In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, it’s hard to believe that just three weeks ago we were gathering over one-hundred members of our community for a climbing movie night and fundraiser. Today, the crags are all but empty.
If you’ve been to Bishop on a weekend recently—whether you’re in the Tablelands, Buttermilks, or Gorge—you know one thing: it’s packed. Take January 18, the start of Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend. The climbing rangers counted 92 cars at the Happy Boulders. What about February 15, Presidents' Day weekend? Two hundred cars at the Buttermilks main parking area. And as recently as March 13, climbing rangers counted 46 cars at the Central Gorge parking lot. Which is why, on March 19, as California was preparing for a statewide shelter-in-place order, the Bishop Area Climbers Coalition (BACC)asked climbers for one simple thing: “Please do not travel for climbing recreation at this time.” This message was echoed by the American Alpine Club, who expressed concern for “rural or gateway communities” like Bishop, Fayetteville, Moab, Springdale, and Slade.
At the same time, local frustration in Bishop was growing. There were a few reported instances of climbers being confronted in parking lots by angry locals who cited limited medical facilities and diminished resources as reasons to get out—now.
By March 21, just two days after sharing our “please stay away” message, the BACC's Facebook post had reached over 23,000 people, despite our page having only 1,500 followers. And so we decided to count cars again. We rallied to the most popular parking lots and were stunned by what we found. The Gorge? 17 cars. Buttermilks? 11. And the Happy Boulders? Just three cars.
So thank you, climbers, for protecting our small, rural community. Together, we are better. And once this passes, as we know it will, we’ll welcome you back to Bishop with open arms.
The Bishop Area Climbers Coalition is a volunteer-run 501(C)(3) Non-profit organization that serves as a unified voice for climbers to support the bishop, california area through stewardship, education, and community engagement. Learn more or donate here.