Monday, December 29, 2008

Luminance (v11 super-highball) by Shawn Diamond

Yesterday, Shawn Diamond climbed what one of his two spotters at the time, Walker, describes as the "scariest thing I've ever seen," and which Shawn describes as "the dumbest thing I've ever done!"

Luminance (tentatively rated v11) is an exceptionally beautiful wall above a heinous landing. It is on the steep west face of a giant block (not in the guidebook) at the head of a gully between the Windy Wall and the Secrets of the Beehive Area. Eyed previously by a few of the best climbers around, it had always been left for another day, or another climber. Shawn threw a rope down the line to check the moves. Then he summoned up the courage to step on un-roped. The wall begins with some long moves to good sloping crimps that lead to the mental challenge of throwing a total-commitment dyno to a hold just below the lip.

The ground drops off dramatically, so spotting is also pretty terrifying. Walker, who was tied into a rope for safety at the time of the ascent, was able to save one fall from just before the most dangerous point, by pushing Shawn away from the worst landing and into a pile of pads.

"There was a moment there when I actually thought to myself, 'what am I doing here?'" Shawn told me, of the moment he arrived at the committing move, and for an instant became aware of his surroundings. He realized he had to give it 100 percent: a controlled lock-off was not an option, the lip could only be reached dynamically. He stuck the move, sinking his fingers into a hidden slot at the back of the sloping rail, and the rest was pretty much a formality.

"I saw that line years ago and had been walking around New York City dreaming about it," says Shawn, who is currently at medical school in the Big Apple. "It was definitely a big step up in my climbing... My most memorable ascent, and a big breakthrough for me."

Here are some more photos I shot of Shawn on the opening moves. See also his other line on this block.

Here's a shot of the boulder, so you can see the steepness of the ledge and fall-zone

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Chris Schulte, Buttermelter...

I recently heard from Chris Schulte about some new lines he has done, including an intriguing right start to The Buttermilker on the Cave Boulder at the Main Buttermilks area. Chris dubbed the problem The Buttermelter. We'll have to see if this proves popular, but it definitely seems like a fun addition. It's likely in the v11/12 range.

He says, "Start in a large hueco right of The Buttermilker, on underclings (right hand on a "ball"), lock in a kneebar and udge up and across with the right hand to the "glass dish" on The Buttermilker. Bicycle, left hand up to a sidepull crimp, double toe hooks to bicycle switch, and finish the 'Milker..."

If you can follow all that, you deserve an honorary v12 in bouldering, even if you don't actually do the problem. Good luck! See Chris's blog for more info and photos.

Another fairly hard and cool-looking line that Chris has recently completed is on the west side of the Golden Boulder (to the right of the Iron Man Traverse, if you're looking up hill). This line begins at the crack around on the back left side of this huge boulder and follows a lip up and right to the apex of the boulder before topping out. It's a nice line, and because of the adjacent boulder, even after climbing 20 feet, you will find yourself only a couple of feet above your pad.

Chris writes: "The lip traverse on the Golden Boulder consists of pretty good positive holds traversing along the obvious aspect change. There is a sorta hard move 1/2 way, over the point of the adjacent boulder, then a tough cross, and the last move is also a bit of a grunt... Maybe the last move is easier for the smaller, but a redpoint crux, for sure..."

Chris named this one Constellation, and the rating is unknown (v9-v11 range?). Sounds and looks like a great endurance problem to me. The line beginning at the same place, but heading directly up the slab remains to be done.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Alex Puccio climbs A Maze of Death (v12)

This afternoon Alex Puccio climbed the short, steep, and very powerful line A Maze of Death (v12), first done by Dave Graham late in 2002. This pretty, concave wall, with its perfect patina is located at the Bardini Boulders area not far from the Main Buttermilks and is an incredible piece of rock.

Alex traveled to Bishop with Carlo Traversi and spent just long enough to get a feel for the area: "I have had a great time in the wonderful land of Bishop. There is so much to be done here. I can't wait to come back."

Working off of beta devised in conjunction with Garrett Gregor (who also climbed the line recently), Alex used a sick lock-off at the start to gain a key right hand sidepull/undercling and then a twisted drop-knee to make two moves with the left hand to gain the good (ish!) crimp below the upper slanted rail (see photos below). That latter part was Garrett's sequence, and apparently a great way to avoid a heinous upper gaston move. Even so, the final pull through is no gimme and proved a thorn in the side for a few days for Alex: Though close to success on her first day at the line, she became frustrated by deteriorating skin and tired muscles during her visit. A rain break and a Thanksgiving Day interlude broke the pattern, and Alex returned for a fourth time to claim this major first female ascent!

"I found the moves on A Maze of Death to be quite hard," says Alex, who struggled at first to deal with the slick footholds. "It is very technical with precise movements. I had to make sure I placed my feet PERFECT. I think I came away from the boulder as a stronger climber and person."

Well, hey, that's what a trip to Bishop will do for people!

Alex Puccio making the moves described. Photos: Wills Young

Stained Glass (v10) by Tilly Parkins, First Female Ascent

Just received this note:

"Hi Wills, I’ve recently returned home after spending most of November around Bishop and the Buttermilks whilst traveling with my partner, Tilly Parkins. During our time at your bouldering paradise we had the opportunity to climb many of the best lines that the Buttermilks have to offer. One ascent in particular I would like to report is Tilly’s send of Stained Glass (V10), which according to locals could possibly be the problem’s first female ascent. An amazing and pure line, Tilly first spied the problem via youtube and fell in love with the thin and technically demanding climbing. Working the problem over a few days, Tilly managed to fire this classic Buttermilks test piece on the last day of our trip (destroying a tip in the process)! A wonderful and fitting end to our time in this awesome location. The send was ever sweeter for her, as she had a knee reconstruction and multiple surgeries in 2007 after tearing knee ligaments (LCL and PCL) and rupturing the joint capsule when a heel hook went horribly wrong. This was one of her first sends since recovering and it’s good to see her back in form." -- Mark Withers

Tilly Parkins on Stained Glass (v10)

I do believe this is the first female ascent of this outstanding Buttermilks gem. No question about it, this is one of the finest little problems I've seen anywhere in the world, but it is a tough choice for a road trip--indeed a bold choice for Tilly given that she is likely the first woman to do it. It is notorious for its tiny, skin-eating crimps, and a heartbreaking lunge for the final hold. Great stuff! Nice way to come back from an injury! -- Wills

Here's a vid of the ascent:

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Evilution (v12) 4th Ascent, Carlo Traversi

On Friday Nov 21st, Carlo Traversi made a swift fourth ascent of the super-highball Evilution (the original version, and I think it's the fourth ascent!). Speaking to me today he said he took "five or six falls" in all, and did the problem from the ground up without even looking at the line from a rope -- a proud achievement and a step up in style from previous ascents by Jason Kehl (FA), Ethan Pringle (2nd), and Kevin Jorgeson (3rd) . Climbing ground-up on this line is a reasonable proposition if you can find and schlep a truck-load of pads the 100 yards or so from the road--though there is a crux up high (from about 15 to 20 feet), the ground is flat. Nevertheless, despite talk, no-one had made that step or totally committed to the process until now.

Carlo is visiting while on a road trip away from Boulder, Colorado. Interestingly, he grew up in the Bay Area,under the tutelage of the groundbreaking Buttermilks boulderer, also from that area, Kevin Jorgeson.

Running beta (refined since earlier ascents) from now-Bishop-based highball master Charlie Barrett and well-chalked holds were two important factors that helped Carlo succeed on Evilution ground-up. "If I had been trying this with no chalk on the holds, it would have been nearly impossible," he said. I would think he's right: the upper crux comes after a very steep v9/10 intro and is, in itself, in the v9 range. You come into it kind of blind from below and the holds are hard to see at all without chalk. Another factor in his favor is the fact that Carlo, though relatively short at 5-foot-6 is one of the physically strongest climbers around.

Carlo took two big falls from the upper crux where the climbing is hard, crimpy and required him to make a stab for what he describes as a "chalked blob!" He figures a v12 rating appropriate.

Friday, August 29, 2008

RISE by Shawn Diamond

It's not NEWS exactly, but I just want to catch up on some stuff that's been overlooked during my summer off!

Well, around the end of April/beginning of May, Shawn Diamond climbed a stellar new line on the massive block that sits in the gully to the south of The Secrets (of the Beehive) Area. This huge block is now home to a few highball/headpiont routes. One of these is Kevin Jorgeson's line, The Golden Rule (see Dec 7 2007 post) on the northeast corner, another is an arete climbed by Chris Sharma on the northwest, and now this one from Shawn, which takes the steeply overhanging blunt southwest prow.

Photo: Damon Corso

The line begins steeply from the sandy wash, where you can pad out a fall to some extent, and leads to a scary slab.

"I did the problem over a two day period last spring," says Shawn. "I spent a day with a Home Depot-bought broom sweeping the entire topout so no pebbles would cause an epic fall. Did the line on self-belay a few times, then sent without the rope. I think it's around V9+ but SCARY and hard to protect a fall from the upper slab."

Photo: Damon Corso.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Sharma Summer Buttermilking

Yeah, it was over 100 degrees F in Bishop yesterday (Sunday), but does that mean it's too hot for the Buttermilks? Apparently not -- if you're Chris Sharma, anyway! While hosting some climbing camps in partnership with Yo Basecamp, Chris spent a couple of evenings up at the 'Milks, and took a look at his old favorite, The Buttermilker (v13) -- a full nine years and three months since his first ascent. He admitted that it had changed a little since he first did it, becoming slightly harder. Nevertheless, he quickly did the moves the first day, and then returning with the group from Yo Basecamp, dispatched the line in the evening on Sunday. So, no frickin' complaining about the temps from now on, I guess! Chris also spent an evening at the "Way Lake" area, near Mammoth.

Chris and Lisa at the house (Note: Lisa is standing on a step,
trying to look big! She's really only about 18" tall)

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Bardinis Line

Went up to the Bardini Boulders last week. There is almost nothing recorded of the bouldering out there. I know of several lines that have been done but which are not mentioned either in my guide or anywhere else that I have seen and at some point in the not-too-distant future I will provide some pics and ratings to those I know.

Anyway, last week, I climbed this really sweet problem that begins as a sit-start in between the two giant boulders out there, the Bardini Boulder being the lower one (with This Side of Paradise and The Beautiful and Damned on it), and the other one on the uphill side of that. The problem ascends the upper boulder. I know that a direct start to this line had been climbed before and I have climbed it once, taking a direct line to where I'm shown in the picture below (this goes at around v4/5 with the crux at about 10 feet). But the line I'm writing about is this sit-start line that begins around to the left on perfect smooth rock. You move right and up into a right hand undercling. You roll through to a left sidepull/pinch and then move up the blunt arete a little before heading right to join the easier line, which, although only v4/5 is pretty highball and takes some nerve.

This sit-start problem is super-high quality and something I've been meaning to do for years. Check it out if you go out there. It's about v6/7-ish.

Friday, April 25, 2008

The KD Factor, Hive Boulder (Pollen Grains)

Heard from Kevin Daniels that he has climbed another tall and beautiful line, this time on the Hive Boulder at the Pollen Grains. Sounds amazing. From what I understand, it starts down and right from where Timothy Leary Presents runs (#6 page 291). You sit start matched in a nice hole; you dyno up left and move left and up through nice huecos to a big black xenolith. Fom there you head up left on nice slopers to intersect Timothy Leary Presents near the top. The KD Factor sounds like a three-star highball, and is thought to be around the v3 range (5.11-ish), but knowing Kevin, it could be harder.

Dale's West Projects Climbed ...

Went out for an evening session at Dale's West on Thursday and repeated The Green Hornet finding it about v3/4 and just as nerve-wracking as the first time I did it many years ago -- super-super classic though, and an absolute MUST-do line. Take big pads. Also climbed the line to the right that Jeff Sillcox told me he and Andrew Stevens had done recently, which is listed as Unknown in the guide (page 314). See also Jeff's Eastside Bouldering Blog. That one is also a little spicy. Seems about v4/5, with some hard pulls on small crimps and very technical as with Green Hornet. Failed miserably on Project #5, page 314. Someone can do it though, no doubt, but definitely in the v11 or harder range, I'd guess -- with long arms very useful.

Also went down to the Zen Flute Boulder and climbed a few things including the Project #17 listed on page 315, which wasn't too hard, maybe around v6/7 with a sit that went at a grade or so harder. Possibly been done before but likely not. Checked off Unknown/Project #14 listed on page 314, which was hard going as the rock stayed warm even after the sun dropped behind the nearby ridge, and the moves required some skin. Beginning with both hands in the lower crack/sidepull, the sequence involved hard moves to gain and then pull up on a limpet-like protrusion (v9/10? Maybe easier in good conditions!). I had to meat-wrap the limpet, which was one of the weirdest handholds I've ever used on a boulder problem. It is fun though, for sure, and maybe someone can find a way to do it without the limpet move?

Friday, April 18, 2008

New Line on Fly Boy Boulder

Got this from Garrett Gregor:

"I put up a new climb - I think? his weekend to the right of flyboy... same face as fly boy. which starts left hand low and right hand on a slopey crimp instead of crawling up the slab to the jugs. It busts right and has a comitting move over the slab... maybe v7/8ish? Let me know what you think..."

Here's a photo:

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Evil Empire (v6/7?) on Solitaire Boulder

Charlie Barrett has climbed a project on the Solitaire Boulder to produce what he has named Evil Empire (at around v6/7). The Solitaire Boulder is out toward Dale's Camp, past the Painted Cave Area, approached either from Dale's, or from the same parking as the approach to The Checkerboard Area. The problem is listed in the guidebook on page 264 (project #2).

"The climb has some really nice movement," says Charlie. "You start on a nice rail about 4 feet off the ground make two moves to nice edges then dyno for the good edge about 5 feet up, then up on some cool slopers and edges to a hard move out left followed by a big high step onto the edge you dynoed for and stand up to a big dyorite knob on top."

The problem required a lot of cleaning, but is now, apparently, well worth checking out!

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Painful v9/10 project climbed on the Fly Boy Boulder

Listed as a project in the guidebook, page 195, #17, is this line, which starts as for Haroun and the Sea of Stories, but climbs rightward and out the roof, per Bulging Grain (v7) and then right again along the lip of the boulder to finish on a blunt rib: a long and sustained problem in fact. It would be an amazing counterpart to Haroun if only it were more skin-friendly, but sadly it's extremely rough. It's been something I have thought of doing, and maybe someone has even done it before (?), but it was definitely climbed by Gabriele Moroni yesterday. He suggested it was about v9, though his compatriot friend said, "Maybe ... but it's harder than Haroun ..." so perhaps it's more like a v10, or so: Haroun is not as hard as originally thought and is definitely not the v12 given in the guide, but v9? That's going a bit too far. The once-project gets a lot of sun, so if you have rhino skin and can wait until evening to give it a go, let me know what you think.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Gabriele Moroni repeats Mandala Sit Start (v14)

Today "Gabry" Moroni repeated the sit start to The Mandala. If you see a shortish, very red-haired Italian looking very strong out climbing, it's probably Gabriele Moroni. Or are there a lot of super-strong bright-red-haired Italians? Crimping is his specialty, and so the Mandala Sit Start felt okay for him, he says. Then again, he feels all the crimpy things he's done are pretty straightforward, including Direction and The Mystery. Don't you just hate that? He is only around for a couple more days, so it's hard to say if he'll get a chance to try any of the other top-level testpieces of the area. There is a lot of snow on the approach to The Swarm (v14), so if he doesn't get out to try that, maybe he'll come back another time ...

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Pics of Magnetic North (v8/9?)

Here are a couple of pics of Jeff Sillcox on this line, mentioned earlier on this blog. It provides some really cool moves on great rock despite looking slightly contrived. Kinda harder, higher version of High Plains Drifter ... It's really good.

The first pic shows the small right hand crimp that is the key to this problem. Gain this with a pretty hard move out right with poor footholds fairly low.

This second pic shows the pull through from the key right crimp using a high left heel. This is a scary and hard pull. Jeff's left hand is on a slopey intermediate which is useful to gain height before grabbing the good patina above.

Thanks to Matt Birch for the images!

Monday, February 25, 2008

Mandala Video on The North Face website

There's a clip of Lisa Rands climbing The Mandala up on This may start with a clip of Daniel Woods, but in the scrolling list of vids to the right you'll find the Mandala clip. TNF didn't do the greatest job with the web quality, but it's still nice to watch!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Crimpanzee (v6) FA by Andrew Stevens

Got this from Andrew Stevens:

"Last Sunday I climbed a new route at the Happys that is pretty nice. It is located on the West Rim just above Serengeti. Jeff and California Drew climbed it also. It seems like it is v6ish. It climbs more like a Sad [Boulders] route. I went to work on a sit start yesterday, but I wasn't inspired. Really hard, sharp moves with crappy feet. I had to stack pads to reach the first two handholds. Let me know what you think. I called it Crimpanzee."

The problem is up on the West Rim, just above Crispin Waddy (near Serengeti, as Andrew notes above) at the Happy Boulders (page 131 in the guidebook). The rock here is not documented in the guidebook, but is of good quality with some more potential.

Here are two pics of Andrew on the FA of Crimpanzee (v6 unless we hear different). Looks sweet!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Jeff Sillcox adds yet more options to Grandma Peabody

Saturday 16th Jeff Sillcox added yet another slightly strained but excellent line to Grandma Peabody's beautiful patina'd northwest wall, naming it Magnetic North. The line moves diagonally up rightward from the jug that is at the end of Center Direct (or at least the end of the hard part) across perfect rock to good holds at the lip. Use a high left heel hook and a hold far out right (a lone hold in the blank section of rock) to pull through to the lip with the left hand. Move further right to right-facing sidepull and the good rail above. Jeff turned the lip and moved left to gain the easy line up the slab. The line is a beautiful piece of climbing and around v8 or v9.

See pics in a later post.

Matt Birch climbs Mandala Sit Start

On Monday 18th, Matt Birch climbed The Mandala Sit Start. He'd been trying it on and off for a while, having difficulty with the small deadpoint to gain the good right-hand crimp at the start of The Mandala regular, and split skin and blisters from the tiny left-hand crimp that you move off. Having finally linked through this move, he crimped down hard and pulled very nervously to the top, saying he was moving "like a shopping cart with a wonky wheel."

Matt Birch, a Yorkshireman from Otley (England) has climbed several cutting edge lines in the states, including his notable FAs of The Swarm (v14) also in the Buttermilks (Secrets area) in 2004, and Somewhere In Time (at the Tramway, So Cal) in 2007.

Action Potential?

Got this from Kevin Daniels about a possible new line at the Buttermilks on the big block below the Fly Boy Boulder:

"i did the nice big arete right of Big Wall on the big wall boulder. it is the obvious arete listed as # 7 on page 194. i had climbed up to about 2/3 height a few times. from standing on the obvious and solid jug at about 15 feet a couple thin moves on solid rock takes you to the apex and good solid holds. another long move up and right to a good pinch / sidepull and you are up on your feet. i downclimbed as far as i could to checkout the top. it is probably V2 and except for one small hold that snapped and the flakes that get kicked off it is very solid rock and good movement."

Kevin is describing a problem I listed as "Unknown" in the guide. I don't know if it had been climbed, though when I was compiling the guidebook it seemed likely it had been done, so I didn't put it as a project ... but who knows?

Kevin suggested a name of Action Potential for this highball. Sounds good to me! I might leave it up to others to verify the rating and quality of this one, or alternatively to let me know if they've seen it done, or heard it was done before. It sure has a pretty nasty landing and you never know what some people will call "v2" :). Nice one Kevin!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

River Block Rock

There is a beautiful new problem in the riverbed near Pleasant Valley Campground.

I climbed it on Sunday, January 20th, in extremely windy conditions. The problem climbs the steep northeast side of the big boulder in the riverbed on beautiful rippled edges. The water is usually too high to access the problem, but the diversion of the water made the problem climbable, though right next to the water.

In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr., I dubbed the problem Integration. It is probably somewhere between v7-v9. It's brilliant, and well worth checking out!

[Here'a a pic from Jeff Sillcox and the Eastside Bouldering Blog -- Wills]

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Lisa Rands climbs The Mandala (v12)

Yesterday (Friday) afternoon, Lisa climbed The Mandala (v12), becoming the first female to climb this line first done by Chris Sharma in 2000. The problem has gained almost mythical status as one of the most popular and most famous lines in the world, and for good reason: it is an extraordinary climb. Lisa was psyched to achieve this goal that she's been aiming for since last season when she first started trying it. A torn bicep, weird weather conditions, a mystery illness, and a flim project revolving around her ascent of the super-highball This Side of Paradise (v10) kept her from success then, but this season, on just her third day of tries, she climbed the line at the third attempt, saying that moments before doing it, she felt strangely certain of success. She nailed the critical, and for her extremely long, first move to perfection, and powered through the rest of the sequence with precision, only hesitating for a second before turning the lip onto the icy summit.

I shot video of the ascent and this will hopefully be available on The North Face website in the near future. See my mention of this in a separate report. Here's a shot of Lisa on The Mandala from last season (clearly not the cold, crisp conditions we enjoyed yesterday):

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Mandala Sit (v14) & More by Sean McColl

Sean braved the snow and the heinous road conditions, and headed to the Buttermilks today where he made a very impressive ascent of the The Mandala Sit Start, managing to top it out with some trepidation on the wet and icy summit! He and Matt Birch had shoveled most of the snow from the top, but it wasn't exactly dry when Sean gained the lip, looked down and decided to go for it, stepping up on the only dry bit of rock he could find!

Sean also added what he named The Oracle (v13), the full Baburre start to the v12, The Mystery, making a long and very hard link-up this afternoon, and was very close to adding that same start into Direction (Thunderbird Sit) -- all this being a warm-up to the main event of course. (On the Direction link, he fell after he stuck the dyno crux of Thunderbird). Oh, the things some people will do while bored waiting for the snow to melt at the Buttermilks! [NOTE: Sean returned Thursday and climbed this latter link-up True North (hard v13?)]

Also of note, but not mentioned on this blog was Shawn Diamond's ascent of The Mandala Sit Start last week.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Flight of the Bumblebee Video on YouTube

Here's a link to footage of Kevin Daniels making the second ascent of Flight of the Bumblebee: a nice little video by Matt Pare':

Monday, January 7, 2008

Goldfish Trombone (v14) by Sean McColl

Astonishingly, Sean McColl was not put off by the rain last week, and was out Jan 6th to make an ascent of Goldfish Trombone (v14). Perhaps living in Vancouver, BC, Canada, has inured him to the wet conditions. Sean, 20 years old, is one of those amazing climbers who has been climbing at the cutting edge since the age of 12. He has also climbed Direction (v13) and Xavier's Roof (v12), among other lines, during his brief visit so far.

Goldfish Trombone's crux sits under a big roof, allowing the holds to remain dry during the heavy rain storm. However, water seeping down through the rock made the holds damp today (a day after the ascent).