. If you ask me whether the trip was worth the effort (9 hours of driving each way by myself), the time (3 days off of work), and the investment, I will answer you without any hesitation — Oh yes! I had a wonderful time and that is all that counts. For more information about the camp, click here. If you have any question regarding the camp for which you want an answer from an ex-participant, please do not hesitate to contact me (find my email address on my home page).

Meet the camp

Following photos were all taken by Craig. He got such good eye. For more of his photos, please visit his photo gallery.

Lynn contemplates…

Owen wonders…

Brad makes the most delicious mussle dish.

And also the most delicious fish dish.

Bernd concentrates on staying on the line.

Still concentrating on staying on, but on the rock this time, he sends Saigon (V7) at Buttermilks.

Jim spends seven days behind the video recorder.

And he is also really good at this.

Our three instructors show their beautiful smiles in the hole.

And now, let me take you to the other side of the hole.

Jen has fun on the slackline.

Lisa and Wills, a happy couple bonded in climbing.

Kim makes a wish.

And then she blows.

J.T. shows off his muscles.

Ron finds holding a beer helps balance.

Mei attentively belays.

Amy equally attentively belays.

One day, it got really cold. So I hid under a sleep bag when I was not climbing.

But under the bag was more than just me.