Driving up Pine Creek Canyon Road, you are treated to some of most beautiful and breath-taking mountain views. The road winds up this narrow canyon next to Pine Creek lined by pine and willow trees. As you look up, you begin to see countless rock formations on both sides and you wonder if there are any established climbing routes on these rocks. The fact is that these formations have been here for millions of years and were noticed by climbers many years ago. In the mid 1990’s two of my climbing buddies and I drove up this canyon looking for a famous crack climb called “Pratt’s Crack” established in the late sixties. We found the climb inside a narrow gully near the end of the Pine Creek Road and did the approach. We were laser focused on the prominent Dihedral where Pratt’s Crack is located and walked right past Mustache Wall without so much as a glimps at it. It comes as no surprise to me that Mustache Wall wasn’t noticed and explored as a viable sport climbing area for decades.
The popularity of Mustache Wall did not happen by accident. This formation offers many sport routes in varying degrees of difficulty, mostly in the 5.11 range. In some places it reaches to a height of over 300 feet and embodies over twenty climbs. The formation is so long that the guide book has divided it up into three separate sections: left side, the middle and the right side.
When I was photographing it, I had a hard time fitting the whole formation into one frame. I finally divided the whole area into two sections and missed two climbs on the extreme left.
In addition to offering great sport climbing on granite rock, Mustache Wall, as well as any of the neighboring formations in this narrow slot canyon, is an ideal playground for summer climbing. This canyon is at the elevation of 7000 feet, and being north east facing, it stays in the shade almost all day. There is a running creek nearby to add to the experience.
Climbs of Mustache Wall
The history of climbing on Mustache Wall dates back to 1985 when Allan Bartlett established “Octoberfest, 10b” on the far left hand side. True to his principles, Allan used gear to do the first ascent of this climb. Needless to mention, sport climbing had already made its full impact on the sport of rock climbing at that time. However, the full potential of Mustache Wall was recognized and explored starting in 2004 when many sport routes were established on the entire virgin face. Even one of the routes on the left hand wall that climbs next to a crack has been bolted. The mindset behind bolting next to a crack could be that once someone does that in an area, then this practice becomes an accepted method and common place by the subsequent first ascenters. In the late 1990’s I noticed the first signs of bolts next to cracks on Ministry Wall a few walking minutes from Mustache Wall.
The difficulty level on Mustache Wall seems to run a fairly wide gammit. Except for a few 5.10s and 5.12s, the rest of the routes are in the 5.11 range. Thanks to the climbers and all the hard work that they put into safely bolting and creating great anchors on all the routes here, you are treated to one of the best sport climbing formations I have seen in the Eastern Sierras.
For those few climbers still not satisfied by Mustache Wall and looking for more 5.12s, they can always visit Gecko Wall or Ministry Wall only a short walk up the canyon from here.
Climbs of Mustache Wall, left side
|A||B-Gizzle, 10c, 7 bolts|
|B||Flame Thrower, 11d, 13 bolts|
|C||Dakota Street Bypass, 12a, 11bolts|
|D||Phenomena, 11b, 11 bolts|
Climbs of Mustache Wall, middle and right sides
|F||The Notorious B.E.G. 11c, 6 bolts|
|G||Coven, 11b, 12 bolts|
|H||Becky Route, 10a, 13 bolts|
|I||The Megaplex, 11c, 3 pitches, many bolts|
|J||Double Dog Dare, 11c, 13 bolts|
|K||Aromatic, 12d, 11 bolts|
|L||Stone Cold Fusion, 12a, 16 bolts|
|M||Window Shopper, 11c, 12 bolts|
|N||Super Grinder, 10d, 2 pitches, bolts|
|O||Sidecar, 10c, a gear climb, do the 1st pitch of Super Grinder, then jump on Sidecar|
|P||Mr. Ridiculous, 11a, 15 bolts|
|Q||Gala Jumble, 10d, 13 bolts|
Note: There are two more routes to the left of B-Gizzle that are not included in the photo or the table of the climbs.
Camping & Bishop weather
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
How to get there
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 one in particular 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 limbers’ parking area. The trail into the canyon is obvious and shouldn’t take more than ten minutes.
The very first formation you come to inside this slot canyon, also known as “ Pratt’s Crack Gully” is Mustach Wall and its on your left.
The views you are treated to on your drive up Pine Creek Road are breathtaking. If you are there during sring time and still lots of snow on the mountains, take a few minutes for a few photos. You will be happy to have them in twenty years.