A couple of weeks ago I wrote about bouldering in the Happy Boulders, and I said that I’d write up the second part of our bouldering trip in Bishop, California. Well, better late than never – here it is – bouldering in the Buttermilks.
If you’ve ever seen pictures representing bouldering in California, it was probably one of two places, Joshua Tree National Park or the Buttermilks in Bishop, California.
Mountain Project describes the Buttermilks as:
“The scenic and awe-inspiring Buttermilk Country has long been one of California’s premier bouldering destinations with a long history of ground-breaking ascents and some of the proudest, boldest, and most aesthetic lines in the world. These massive glacial erratic boulders sit in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada under an impressive backdrop of high peaks just a mere four miles to the west. Granite-like quartz monzonite makes up the boulders featuring sweeping blank faces, polished patina crimps/plates and sharp slopers and edges.
Buttermilks bouldering is BIG, literally. Some of the larger stones rival the largest erratics known anywhere. Many problems here feature reachy standing or jumping starts with huge moves, so on many routes you’ll soon find your feet well above a height you’d want to drop off. Don’t leave any pads at home because alot of the classics top out at 20+ feet, luckily most of the landings are flat and uniformed. Before you hop on a boulder scout the down-climb first, as many require some techy down-climbing and/or a big jump to the ground.”
These highball, glacial erratics are iconic in the world of bouldering, with world famous problems ranging from V0 all the way up to V14+. One incredibly highball route, The Process on Grandpa Peabody, was featured in Reel Rock 10’s High and Mighty.
The Buttermilks are a fun area with a ton of different problems, but warning – they tend to be on the more difficult side. I flailed around unsuccessfully on most of the V1s, and the V0s seem harder than in other places.
In addition to world class climbing, the Buttermilks are worth visiting just for the views. The day we visited this fall was foggy and cold, but the mountains occasionally peeked out.
If you have any interest in bouldering, the Buttermilks is a place to put on your must climb list. At my current beginner skill level, I prefer bouldering in the Happy Boulders, but I love going to the Buttermilks at least once while I’m in Bishop. They’ve got an amazing vibe full of world class climbers, and it’s inspiring to be around.
How to Get There: The Buttermilk bouldering area is easy to find. Head west on Highway 168 from Bishop, and turn right on Buttermilk Road. There are designated parking areas on the right about 3.5 miles up Buttermilk Road, near the boulders .
Where to Stay: There’s camping at Pleasant Valley & the primitive Pit Campgrounds, as well as free camping before and after the Buttermilks main area. Bishop also has a hostel,The Hostel California, that I hear is pretty cool, though I’ve never stayed there.