In 2012, a friend from the PCT told me about some slot canyons he’d been to north of Mono Lake- but knowing California’s geography, it was hard to imagine anything dramatic in the barren hills of the Mono Basin.

This past Thanksgiving, we took a roadtrip down the Eastern Sierras, and thanks to Galina’s recovering shoulder we were more focused on sightseeing than climbing.  Given that the weather barely crept above freezing in Bishop, we ended up getting lucky, as it gave us time to check out some sights that we’d never had time to visit when rushing to a crag or pinnacle.

A bit of online Sleuthing revealed a helpful site about the Black Point Fissures, volcanic slot canyons just 20 minutes from US395. We checked out the site, cross-referenced with Google Maps, and drove out.

There is no trail to the fissures, and no helpful map- and I’m sure there’s plenty more fissures that we didn’t discover.  Unlike the rocks and spires we usually seek out, these things don’t stand out from the surroundings- instead, you have to carefully scan the surroundings for unexpected wrinkles or gaps in foliage, then check whether you’ve found a fissure.

View of slot canyon
Galina, excited to be chimneying again in the Black Point Fissures

We had luck scoping out the area from Black Point’s high point and looking for curious folds; in hindsight I’d also recommend walking from the parking lot to the cliff band that emerges along the south flank of Black Point, then walking in along the fissures (Strava route here).

Notes on driving:  Some of the dirt roads near the Fissures are not on Google Maps. I would recommend using the linked driving directions rather than relying on digital maps- fortunately, there aren’t too many wrong turns that you could take in this area.  It took us about 20 minutes to get from US395 to the parking lot.

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