Elephant Rock and Leaning Tower of Pizza are two side-by-side formations in an area known as "The Ghosts" in the Alabama Hills on the outskirts of Mount Whitney in the Sierra Nevada Range, California.
According to the to the original guide book by the late climbing icon, Mike Strassman, who developed many of the routes in the Alabama Hills, the Ghosts area was used for target practice for decades before climbers arrived here. The area had been littered by bullet casings, spent shotgun shells and broken glass. The only thing that intrigued the climbers was a rock formation resembling the trunk of an elephant drinking imaginary water, thus Elephant Rock was named. Mike Strassman and friends cleaned this rather large area and went onto the business of developing routes. According to Mike Strassman, the bullet scars on the elephant's trunk made it possible for a route to be established on it. Truth be told, I have never dared to try this short but steep route.
Elephant Rock and Leaning Tower of Pizza Topos
Between Elephant Rock, Leaning Tower of Pizza and a few more rock formations behind or next to them, there are plenty of routes to keep a party occupied for greater part of a day. You can find the easiest routes on the low angle side of Leaning Tower of Pizza. The one on the left is Deep Dish, rated 5.6, and the one on the right is Panzarotti, rated 5.7. You have to love friction climbing for Panzarotti since you will not find many positive holds on this route. You are palming sloping holds above you while your feet are smearing the friction bellow. I have never liked friction climbing and I could have lost my nerve on this one. If you like dead vertical rock with positive holds, just go around the corner to the west side of Leaning Tower of Pizza and climb this bolted face called "Spicy Pizza," rated 10d.
Climbing the trunk of the Elephant Rock may not be the most enjoyable route you've ever done, but you can find two gems on this formation. The first one is Rama-Lama-Ding-Dong, rated 10a. This climb is on the formation behind and stuck to the east side of Elephant Rock. The other great climb is to the right of the trunk and starts on a chimney partially separating Elephant Rock from the formation behind it. This is My Pink Elephant Has Become My White Elephant, rated 10b. You do not need to climb this route as a chimney. This is a bolted face with its own anchor, but be careful not to pitch too far back in case of a fall.
List of the routes
Elephant Rock & Leaning Tower of Pizza
|1||Rama-Lama-Ding-Dong, 10a, bolts, anchor|
|2||Elephant Hunting, 10b, bolts, anchor|
|3||My Pink Elephant Has Becom My White Elephant, 10b, bolts, anchor|
|4||Deep Dish, 5.6, bolts, anchor|
|5||Panzarotti, 5.7, bolts, anchor|
|6||Spicy Pizza, 10d, bolts, anchor|
How to get there
From the town of Lone Pine, California, on Highway 395 take Whitney Portal Road at the only traffic light in town. Drive 2.7 miles west on this road to intersect Move Road. Turn right onto the Movie Road. This road is paved for a short distance then it turns into a dirt road. The first dirt road to intersect the Movie Road heads for Shark's Fin. Drive about a mile to where Movie Road makes a sweeping turn to the right. Just before reaching this turn you will see a dirt road intersecting from the left. Take this dirt road. Drive a short distance to another dirt road from the left. Go left on this one as well. If you end up by Tall Wall, The Western Wall and Nut Towers you have not taken the correct left turn on your way to the Ghosts area. Looking from the Movie Road, the Ghosts area is to the left of the Tall Wall and Western Wall area. You need to back track and take the correct left turn. There is a large parking area here and it's almost surrounded by rack formations. Looking across the wash, Elephant Rock is obvious. Please use the trails marked by small stones and rocks to reach to formations.
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
Horton Creek Campground
Rock Creek Canyon
Inyo National Forest
Bishop Creek and vicinity camping