The Buttermilk Boulders of Bischop are world famous for their massive, egg shaped highballs and it seems climbers flock from everywhere to climb these giants. It is also home to the hardest boulder problem in the world “The Process” V16 on the Grandpa Peabody Boulder (first ascent Daniel Woods). Naturally, Damien and I had to stop here on our way to the Southern Sierras. For me, it was some kind of “rite of passage” as a boulderer. Our plan was see The Process, and then send some much easier problems!

It wasn’t difficult to locate Grandpa Peabody. We had seen the massive, 50 foot boulder many times in climbing films and it towered above everything else! Having the opportunity to touch the holds on The Process was like a religious pilgrimage for me of sorts. It was simply incredible to touch the rock of the hardest problem ever sent! I couldn’t even hang on the holds. They were glassy, sharp, and slick; even in the cool air of early morning. We circled the boulder playing around a bit on the V4 Cave Problem and playing with moves on various holds. Mostly we kept looking up and marveling at how gigantic the boulder was. We walked back to the car with an even deeper respect for the ascent of The Process, and also Lucid Dreaming which is a V15 on the same boulder (Paul Robinson, FA).

We drove about another half mile down the road to a group of boulders more in our range (though Buttermilk ratings are stiff). This collection of much shorter boulders is called Birthday Boulders. It is normally a popular area, but summer is off season in Bishop. It wasn’t even 9am yet and the weather was already about 75 degrees. It would easily reach into the 90s before afternoon in the dessert. Things were still manageable for now and there was even still some shade when we arrived. Plus, we had the rocks to ourselves!

We started playing around on the V0s: Birthday Mantel, Birthday Rib & Unnamed. These problems were definitely not normal V0s for me. Many of the hand/foot holds were nearly microscopic and the style was extremely balancey which is not where I excel. Still we enjoyed trying to find holds that we could cling to. We used lots of tic marks!

We had more success climbing “The Way Down” V0 which has larger holds and feels more like a standard V1 problem in WA. Some power moves and lots of fun for me! It is also the way off the boulder. Behind this collection of problems I found an Intriguing V2 called The Prow. The problem has everything I love: big power moves, overhung & sit start. It was just a bit too tall for me to feel comfortable topping out on. I projected the problem and was able to get passed the crux moves, but I opted not to finish the last few feet due to height. I was pretty happy though as in WA the problem would be at least a V3 if not a 4. Damien and I also played on another micro hold V0 called Birthday Left.

After about 1.5 hours of bouldering we hand no skin remaining on our fingertips from the sharp holds. The sun was beginningto gather strength as well so we packed up our pads and headed out. The Buttermilks is the best quality rock for outdoor bouldering I have every experienced. In addition, the problems, though stiff, are extremely fun and have great movement. I hope I can return sometime soon.

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