Land Of The Free

Posted by Bob Hickish
Monday 2nd March 2009


Lisa, Tash and Gav booting up on day 1 in Bishop


America; land of the free. The first images I get when I hear the name America are; guns, rednecks, massive pickup trucks and the empty highway. Think a little bit more and I get; huge open vistas, beautiful boulders and of course a topless boulder dude saying "radical". This is a short account of our journey to the USA involving land, liberty and the pursuit of great boulder problems.



The Fall Guy V9, a classic highball line of  the Buttermilks, with a terible fall zone to boot.


Early November saw me and Tash boarding a plane armed only with boulder mats. SHOCK HORROR. Which was a bit of a giant step for me as I had never really done much bouldering before so was unsure how I would cope with 2 months of doing nothing else.  Anyways, we landed in LA very weary but to a general buzz of excitement from the people around us, as during the course of our flight the American general election had take place and Mr Obama had been announced as the next president!



Tash having fun on Birthday Arete V3 in the Buttermilks, Bishop.



Trying hard on the tenuos heel hook problem Pow Pow V8, The Sad Boulders, Bishop. 


Our trip was to consist of two halves, 1 month in Bishop and 1 month in Hueco. The first two weeks of the Bishop halve we where joined by our good friends from back home Gav Symonds and Lisa Farris, this also made life a lot easier for us as they had a car; we owe them big thanks for ferrying us around. Bishop is with out doubt the most beautiful amazing place I have ever been. Ever. To describe it can't do it justice, nor can my photos so all I can say is you have to go there, if not for the climbing just for being there. However you would be a fool to miss out on the climbing, home to the Buttermilks; world class bouldering on huge granite boulders in beautiful setting, what's not to like? This place has so many famous problems you feel like your starring in a DVD. Which we kind of were, here's a short video Gav made of our trip.


Bishop 08 from Gavin Symonds on Vimeo.


Probably my favourite problem of Bishop, and maybe that I've done ever, was "The Checkerboard" V8, this set in beautiful location all by itself and the only line up the massive face of a boulder. These are all ingredients for a great problem, but then chuck in the perfect crimper edges, the devious sequence and the satisfying finishing jug and you've got a classic problem.



The greatest problem of them all; Checkerboard V8, Buttermilks, Bishop. Gav Symonds showing how its done.



Tash checks out the holds on another awesome problem, The Iron Man Traverse V4, Buttermilks, Bishop.


When the time came to leave Bishop I wasn't too sad because although it's a great place, I was itching to try and send some hard problems, but the unseasonably warm weather that we had in Bishop had thwarted this, putting an end to any friction to be had on those granite slopers. We were very lucky because we were not sure how we would get to Hueco and were planning to get a bus, not a prospect we looked forward too, however we met a man called Andy Glover who soon became our good friend and just so happened to be driving down to Hueco at about the same time we wanted to go......



 A happy cactus in Hueco.


The drive down to Hueco Tanks took us two full days and is about 1200 miles. We saw some amazing scenery; they have so much land over there they don't know what to do with it, miles and miles and miles of empty vista broken only by arrow straight roads. I don't think I would ever want to sit on my arse for so long again, however it was definitely worth it.



Tash on Girls of Juarez V4, Hueco.


Hueco is a very different  experience to Bishop, not only because the rock type and climbing style totally the opposite. In Bishop its all about freedom and space, but Hueco is out in the middle of the desert (water is precious, there is no running tap water, a very strange thing for an Englishman!) but you still have to pay just to get into the climbing area and are bound by all sorts of rules about where you can go and at what time, not really what climbing is about. However this is offset by a huge number of incredible boulder problems, and also the great vibe you get when a large number of people, who share the same passion, congregate in a small area (the campsite is only a couple of acres).



The aptly named Best of The Best V9, Hueco. 


It was a sad day when the time came to say goodbye to America. To date I would say it was one of the best trips I've had for so many reasons. Went to hole new continent and got to see the strange land of America, Climbing wise discovered that I do really enjoy bouldering and managed to learn a lot about it and improve at it. We also made some great new friends who I hope I will see again. Most importantly though I don't think there was a day that went by where I wasn't having fun. I would definitely recommend a trip to America's bouldering hotspots to any climber; I know I'll be going back.





The Hueco Ganh L-R: The RV, Me, Yuri, Andy, Danny, Dave and Tash 



Hueco sunset


Read more blog entries by Bob Hickish

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