A few blissful days went by like that before a strange atmosphere settled between the boulders. No more gathering around the first pile of crash pads that came along, you could barely talk to other climbers without feeling a little uneasy. As soon as another group would drop their stuff close to us, some excuse would come up and we would subtly slip away to avoid any contact. A silence that would normally be welcomed with pleasure began to stifle a trip that was meant to be simple and light-hearted. A state of emergency had just been declared in the United States and Canada. Calls to return home were becoming increasingly urgent, social media was rapidly turning into a battlefield, and the news was getting worse every day. Overnight, Bishop almost completely emptied. Despite all the articles in outdoor magazines denouncing the influx of climbers to the country's major climbing sites, the parking lots that were overflowing when we arrived were now home to only a handful of cars each day. The confinement, which may have initially been seen as an ideal holiday opportunity for some was obviously taken seriously. Even our friends, who were meant to continue travelling for several more months, decided to shorten their adventure and return to Quebec as quickly as possible. So what were we still doing there?
"A silence that would normally be welcomed with pleasure began to stifle a trip that was meant to be simple and light-hearted."
That's a good question. We asked it almost every day. It's important to note that "normal" life continued much longer in Bishop than in Quebec or in the more urbanized areas of California. There were no reported cases of coronavirus in our county or in any of the surrounding counties, and the locals did not seem to care much about the emergency measures in place. Despite the gradual disappearance of the climbers, the town of Bishop had not changed much. Of course, we tried to reduce our visits to town to the essentials, practice social distancing and not take unnecessary risks when we climbed, but as long as our planned return to Quebec was not in question, a hasty departure seemed exaggerated.