Dave on Saigon – Photo Max Moore

A few weeks ago I made a return trip to Bishop. I’ve been there a bunch and having visited briefly last November I was eager to return.

I returned to try a small list of problems which I made on my list. I only strayed from my list once and kept things strictly prioritized. I didn’t have many sends obviously, but that wasn’t important. I really only wanted to climb Stained Glass V10 or Thunderbird V11. If I didn’t get those getting any one climb from the rest of my list would make me satisfied.

I went with my friend Eric. He was excited for a climbing trip and I managed to convince him to come along with me. He climbed really well – unfazed and solidly. He climbed a new personal best difficulty wise and was just getting in gear when we were leaving. It was really fun to support him when I was resting.


Max is psyched


We also met up with a bunch of friends who would be down in the area or come down to climb with us. Max, Liberty, Seely, and Moher and his family. It was cool to have a big friendly crew of excited people. I also ran into CWP, Alex Brunel and family, and met a bunch of other new cool people.

I didn’t climb a lot of problems because I was totally focussed on my two projects. On rest days or in between problems or warm ups I did manage to get some sends. At the beginning of the trip I flashed both Flyboy Sit V8 and Solitaire V8. I had an epic topout on Flyboy having barely grabbed all the holds up top. My flash of Solitaire was better. Solitaire, if you haven’t been to it, is an amazing problem. I suggest every V8 climber head over to the other side of the road and do it – it’s perfect and it’s the best V8 in the Buttermilks.

In between bleeding tips I managed to climb Water Hazard V10 and Saigon V6. Water Hazard was a great experience climbing together on it with Max. Eric and Lib were also in the cave trying their problems so it was a great environment that afternoon.

Later in the trip I climbed Saigon with Max and then watched Eric climb it a couple days later. This climb was so much fun. I did it on my second try and enjoyed every minute of it. It symbolized a lot for me: I’ve been coming to Bishop since maybe 2007 and at that time I was about a V7 climber. At that time, and up until only recently I’ve been pretty intimidated by the Buttermilks. The boulders are so big and uncompromising. I’ve got to be bold and climb with boldness to have success there. The movements are subtle on very sharp small holds and skin maintenance is an important factor. For me, it is the most important factor.

Eric before he did Saigon

The same day we did Saigon we tried Evilution V10 too. I’ve never considered topping it out because I don’t want to hurt myself, so I was only interested in going to the lip then dropping like Sharma. I had tried it for a couple minutes in 2012 and I hurt my shoulder on the first move. This year I tried a couple times before falling going for the lip. At this point some guys with some bad attitudes came around so we decided to call it a day. I didn’t think I’d get another run at it because a) I was still pretty intimidated by it and I would get a little anxious thinking about trying it again and b) I didn’t think we’d get enough crash pads together to pad it well enough another day.

Melting snow in the Buttermilks

Thankfully it snowed and drove everyone down away from the buttermilks. With a perseverant attitude I dragged Eric back up to the cold snowy buttermilks and encountered a group of cool climbers who threw down pads so I could give it a try. I did it first try, fully committed, not scared, and not hesitant. I climbed it perfectly and I felt strong. It was a great day. It was nice climbing with a true group of dedicated mature boulderers that day. I just can’t relate to the motivation / attitude of the new generation of young boulderers. I guess I’m getting older.

Most other days were spent supporting my friends Matthew and Eric and trying my two main projects: Thunderbird V11 and Stained Glass V10. I tried Stained Glass on the first day and managed to get up to the last dyno move. It injures the finger skin at the same spot as Thunderbird so I stayed away from it and focussed on Thunderbird. I did however try stained glass again at the end of the trip and the last move is still impossible for me. I just don’t understand how to generate the jump as I’m barely hanging on to the terrible handholds and the feet are even worse. Maybe one day. V10 – haha. For me it will be one of the hardest problems I’ve ever done, right up at the top of the list.

At the absolute top of the list would be Thunderbird. A three move V11, Thunderbird should be absolutely no problem for me but it couldn’t be further from the truth. I’ve tried it at least over 70 times since 2010. The funny thing is that I’ve never stuck the second move, the crux dyno.

One day, the snowy day this trip, I managed to finally stick the dyno and hold it. I was so excited I fell on the next move (you can’t practice this move from the ground so I’d never tried it). I was very excited that I stuck the dyno!! Ecstatic. I stuck the dyno 7 times in a row that day but fell on the next move every time! Eventually the rock cut through my skin and I couldn’t try any more for the trip. I was heart broken but still happy with the improvement and it was enough to keep my spirits up. One day, perhaps, I’ll complete that problem.

Projecting hard at your level is very emotional and exhaustive thing for me. I don’t get to climb often, and when I do I want to make the most of it. What I like about bouldering is doing HARD moves that I can barely do. My top physical challenge. The hard part is when I find this physical challenge in a problem that I have a lot of difficulty with and then it becomes a project. The mental energy involved with staying motivated, being a little anxious to finish with a time limit (I have no local bouldering), and managing resting / skin / external factors becomes really tough. I can see why some people never prefer to project at their limit because the commitment is deep.

Bouldering at the Buttermilks is such a unique feeling for me. There are no other boulders I respect more than the eggs up on the hill. The thing about the Buttermilks is that the landings aren’t bad or anything. They’re not dangerous and you can highball quite safely. For me it’s more that the boulders are committing, and you have to focus. I’m loving it there lately and learning a lot when I climb there still, even at 32 years old.

Unfortunately it looks like this might be my last big climbing trip for quite some time. Maybe I’ll get to sneak away somewhere in the fall, but who knows. That’s six months from now…