Interview by Outdoor Prolink Editorial Intern Sara Aranda. Sara likes to climb, trail run, travel and adventure. She comes from California but is making Boulder, Colorado her new home. Sara also works at Movement Climbing + Fitness in Boulder. Look for more blog posts and photos from Sara coming soon!
Matt Myers is the owner of The Hostel California in Bishop, CA.
“I didn’t know what I was going to do or how I was going to make it happen, I just knew I wanted to be in Bishop.”
A SoCal raised surfer, rock climber, and fly fisherman, Matt Myers (28) has chased barrels across Costa Rica, climbed in exotic places such as Cochamó and Valle de los Cóndores in Chile, and has been a car-living dirtbag-seeking-refuge in John Muir’s Range of Light. Climbing has been a part of his life for as long as he can remember, giving way to his taste for route development, where he has established dozens of sport routes in Frustration Creek, a neat little mountain crag near his hometown of Yucaipa, CA. Several years ago, he found himself backpacking across Central America, going from hostel to hostel, and the trip gave him inspiration for his return stateside.
“I had way more time than money…”
Bishop, CA is a climber and hiker paradise – a place sought out by hundreds of outdoorsmen and dirtbags alike. The Sierra Nevada looms over boulder piles, the Owens River Gorge, and spans of wanderlust-filled land that is considered one of the world’s largest calderas. Myers wanted to call this land home, and while sitting by a campfire, contemplating the directions of his life, the idea was planted. He opened up the only hostel in Bishop, which has become a haven for climbers, Pacific Crest Trail and John Muir Trail hikers, low-budget vacationers, and just folk who want to make friends and have a good time. In this interview learn more about his story, and how he came to achieve one of his greatest #dirtbagdreams.
So how long have you been an outdoor enthusiast?
As long as I can remember. I’m pretty sure I did my first top rope when I was 4-5 years old. My older brothers started climbing when they were in high school. They would take me out to Joshua Tree on the weekends and string up some top ropes on Cap Rock or Trash Can Rock, and that’s kind of where it all began – and it’s been quite the long road since. I like all kinds of climbing, and all kinds of backpacking. I really love fly fishing. I’ll take my backpack and go into the mountains, go fish a bunch, climb a few peaks maybe, just spend my life in the outdoors.
When did you first come up with the Hostel idea?
It was a dream that originated a long, long time ago. I first started thinking of doing a hostel back when I traveled Central America: Costa Rica, Panama, Nicaragua. I spent five months total within those three countries, and I loved everything about staying in hostels: the people you meet, the budget lifestyle. I didn’t have very much money at all to spend on hotels or anything, so hostels were the way to go. I honestly always thought I would do a hostel internationally, maybe a surf or climbing hostel in a different country. I did look in certain places in Chile, but nothing ever truly hit home, or really made perfect sense. Then a few years ago, I was looking through a real-estate guide in Bishop, because I wanted to live there – I didn’t know what I was going to do or how I was going to make it happen, I just knew I wanted to be in Bishop. So I saw this little property, not where the hostel is currently, but that’s when it hit me. I thought: this property is affordable, it’s downtown, I could probably start a little hostel. But it ended up not working out with the city at that location, and so I ended up finding the current location, which is a million times better. It’s such a rad house, and it really worked out for the best. It’s actually four times the size, so I have a pretty decent amount of space for people when they come to stay.
Tell me more about your motivation for your lifestyle choice.
The main driving force behind it is the pursuit of happiness. I just want to live a really fun and enjoyable life, and live life to the fullest. And I really believe that is NOT sitting behind a desk 9-5. Do what you truly love. This hostel has been super neat for me, as it has given me a huge opportunity to really embrace the lifestyle that I’m trying to [achieve]. Yeah, it’s a ton a work (I’m basically running an entire business by myself) so it’s not easy, but I don’t get that sickening feeling in my stomach like when I had to go to college, you know? There’s just so many neat and amazing people who come through the hostel, hundreds of high quality individuals. It’s just awesome how many like-minded people I’ve been able to meet, and friendships I’ve been able to develop since using the hostel as a vessel. Most of the people who come through the hostel are on vacation, and they’re in Bishop, so they’re super excited and just immediately happy, and here to have a good time. It just offers a really pleasant work and life environment. I like surrounding myself with people who are uplifting, loving, and enjoy life.
So I take it your business is going well then?
I feel that I couldn’t be happier. It’s amazing. I’ve had the opportunity to meet awesome climbers and been able to provide a service in the community. I offer showers as well, so people who are camping nearby can come and clean up while they’re in town. Otherwise it’s kind of hard to find a shower around here. I’ve also been able to meet several of my climbing heroes, as they’ve come and stayed here. I’ve developed some cool relationships with them, so that’s been amazing for me too.
Nice! Who are your climbing heroes?
Well, the climber I probably most look up to is Kevin Jorgeson. He’s a really amazing dude. He stayed with us, actually, before he went on his push for the Dawn Wall. He was here a couple of weeks before he actually sent, so that was really cool to hear his mentality behind it, how he was getting amped for his go. And he just stayed a couple of weeks ago again for a weekend, so it was amazing to hear the before and after of his experience on the Wall.
Have any other big-time climbers stayed with you?
Alex Megos has stayed here, probably over a month now, combined, if you’ve counted of all his days. He was staying with us when he climbed pretty much all of Bishop’s hard problems recently. So it was really cool to see his fingertips go from thrashed at night to magically awesome in the morning. I don’t know how he does it. Who else…Daniel Woods has stayed with us too. He was a really fun guy. We played a lot of ping-pong. And currently, we have Alex Puccio with us. She’ll be with us for about a week. It’s neat to have a lot of these big-name climbers come through. I hadn’t met a lot of famous climbers before, but they’re all super nice and down-to-earth people so it’s really refreshing. I wasn’t sure if they were going to be egotistical or something, but they’re actually really, really rad! I’m super happy about that. Now I just need Chris Sharma to pay me a visit!
Do you consider the hostel more of a “climber’s hostel”?
Well probably in climbing season, yeah. You walk in our door and you see a giant poster of El Cap free and tons of stoppers and ice axes on the walls, so it’s kind of the feel we have. But, no, we’re definitely dedicated to the whole umbrella of the outdoor adventurer, to the people that love the outdoors and the mountains. So, while climbers are our main clientele, we’re definitely super supportive of all hikers, backpackers, PCT hikers, John Muir Trail hikers, fly-fisherman, etcetera. It’s not just an exclusive climbing place.
“I will be forever loving towards PCT hikers, because they were there for me when I first opened my business.”
You opened your doors during PCT season last year, and I remember you offering specials for them. How did that go?
It went awesome. I will be forever loving towards PCT hikers, because they were there for me when I first opened my business. My first day open, I had a PCT thru-hiker named Zin-Dog come. He stayed for the first night and loved it, and as he was hiking back up Kearsarge Pass the next day, he told everyone else about the hostel. And so my second day open I was actually completely sold-out with all PCT hikers. And from that second day through the following two and a half months, I was 100% sold-out, with all PCT hikers. It was a really cool, rad experience. They showed up out of nowhere and I wasn’t truly ready for it, and so I basically learned how to run a hostel real quick.
“Everyone comes together to make the experience happen.”
Tell me more about the hostel itself now. What’s special about it?
Well I have eight rooms. They can become private or dorm rooms depending on the need. I always have two full dorm rooms, dedicated just as dorms. So, nice, private rooms are still available for people seeking privacy. We have super comfy beds, which is nice. Hmm, and what’s special is definitely the atmosphere. The good vibes. The enjoyment people have. I’m kind of using this as an excuse to create a climber’s paradise. I’m working really hard on making a rad garden, adding a Jacuzzi and some other things. We have a pretty extensive library, all of which you can check-out or do a book exchange. Plus we have a locked cabinet which has probably 40 different guidebooks in it, all of which are climbing and mountaineering related. So while you’re staying here if you’re going to go Red Rocks next or something, you can check out the book to Red Rocks and see what you want to climb when you get there.
We also have a really cool, full kitchen that everyone really enjoys. Full pots and pans, basic spices, there’s a communal shelf where there’s free food. So if you’re really on a budget, you can come here and get some food and it won’t cost anything. While you’re staying here, there’s a fridge, even a beer fridge, so you can store your food, cook in the house, and save a lot of money that way. Just a good overall experience, really. We also have a couple of boulder pads, some harnesses and climbing shoes for people who are coming through and might not have certain pieces of equipment. We can loan out these things, at no cost to them.
What’s a normal day at the hostel like?
A normal day definitely starts off with coffee, and that’s part of our service, we offer free coffee. But that’s where the day begins. Then it’s climbing – deciding where we’re going to go: Buttermilks, Happies, Owens River Gorge, Pine Creek. We play spin the bottle here in Bishop, so we spin the bottle in the morning and whichever way it lands, that’s the direction you go play that day. If it lands towards the Druids, you hike to the Druids.
Have you ever had issues with noise or rowdiness?
The only issue is that some people come here thinking they’re going to stay in a hotel. This is definitely not a hotel. On the weekends people are here having fun, playing games, drinking until midnight or two o’clock sometimes, and that’s the kind of crowd we’re appealing to. We’re a young person’s thing, we like to have fun on the weekends. So if you’re seeking solitude or trying to read a book at 9PM, this probably isn’t the right spot for you. But if you’re traveling alone or with a couple of friends and want to have a great time and meet like-minded people, this is definitely the spot. Tons of climbers from the hostel meet here and we all go out together, it’s fun. We do a bunch of group trips all the time – some people don’t have cars, or crash pads, so everyone comes together to make the experience happen. But yes, we’ve had one noise complaint, and that was because the subwoofers in the parking lot were rattling the windows of the library, so I guess that was acceptable.
I think you also once told me a story about seeing John Muir’s ghost, am I right?
Oh, you want me to tell you that story, huh? Well yeah, so, my first day here at the house, I spent the night alone. I was spending the night in the root cellar to the house, which dates back to 1884. In the middle of the night, I woke up and saw John Muir standing at the base of my bed. I screamed like a little girl, for a whole breath I screamed, then took in another big breath, and screamed again. A total chicken scream, and after that second scream he was still standing there. I just closed my eyes, and pretty much waited till morning to open them again. But the house has a cool energy, that’s for sure. It’s super old, and a lot of people have come through here. It was originally a hotel, started up by William Chalfant, who also started the Inyo Register, and was one of the main guys to fight for land and water conservation on the East Side, so it’s cool to know that this place has a lot of environmentalism history. And that’s why John Muir had been in the house, visiting. He came to help Chalfant fight Mulholland, and secure water rights here in Bishop, which they eventually lost.
That’s a neat history. Maybe he was here blessing your Hostel that night. Has he come back to see you?
Well, he has been known to say hi occasionally, not to me, but when people are all alone. Am I going to get a bunch of ghost hunters in my house now?
Alright, so we have this hashtag we want to promote, it’s called #dirtbagdreams. How would summarize what the Dirtbag Dream is, or what does that mean to you?
I think I may have just achieved my dirtbag dream, to be honest: making a life in Bishop, for the sole reason to climb and have fun. But really, for me, the dirtbag dream began before this, when I was spending months at a time living out of my car, in the Buttermilks or at the Alabama Hills. I had way more time than money. I was broke. I spent a lot of time thinking, a lot of time around the campfires, and I guess that’s where [my idea for the hostel] of came from too – this dirtbag dream, while I was dirtbagging it, sitting around the campfire. I was thinking, what am I going to do next? Where is my life going? The hostel was always in the back of my mind, I just didn’t realize I was going to be able to achieve it so soon.
Find out more about the Hostel from their website!
The Hostel California
213 Academy Ave, Bishop CA
“The stuff dreams are made of (and highball nightmares)…”
#climberslivehere #climbhigh #hostelcalifornia