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.

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