Climbing Bishop: The Buttermilks

Mel looking at the Lejita boulder in the Buttermilks, bouldering in Bishop

These massive egg shaped boulders are home to some of the most iconic bouldering problems found in the world! Climbers from around the globe come the Buttermilks to test their limits climbing highballs!

Buttermilks road sign, bouldering in BishopJust a short 15 minute drive outside the city of Bishop, these gigantic highballs are located down the long dusty Buttermilks Rd. The iconic Buttermilks sign engulfed in stickers with the Sierra Nevada Mountain range in the back drop is your only marker to turn off onto the random dirt road. Take the road slow, to minimize the dust erosion of the cars and enjoy the views of the mountains and rock formations around you.  Drive down Buttermilks road for roughly 3-4 miles till you see the famous Peabody Boulders. They will be most likely the first set of boulders you will see and take you into the Buttermilks Main section where a majority of the climbing boulders begin. Drive up the small hill past the Peabody boulders where you will see some small lots and an outhouse.

Andrew Messick standing at the top of the Birthday Boulders climbing in BishopWhen you pull up to the parking area this will put you right at the heart of the bouldering. The Buttermilks main area is home to the major concentration of boulders(30+) and hundreds of  problems and area classics can be found here.  Important boulders to note in this area:

  • Peabody Boulders
  • Birthday Boulders
  • Iron Man Boulder
  • Bowling Pin Boulder


The first set of boulders you will see and right next where you are parked is the Birthday boulders. These rocks are great to warm-up on and give you a fun taste of what bouldering the Buttermilks is like! The majority of the bouldering problems range from V0 – V3 with 2-3 problems being V5-V6.

Important Note while Bouldering the Buttermilks:

There is an ecological restoration effort for the Buttermilks Main area in effect marked by small green and tan signs about a foot high. PLEASE STAY ON TRAIL and AVOID THESE AREAS marked off by the signs. Do NOT place crash pads on any sort of vegetation as this will damage the plants and impact the restoration efforts.

Mel holding Crimps above shotThe Boy and Girl Rocks located just a hundred feet or so up from the birthday boulders and is home to a fun trio of bouldering problems all called “Unnamed” and separated by their perspective grades of  V0, V1 & V4. Beautiful plate like flakes adorn the side of this boulder offering finger wide seam-like pockets to crimp your way up the problem as you may see fit.

Michele Buttermilk bouldering Bishop CaOnce you are done crimping around on the Boy and Girl rocks hike a little bit over to the Iron Man Boulder area. You will walk through/under a juggy overhung boulder about 15 feet high known as Hero Roof boulder. This is a great spot to have some fun on a classic V0 called “Hero Roof” to get warmed up on a brisk morning or catch some shade from the midday Sun.

Ann Marie climbing with long hair in BishopAs the name of the problem conveys you kind of feel like a hero pulling through the roof getting that heel in and topping out on this problem to a stellar view of the mountains and boulders all around you! It’s personally one of my favorites and a must on any climber’s tick list!

Iron Man Boulder in the ButtermilksNow that you are warmed up, spirits high and feeling “Heroic” look about 30 feet up the hill to a distinct boulder with a long line drawn straight across it. Aside from the Peabody boulders themselves the Iron Man Boulder is probably one of the most well known icons of the Buttermilks Boulders.

Ann Marie bouldering Iron Man Traverse in the ButtermilksThat distinct line is known as the “Iron Man Traverse” a V4 classic and one of the most famous boulder problems in the country.

Andrew on Iron Man Traverse in the ButtermilksThis long rail is deceiving as it starts off juggy  with solid foot placement but as you get progressively closer to the opposite side of the boulder the line becomes thinner in width.

Melvin Rivera Iron Man V4 Buttermilks bouldering Bishop CAThe lower rail for your feet quickly disappears forcing some folks to cut feet for a portion of the route fighting to find foot jibs as they traverse along the 20+ foot line.

Brendan bouldering Iron Man TraverseOthers will fore-go the jibs instead for heel hooks as they make their way across. If you can fight off the pump across the traverse be prepared for the core twist at the end! There are many ways to tackle this iconic boulder problem and why so many love to climb it!

Andrew Messick sretching out on the Carter boulder - Bouldering in the ButtermilksDepending on the time of year you decide to visit the Buttermilks, the daytime temperatures can take a toll on your ability to climb. With it being the first week of April when we came, temperatures were reaching  90 degrees during the day. We found ourselves opting to go after our projects at night with temps hovering around 50-60 degrees out. Bring the headlamps, spare batteries, puffy and your favorite sending beanie for those evening sends!

Ann Marie doing some night climbing on the Get Carter boulder - climbing in BishopAt night the Buttermilks can feel like a totally different world. When driving or looking out at the boulders at night they will look similar to glowing eggs in the distance as other climbing parties are working on their projects.  The stars at night here are incredible and inspiring. If you find yourself out after midnight I recommend turning off all the headlamps for 20 minutes, let your eyes adjust and stare up at the sky for a bit you will not regret it!

Melvin Rivera working through the crux on 7 Spanish Angels V6 - bouldering the ButtermilksWe found ourselves climbing at the Get Carter boulder on several nights as two of our folks had the classic “Seven Spanish Angels” on their tick list. This boulder can be found down the road about a half mile from the Buttermilks main area and it right along the side of the dirt road. This 20 foot high boulder is home to a number of problems ranging from V0 to V12.

Mel topping out on Roadside Crack in the ButtermilksWe decided to get ourselves warmed up on “Roadside Crack” a V1 problem on the front side of the boulder as the name says by the road. If you have never gone climbing at night definitely start on something well below your grade as the lack of light will play with you head mentally especially as you get higher up the problem. Take all aspects to what you are doing very slow and think it out! Weather it be walking around, climbing, spotting problems and landings!

**Always figure out the walk off or down climb before you start bouldering!**

This can not be stressed enough when it comes to bouldering at night! The last thing you want to be doing is walking around the top of a 20 foot boulder trying to find out where the edge is and the way back down in the dark!

Black Widow at the ButtermilksAnother thing you want to spot check when bouldering at night in the Buttermilks is for spiders as well as snakes. Just like any climbing area in the country it is in the wilderness and there are “residents” you have to keep an eye out for. We found several black widows at the base of the boulder when we first started. We made sure everyone in our group was aware, noted where they were, did not disturb them and stayed away from those sections of the boulder! Use common sense when climbing if you find the more critters then you are comfortable with move on to another boulder.

Andrew serious face bouldering seven spanish angelsAfter doing the routine spot check of critters, walk offs and crashpad placement we got to business bouldering Seven Spanish Angels. This classic V6 is a 18 foot high problem consisting of bulges or knobs up the side of the boulder.  A focus on pinches, balance and proper foot placement is key in tackling this Buttermilks test piece.

The Peabody BouldersThe boulders throughout the Buttermilks can range anywhere from 15 to 60+ feet tall! It is truly a wonder to think how such large rock formations are found scattered throughout the land. When you look at the boulders from a distance they may not seem so big. The iconic Peabody Boulders that welcome you when you first enter into the Buttermilks stand at roughly 50+ feet tall.
Mel next to Grandpa Peabody BoulderIt is not until you find yourself standing at the very base of them, looking for the start holds do you see and grasp the fact of how big they really are! The sheer size, scope and range of problems at the Buttermilks are what make it known for being the world class destination for boulders around the world.

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