Soon after Smith Rock, we spent some time at one of my other favorite rock places, the Buttermilks. The Buttermilks is an area of massive boulders right at the base of the eastern slope of the Sierras, near Bishop. Astonishingly big boulders with great views of the mountains.
The Grandma and Grandpa Peabody boulders are the biggest ones I’ve ever seen just sitting completely exposed on top of the earth. They remind me of the way sloppy landscapers sometimes place rocks by just dumping them out of the truck. Generally speaking, it’s bad form if people can see the underside of a boulder, but when the boulder is a fifty foot tall chunk of granite, there’s something nice about seeing it placed so casually. Nature’s good at getting away with unnatural-looking effects.
There’s almost always a group of climbers on the underside of the Peabodies.
The Ironman Boulder, with the low traverse across its face, is another one that always has climbers on it. Photos from the Buttermilks and two other nearby climbing areas below the fold.
It looks better with someone on it, but the climb up the overhanging prow on the Mandala boulder was possibly the most famous boulder problem in the world for a while. The serious climbers were only just beginning to show up for the winter season when we were there, so no one was climbing it yet.
These ones have names too, but I can’t remember them.
I remembered the Buttermilks as glacial erratics, but they’re just big rocks that rolled down from the top of their little hill. From the hill you can see the terminal moraine from a glacier, well short of where the boulders are. The boulders are made of Sierra granite, but because they are at lower elevation they weathered more like the granite at Joshua Tree or other desert areas. Instead of the freeze-thaw weathering of alpine rock, they got their shape from wind and water.
Many of the boulders have a wonderful patina on them.
Bishop is about 600 miles south of Bend. They’re both on the east side of a mountain range in the Sagebrush Sea and it was striking, if unsurprising, how many of the plants were the same. The juniper at Smith Rock was replaced by pinyon pine around Bishop, but most of the other species were the same. Rabbitbrush was blooming in both places; the Buttermilks also had a buckwheat (I think it’s a buckwheat) in bloom.
We also stopped at the Happy Boulders, an area of volcanic tuff even closer to Bishop. Fun climbing on pockets and patina, though not as aesthetic as the tuff formations at Smith or the granite at the Buttermilks.
And to finish with my vacation rock photos, a couple of shots of Benton Crags southeast of Mono Lake. More granite surrounded by some of the biggest pinyon pines I’ve ever seen. The snow covered peaks in the background are the northern end of the White Mountains; I think the peak on the left is Boundary Peak/Montgomery Peak, easier to see if you click on the photo. I’d never seen the Whites from this direction. The more time I spend on the east side of the Sierras and Cascades, the more I like it out there.
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