Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Casa Diablo: Things to Consider

Casa Diablo is amazing.  The place meets pretty much every criteria for what makes a great area, from the beautiful setting and stable climate all the way to the amazing lines and abundance of quality rock.  But despite having so much going for it Casa Diablo will not appeal to most climbers.  Don't get me wrong,  there is certainly potential for mass appeal but I don't foresee the place getting crowded.  For that to happen a few adventurous spirits would have to take a shine to the area and lay the difficult groundwork that is generally needed before the majority of climbers dare to venture from pages of their guidebooks.

It is a bit presumptuous to think a rarely read climbing-blog could seriously impact an area but I actually have mixed feelings over "spraying" about Casa Diablo.  I'd hate to see it turn into the shit-show that other Bishop areas have become but after consideration I decided the only thing that would really do that is a guidebook after much development.  At this point underdevelopment and a lack a information will certainly keep Casa Diablo from getting crowded, but its proximity to Bishop and the quality problems could drum up some decent traffic in a few years.  Currently it will appeal to those kindred spirits that prefer a little adventure and enjoy the process of finding and developing problems.  So with those folks in mind here are some things to consider if you are thinking about checking the place out


  1. Not all the rock is good.  There is a lot of choss at Casa Diablo but the good rock is bullet and worth the effort.  Finding the gems can be the crux at times but the good stuff is very good.  Also, much of the rock falls in the "decent" category but if you take the time to clean it up you might just unearth a classic.
  2. General rock quality varies by area.  While pockets of good rock can be found all over there are certain areas that tend to have generally better rock than others.  I've found areas with boulders a bit more spread out are generally better quality.  Jumbles of massive boulders often have cool features but the rock requires more cleaning than I was willing to put in.
  3. It deserves more than a quick look.  My psych for Casa Diablo grew every day I spent there because I hiked and brushed a lot.  A couple of the best problems were missed on previous days and taking a second or a third look can often have a big payoff. 
  4. Be prepared to hike/scramble.  Finding the good stuff could require trudging around and while some of it is very close to the vehicle you'll be missing out if you aren't willing to go wander a bit.  Lazy people probably won't appreciate Casa Diablo and will be waiting for a guidebook that will hopefully never come.
  5. It's an easy hang.  Casa Diablo is easy to get to (type "Casa Diablo Mountain" in GoogleEarth/Maps) and is reachable in even a standard car.  Camping is free (public land), cell coverage is great and the view/setting is stunning.  It's worth noting that I always approached from the obvious parking to the west and the very last bit of road is quite steep.  
  6. I haven't seen it all.  I really tried to see as much of Casa Diablo as I could but I had limited time and often a kid (or two) in tow.  I've found some mega stuff but I haven't come close to seeing it all.  You never know what is still out there to find.
If anyone does take the time to check the place out I'd love to know what you think and hear about what new problems you put up.  Here are some more pictures from my time there.


Tooth Decay was one of my favorite moderates.  Techy with the holds and feet in just the right places for it to work.  I also added a sit-start from the big scoop at the bottom. 

Prairie was painfully close to doing Tooth Decay but always came up just short on the big crux move


This project is one of those that will require a lot of cleaning as the rock isn't great but will be manageable.  Usually I wouldn't bother but this one was so beautiful it could be worth the effort. 

Tom and I did a few "filler" problems near the Mega-Boulder and they cleaned up nice.  Here is one of them

This boulder had beautiful patina and I originally thought the middle line would be a classic warm-up.  It ended up being harder than I thought and is now a classic moderate I called Mi Casa.  I also did a sweet one to the right and there are two to the left I didn't get around to. 

The problem to the right which I called Tu Casa

I stumbled upon this boulder after already exploring the same area on previous days. Crazy how I somehow missed this one and shows the importance of being thorough in your exploration.  The arete is one an awesome moderate I called Hell Freezes Over and there are a couple things on this boulder I'd love to get back to.

The Devil Wears Prana is probably the hardest thing I put up in Casa Diablo.  I even stayed an extra day just to do this and my many attempts are probably the reason I couldn't muster doing the awesome arete on the Mega-Boulder.  All in all I'd say it was worth it as this thing was pretty sweet.

This shot of The Devil Wears Prana gives you a better idea of the problems.  First you tackle a big "Huecoesque" roof with the help of two knee-bars before busting out to some bad slopers.  The crux is the end and took quite a bit of refining before I could put it together.


6 comments:

Micah Bryan Humphrey said...

Walker, awesome last few posts about the Casa. I lived in Bishop for a couple of seasons and heard whispers of this place but never went. I'm curious, is this the zone that you can see when you head out of town going south on 395? In any event, glad to see that the ole girl still has some secrets up her sleeve. Looks like another Druid Stones. Great work!

walkerkearney said...

It's north of town and you can see the place from the Buttermilks. If you drive like you're going to the upper parking to the Sad Boulders you just stay on that dirt road (actually called Casa Diablo Road) until you see the giant hunks of granite. There are some sport routes out there but I reckon the bouldering development has been limited, particularly on the high end. The rock is a bit more like the Druids than the Milks.

Ralfi said...

Dear Walker,
I see and fully understand your misgivings to spread the word about a new area. On the one hand some developments in recent years are alarming, on the other hand our sport is attracting more and more folks. Where to put all the gym rats that push outdoors?
Even pioneers sometimes need an initial hint. I'm very happy and thankful with your disclosure as I will have the opportunity to be in Bishop soon and hopefully get the chance to give Casa Diabolo a try. With pleasure I will document my outcomes and forward them to you. But please do not expect too much, as we are barely capable to add more than a few easy problems. But probably those lines contribute most to inspire other pioneers, as not everybody is crushing double digits.
Thanks again, you made me curious and psyched.
Ralf

walkerkearney said...

Hey Ralf

Glad I could pique your interest and provide a little motivation. It's really nice out there and there are great moderate and easy problems to do. For lower-end stuff that's not too tall and good landings I'd recommend the area surrounding The Devil Wears Prana. Also the sector around Tooth Decay could suit you as well. Honestly, you could find stuff everywhere but those places will provide good development in the low end. Let me know how it goes and happy hunting.

wk

Shannon Vallejo said...

I for one really appreciate these posts you've written (my buddy Justin sent them to me). I live here, and the continually growing scene at the main areas has been sending us more and more to some of these obscure outliers. I haven't done much development yet, but I do love hiking and exploring, so we will definitely be checking this out soon -- thank you, thank you for sharing! I also truly don't think you need to worry much about places like this getting big unless they end up in a guidebook.

Ralfi said...

Dear Walker,
As announced we had the pleasure to be in Bishop this spring. Unfortunately things went pretty poor and we did not get the chance to visit Casa Diabolo Mountain. I had a big mouth and now I'm empty-handed. I just want to give this short feedback and promise to keep this area in my mind for the next time.
Happy sends
Ralf