Damien and I spent our last evening in the High Sierra bouldering at The Knobs in Tuolumne Meadows. This is a classic, old school area for pebble wrestling in the Meadows of Yosemite. Thus, ratings often are rather sandbagged. Expect to add about 1-2 grades on to most problems. The area is HUGE, and there are a plethora of problems for boulderers at any level. Most boulders were on the highball side of the spectrum, but there are shorter rocks climb as well. The location is right beneath typical Yosemite domes on open slabs making for a lovely setting.

Damien and I started on Mushroom Boulder which is lower to the ground on the SE face. It’s a great warm up boulder with lots of V0s (though the one on the far right corner seemed much stiffer than the others). There is also a fun V2 right in the middle of the face. This problem (unnamed) was my first Yosemite V2. Damien completed his first outdoor V1 ever on this boulder!

We moved on to the Eliminator which is a tall boulder featuring the classic Snake Eyes (V3) and Double Dyno (V4) problems. I played on those but they were too high for me to feel confident with the bold moves. However, on the NE Face I was intrigued by the V0 on the tall wall. I was pretty confident about sending it with all the knobs, so I decided to give this “highball” a try (a highball for me anyway.. maybe 15-18 feet). After that success, I went on to attempt the V1 right next to it. This problem is considerably more difficult but the crux is low to the ground and the upper section is exceedingly mellow. I sent this too as well to be delight! Damien and I also climbed the V0s on Small Boulder right beside Eliminator.

Next, we journeyed beneath some trees to Creek Boulder and So Low. So Low is an overhung short boulder with a gnarly V1 & 2 that I just couldn’t get. Fun heel hooks though! Creek Boulder is very tall and most problems looked scary being up so high. I opted to climb Creek Arete though which is a large, knobbed VB about 20 feet high. It is also the “walk off” for the boulder.

With our hands fried we headed back to camp. It was the perfect ending to our trip. I highly recommend this bouldering area!

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.

Damien and I decided a month ago to drive down to Yosemite National Park and explore the famous Valley Climbing. The Valley had just received snow a few days earlier so there was a white sparkle to the tops of the massive walls. We spent our first and second evening bouldering.

Camp 4:

This was the first place we climbed in the Valley. As so many have warned: the ratings are super super stiff! I climb V4 in the gym and V3 outside and I struggled on V0s in the Valley. There was also some intense variation in difficulty with problems of the same rating too. We climbed on a few different boulders. By far our favorite was Energy Boulder which had some fun cracks. Plus Damien sent his first outdoor boulder problem here! This bouldering area is massive and has something for everyone. Lots of problems are on the high side though.

Swan Slabs:

On the second day we climbed at Swan Slabs Boulders next to cragging. This is a smaller area (three boulders) with a few less highball problems. Many of the boulders you have to down climb though as there is no walk off. The center boulder was my favorite features problems with high throws.

We were due for another scotching dayso Jessica, Mike and I left Snohomish early for a day of bouldering at the Gold Bar Boulders. The three mile dirt track leading the to boulders had yet to be touched by sunshine and we began the three mile journey in delightful shade. The mountains opposite the valley was spectacular on the clear day and ripe blackberries lined the path. In fact, there were many point in the track where blackberries and other shrubbery had branches reaching onto the trail scratching up our arms and making the going a bit adventurous. I suspect that in another week or two the trail will be overgrown to the point where waiting until things die back in the fall would be a  good idea.

We were going to begin climbing The Clearcut area while it was still shaded, but ended up stumbling across an awesome boulder in the Forest area that we couldn’t pass up. We warmed up on “Scotty” V0 which is an awesome and fun climb on cool edges. We then worked on “Beam Me Up” V2 which was another great climb with awesome moves. There is a loose block near the bottom hold though so beware! It doesn’t look like it will come out soon, but in wiggles quite a lot.

After some searching and several wrong turns we arrived at the Doja boulder cluster. We worked on “Bulldozer” V2 with great edges beneath a roof. Then moved on to “Devastation” V2 another roof with technical feet. The topout was so mossy though we decided it was safer to just drop off.

We finished up on a boulder further along the trail. We climbed a crimpy V0 called “Warm-Up Slab” which is great fun despite its ease. Then we worked on a V3 “Rocksteadeasy”. Mike was the most convinced of his inability to finish it… and ended up being the only one to send the problem! It has tiny edges and some mentally dicey moves with feet on tiny holds. The tree beside the problem can get in the way a bit.

Eric and I drove to Canada this weekend for a Self Rescue Course in Squamish, BC. The course is offered by Whistler Guides which is owned by MSA (the company that I took my ice climbing course through). I cannot recommend these companies enough for any and all outdoor sport courses. The Canadian guide certification course is stricter than America’s and course structure is much more efficient. Plus I really like Canadians. We rigged a massive amount of scenarios in our 1 day class. In America the class would have than multiple days.

After the class Eric, Jeanelle, Adam and I wandered into the forest by Stawamus Chief. The Chief as a massive wall known for it pristine multi-pitch climbs. But below the wall and throughout Squamish is some of the best bouldering in North America. We went to an area called Titanic North and warmed up on the areas namesake boulder: Titanic. We began with the V0 “Dumb Slab”. I personally didn’t find it that appealing. It was mostly a staircase slab. The next problem we worked was “Twister” V1. This juggy problem offered some good moves though I didn’t finish it. It should be noted that the chalk was so thick on the jugs here that I was slipping off the holds even after i brushed it.

We moved on along the boulder working out Moana V0, The Telltale Heart and Steppin’ Out V0. We worked for a long time on Big Bottoms V2, but only Eric mastered that one. Finally we moved on to the boulder problem I had heard a whole bunch about and couldn’t wait to do.

Birth Canal is only a V0, but is is hugely entertaining! It begins in the back of a small cave. You climb though this narrow slot between two boulder toward the sliver of daylight on the other end. The hardest part is getting into the slot… from then on you have to wiggle though a diagonal chimney to the opening to daylight. This con be completed on your stomach or back. The descent required you to reverse route. AWESOME!

 

Finally, a weekend without a chance of rain in the forecast. Eric and I met up with Jessica (VW climbing team) and Mike from the climbing gym on Saturday morning to beat the late day heat and climb some boulders In Gold Bar. The adjoining bouldering  areas of Sanctuary, Forest and Clearcut beneath Zeke’s Wall were once roadside. However, the timber company closed the dirt road that leads to the boulders. Thus, getting to the Clearcut, Forest and Sanctuary bouldering areas now required about a three mile walk up the hill from Reiter Road. Many folks head to boulder problems closer to the road, so the area usually has less folks. Plus, the walk allows to a built in warmup.

Our plan was to hit the boulders in Clearcut first since it has the most sun exposure. The walk took no more than an hour. We began on Clef Crack V0… that did not feel like a V0. It is a slanted crack with some jug holds. Figuring out the foot/hands holds is not difficult, but executing is! We climbed Warm Up Slab V0 in The Forest area which borders Clearcut next. This felt like a true V0.

Eric and Jessica next worked on The Razor V2 and Button V3. Mike and I played around on what was supposed to be easy routes nearby: The Catcher V0 and Shortstop V1+. I have unsuccessfully worked on these routes previously and still had no success today. Everyone agreed that the routes were sandbagged though.

We went in search of Que Luna boulder only to pass it twice. We found out from other climbers that the boulder is only accessible in early srping and early autumn when the lush greenery that engulfs it dies back. We ended up back in the shaded Sanctuary working on Chocolate V3, It’s Doo Doo Baby V3 and So it Seams V2. We wanted to do some problems that are toward the back of the Sanctuary, but they were covered in moss. We did not have brushes stiff enough to clean them unfortunately.

We ended the day at Devastation V2 in the forest. A burly roof climb with character. Like all the other problems (exception of Warm Up Slab) I was unable to complete it. But according to Eric my climbing is much smoother and stronger than the last time he saw me boulder outside. I’ll take the compliment… but it doesn’t stop the frustration. Then again, i wouldn’t boulder if I didn’t enjoy being frustrated!

 

Colleen and I decided to climb a Whutza Point in Icicle Canyon due to it selection of intermediate level climbs 5.7-5.10a. The area is located beyond Playground Point, a popular weekend area. We followed the climbers trail to behind the highest tier of Playground Point. Then the trail faded to a goat track which sometimes all but vanished. The bush whacking wasn’t too difficult as we were mostly navigated

only through grassy terraces and some boulder piles. More or less we just headed straight ahead passed the lone Block Party Route. We ran into the the separate short wall with routes “Birthday Greeting” and “Bottle of Whine” a few feet higher than the main wall of Whutza Point first. We located the main wall several yard own and left of this short wall. Mot of the route have a combination of bolts and trad gear.

We began the day on the namesake 100ft “Whutza Point” 5.7 route. The route is mostly friction slab (my favorite) with a few difficult moves mostly near the top of the wall. On the ledge 2/3 of the way through the route there is a large ledge. The rest of the route require the climbers to climb over the top of a large bush to get the the wall. A great warmup. We pulled the rope and Colleen led it as well.

Next we moved over to Zerberts another 5.7. The bottom half of this route was super blocky and I led it efficiently until reaching the last yard or so. It is a thin crack that involved me doing two things I hate: using a crack and putting all my weight on one foot while on a tiny hold. It took me quite a long time to stop procrastinating and finally do the required moves. In the end I didn’t fall and led my first true crack (even though it was short). Colleen led the same route and then set up a top-rope on the next route Indian Burn 5.8 (all routes have chain anchors).

Indian Burn is a sweet friction climb. If we had time we would have led it. But the sun was beginning to beat down on us. We decided to call it for the day as far a roped climbing and headed back down to retrieve my crash pad. I wanted to finished my project.

The Hueco Route V1 which I have written about previously has been bothering me ever since I left in unfinished late April. My first attempt at the route reawakened the moves, but I only got to where I had been last time… two moves below the finish. However, I was not completed wasted and breathing heavy getting up to that point like last month. Colleen gave it a shot and was able to Flash it. I tried again, this time making it to the two Hueco Pockets hold that is the finish. FINALLY!

With that we headed up to the next overhung “room”. Eric had finished a route called Barnacles V1 here. It is a sit start that requires the feet to traverse along the bottoms of the wall in huecos before launching for a high reach crimp. We launched at the crimp for about a hour before finally being able to stick it. Then we discovered that the launch wasn’t even the crux! We did eventually follow the rippling seams and stem to the top out. Fun route. We joined up with a boulderer from Alaska to working out Flounder V2, a very short roof problem starting on slopers Colleen managed to finish it, but at that point my body was done for the day, although I was happen that the sloper holds didn’t give me problems, just the dead point to the jug.

There was a 40% chance of rain on Friday in Leavenworth, so Eric and I decided to go white water rafting for a few hours. Of course it did not rain. Thus, after paddling through the rapids we headed over to The Sword Boulders down Icicle Road. It is at mile 8.8 near a large dirt pullout. The area is crowded on weekends, but om Friday evening we had the area to ourselves. Eric’s arms were still week from intense climbing a few days earlier at the Gym and Vantage and I’m not that great outdoors yet, so we stuck to easy problems.

Underwear Rock is the first boulder encountered in this area and offers some fun problems, great for high level boulders as a warmup and for beginners to hone technique. We started out on “Boxers” V0 and “The Crack” V0-, both with good holds and technical footwork.

We moved on to the next boulder which has varied problems. On one side there is a low roof making the routes more challenging. I climbed “X1” V0 which begins on and solid holds and turns into a scary friction climb for the final 3 moves. Excellent problem. I also attempted “Cubicle Gangster” V0, but with no luck. Eric completed “Played like a Poop Butt” V0+ and “X2” V2.

Even further back Eric and I worked on “I <3 Jugs” V2… even though our arms were not behaving. It’s a great problems that definitely deserved its 3 start rating. Hopefully we can work on it again soon. I was able to top out on “Sofa King” V0 beside it.

Overnight, I was vaguely recall rain pummeling on the windshield of Eric’s car. When I awake this morning from a fitful sleep that is typical for someone sleeping in the passenger seat of a Toyota Yaris (and a two door at that) the ground was dmap, but the clouds moving off further down Icicle Canyon. It would take an hour or so for the rocks to dry out so Eric and I took out time having breakfast in the climbing car-park before venturing out on the day’s adventures.

We thought of going to the Sword, but it is in full shade. The day was a bit chilly,a although the sun was breaking through, so we decided to boulder at Mad Meadows. We’ve passed the area several times on our way to the Playground Point sport climbs and knew the area was pretty much always in full sun.

Outdoor bouldering is a real treat for us, but difficult to transfer to since we spend hours on plastic every week. On real rock there are no color coded hands and footholds! Hence, our grade level tends to sink quite a bit. We began on a V0 called “Alpine Feel”… it falls just short of what i would consider being a high ball problem. It’s a great warmup and the shorter you are (like me) the more technical it becomes. Walk off finish.

Next we went to Hueco Route, located in a overhung “room” behind Alpine Feel. There is an awesome overhung route here with swiss cheese huecos called “Hueco Route” V0. This is one of those pumpy and technical V0’s full of heel and toe hooks. Eric solved it,  and it has become my project. You do not top out on this route. Instead drop down from the final holds.

We moved on to the next room to climb “Barnacles” V1. Steming off the route behind you is considered bad form… but is a welcome relief considering the massive mantle finish. Eric had success here climbing up the right and left of the wall which can almost be considered two separate routes. Walk off finish.

A little ways up the trail are two side by side problems “Wooly Mammoth” V0  (left) and “The Dish” V1 (right). Ironically, the V0 looks harder than it is and the latter looked easier than it is. Walk off finish.

Eric and I joined up with some other boulders for some harder routes. Eric  tried his hand at overhang called “Flounder” V2 that was about 5 degrees short of being a roof just around the corner from Alpine Feel. After a few tries he sent it. Some of the guys suggested he do a gym-like route a couple yards away in an overhang called “Drugstore Cowboy” V3. With a two grown men as spotters, 3 crash pads and shouts of encouragement Eric flashed the problem. He still wants to go back and do it again more gracefully though! Walk off finish.

We didn’t want to leave Leavenworth too much past noon. We know from everence that a wicked about of traffic tends to build on the other side of Stevens Pass if you leave much later. We decided to hit up The Fridge boulder on our way out of the canyon. The Fridge is a massive lone boulder. We had time to both send “The Fridge Slab” V0, a nice friction slab that reminds you that you can stand on very little! There is no walk off on an other these problems. Instead you have to down climb “Cool Down” a V0 problem beside the tree growing out of the boulder.

It was 12:30pm by then… time to go. It’s a good thing we did too, the beginnings of a traffic jam were beginning to materialize in Sultan on the drive home. Oh, and folks were still skiing on Stevens Pass!

After oatmeal Eric and I journeyed into the meadows beyond Routeburn Falls Hut deeper into the wilderness. The trail followed the river within the boulder fields as great mountain walls loom above on both sides. The morning was cloudy and clear. As the sun rose above the peaks golden light spilled across craggy summits. Eric was a bit slow as he, for some reason, decided to only eat two packets of oatmeal which, unbeknownst to him, equaled 250 calories. We stopped near Harris Lake, so he could catch up on his lack of energy with some more carbs. The lake a lovey hidden gem in the alpine surrounded on almost all sides by rocky walls. A boulder was nearby with a great problem that looked like a V1. I made an attempt as Eric ate, but lichen and mosses dirtied the upper holds so I down climbed. Not worth it without a proper crash pad. Reenergized, Eric stood and we followed the rocky ledge around the side of the lake and up onto the famous Harris Saddle.

Harris Saddle marks the border of Mt Aspiring NP and Fijordland National Parks. Splendid views of glacier clad mountains beyond the saddle opened up before us was we neared the edge of the saddle. A rugged and wild landscape of pure beauty that made me long for my rope and crampons! A shelter and restrooms are nestled on the saddle’s green alpine grasses. Fragile Area signs urge travelers to stay on the trail. Eric and I left our packs in the shelter beside some other rucksacks. We then followed the sign that pointed to the trip up Conical Hill beside the shelter.

Conical Hill is more of a class 3 scramble small mountain than a hill. The trail beyond rocky after the first few switchbacks. Hands are definitely needed as the route goes straight up the “hill’. I was happy to be wearing my mountaineering boots. We reached the top in about 45 minutes where our breathe was quickly snatched away at the sight of the glorious view! You could even see the ocean way off! Two men on the summit stood discussing mountaineering… we couldn’t help but eavesdrop as we took in the sprawling scenery. Descending the hill took longer than ascending since the rock was a bit damp. But we made it back down and sat int he shelter for lunch. One of the men joined us. He was a mountaineer, Don, an Aussie who had a love for the Andes and regaled us with stories of the alpine. He knew from a young age he wanted to climb and that he couldn’t afford it. So he began to business, paid his workers well, gave them incentives and built things until he could hire other people to run it while he was off on climbing adventures. A great NZ quote he told us “What do you call a wifeless climber? Homeless!”  Basically, climbers are either funded by their wives or dirt bags.

We trekked on following the side of the mountain just below treeline. Everywhere glaciers glistened in the distance and we paused every now and then to discuss approach routes up. There were massive tote bags of gravel in the middle the trail at several points  for some odd, unknown reason. Finally we rounded a corner and caught sight of the Mackenzie Hut far below us on he shore of Mackenzie Lake. The descent featured extremely long switchbacks into the treeline.In the forest more long switchbacks eventually brought us to the lake shore and Mackenzie Hut at 3:00.

The hut was one building this time. The sleeping quarters were upstairs. There was a long row of beds with not space between them on one side and then several bunks on the other. The kitchen was downstairs. It was early, so after picking out our beds and writing them on the chart, Eric and I headed out to walk around the lake. After all, there were lots of boulders beside it! We found a pretty large number of routes. I completed a first ascent of a V0 friction climb I named “Barefoot Only” since I climbed it barefoot. It was on the right side of the lake from the hut. Further on we found lots of other problems that we did not name. We were about to do the VB, V0 and V1 vertical problems with our sandals (or barefoot). Unfortunately we couldn’t do some of the awesome roof and V2+ problems without proper climbing shoes. It was fun to work out the problems in our head though.

We had dinner and waited for the warden’s meeting at 7… at 7:30 he still hadn’t come and Eric was falling over in his seat from exhaustion. At least Don entertained us and an Aussie family with climbing stories. The warden did arrive and proceeded to give a long winded safety talk which he made into a comedy routine… but it was just to late for us to enjoy it. I told Eric to go to bed halfway through. The warden did not collect our ticket after the safety talk. He proceeded to go about a project he was running trapping stoats, the little invasive weasel killing the birds. He talked about this for 20 minutes and asked for donations. Again… really not the time for this. Finally he collected the tickets and donations.

Bedtime

10.2 miles

2804 Ascent / 3088 Descent