Monday, March 28, 2011

Best of the Grade

I recently had a conversation about memorable ascents. It dawned on me that in just over four short years of climbing there were problems that I could not remember sending. This got me thinking about the ascents that I would never forget. Having just inched past the 200 mark for individual boulder problems completed I thought it would be good to look back at a few ascents that will stick with me for years to come.

This list is completely personal, however it is no surprise that many world class problems show up on here.

V0: Melon Patch, Hueco Tanks, TX
Sometimes when you reach the top of a boulder problem it just isn't enough. You have to climb it again immediately. Melon Patch is one of those problems. The only line on the boulder, this tall face with its distinctive white chalked huecos is a perfect warm up for the body and the mind.

Honorable Mentions:
- 7-10 Split, Hueco Tanks, TX
- Poker Chips, Red Rocks, NV

V1: Heavenly Path, Bishop, CA
I make sure to climb this problem every time I'm in Bishop. A photogenic line with just enough commitment at the lip. A great place to soak up some sun, warm up, and climb this problem again and again.

Honorable Mentions:
- Orifice Affair, Hueco Tanks, TX
- The Fin, Priest Draw, AZ

V2: Nobody Here Gets Out Alive, Hueco Tanks, TX
No surprise here. This is one of the best lines of any grade let alone V2. Physical roof climbing between comfortable jugs to a tough lip encounter and easy headwall. Full value!

Honorable Mentions:
- Potato Chips, Red Rocks, NV
- The Vulgarian, Hueco Tanks, TX

V3: White Rastafarian, Joshua Tree, CA
After bailing once from the crux I managed to shut off the reasonable part of my brain and scramble to the top, heart racing. At one point I remember even cutting my feet from the jugs on the lip. Another boulder with only one perfect line on it. I'll never forget reaching the top of this one.

Honorable Mentions:
-Bum Boy, Horse Pens 40, AL
-Bat Roof, Priest Draw, AZ

V4: Moonshine Roof, Hueco Tanks, TX
Pure fun! This cave is seriously a jungle gym for adults.

Honorable Mentions:
- The Pearl, Red Rocks, NV
- Super Mario, LRC, TN

V5: Hammerhead, Horse Pens 40, AL
My first V5. A truly memorable send due to an epic top out that left burns on my forearms, thighs, and palms. Worth every bit of skin.

Honorable Mentions:
- Star Power, Hueco Tanks, TX
- Serengeti, Bishop, CA

V6: Meddle Detector, Hueco Tanks, TX
V6 is a great grade for classics, but this line takes the title hands down. Superb movement leading to a pumped out of your mind finish makes this tucked away backcountry line a true gem.

Honorable Mentions:
- Redneck, Horse Pens 40, AL
- Anorexic, Priest Draw, AZ

V7: High Plains Drifter, Bishop, CA
The climb that inspired this blog post. It just doesn't get much better than this. There might be other lines on this bloc, but this is the one worth doing. The fact that Dale Bard first climbed it without foam under him makes it all the more impressive.

Honorable Mentions:
- Sweet N' Low, Donner Summit, CA
- Caliman, Red Rocks, NV

V8: Monkey Bar Direct, Red Rocks, NV
My first experience with this line was as a V3 climber out in Kraft with a bunch of buddies from Chicago. We looked at the big spans between small holds in awe, imagining ourselves sticking just one move on the climb, let alone sending. This is one of those milestone ascents for me, something I make sure to get on whenever I'm hanging out in Kraft.

Honorable Mentions:
- Flat Spin, Mt. Charleston, NV
- Javelina, Hueco Tanks, TX

V9: Choir Boys, Hueco Tanks, TX
This ascent was another milestone for me. The movement is some of the best I've done, and this climb still represents the standard for the grade in my mind. I remember wanting to do this climb before I even laid eyes on it.

Honorable Mentions:
- Brevity, Donner Summit, CA
- Purple Flowers, Hueco Tanks, TX

V10: Americana Exotica, Red Rocks, NV
I don't truly feel qualified to weigh in on V10's yet, as I've only climbed five so far. That said Americana Exotica is a spectacular line that I really had to fight for. For nearly two weeks I would pack up some water, some tunes, a few snacks, and head out for a solo session on this problem. I would watch a lone cloud in the sky during rests, sometimes only giving a handful of attempts to the extremely physical problem, and head home. This went on for so long that just as I got used to just hanging out under the beautiful swirled wall I managed to finish the problem for its sixth ascent. Now whenever I see videos or photos of this neo-classic I think back to the time when I had it all to myself.

Honorable Mentions:
-Acid Wash, Bishop, CA
-Goin' Postal, Mt. Charleston, NV



  1. Nice descriptions, Max. I gotta admit though, I am surprised by some of the omitted problems. Makes me want to put my own list together.

  2. You should, man! I'd definitely like to read that list. Writing this post reminded me how much it out there that I still need to climb. I'm sure it will change throughout the years.

  3. It's interesting how a list like this is necessarily influenced by where you've been. Any two people could put together totally different "best of grade" lists and neither would be wrong (granted it's also subjective as hell). That doesn't make it less valuable, just makes it personal I think. Says more about you than the boulders maybe.

    At first I was thinking... man I haven't even been to most of these places, I need to plan some trips. While it's true that I need to visit Hueco and Bishop, I realized that I've had my own experiences and will (maybe) go places you haven't and come up with my own list. Our two lists will then tell a greater story combined than separate.

    On a specific note, I'm surprised you have Potato Chips on there instead of Monkey Bars Left. I remember flashing Potato Chips on that first trip to Red Rocks and not thinking much of it, might have even been the first thing we got on there. MBL took a number of goes and was more of a process. Does that influence my fonder memory of it? Who knows.

  4. This is a great comment. It would be cool to have a bunch of different people make a "best of" list and see the similarities and differences. The choices would definitely say a lot about the climbers.

    There are so many good problems out there!

  5. I totally agree. This got me thinking of boulder problems I absolutely loved. There's probably more lines I haven't gotten that I love more than the ones I did send probably because working on them was much fun.

    On a side note, a few of us are gonna be in Vegas at the end of April. Do you have any V4-V6 problems you'd highly suggest for us? Maybe a few that you put up?

  6. By request (or was it a dare?):