Bishop Bouldering

Unfortunately I was unable to make a post after my last bishop trip due to the university work heating up, so I guess now that I’m in christmas break I’ll lump them together with what I remember of it. The first trip was merely for a weekend with a morning at the Buttermilks, and about a day at the Happy Boulders. The most recent trip was last weekend, lasted five days and saw us at the Happys for two days, and the Buttermilks for another two, and a day at Owens River Gorge. Generally the temps were pretty cold in the Buttermilks so many people didn’t climb a lot, and focused on setting a highline between the Peabody Boulders.

I shall first mention some of the things that were learnt on this trip (context shall not be provided):

  • Chapstick is a must for high altitude.
  • Even if your sleeping bag says 0 degrees F, bring a second/liner.
  • Hot springs are amazing, but getting in and out is not.
  • Everything outside of your sleeping bag will freeze. This includes baby wipes.
  • Bacon makes camping feel okay.
  • Smores are not simply heated marshmellows.
  • Anything embarrasing you do can and will be used against you.
  • Highlining is hard, and scary as high hell.
  • Climbing actually warms you up.
  • Dave Graham at the crag is like a kid in a toy store.

Trip 1 (Nov 20-22)

Our camping spot on the first trip.

So for the first trip I went with a bunch of friends from the wall at Davis university. Because we were camping at a spot a little past the buttermilks, coming down to climb was really easy, and we began at the Birthday Boulders. These have a nice V1, V3 and a V2 on the next boulder. They were in the shade which meant  that the rock was cold, but this wasn’t much issue.

A person pulling the long move on the V3 at the Birthday Boulders.

Next, we meandered through the boulders some lower down the hill, which had a supposed V5 which I couldn’t figure out the end too. After getting through the bottom which compressed between the arete and crimps, the holds dissapear and it appeared to be a committing slapfest to the top. I didn’t attempt it many times, as we had a long day ahead. We continued meandering, with a final destination of the Peabody Boulders.

The Peabody Boulers (left is Grandma, right is Grandpa).
The crew under the Grandpa Peabody face. This houses some of the hardest climbs in the world.

The Peabody boulders are the stuff of legend to any boulderer, with historic climbs like Evilution (V12) and Footprints (V9) marking the beginning of an age of highballs. More recent additions that have been shown constantly in the media as of late, are climbs such as Lucid Dreaming (V15) and the Process (V16). Just viewing these climbs gave me inspiration, and a desire to be deserving of the boulder’s attention. Naturally, we didnt focus on the Grandpa Peabody, the host of these testpieces. We contented ourselves with it’s much easier partner, the Grandma Peabody. There are some fantastic climbs on this boulder, and I sampled just a few, being Go Granny Go (V5) and it’s lower version at the same grade. I also did Essential Peabody (V0) to the summit of the boulder, granting me a fantastic view for my bravery.

The Happy Boulders. A canyon in the Volcanic Tablelands.

After the peabody boulders we then drove out to the Happy Boulders, which on my most recent trip, I likened to walking on a terraformed Mars. The area is volcanic rock, and definitely has an alien feel to it, and the knowledge that the rock is volcanic reminds you of the time when the Earth was geologially active and full of chaos – the time these most likely formed.

This was also where I had a potential project to attempt, called Acid Wash (V10). It would transpire that I give up on the direct Acid Wash in favour of a slighly easier variant, Acid Wash Right (V9). Whilst working the problem, another climber came and gave some advice on the right version, which was a large part in my conversion. I quickly got the boulder from a higher jug hold. All I needed to do was add one move into the climb. However, this is by no means an easy move, being an awkward drop knee and deep lock-off. I managed to reliably get the start move, but fell at the final move 3/4 times after running out of gas. This was rather frustrating as I also had to abandon the climb because everyone wanted to get back. I knew that if I didnt come back and do the boulder the next day, it would be unpleasantly on my mind for a long time.

The successful ending to Acid Wash Right (v9).

Thankfully, I conviced the two remaining climbers in our group to go to the Happies, and once there just wamed up and got straight on the boulder. I gave a few attempts from the start, failing still at the end, before dedicating some time to figuring out the final move reliably. The solution I found was to raise the toe-hook I was using much higher, to an edge most heel-hook. Now I had the final move solved, I then returned to the beginning and in about two attempts had the send. The victory was incredibly sweet, and was gave me a small taste of projecting. I dont feel appropriate calling this a project given that it spanned less than a day total of working, but it gave me a good insight, which encourages me to attempt harder climbs in longer term project fashion.

Not to let Acid Wash Right be the only send that day, I then went on a roll through the canyon, getting some of the easier classics. The Hulk (V6) was a fantastic climb with a very gymnastic style, and Serengeti (V5) has some fantastic movement in it. I also left so many boulders behind for future trips. I went to the rim above the canyon, and from this vantage it is plain to see the amount of rock, and also understand that you could spend a lifetime in this canyon and still not do everything.

Trip 2 (Dec 11-16)


The first time I had ever seen the milkyway, halfway to Bishop.

The next time I would come to bishop would be in christmas break, where I had no other distractions like university to attend to (except notifying family members of my whereabouts). Now the temperatures were much lower, so whilst that is great for the climbing side, it meant the camping got pretty chilly.

Day one began in the Happy boulders again, with the first climb on the agenda being the famed Solarium (V4). whilst heading towards the boulder we stopped a few times to warm up, and one of the most enjoyable was Heavenly Path (V1) which is a brilliant slabby climb with crimpy holds and great feet. After doing Solarium, it is clear why it is a three star route. The final move has a perfect amount of delicacy, making it feel controlled and executed, but still a desparate throw.

Simon getting the last hold on Solarium (V4).

After that I helped some of the group on The Hulk, before moving up to try Morning Dove White (V7) with Jacob. It is a relatively simple boulder that is basically pocket pulling to a rail, with a few large moves afterwards to the top. I got really close on my flash attempt, getting one move away from the rail, but just fell short of the rail. I fell at this point a couple more times before moving on to the next problem, in order to save myself for later days.

The next area was the scene of two V6 boulders in people’s sights, Every Colour You Are, and Mister Witty. Mister Witty is the classic infuriating climb. A large rockover to a sidepull, and up into small holds, and a pop for the top. All of us were flailing on the rockover, failing to lock off quite far enough. This made me realise that locking off is my major weakness, as this has forced me to fail on many boulders. After realising that I couldn’t manage the problem, I moved around to Every Colour You Are. This is a really cool boulder that tackles the prow of the boulder overlooking the canyon. As a result, it’s in a great position which definitely adds to it’s three star rating. It’s surprisingly burly and sustained, with much of the meat of the problem coming late on. Thankfully I managed it in a few attempts, otherwise I wouldn’t have enough energy to finish it.

Jacob being spectated on Every Colour You Are (V6).

Finally the last climb we tried was on the way out, and on the other canyon rim, a perfectly asthetic boulder called Atari (V6). It has a perfect rounded prow that tapers to the summit, and slightly obtuse aretes, making the holds much worse than any photo admits. The right arete also sits in the sun all day, making it pretty slippy, and the landing is far from ideal. A barn door to the right would see you tumble down the boulders for a few meters, and the final move to the lip just happens to be a left hand, meaning that you’ll go right if you miss. One of the three working Atari, Toso, managed to get to the last move after several tries, but just didnt quite make the top, which kind of relieved a lot of us. Jacob and I were unable to get quite so high, which again was a relief of sorts. We then decided it was time to head back and get some food.

Me getting a much needed spot on Atari (V6).

The next day we headed to Owens River Gorge. This is much the Avon Gorge of Bishop, with sport and trad climbing sprinkled around all over. We focused on the sport climbing, at an area known as the Great Wall Of China. This is a really nice and easy area with many 5.8-5.10 climbs to potter around on. I began on a 5.8 which, while easy, was deceptively tricky. Toso tried a 5.10d, and couldn’t get past the crux move, so opened it up to anyone who could get past it. Justin then tied in and managed to get the move after a rest. I followed up and also had to concede a rest at the crux. However the climb was brilliant and definitely one to send if I ever return with more endurance.

Toso on Peking Duck (5.10d).
Norman on Sendero Luminoso (5.10b).

The weather then started to make its intentions known, with a light sprinkle of snow every so often. This urged Norman to attempt Sendero Luminoso. A fantastic looking 5.10b that goes of the right face before coming onto a delicate slab arete. But, the weather had drawn in too much, and the holds were quickly becoming very wet. Norman fell several times before having to bail back to the ground. We then made a promt exit to the cars.

Then the next two days were spent in the Buttermilks. For the majority of the first day, people were setting up the highline between the Peabody Boulders, because the weather was bitterly cold. We saw several crushers such as Nalle Hukketaival and Dave Graham come by, and wonder if it was too cold to climb. To my mind it was a large relief to know that even they think it’s too cold.  The most notable thing that happened was the ascent I did of the Grandpa Peabody boulder on the backside, which given the cold temperatures was simply a challenge of keeping my fingers from freezing. The climbing was very easy, with the only challenge being to keep my head and heat.

Toso trying the highline after being set up, and the backside of the Peabodies. I climbed the right side of the left boulder.

The next day saw more reasonable temperatures, allowing some more climbing to be done. The first thing on the agenda was to solo the highline. Toso was the one with the aim to do this, and thankfully only him. The rest of us definitely did not have the skill to pull it off. To watch him do it was a very inspiring spectacle, and after attempting it later is definitely not easy.

Toso soloing the Peabody Highline.

After observing the highline, I forced myself to do some climbing despite the temperature and cold hands. After a few boulders my hands had warmed up and I just needed to keep climbing to get my muscles warm as well. I tried to do this through trying Go Granny Go again, even though I couldn’t manage the last move. This then made me have a look at a left hand version that goes at V7, Go Granno Ho. This basically has the same start, but then goes left into a cave with two small underclings, and then onto a crimp by your face, and then right into the jug rail on Go Granny Go. This came together surprisingly quickly, with only about 10 attempts total to get the climb. I was still trying many different methods when I stuck the jug hold, so the quick ascent surprised me pleasantly.

Next I moved onto High Plains Drifter (V7). This is a fantastic boulder that is a classic testpiece of the grade. This gave me more grief because I couldn’t lock-off far enough to reach the crucial sloping handhold, forcing me to get a heel hook that allowed a deeper lock. After getting this beta, it two about two attempts to send the boulder, at the compensation of pulling my left thigh through the heel hook. In all it took perhaps 10 attempts again. These two ascents reassure me that I am improving in my climbing significantly, even if may not immediately appear so. Before coming to America, the highest grade I had got was V6, and now that has moved up to V7, which is a definite sign of progress if the grades are consistent.

Finally I moved westward to meet up with everyone and try Buttermilk Stem (V1). This is a fantastic piece of home, with moves so remniscent of gritstone climbing. I managed the stand, and in the last minute of light managed to somehow throw the sit start together, which goes at V4.

The final day saw us back at the Happy Boulders yet again. Not much was done (It’s the last day of the trip) but the one climb worthy of note was Black Magic (V3). This was a fantastic highball which all of us who climbed it enjoyed. The view from the top of the boulder was also a special position, with a great view of the canyon. Toso also appeared to be on a roll that day, with successful sends of The Hulk and Atari finally. Can’t wait to get back!



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