During the summer months when temperatures in the The Alabama Hills soar to over 100 degrees, Chicken Ranch provides a great escape for those looking for a day of clipping bolts. This formation is at an elevation of nearly 9000 feet. That, in addition to being northwest facing, the crag stays in the shade for the good part of the day. The approach is a bit rough and very steep with a faint trail, if you can find it, but it stays in the shade of huge pine trees. Note: I'll do my best to describe the approach in the "How To Get There Section." The approach to Chicken Ranch may be a bit confusing the first time, but when you get there the views become breathtaking. You have the typical Sierra forest below your feet and the granite walls above them. The view of the all time awe-inspiring Whitney Portal Buttress across the valley becomes something to behold.
Whitney Portal Buttress seen from the base of Chicken Ranch
Chicken Ranch is mostly about slab climbing on solid granite rock. Most routes are bolted and they have their own anchors. Some of the routes require supplemental gear for protection. Bring a rack starting with the smallest nuts to a five inch cam. Many of the routes are pretty long and some require two raps to get down. A few of the routes are two pitches long. Looking at the 5.10 ratings on most of the routes gives you a feeling that this is an area for moderate level climbing. Don't let that fool you. This is no Owns Gorge. Unless you are a friction master, Chicken Ranch can be a serious area. All you need to do is to look at the names of the climbers who did most of the work to develop this area. To name just two of the climbers, Johnny Woodward and Rob Raker with international reputation.
Note: For full description of Snow Plants by Mountaingazelle click on the link: Snow Plants
Select Routes of Chicken Ranch
Dinty Moore, 5.8, standard rack, wide pro, anchor
Stop Me Before I drill Again, 10a, two pitches, bolts, anchor
Are We There Yet?, 10c, bolts and small gear, long pitch to anchor
Mulligan Stew, 10b, two pitches, bolts, anchor
Castaway, 10c, bolts, anchor
Stand And Deliver, 10b, bolts, anchor
Blackened Chicken, 10d, bolts and gear, anchor
Runnin With Kid's Scissors, 10b, bolts and small pro, anchor
How to get there
View from the base
From the town of Lone Pine on Highway 395, California, take the Whitney Portal Road at the only traffic light in town. Drive some thirteen miles to Whitney Portal. You will find the trailhead for Mount Whitney and a pond here. From the lower parking lot and across from the pond you will find a wooden bridge across Lone Pine Creek. Cross the creek and walk to a very large log lying on its side in a small clearing. This log will be your landmark for your return to the bridge.
From the log try to pick out a very faint trail going up a steep hillside paralleling the creek. After about fifteen minutes you will come to a steel pipe and a natural spring with a plaque mounted onto a rock. After the spring, head up and left toward the rock walls to your left. After reaching the rock wall, you need to use your imagination as to where Chicken Ranch may be. If you are by some very steep and convoluted walls you are still too low. Hug the rocks and head further up the hill until you see the continuous slabs of rock. Look for the pedestal as seen on the photos on this page.
Although many parties camp within the parking areas of the Alabama Hills, this practice is highly discouraged. The area suffers from mismanaged campsites and blackened caves. There are two campgrounds very close to the Alabama Hills. Lone Pine Campground is further up the road on Whitney Portal Road, and Tuttle Creek Campground is within a few miles up Horseshoe Meadow Road.
If you don't mind driving another fifty miles, there are many campgrounds along Bishop Creek just to the west of Bishop. There are also many places in The Buttermilks area that are close to a creek that are suitable for camping. Please do not camp in The Buttermilks bouldering area. That area is very crowded and is suffering from the impact unregulated camping has caused.
The following links should help finding a good campsite