Southern Alabama Hills Formations

Southern Alabama Hills Formations

California, United States, North America
Page Type Page Type: List
Additional Information County: Inyo
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Alabama Hills encompasses a large area in the outskirts of Mount Whitney and Lone Pine Peak. There are hundreds of rock formations within this large area. The largest concentration of the formations is on the north side. The purpose of this page is to list the southern formations that are scattered throughout the southern portion of Alabama Hills. I will be creating another page dedicated to the northern formations in the future.

Alabama Dome
Alabama Dome
You would be hard pressed to find another singular formation as impressive as Alabama Dome in the entire area. There are a few other formations, such as
Shark's Fin, that stand out more, and only on the sheer virtue of their location. There are, however, none that offer such majesty, depth and breath as Alabama Dome. The hulk of this dome dominates the entire area and it’s recognizable from a mile away.

Long before so many formations in the Alabama Hills were bolted into submission, Alabama Dome was explored for its climbing potential. The only reason for that was the fact that this formation stood out and impressed climbers of the day more than any other formation here.

In the early 1990’s, a few friends and I were alerted to a route on Alabama Dome called “Blockade Runner.” When we went to the base of this seemingly impossible north face, we found a line of bolts, a bolt ladder, running up the middle of it. The bolts were rusty 1/4 inch stone age type indicating that they were there for some time. We aided up the rusty old bolts, some with missing hangers, and set up a top rope. We were all able to free climb the route on top rope, but none of us was willing to trust the old bolts to lead the route.
Arizona Dome
Early morning sun on...

This beautiful formation could have easily been named Arizona Spearhead. It has a sharp triangular shape with a narrow tip. Although this formation is very close to some very popular and sought after formations such as Alabama Dome, it doesn't seem to get nearly as much attention and foot traffic as it deserves. One of the reasons could be because you cannot belay from the bumper of your car, or that you have to climb over a rancher's fence past a locked gate to get to it. In any event, Arizona Dome is one formation that offers a degree of seclusion that many climbers look for.
Earthday Dome
Southeast shoulder
Considering the number of movies that have been made around the rock formations in the Alabama Hills, it's easy to forget that there is a lot more to this area than the famous and popular Movie Road. In fact, a very large portion of the Alabama Hills lies on the south side of Whitney Portal Road, and somewhat isolated from the main areas. On the south side of the Whitney Portal Road we have the Gunga Din Area that includes, Alabama Dome, Temple of Kali, Rocky Top and Peter Gabriel Cliff. Further to the south we have the The Candy Sore with all of its short moderate routes. Then even further to the southwest and removed from the rest, we have Whitney Cave with a gate and a ranch road leading to it. Even more isolated from the rest, with no roads leading to it, is Earthday Dome
Whitney Cave
looking out of the cave
You may wonder what a cave may have to do with the sport of rock climbing. Well, the cave itself has nothing to do with climbing. As I stated in my route page for Capricorn Wall, long before Whitney Cave was explored for its potential as a climbing area, it was used for partying by the local youths. Although this cave is in the outskirts of (Lone Pine Peak), Whitney Cave seems much more befitting, and the early climbing pioneers decided to keep the name.
Typical to many Alabama Hills formations, Whitney Cave area consists of about half a dozen very large boulders and several smaller ones. When these huge boulders rest against each other for support, you end up with empty spaces that we call caves. The rocks are granite and quite different from Limestone that one expects to see in a typical cave. Bottom line, there are no real caves here.
Peter Gabriel Cliff
Peter Gabriel Cliff
Amongst several dozen movies produced using the Alabama Hills rock formations and backdrop of the high Sierras, one stands out most prominently. That movie is Gunga Din, produced in 1938. The area known as Gunga Din was used extensively in production of that movie and the passage of time has not allowed this association to fade into obscurity.

The entire Gunga Din area is surrounded by rock formations such as Rocky Top and Temple of Kali. Peter Gabriel Cliff is a sixty foot formation a short distance down the hill from the main Gunga Din area. Although the largest rock formation in the area, Rocky Top, was explored and climbed as early as the mid 1980s, Peter Gabriel Cliff was ignored for its climbing potential for decades. During the 1990s and 2000s a new burst of energy was put into developing many of the Alabama Hills formations including the subject of this page, Peter Gabriel Cliff.
Candy Store
The Candy Store boulders and Inyo Mountains in the background
I don’t know how this area came to be known as Candy Store, but I couldn’t think of a more appropriate name for it than just that. Candy Store is comprised of a grouping of boulders and rock formations ranging in height from a few feet to about thirty five feet. As climbers, you feel like you are in a candy store sampling one or two of every sweet morsel in the store. The routes are short and bolted, so you can do several in a short span of time. If you end up liking the taste, stay for hours and gorge yourself.

The routes on Candy Store may be short, but not by any means all easy. You can find lead routes up to 10d and toprope routes up to 11c. There are also several routes in the 5.7 to 5.9 range to make your visit as pleasant as possible. The names of the formations are enough to make your mouth water. For example, you have Lollipop, Milky Way, Baby Ruth and Rock Candy to name a few. The names of the routes are just as sweet as the names of the boulders.
Temple of Kali
Temple of Kali

Routes of Temple of Kali
1Kali Sacrifice, 10a, bolts, anchor
2Kew, 10a, bolts, anchor
3Wildest Dreams, 10a, bolts, anchor
Rocky Top
Rock Top
I have written about the Gunga Din area in the past, however, I deem necessary to explain where the name came from. Gunga Din is the name of a water boy in India during the British Colonial occupation. A movie by this name was released in 1939 and the area now known as Gunga Din was a major staging ground and it was used extensively used throughout the movie. Gunga Din area resembles a large amphitheater surrounded by dramatic rock formations such as Temple of Kali and Peter Gabriel Cliff. Other noteworthy formations in the vicinity of Gunga Din are the mighty Alabama Dome to the north, and The Candy Sore to the west.
The penguins
The Penguin Formations
If you're looking for a good place in A-Hills for winter time climbing, here's a new set of south facing formations that were developed in 2009 by Em Holland, Dave Daly and the late Brutus Of Wyde. Of course, if you're a frequent flyer of Alabama Hills climbing, you know that most of the formations that face north own the best rock quality. Fear not, these lofty formations yield good rock and plenty of warm sunlight! And with most places in the Hills, the approach is only a pebbles throw away.
Southern Blonde
Just before sunset
There are three established routes on the main formation two of which I have selected for this page. The third one requires gear placement and it is runout, meaning that the distance between bolts are a bit too far for comfort. The two sport routes are well-bolted and have their own two-bolt anchors. For more ambitious climbers looking to get every single route in the Alabama Hills area under their belt, there are two more routes much higher up the hill from Southern Blonde's main formation. I have never been to these two routes but looking from a distance, you need to do a lot more route finding and scrambling to get to their base. If you happen to have first hand information about these two routes, please add it to the "Additions & Corrections" of this page.
Capricorn Wall
North Face
Long before it was recognized for its potential as a rock climbing area, Whitney Cave was used by the locals for hanging out and partying. Typical of many of the many convoluted formations in the Alabama Hills, Whitney Cave offers one of the best natural caves in the area. The cave isn’t very large, but I have no doubt it will accomodate at least two dozen partiers.



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