How did we get here? Where are we going?

By Doug Robinson

For a while I fancied that I had invented the Buttermilk. After all, in 1969 I made the first ascent of the biggest boulder by roping up, placing two or three nuts, and even sinking a couple of bolts to protect the 5.8 crux, which edged out above the lip of an overhang. But I soon got schooled. Bob Blanchard had already soloed my route—definitely highball to a 70-foot summit—and not bothered to mention it.

I should have guessed. Bob’s father Smoke Blanchard had become Bishop’s first climber in 1941, coming south as a snow mountaineer after setting a speed record climbing Mt. Hood. Smoke soon found the Buttermilk and began scrambling in the granite maze—the one toward town from the boulders—that eventually became Smoke’s Rock Course. Watch out, boulderers: there’s a curious surge of interest these …