Bishop, California is one of America’s top destinations for bouldering. Although I typically sport climb with a rope and harness and such, I’m growing to like the simplicity of bouldering. Each problem is only a few moves, and relatively low to the ground. You can try really hard moves again and again with low consequence to failure. This is not true on a sport climb, since each attempt takes several minutes of preparation tying into the rope and getting to the crux. With bouldering, a crew of climbers can set up crash pads and try the same problem as many times as it takes to pull it off. With bouldering you can do harder moves. It’s a very pure approach to climbing, since it’s just you and the rock, no extra weight to drag along and no gear to distract you.
I’ve come to Bishop to get stronger, and test my limits with outdoor bouldering. Before this trip, my hardest outdoor bouldering send was V5. Even though I’m coming off a rest season, I’m feeling really good and have high expectations for this trip. I already sent two V6 boulder problems and several other V5’s. Since I’m planning to be here for another week, I think I’ll be able to step it up again before leaving. My goal is to pull off multiple V7s or a single V8… exciting new territory for me.
I met a cool crew of climbers from Casper, Wyoming. They were setting up a highline between the two largest boulders in the Buttermilks. I went to check it out, since I’ve been wanting to set up a highline for years. The guy on top, Ryan, invited me up immediately to try it. I was hesitant at first, but I decided to at least check out his set up to see how he rigged it and such. It was the safest setup I’ve ever seen. The line was 1″ webbing, standard slackline material and length. Taped to the bottom of the webbing was a dynamic climbing rope as a safety backup. Each side had three expansion bolt anchors, the same type I trust my life to when climbing. He also used a dynamic rope for a tether, attached from the climbing harness to the highline by a figure 8 rappel device. This was backed up by a secondary tether as well, an unnecessary but comforting extra backup. After examining the setup, I felt totally comfortable taking whips out there. I decided to give it a go.
Ryan advised me to start the adventure by jumping off the boulder and taking a whip right off the bat to get the jitters out. I wasn’t afraid of the whip, but I decided to suss it out differently. I scooted out a safe distance from the boulder, and tried to stand on the line from a sitting start. This is more difficult than walking onto it, but I wanted to get a feel for the line in a safe location. I didn’t want to fall right next to the boulder and risk hitting it on the swing. Eventually, I was able to stand, but I wasn’t comfortable enough on this line to walk it yet. After several small falls, I took a full value whip on the tether, swinging from the line upside down. It was a little scary as expected, but the rig held no problem and I had taken care of my jitters. I climbed over to the opposite boulder, walked onto the line, and crossed it successfully the very next try. Ryan and I were the only ones to try the line that day, and he had sent it on his first attempt before I arrived. Double send!!! 🙂