Inhabited by Native Americans long before the Gold Rush brought European settlers, the Sierra Nevada and other California areas have been an integral part of American climbing history. California granite, at its best, is bone-white or ash-gray, minimally featured, tall, and impressive.
THE MANDALA (V12), BUTTERMILKS, BISHOP, CALIFORNIA
When Chris Sharma crimped up the overhanging patina-edge prow of The Mandala in early 2000, he kick-started modern American bouldering. According to Wills Young’s excellent 2010 Bishop Bouldering guide, the late John Bachar, in the late 1970s, told Ron Kauk that “perhaps, long into the future, John Gill’s great-grandson might climb the line.” A tick demands a clear understanding of the start holds: a jump or stacked pads to begin on a right-hand incut and a left hand undercling/ sidepull. You can also tack on a direct start and finish to add two V-grades.
Nearby classics: Saigon (V6), High Plains Drifter (V7)
SLASHFACE (V3), JOSHUA TREE NATIONAL PARK, CALIFORNIA
Joshua Tree has long been a center of difficult ropeless climbing, especially since the heady days of the 1970s when the Stonemasters made it a winter hang. Stonemaster John Bachar crimped his way up the gorgeous 25-foot face of Slashface, connecting thin diagonal breaks and a compelling but moderate finishing mantel high above the Seussian desert landscape.
Nearby classics: Stem Gem (V4), Pinched Loaf (V6), All Washed Up (V6)
THRILLER (V10), YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK
Seated in the venerable Camp 4, this problem features a desperate match, a hard move to the “snowcone,” and sustained crimping to the top. Shaded by an enormous oak tree, this 1984 Ron Kauk testpiece (climbed sans pads) is still sought after to this day. Next door is the 1991 classic The Force (originally V11 but today done with a V9 start), a problem that helped push American standards but also reflected controversy as glue-reinforced key holds at the crux were pried off after the first ascent.
Nearby classics: Midnight Lightning (V8), Yabo Roof (V12), Dominator (V12)
SOUTHWEST ARÊTE (V0) OF GRANDMA PEABODY, BUTTERMILKS, BISHOP CALIFORNIA
Bishop bouldering dates back at least to the Paiute people who called the Owens River Valley home and left rock art in the Volcanic Tablelands. Though serious bouldering at the ‘Milks didn’t begin until the mid-1970s, the 50-foot Southwest Arête of Grandma Peabody had already been climbed—it’s too obvious to ignore. It’s best considered a 5.9 solo, with the crux 15 feet up and a dicey slab transition higher.
Nearby classics: Pope's Prow (V5), Green Wall Center (V6), Evilution (V11)