Northern Alabama Hills Formations

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Northern Alabama Hills Formations
Created On: Oct 16, 2012
Last Edited On: Oct 25, 2012
Alabama Hills encompasses a large area on the outskirts of Mount Whitney and Lone Pine Peak in the Sierra Nevada Range, California. There are hundreds of rock formations within this large area. I have posted a list of the formations in the southern part of this area in the past. This page is dedicated to the northern formations. Needless to mention that this list is by no means complete. My hope is to add more formations to this list in the future.
Cattle Pocket
North east face of Cattle Pocket
You may have seen countless old black and white movies with cowboys on horse backs riding amongst rounded rock formations with majestic views of Mount Whitney in the background. These rock formations are in a vast area known as Alabama Hills. Cattle Pocket is where the movie companies corralled their horses and cattle between scenes. Cattle Pocket itself is a broad flat area surrounded by rock formations with only a couple of escape routes, if you are of the four-legged variety, of course. Nowadays, however, there are no signs of horses and cattles anywhere near the area. The rock formations known as Cattle Pocket were named after the general area, although they are located a few hundred feet before reaching the actual pocket itself.
Hoodgie Wall
Select routes of Hoodgie Wall
The best route of the entire formation is a solid 5.8 called Ankles Away on the left side of the main wall. The main difficulty comes in the middle of the first half of the route. Past this crux, between the third and the fourth bolts, you will have many great holds and ample bolts to clip all the way to the top and the anchor bolts. On the right side of the main face there is another bolted route called Hoodgie, rated 5.7. Be forewarned, regardless of the low rating climbing this route is risky. The entire route has only four bolts, with the first one so high off the deck it's hard to see from the bottom. You do not want to lose it on this route. If you are dying to do a crack route, there is one of those here too. A wide crack separates the main face from the satellite formation. Considering the rough nature of the rock here, I would not recommend this crack route.
Shark's Fin
Bambi vs Godzilla
With a perfectly befitting name like "Shark's Fin," this Rock is one of the most prominent formations in all of Alabama Hills. Shark's Fin is also the first formation you come to as you turn onto Movie Road. There are several routes on this rock to keep a group busy for a few hours. The views of Lone Pine Peak and Mount Whitney group are simply breathtaking.
Paul's Paradise
Paul s Paradise, lower tier
Not sure how this rock came to be known as Paul's paradise, but I can see why it became his paradise. This is a two tier formation that seems to get more than its share of popularity. The lower tier sports an enticing overhang to a steep face. Just to the right of the overhang, you will find a fine crack that requires gear to protect. The main features of the upper tier are two 5.7 sport routes that get the lion's share of the popularity.
Truffel Tower
Truffle Tower
Truffle Tower is a part of the northernmost grouping of rock formations along Movie Road. It consists of two side by side formations with the larger of the two looking like a true tower. The smaller of the two formations seems to get over-shadowed by the larger one, hence you hardly ever see much activity on it. The larger of the two, however, is extremely popular and gets most of the traffic. All the attention is due to one climb by the name Mon Cherie, rated 5.9. It ascends a line of red painted bolts up the middle of a flawless face. The route begins on low angle rock that gradually steepens to a crux move near the top and a welcome set of anchor bolts near the top of the tower. If you are short, you may find the crux harder than 5.9. There are a few much better handholds on the right to help you get past the crux of Mon Cherie. For a number of years climbers top roped the face to the right of Mon Cherie, Escargot, rated 5.8, using Mon Cherie's anchor. On my last visit to the area I noticed that the face was also bolted with its own anchor bolts and ready to be done on lead. Thank you guys for doing all this work. Finally, if you think these routes are all too soft, you can give this new route a try, Metro, rated 10d on the extreme left side of the smaller formation.
Elephant Rock & Leaning Tower of Pizza
Elephant Rock on the left and...
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.
Lost Eye To The Moon
Lost Eye to the Moon
Once the climbing potential on Lost Eye to the Moon was recognized, several routes on its east face were established. These routes are all bolted and have their own anchors. If you are looking for difficult and steep climbing, you may want to visit the routes on the inside of The Corridors. Lost Eye to the Moon is for beginners and out of shape climbers. The routes' difficulty range from 5.1 to 5.7. The easiest routes are on the left side and they get progressively more difficult on steeper rock on the right side. There is even a two-pitch route on the right side, named Eye For An Eye. The first pitch goes as 5.6 and the well-bolted second pitch goes as 5.7.
The Hideout
East Face of  The Hideout
As I mentioned previously, you may be forced to hike to The Hideout because of a badly rutted dirt road. It should come as no surprise that you see much more when you walk. I had no idea how complex The Hideout area really was till I hike the approach. One of the first formations you come to is an overhanging face and a dihedral to its left. I would like to think that this impossible-looking face would trigger the curiosity of of some young super climber in the future. The Alabama Hills deserves to have a few high level routes. Walking further hugging the west facing formations you will come to a large block atop another small boulder. Two of the original routes are on this boulder. Walking further you will pass by the two towers mentioned in this page. Walking further and going right around the formation you will eventually come to the two very original routes established in this area. The route on the left starts from the ground with a rather bouldery move on good holds. This route is known as Power Play, originally rated 5.9 is now up grated to 10a. The one on the right is a face route on loose flakes known as Whippersnapper, rated 5.8 and starts from the top of a boulder.
The Corridors, East End
The Corridors, East End
The history of route development in the Corridors area dates back to the late 1980s, may be even earlier. The first time I noticed the signs of climbing on this formation was in the early 2000s when there were only three established routes; Trevor's Crack, El Chato and Glass Bead Game. I didn't know the names of these routes until a few years later when the first guide book to the area came out. When I returned to this formation in 2009, I was surprised to see nearly a dozen side by side bolted routes on it. I can see the attraction for this formation. Approach time is zero as you can drive your car to touch your bumper to the rock itself. There is a huge parking area. The base is perfectly flat and the rock is in the sun for better part of the day making it a great place to climb during the cold seasons. Finally, there are a good number of easy to moderate routes for a big party with different ability levels.
Nut Towers
Nut Towers seen from the base of Tall Wall
Most climbers who drive up to this area come to climb on the Tall Wall or the Western Wall. Nut Towers look very insignificant seen from the parking area. These towers, however, present a good number of short moderate routes that are perfect for beginner leads, or for the end of the day warm down. But, if you are in the mood for a bit of a higher difficulty level climbs, you can find a couple here. The two routes are on the attached formation to the Walnut Tower. The left one is "Sweet Poison, 10a" and the one on the right is "Hangman's Knot, 10d." Walk a few feet up the hill and climb three side-by-side 5.9 routes to get a taste of Pistachio Tower. These towers are, more or less, north facing and great for spring season climbing. The routes all either have their own anchors or share anchors with the nearby climbs.
Sunday Matinee Wall
No more votes for this photo please, thank you
It is with a certain amount of hesitation and embarrassment that I write about this formation since I have criticized the over bolting that has occurred. On my last two trips to the Cattle Pocket area I noticed a number of people climbing and enjoying this formation. The climbers I met were friendly and offered me a ride on their ropes which I gladly accepted. Therefore, my thinking is, if this rock is going to be popular with climbers, then may be, it deserves to have a page on Summitpost.
Poodle Wall
Poodle Wall
Select routes of Oz
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.
Nice Tower
The effort you put into getting to the base, however, is well-rewarded by getting to look at the tower close up and the way it pierces the sky. Nice Tower has a narrow profile, it's steep and well-featured. Typical of many north facing formations in the Alabama Hills, this Granite face has a redish tint and it's coarse. The sharp handholds may dig into your fingers, but they also dig into the rubber soles of your shoes. Being a narrow formation, Nice Tower offers only two bolted routes. These two routes share the same anchor and parallel each other for most of the way up the tower. The bolted line on the left is Full Moon, rated 10b. It climbs past a small roof to easier climbing and the anchor. The bolted line on the right is Friday The 13th, rated 5.9, and it climbs past a crux section low on the route to much easier climbing before joining Full Moon and the top anchor.
Schmaltz Rock
Select Routes
The Ghost is an interesting area in that it's well-hidden in plain sight. Leaving the Movie Flat Road, you find yourself in a maze of narrow dirt roads, only one of which leads to this area. Upon entering The Ghost area you are struck by the number and complexity of rock formations and rock towers. Most of these rock towers are very difficult or, in many cases, impossible to access. Yet, a number of formations close to the road are developed for sport climbing.
Pillar of Thoth
Pillar of Thoth
Straight out of the Egyptian mythology, Thoth is depicted as the figure of a man with the head of an ibis holding a staff and a key. As an ancient deity, Thoth was believed to be God of knowledge and wisdom. Aside from myths and history, the area known as The Ghost is a gift that keeps on giving. There are famous formations here such as Elephant Rock, Leaning Tower of Pizza and Nice Tower. A very close neighbor of Schmaltz Rock, Pillar of Thoth stands alone and is prominent in its own right.

Northern Alabama Hills Formations

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