THE CLASSIC 25
Presenting America’s best boulder problems.
Humans have been exploring boulders in America for hundreds of years, going back to the Native Americans who lived in and around many of today’s bouldering areas. In the 1950s and ‘60s, John Gill began taking gymnastics to the rocks, seeking challenges on small cliffs and boulders from Illinois to the Tetons to the Black Hills to Colorado. But he was largely alone until well into the 1970s and ‘80s, when bouldering started to become seen as a pursuit in its own right. Given the size and geological diversity of the US, we may very well have the most—and most varied—bouldering in the world. We also have an extraordinary legacy of classic problems from V0 to V16, with seemingly endless potential left. To list the 25 best problems in America is a challenge.
So what defines a classic? The best problems are singular lines in beautiful settings. The features connect with original and compelling movement. The rock feels solid and secure. And finally, the boulder comes with a history. Besides Gill and his foundational problems, there are other, more local personalities like Bob Murray and Jim Holloway renowned for their strength and tenacity. Holloway singlehandedly established V12 in Colorado before V9 was even a thing and was rumored to have been able to hold a front lever for half a minute while holding a conversation; the reclusive Murray was famed for his barefoot wizardry, eventually pulling a tendon in his big toe, an injury probably unrepeated in climbing. John Long and John Bachar blurred the lines between bouldering and soloing, leaving a legacy of serious “problems” that are more like difficult free soloes, a story culminating in Daniel Wood's 2016 testpiece The Process at the Buttermilks, basically an unroped 5.15. Each era was marked by the establishment of lines that tested nerves and strength—and a fair number of these problems made our list.
We set out to represent America’s various geographic regions as well as a wide spread of grades, to create dialogue and psyche. Whether you’re pebble-wrestling on a forested hillside, in a stark high-desert canyon, or in an alpine talus field, and whether you're ticking VI schist cracks in New England, V11 roofs in Hueco, V8 sandstone sloperfests down South, or V3 granite highballs in Colorado, American bouldering delivers.