Cyanide Cliff is the name of a formation in the Pratt's Crack Area in the Pine Creek Valley of Sierra Nevada Range, California.
The name Cyanide evokes poison and chemicals that are generally known to be bad and dangerous. The fact is that this area was extensively used to mine tungsten in the decades passed. Even to this day, some minor ruins of the mining activity remains on the base of this cliff. Not being a chemist or a miner, I can only imagine the extent of scary chemicals that were used for this mining activity. Nowadays, however, there is no mining activity in this immediate area and the cliff seems environmentally safe for climbing.
From the town of Bishop, California, drive about ten miles north on highway 395 to its intersection with Pine Creek Road & Rovana. Take this exit and continue west on Pine Creek Road past the town of Rovana for about 7.6 miles. You will see many rock formations to your right and a canyon that is very narrow and steep. Drive a bit further till you come to a dirt road. Turn right on this road, then take another sharp turn to the right. This short and rough dirt road will quickly take you to the climbers’ parking area. The trail into the canyon is obvious and shouldn’t take more than ten minutes. Cyanide Cliff is the low angle formations on the left side before you enter the narrow canyon and it's clearly visible from the parking.
The views you are treated to on your drive up Pine Creek Road are breathtaking. Take a few minutes for a few photos. You will be happy to have them in twenty years.
At the elevation of 7000 feet, Cyanide Cliff is located just outside of the steep and narrow gorge where most of the climbing activity takes place. The major formations inside the gorge include Ministry Wall, Rites Buttress and Mustache Wall. These walls are all steep and climbing on them of a higher degree of difficulty. Cyanide Cliff, on the other hand, is generally lower angle and includes a few more moderate routes. The easiest route on this cliff is called Mystery Novel" and is rated 5.3 which is very unique to the area. The best route for the intermediate climber is also one of the best on this cliff. This route is called "Triple Jeopardy" and is rated 5.9. Most of the routes are rather long. Bring two ropes to rappel.
Being situated part way up a steep hill clearly visible from the climbers parking lot, Cyanide Cliff often goes without much attention. Most climbers visiting this area head for the formations located inside of the gorge. This cliff, however, has much more to offer than it gets credit for. Cyanide Cliff is south facing and gets the warm rays of sun all day long for those early-season visitors to this area. This cliff is also the first formation to lose its snow after a snowfall.
List of the select routes
Select routes of Cyanide Cliff
|A||My Dirty Secret, 10c, bolts, Standard Rack, pro to 3.5"|
|B||My Novel, 5.3, Standard Rack|
|C||Triple Jeopardy, 5.9, Standard Rack|
There is one primitive campground with a few campsites across from the slot canyon. However, there are many more developed campgrounds in the vicinity of Bishop to the south and in the Rock Creek Canyon further north of here.
The following links should help finding a good campsite:
Horton Creek Campground
Rock Creek Canyon
Inyo National Forest
Bishop Creek and vicinity camping