OverviewAlabama Hills on the outskirts of Mount Whitney in the Sierra Nevada Range, California.
It is reasonable to assume that a great number of the people of the world have seen the movie "Wizard of Oz." We all know "Dorothy," the young girl from Kansas who had to travel a great distance to meet Wizard of Oz. Stories and fantasies aside, in contrast to most Alabama Hills formations, you need to travel a bit of distance to the formation named Oz. Unless you have a 4-wheel drive, or a car with very high clearance, you will find yourself having to travel on foot to get to this unusual but intriguing chunk of rock.
Oz is a huge cube made of quartz monzonite granite sitting alone on a hillside with no other formations in its vicinity to challenge its presence. Although the west face and the south face of Oz are covered by huge boulders and the hillside, the north face and the east face are clean and vertical. These are the two faces that are visible from the approach trail. The cubic shape of the rock is striking and leaves no doubt you have arrived at the right formation.
Topo of Select Routes
Most of the Alabama Hills rocks are very grainy and rough to the touch. Although Oz is made of the same rock type as the rest of the area, the east face of this formation is especially smooth and clean. The north face, however, seems to have the same feel as the rest of the area. You will find several vertical bolted face routes, as well as at least two crack climbs on these two faces. The face routes are generally fairly difficult, in the 5.11 range. There is, however, one route that will get your attention without pushing you well into 5.11 range. This is "Munchkin Land," rated 10d, on the north face of Oz. The most sought after and interesting route on the entire formation, in my humble opinion, follows the arete between the two faces. This is "Heartless," rated 10a, and it is protected by five bolts to reach its own double-bolt anchor on the top of the vertical section.
In contrast to most other Alabama Hills formations, Oz offers at least two crack routes. The two routes are more moderate in difficulty rating and offer a break from face climbing and clipping bolts. On the east face you will find "Dorothy's Crack," rated 5.9. This is a highly recommended route, but don't forget to tape up. The other crack route is located on the right side of the north face. This crack is not as clean as "Dorothy's Crack" but it's only 5.8 and may be worth doing. This is "Cowardly Line" and like most routes on Oz has its own double bolt anchor.
One of the ways to get a feel for steep face climbing, or just mastering the moves on some of the 5.11s, is to top rope the routes, and no other formation in the Alabama Hills provides that opportunity better than OZ. You can hike up the steep hill on the left side of the granite cube and eventually scramble on some rocks and boulders to reach the top of the formation. Look for double bolt anchors that you can use to rappel to the edge of the steep part of the rock and set up your top rope. You may find locking carabiners in the top anchors. It is highly recommended to leave those carabiners in place for the subsequent climbers.
List of select routes
select routes of Oz
|1||The Wizard, 10d, standard rack, pro to 3.5", bolts, anchor|
|2||Dorothy's Crack, 5.9, Standard Rack, pro to 3.5", anchor|
|3||Heartless, 10a, bolts, anchor|
|4||Munchkin Land, 10d, bolts, anchor|
|5||Flying Monkeys, 11b, bolts, anchor|
|6||Wicked Witch, 11a, bolts, anchor|
|7||Cowardly Line, 5.8. standard rack, pro to 2", anchor|
|8||Anchor bolts for lowering to the edge of the cliff|
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 Movie Road. Turn right onto the Movie Road. This road is paved for a short distance then it turns into a dirt road. Drive down this road for exactly three miles. You will see a dirt road intersecting this road from the right. Turn right here. If you have a low clearance car park as soon as you can. Walk three quarters of a mile to the rock. The shape of the rock is unmistakable. It's a cube seen from this road. If you have a high clearance car or a 4-wheel drive you can easily drive all the way to the rock.
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
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