Saturday, December 22, 2012

Elliot Faber climbs ZAP in honor of Zack Parke

As mentioned in an earlier post, Elliot Faber recently added The Elevator a line parallel with Transporter Room on Grandpa Peabody at the Buttermilks. In addition to this, he has now completed ZAP, another project he had been eying that branches left out of The Elevator.

 Elliot Faber sets off on The Elevator, a start now shared with his new line, ZAP

For Elliot this was the prize line he most wanted to do, and he named it ZAP in honor of his friend Zachary Amadeus Parke. Zack was a good friend and gifted climber who had previously visited Bishop and inspired many with a ground-up ascent of the adjacent Transporter Room--as noted on this blog. Sadly, a few days later Zack was tragically killed in a hit-and-run accident.

Thanks to Spenser & Vikki of for the photos

In the image above, Elliot is moving up rightward on The Elevator to join Transporter Room. The new line ZAP goes up and left from here passing a large, but shallow hueco that is visible in the photo.

Elliot practiced the crux on a rope before going for the solo. From what he says, there are some dicey moves up high to get stood up securely above the hueco and onto the slab, possibly bumping the overall rating into the v9 range. He mentions some two-finger crystals and hard-to-see footholds. A stack of around ten pads was piled up below, but thankfully not needed!

"I'm so excited that it went," says Elliot of the new line, adding, "there are more out there. I'm hungry for the unseen lines." Let's hope it will be a good season for him and that Zack's memory will inspire many great additions to the area.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Luminance "Send Train" Video

Thanks to Spenser Tang-Smith and Vikki Glinskii at for uploading this sweet video of a send train in action on Luminance, featuring Mark Heal, Alex Johnson, Josh Horsley, Steve Bradshaw, and Eliot Faber. Yep, five people in a row all cruising this glorious-looking highball! Don't have 20+ pads? Well call your friends, gather a posse, and have at it!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Elevator -- Big New Line on Grandpa Peabody

Elliot Faber has made a bold first ascent of The Elevator, a new line just left of Transporter Room on the Grandpa Peabody at the Buttermilks Main Area. The climb follows a weakness past huecos just left of the blunt arete on the giant boulder's southeast corner and runs up parallel to Transporter Room before joining that line at the slab.

Elliot who had previously climbed Transporter Room, took a liking to the style. He then rappelled the block to inspect other possibilities. He had just two large pads (Mondos) and was spotted by one friend he describes as "white-faced Joseph on the ground" for this white-knuckle super-highball. A knee-bar near the start proved useful to get moving between large huecos on the line, and from a jug in the upper of these, Elliot says, "the fun begins as you start to climb up and right toward Transporter Room."

It's great to see this obvious weakness get climbed. Elliot has suggested the line goes at about the same grade as Transporter Room--around v5.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Alex Johnson, Luminance ground-up flash!

Alex Johnson is super-happy with her one-day visit to Bishop yesterday, after making a ground-up flash of Luminance, a shocking highball on the Luminance Block near the Beehive sector of the Buttermilks. This problem has rightly gained a reputation as one of the finest on the Eastside--perfect rock with perfect slashes for holds. Amazingly, despite the heinous-looking fall zone it has also attracted numerous suitors all gunning for the 45-degree line ground-up.

Alex's prior three-week stint in Yosemite had been hindered by wet conditions, so she dreamed of a special finale to her California trip. Using facebook she posted her intent to check out this amazing line as she drove east for family time in the mid-West. A large posse of climbers and pad bearers met up on a perfect day at the Buttermilks. Though many were talking about trying the problem and studying the features, at the base of this intimidating prospect, nobody seemed to want to be first to pull on their shoes--so Alex has told me! Then, Mark Heal stepped up and moved through the powerful climb with such ease that everybody's attitude changed.

"Mark made it look SO easy," said Alex. "He showed me the beta, told me what footholds he used, and which ones Max [Zolotukhin] had used."

Alex was second to the plate and said she pulled onto the start and into a zone where nothing mattered but gaining the top. With great beta, a positive attitude, and no hesitation she cruised through it first try.

Three other climbers also completed the line during the same session. Also of note, as I heard this but haven't mentioned it, was Isaac Caldiero's ground-up flash of the same line about four weeks ago.

Alex is planning to be back in a couple of months.

Back in Bishop!

I'm back! I'm back in Bishop for some winter bouldering under the sunny skies, amid the stunning scenery of the Sierra's east side!

Snowy mountains ...? Check! Vast vistas ...? Check! Big rocks ...? Double check! I've spent most of the last year out in the eastern US and yes, this blog has lacked updates for all of you beta-hungry boulderers out there! Has anything much happened? Have I missed something? Well, yeah, a LOT!

Thanks to everyone who has written me (email at right) with info and updates. I hope to see you all out there at the boulders in the coming weeks. I know there are a few new additions I have to get out to climb, and I will try. I am in okay health and have been climbing quite a bit lately so hopefully this will continue and I'll enjoy another fantastic season out here, long overdue as a result of various injuries and distractions. I've gotta take care of some household chores, but I can't wait to grab some of those familiar holds again.

I hear you about the broken jugs on some of the heavily trafficked classics like Suspended in Silence (Pollen Grains/Lidija Boulders) and also on Arch Drude (Druid Stones) among other less major breakages such as the right-facing ear on The Mandala. But don't worry, there ARE still holds left. All this means is your favorite bouldering area just got cleaner, safer, and better! Be careful though and never take anything for granted. Ha ha ha  ...!

Bishop is a-buzz as usual: Dan Beall, after establishing the area's hardest problem since Lucid Dreaming nearly a year ago (Misdirection --I'll get to that in a future post), has been climbing technical double-digit lines in his hiking shoes between sessions on new projects, while climbers continue going ground up en masse on previously unimaginable objectives! Young Alex Johnson (yeah, the girl not the guy version) has just (yesterday) joined the list of lunatics by making a ground-up flash of Luminance. Highballing has been the name of the game at the Buttermilks, as ever: New lines, climbers new to me, and much to talk about, so I'll sign off and return shortly with some updates and more about the last year's, as well as the last week's developments! Talk soon.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Mammoth Bouldering Guidebook

Check out the brand new Mammoth Bouldering Guidebook, the other bouldering guide to the eastern Sierra. Including over 1000 problems at 16 different areas. Check out the amazing and previously undocumented areas Way Lake and Hartley Springs.

Available Now! place orders at

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Dan Mills' Spring Action

Okay, it’s time to catch up on some of the Spring action that took place here in Bishop. I was recently chatting to So Cal's Dan Mills about some first ascents he added to the area. Dan, who was just 15 when he climbed the Mandala, a bit over ten years ago, has evolved into a Bishop connoisseur with few, if any, equals.

Over the past years Dan has systematically worked his way through the hardest boulder problems in the guidebook, not just picking his favorites, but literally climbing everything he could--one-star, two-star, three-star lines, the none-stared and the new, seeking out everything from the obvious to the obscure. Last year he completed all the hard lines at the Sad Boulders (everything v7 or harder) including additions of his own to fill some gaps, and when he read of a couple new lines/link-ups in the Beef Cave, he returned this spring to do those too.

This year he has been focusing more on the Monzonite of the Buttermilks and Druid Stones. Among the lines he has suggested as new this spring are:

Mini Me, v9 (sit start), on Mini Boulder, Buttermilks Main Area, listed as a project in Bishop Bouldering 2nd edition, page 288, route #2.

The Bush, v9 (sit start), on back of the Hueco Wall Boulder, Dale’s Camp, starting with both hands on an obvious pinch. Punch up and right, then leap to the lip. This line is not in the guide, but the Hueco Wall can be found on page 362 of Bishop Bouldering 2nd edition. See video below for a better understanding of this.

Mister Fister, v10+ (sit start), Druid Stones. Start at Hook Line and Sinker. Go right to match hands on a wide edge, then make big hard pull up and right to join the fingery sharp crimps of Red Light District.

Frosted Flakes, v8 (sit start), Cave Boulder, Buttermilks Main Area, makes use of some nice patina by branching out of an established classic. Begin as for Cave Route, (Bishop Bouldering 2nd edition, page 259), then immediately before the crux move of that problem head up and right to meet the Dyno Problem.

General Mills (v9, sit start) is another strained but fun line using some nice patina crimps in the same location, but this time moving left from the Cave Route. Again, climb the Cave route to immediately before the crux. Now move left past a sweet glassy crimp and along the lip leftward before pulling up into a right-facing flake.

While the latter two lines are somewhat forced (and possibly not new) Dan insists they are well worth doing and recording. Along with these lines, Dan made some impressive repeats including a likely second ascent of The Chunnel (v10/11), Alex Honnold’s addition to the Beef Cave at the Ice Caves (Sad Boulders, BB 2nd Ed, p 205). This line begins as for Aquatic Hitchhiker but heads up and out the wall above to a nervy finish on Light at the End of the Tunnel.

Of course it is hard to explain where lines go, so to get an idea of these, check out Dan's video:

Monday, April 16, 2012

Luminance Video

Bishop highballing is all about big lines, a bunch of pads and spotters, and the spirit of bouldering taken to an extreme. Here's Joe Maier on the amazing Luminance, recently done ground up by himself, by Jake Lovotny (see post below) and by a super-strong Japanese climber named Leo(?)! [Edit: The Japanese climber is Ryohei Hagiwara aka "Ryo." See second comment below.]

Don't try this at home:

Luminance, Bishop CA from Joe Maier on Vimeo.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Jake Novotny, Luminance: Ground Up Ascent

I recently heard from Lake Tahoe climber Jake Novotny of his ground up ascent of Luminance (v10?) the spectacular overhanging highball on the Luminance Boulder. Unsurprisingly Jake says, "It was the scariest line I've had the pleasure to climb in the 'Milks." But, he adds, "I've never been able to climb v10 so quickly."

Jake wonders if the fear-factor plays into the impression of difficulty on the line. No doubt fear will play its role, as the chaotic uneven fall-zone is simply terrible on this, and it would be inviting disaster not to want to overpower the moves. Could the fear subconsciously also force an extra effort?

Who knows? But others have wondered the same, and likely the problem lies nearer to the v9 mark. Most importantly says Jake, it has, "some of the best movement on some of the finest rock in the world," and he gives Shawn Diamond great credit for making the first ascent.

Jake had three large pads, including one big one down in the trough far below, and two spotters for his ascent, which is now believed to be the fourth(!) ground up after Dan Beall's back in October 2009--See comments below.

It is pretty amazing that so many are tackling this line without prior inspection on a rope. Impressive stuff by all!

Possible New v10 on Cave Boulder, Buttermilks

Itai Axelrad wrote to me about a line he climbed on the Cave Boulder at the Buttermilks. It goes up the wall that is to the left of Lactose Intolerant and The Buttermilker and to the right of the v3 "Dyno Problem" (guidebook 2nd ed page 259). This is a small sheer overhanging wall with some nice patina and I think a few people have looked at it to sport a line. However, I have not climbed it and I don't know if anyone else has climbed it, so Itai has tentatively dubbed the line, Crimps of Wrath and thinks it might be around v10.

He began the climb with his left hand on a thin in-cut horizontal crimp, and a similar but vertical crimp for the right, and climbed directly up beginning with a hard move to a left-hand gaston. This is a pic of Itai with the holds he used indicated. In the photo he has just stuck the first (and hardest) move:

Itai writes: "I thought about various different starts for the climb, but found them slightly contrived and rather difficult. The start that I did seems to be the most natural and direct."
Please comment if you try (or have tried) the line! Thanks!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Jill Church Waters, Fight Club

Jill Church Waters, who moved to Bishop last year with her husband and baby daughter, recently climbed Fight Club  (highball v10?) on the Saigon Boulder at the Buttermilks. This problem, first done by Randy Puro around 11 years ago, soon gained a reputation for being near-impossible after a lack of repeats and the break of a small edge used on the first ascent. With the boost of v11 in the guidebook, the line saw more interest, but few if any repeats per season.

With a vague beginning--it was originally done as a jump-start to slopers--Fight Club's start is somewhat indistinct (impossible if you are too short to leap to those holds). But whether you begin with both hands on, or one hand, or none at all, you still have to pull the crux mantel to get onto this undercut boulder. How hard is this mantel? With conditions being critical on the problem and because the rock sits in the sun all day, it normally feels impossible! Under better conditions, it may not be too bad ... Jill suggested that it felt closer to a v9 for her, after checking it off on a super-cold day, but go try it... very few succeed! Make it through that techy mantel and you have the highball slab to negotiate. Getting to the top is quite an adventure. A proud ascent by Jill, for sure!

Jill has been getting after it recently with ascents of Beefy Gecko (v11), and Bubba Gump (v10), to name a couple, but also declared her ascent of Lydia's Mouth (a reachy v3 at Pollen Grains) one of her hardest to date!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Climbers' Coffee with the BLM

I received a note from Becky Hutto at the Bishop office of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) telling me about the free coffee mornings the BLM are providing for anyone who wants to join them at the Pleasant Valley Climbers' campground (a.k.a. The Pit campground).

Please drop in starting around 8:30am for a fee wake-up brew (of coffee!) and take the opportunity to pose any questions or concerns you have about the management of the Happy and Sad Boulders (which the BLM are responsible for).

The BLM have been great at working climbers for the preservation and enjoyment of these areas for all and I urge everyone to help keep the areas as clean and unspoiled as possible. Please also take the chance to say hi.

Normally the BLM does these coffee mornings once a month, but during spring break these are EVERY week, please click the image to see the dates, thanks!

Saigon Superdirect ground-up by Dan Fong

Matt Mersel wrote to me with a link to a vid of 19-year-old UCLA student Daniel Fong (originally of the Bay Area) climbing Saigon Superdirect in ground-up style. Matt says, "We were out a few weekends ago and Daniel gave it a few burns and took some steep drops, but he got it first go last weekend. Never used a rope!"

As far as I know, the FA of this line was done ground up by George Ullrich in 2008, after half-hearted efforts by all the top names in the game, but it still rarely gets climbed and certainly sees few serious attempts in this on-sight style. Though it is above a flat landing, it's a very bold line, differing from the regular "direct" by gaining the good pinch with the right hand and slapping over the lip to a sloper where the regular direct goes right. See also a pic of Charlie Barrett on this. Nice work Dan!

Above: Daniel Fong holding the sloper after the big move on Saigon Superdirect (v9/10). Image by Edward Cheung.

Here's a vid Matt shot with a GoPro:

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

More Happy Highballing, Laka, Boom Shaka (V3?)

Zach Miller wrote recently after reading about other people's highballing adventures. Back in November he and friends did a little exploring of their own, including a pretty spectacular FA by Zach of  Laka, Boom, Shaka. Here's the note from Zach:

Hey Wills,
Since the lastest has been about potential highball FA's.  I have one to report.  A little late, but back in november, my friend Jeff and I went scoping for lines along the Happy's rim past "Atari" and "hard crack" (which is qiute a scary one, I might add).  We brought some ropes to look closely at a particular pocketed wall that you can actually see from the happy's parking area.  After climbing some crusty pockets and fun but not so ideal climbing (on top rope), we turned to this particular walls southeastern buttress.  The line looked good. I cleaned it up and climbed it a couple times on TR.  Now what remained was to climb it without a rope. The next day, after manicuring the landing zone to avoid falling on impaling rocks, I brought some more friends (Matt Deshazo, Jesse Whirl, and my friend Jeff Brennan) and some pads.  I made the heart-felt ascent first go.  It was very exciting!
The climb goes out an overhanging prow about 20-25 feet tall.  However, it feels more like 40-50 feet due to the hill side giving away much like the established neighboring climbs (Atari and Hard Crack). And the landing zone is just big enough to make it safe.  I recon the climb is only about V3 but would get a couple heart flutters. 
My buddy Matt Deshazo, after my apparently inspiring ascent, decided to go for it as well.  He climbed all the way to the top and hesitated to finish.  And to our amazement after crying out in despair, he dropped from the top of the boulder and landed perfectly on the set of pads carefully placed on a perhaps 5' by 5' LZ.  He was okay!  And without much more hesitation, he got back up there and sent it.
I highly recommend this climb to anyone that wants a good thrill.  Its not as difficult as other highballs in the area, however has some really good moves high off the ground. If your tring to find it, follow the rim past hard crack.  You should be able to see the wall from "hard crack".  The problem itself is on the opposite side of the wall (the eastern side).  Bring at least 4 pads and a couple spotters (mainly to keep the climber from tumbling down the hill).  The climb is very picturesque as Mount Tom and the wheeler crest rest in the background.

Below are two videos, the first showing the drop from the lip, the latter the second ascent by Matt Deshazo. All I will add is, please take care on that rock out there, it can be pretty fragile!!

Laka, Boom Shaka V3 2nd ascent attempt from Zacharias Miller on Vimeo.

Laka, Boom Shaka V3 send from Zacharias Miller on Vimeo.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Shaddow Ayala, new highball at Happy Boulders

The Happy Boulders canyon in Bishop's Volcanic Tableland is less famed as a highballing destination than the nearby Buttermilk Country, but there are some great highballs to be done here of course. One of these is the classic and oddly named I Am Leaving for Constantinople Tonight (a v0 on the east rim). To the left of this line is a tall wall that now sports a new highball, Stoney Pony, recently completed by Shaddow Ayala at around v3 or v4.

Happy Boulders first ascents part 2 of 4 from One Man One Dog Pictures on Vimeo.

Says Shaddow: "The wall the the left of 'I am Leaving for Constantinople Tonight' has always caught my eye. 'Stoney Pony' is a new 30ft. highball with solid rock quality, even though the rock surrounding the line is total choss. After working out an obvious start at the base of the wall, I hung a rope over the line to check out the top moves. The landing is less than ideal and the steep nature of the line makes things very committing even though the moves are reasonably moderate (v3 to v4). A long move high off the deck is sure to grab your attention. Bring lots of pads, spotters, and your highball head."

See the guidebook, 2nd ed page 149.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Ian Cotter-Brown, Scare Tactics (v6 highball)

Ian Cotter-Brown has added a sweet-looking new line to the Lower Smoking Boulder (2nd edition page 286). This is the boulder just below the Drifter Boulder with the Croft Problem and the Cosmonaut. There is an obvious shallow ramp on the boulder's south side that trends up and right. Ian took a line that goes straight up crossing this ramp, naming it Scare Tactics. It begins with a v6-ish vertical section before crossing the ramp to a steepening headwall  (photo below).

Above: Ian Cottter-Brown beginning the dicey section of Scare Tactics. Photo: Shaddow Ayala

The headpoint crux comes at this upper section with some delicate and very committing moves on slopey holds. The ramp below makes this extra-intimidating. Ian took a rope to rappel down the line and clean it up, but says to take care. "The upper part feels dramatic and exposed," Ian told me.

There's a line in the guidebook listed at v2 on this face. I can't remember doing it, but it might have begun on the left and followed the ramp to this upper crux or past it ...?

Thanks to Shaddow for the image.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

New Variation to He Got Game

There's a good variation people are doing on the Therapy Roof boulder to He Got Game (2nd edition page 116). You climb out the roof starting as for He Got Game, then instead of climbing directly up the wall using a shallow glassy pocket, you trend rightward and around the lip using holds below and right of that pocket. It's basically a right version to He Got Game and seems to check in at around v11 according to reports. Here are some images of Ian Cotter-Brown doing this variation:

Get the decent pocket plus key foot out right

Get ready for the swing
 Hold the swing

The problem needs some pads and spotter due to the rocky landing. Thanks to Ian/Rock Warrior Films for the info and images. Anyone else done this? Any other suggestions for rating/name? Thanks!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Ethan Pringle, Mordecai (v12?), Lounge Lizards, Mandala Sit

It is good to have Ethan Pringle back in Bishop. He's climbed here for a few days so far this year and has already made some impressive ascents, one of the most notable being his ascent of Mordecai (v12?) on the "Drifter" or "Smoking" Boulder. The problem is on the opposite side of the boulder from High Plains Drifter and has been something of a mystery ever since Shawn Diamond reported his ascent (at the end of 2009).

Above: Video capture from the ascent from Rock Warrior Films

After a rappel inspection to check out the highball finish, Ethan began the problem with a jump from the ground and climbed through the crux (around mid-height) in a few tries and immediately went to the top. On the send, he found the last moves harder than expected and, in his words, "definitely frightening." He had around 10 pads and a couple of spotters below. The picture shows just how high and scary this line is with a large boulder lurking dangerously behind the topout.

Ethan climbed over the lip by moving left past some sloping dishes/runnels as this looked to be the easier option to him (a right finish was reported by Shawn). The crux sequence was a massive lock-off pushing down a left hand crimp to the waist and bumping the right to a positive "rail" up high.

Ethan's tick-list includes the second ascent of The Beautiful and Damned as well as Evilution (second ascent) and Evilution Direct, Flight of the Bumblebee, and of course he also started the trend with his one-shoe ascent of The Spectre, (recently emulated by Canadian Terry Paholek).

Also of note is Ethan's repeat of Lounge Lizards Direct at about v12 after the recent break, and his long-awaited ascent of The Mandala Sit which he had long previously come extremely close to doing, but sadly fell from and broke his foot in Jan 2008. Note that Ethan actually pioneered the tall-person beta for this problem (going up then spanning across right into the undercling) and yet he had to wait nearly four years to check it off himself (not only due to his foot injury but also a shoulder injury he suffered a while later)!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Lounge Lizards Broken Hold

No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it is not the same river and he is not the same man – Heraclitus 544-483 BC.

Wow! Now, I could be wrong, but did Heraclitus go bouldering in Bishop or what? Was it through his experience pulling on the ever-changing holds of our beloved boulders that he came upon that unfathomable idea? It seems likely.

I apologize for the man-centric aspect to the quote, so please simply exchange the word man for woman where you feel it appropriate. It comes to the same thing.

I walked up to the Druid Stones to check on the classic problem Lounge Lizards (v11, guide 2nd ed. page 398) and sure enough, as suggested in an email from Will Fraker (thanks for the email Will!) the big hold in the lower middle of the wall was gone—well most of it. This is the key hold that binds the whole problem together. Most people would get both hands on this and bust a big move up and right to a flat edge. I would then even put my heel on it to pull up left into the finish. Looks like the problem will be harder now. Part of the hold remains, it is a relatively small crimp, but certainly good enough to make the line possible, and for the direct version perhaps not change it too dramatically. But I didn’t get on it. I just wanted to see.

Conditions are perfect up at the Druids and the line--a beauty still--is now awaiting a re-ascent.

Similar things have happened on other lines around Bishop, sometimes leaving problems that make everyone try just that little bit harder. It’s not necessarily a bad thing. After all, the world is in flux and there is nothing that is permanent except change. Are any problems the same problems that they used to be? Does it even matter when, as Heraclitus so wisely points out, you, after all, are not the same man?

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Iron Man, Rubber Man?

The Iron Man Traverse was one of the first problems I worked for up at the Buttermilks, and it was a landmark in my bouldering as I’m sure it has been for many others. Beginning at a wide, flat rail, the climber moves right, following the rail as it thins down to fingertips. Nearing the end, as the climber tires, the rail peters to nothing, forcing a withering slap to a sloping lip before a tricky mantel onto the summit.

Above: The Iron Man Traverse, Buttermilks, image by Dan Brayack, Brayack Media.

This compelling problem, in the middle of the main area at The Buttermilks must be one of the most often-tried problems of its grade anywhere in the world. So what is the story behind this line? Getting the ball rolling by climbing and naming this popular classic was our very own climbing-shoe re-sole master Tony Puppo of The Rubber Room in Bishop.

Tony grew up in Santa Barbara, but in 1976, after attending college in Long Beach, he moved to Bishop to be nearer the mountains, nearer to Yosemite Valley and Tuolumne Meadows. He spent his time working various jobs and finding time to climb.

Tony remembers few specifics of bouldering back in the late 1970s, but even then The Buttermilk or “Peabody” Boulders as they were known was a regular hangout where he and his climbing friends practiced a little bouldering to get in shape for their bigger projects elsewhere. Bouldering was barely considered real climbing, and the easy way up was the name of the game on many of the giant blocks. “Traverses were not considered a big deal,” says Tony. In addition, he adds, “It was thought of as a little pretentious to put a name on things you were doing there.”

Nevertheless, Tony did name a couple of his boulder problems including one fun problem for which you begin by crawling into the large hueco at the base of the rock—really a lie-down start! Tony was clearly a man ahead of his time.

But things were changing fast in the climbing world. Tony remembers a moment of inspiration when he saw a magazine cover showing John Long climbing one of John Gill’s testpieces at Pueblo, Colorado. It was January 1978, long before the internet: Climbing magazine was one of the only places to read about climbing; it cost a buck-fifty, and on the cover was this superhero in running shorts pumped up like a muscle-mag stud burling across this mythical masterpiece of bouldering esoterica, The Ripper Traverse.

Long’s article (Pumping Sandstone) validated Tony’s interest in that horizontal rail up at the ‘Milks, clearly marking it as a worthy objective and he set out to climb it. Later that year, after numerous visits, he finally achieved his goal. Pondering for a while over a name for this singular line, Tony called to mind that inspirational photograph of Long, arms spread on The Ripper, and named it The Iron Man Traverse. The problem was near perfect, and the name stuck.

Needless to say the Iron Man immediately became a must-try testpiece for locals and visitors alike. Meanwhile, some years later, Tony moved on to manage the resoling business at Wheeler and Wilson’s, later Wilson’s Eastside Sports. He astutely hired his wife-to-be, Nan, as a cobbler—you’ve got to wonder how that interview went! Then, in 1999, a few years later, James Wilson made an agreement with Nan and Tony Puppo to split the resoling operation from the retail store and together they put the belt-sanders, work benches, and shoe presses onto dollies and rolled them over the pedestrian crossing across Main Street, through the parking lot, and in through the front door of their new business: The Rubber Room.

It is an innocuous little place facing the mountains just south of Joseph’s “Bi-rite” Market, but during peak season 300-plus climbing shoes a month will pass through the building. Check out the antique 1940s boot-stitching machine handed down through generations from a cobbler known only as “Tennessee.” Tony himself has spent over 30 years resoling shoes, living a life surrounded by sticky rubber as he and Nan built the business into one of the premier resoling operations in the country. All I can say is it’s a good thing Tony named that amazing problem up at the ‘Milks before he took up the business: The Rubber Man Traverse just wouldn’t have the same ring to it.

 Above three images: Tony Puppo at work at The Rubber Room, Bishop.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Alex Honnold, Too Big to Flail

"I was shaking a bit up there. It's f***ing scary!" said Alex Honnold after completing his hard new line on the Luminance Block. This line takes on the sheer face right of The Golden Rule and involves some thin v9 face climbing at about 20 feet up, followed by the most airy hard moves at the Buttermilks to gain the top of the boulder--which, in this case, was about 50 feet above one of the biggest stacks of crashpads ever compiled. Friends and acquaintances alike lent pads to or hiked pads up for Alex to fill a dangerous pit between boulders at the base of this spectacular glassy wall.

Alex warming up with a spin on the lower section

As you can see, the line is truly monumental! It is fairly low angle, an off-vertical wall, and has some of the sweetest rock in the area, water-and wind-polished with glassy crimps and some delicate, balancy climbing. With the moves up high being complex and feet-intensive, this is likely the most serious proposition in the Buttermilks. It was clear that this was a major challenge even for Alex and he was super-psyched with the ascent that was made possible by the use of 34 pads! Good luck on the second!

Alex going for the send

Alex Honnold high and focused during the ascent of Too Big to Flail

It must be noted that Alex did work this line on a top-rope before going for the solo. After Alex completed this line, which he named Too Big to Flail, in a reference to the "too big to fail" banking fiasco of a few years back, he went on to add (in similar style) an easier climb just to the left, effectively a direct into the top of The Golden Rule:

 Above: Alex "straightening the rule" with Josh Lowell from the Reel Rock Film tour capturing the action.

The guys from The Reel Rock Film Tour, Josh and Pete were both there filming this for a major segment on Alex for their next show. They said they'd have a short clip to post up. See 3rd comment below.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Alex Honnold tops out Beefy Gecko and Aquatic Hitchhiker

The problems in the Beef Cave at the Sad Boulders are a lot of fun, but until now, only a few of them had been "topped out." Though some of the lines move left and out to daylight, other problems like Windchill (v9), Feel Like a Barnacle (v7), Beefy Gecko (v10/11) and Aquatic Hitchhiker (v10) while having great moves, end at a good jug at the upper right side of the roof. This jug is the starting point for Jeff Sillcox's visionary and scary addition from March 2009, Light at the End of the Tunnel (v8). To link any of the shorter lines into this latter topout would add considerable spice and complete the problems in the traditional way--putting the climber on top of the boulder.

Alex Honnold who is in Bishop for a couple of months, completed the hardest of these link-ups with Aquatic Hitchhiker and Beefy Gecko, to produce two outstanding problems that he named The Chunnel  and Beef at the End of the Tunnel, both at about the same grade as the originals. The upper section made use of a flexy flake above a pit that put most people off the idea of going for the send. However after stuffing a trio of pads into the rocky gap below and another across the top, he went for top section and broke the flake, taking what turned out, fortunately, to be an uneventful fall. Later after cleaning the upper section, he made the ascents of the two new lines

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Alex Johnson, Golden Age (2nd?) and More

Alex Johnson is back in Bishop for a while and loving the bouldering here as much as ever. On this trip she has taken things to a new height by getting off the deck on some of the area's taller problems. It impresses to hear of her ascents of Mesothelioma (v7), Golden Shower (v10) and The Ninth (v6), all at The Pollen Grains (a.k.a. Lydija Boulders) in a day.

But, I was most pleased to hear she had gone out and repeated Golden Age (v8?) out at Dale's Camp. "I thought there was just Xavier's Roof. I didn't realize there were so many great lines there," she said of the area. Perhaps inspired by the three-star rating I gave the problem Golden Age she actually took the trouble to try to figure out where it went. I did this line a couple of years ago and was truly amazed to be making FAs of such quality in the area. Obviously I gave the line three stars, as that's just a rule for first ascents by guidebook writers.

The route to the right, In The Bank (v5) is another one that is well worth the trip for highball aficionados! See this earlier blog post which should give a pretty clear idea of where these lines go. Both of them begin on some sharp and granular rock, but quickly progress into some really beautiful glassy patina.

 Alex on the crux sequence at the start of Golden Age. Photo: Sasha Turrentine.

When I did the problem, it really did seem like we had been experiencing the golden age of Bishop Bouldering, with a slew of amazing highballs getting done all across the Buttermilks. However, I have not heard of anyone else repeating this striking line and Alex may well have made the second ascent! She seemed to think it was pretty hard and certainly well worth doing. Just make sure to climb directly up the blunt arete at the start with some harsh pulls on some sharpish rock, and don't come into it from the crusty holds on the right.