After a short approach, we reach the boulder high among imposing rocks. Everything is how I remember it two days ago. My eyes are instantly drawn to the crux of the Bowling Pin. I’ve rehearsed the moves countless times in my dreams; I know precisely what to do.

Before I know it, the crash pads are lying on the ground and my climbing shoes are on. I chalk my hands vigorously, prepping to climb. Mentally, I rehearse the movements one more time, hands stretched out and placed gingerly on the starting holds, my feet digging into the course granite. I open my eyes and pull off the ground looking upwards while moving fluidly between intricate and powerful stances. I gain the crimp easily; everything is happening the way I imagined. I feel lighter than air. I focus on the crux a couple short moves away and prep to make the gaston towards the corner slab.

Suddenly and without warning comes the sound. I hear it before I see it. A loud pumping and grimy sound fills the air encompassing the Buttermilks. Gangster rap! I make an unnatural lunge for the crux hold, slip-off, and just like that, the morning flash attempt is over.

As the rap music advances the familiar noise of rattling windows and doors can be heard under the reverberation of bass. Then we see it. Careening behind “Grandpa” and “Grandma Peabody,” like a bat out of hell and blaring the music, is a loaded SUV racing up the dirt road towards the main parking area above. The windows of the vehicle, darkly tinted, are rolled halfway-down, revealing flailing arms attached to what appears to be beer cans, though, from this angle, one can’t be entirely sure.

“There’s NO WAY those people are climbers,” my climbing partner suggests. “Climbers aren’t that ridiculous.”

I struggle to refocus on climbing as the car speeds towards the parking area, a huge plume of dirt and debris left in its wake. The music continues for several minutes before finally ceasing. My attention returns to the task at hand. I sit cross-legged in front of the boulder eyeing the sequences. The legendary Dean Potter, once told me, “Patience is key.” I don’t want to wear myself out trying to climb the problem too quickly; we still have a full day ahead, and skin is a precious commodity in this game.

After 15 minutes of stretching and visualization, I place both hands on the starting holds. My body relaxes deeply before tensing in an explosion of power and precision, and then it happens again. Screams and yells fill the natural space around us. The music begins much closer than it had before. The cracking of beer cans is heard unanimously with the bawling of young people. I barely get my ass off the ground before slipping and falling in a heated pile on the crash pads, my partner and I sharing a look of disgust in the direction of the noise. Hurriedly, I remove my climbing shoes and toss them aside. I put my approach shoes on and head in the direction of the loud music, intent on spraying climbing ethics to whomever is causing the ruckus.

“It sounds like a damn Tupac concert over there,” I say to my friend as I rush off.

During the approach, aluminum cans are heard hitting the ground after being tossed against rocks, a familiar crushing sound echoing from all sides as the noise resounds from boulder-to-boulder. I round the corner toward the Ironman Traverse, and there under it are the culprits, sitting among scattered beer cans, smoking cigarettes and encompassing an audacious pair of speakers attached to an iPod.

The young girls are all wearing the latest in outdoor spandex with brightly painted nails, neon high-top basketball sneakers and make-up. It’s obvious they have no business here. The group reeks of L.A. and the latest fitness craze; bouldering. They are desperately trying to pull off the “dirt-bag” persona and failing miserably. It’s clear that there’s a clash of identities among the group. Brand new climbing shoes are scattered from one end of the landing to the other as if they’d never touched real rock before.

Christ! None of them appear over 20 years old, I think to myself.

One of the youths, a tall brown-haired boy with thick rim glasses and skin-tight jeans, is scraping the piss out of the traverse problem with a steel brush. The force with which he is brushing the hold is anything but congruent to maintaining its texture. It’s clear that climbing the problem seems out of the question to the boy-this act is simply for show. I reckon this newbie saw brushing holds on a climbing film back in the city and he’s now mimicking the activity. His forearms flex wildly under the pressure he’s giving the rock.

They have no business in front of this problem.

“Excuse me,” I interrupt.

They all turn, surprised they aren’t alone.

“Would you mind turning that music down for a minute so we can talk, please,” I continue, attempting to elevate my voice over the song. At this, one of the girls rolls her eyes and slowly dials the knob down on the iPod.

“Blasting your music for everyone to hear and throwing your beer cans in the sand alongside your cigarette butts, is completely disrespectful. This is not a party place kids.”

I’m normally a very nice and likable man with a friendly disposition; however, these events tend to draw me out in very different ways. Nothing pisses off a climber more than the total disregard for climbing areas like Bishop. Nothing.

“You over there, skinny kid.”

I point at the kid degrading the rock with a metal brush.

“Are you using a steel barbecue grill brush on that rock?”

At this he drops the brush, either mistakenly or on purpose, trying to put distance between he and the weapon.

“Do you have any idea how bad that is for the rock? You’re quite literally de-texturizing the problem. Any more of this and in a few days nobody will be able to climb the problem. It’ll feel like trying to slap and hold icy slopers if you keep brushing it with steel.”

Oh my God, I think I’m turning into my father!

I proceed.

“Using wire brushes is ONLY acceptable if you’re establishing new rock-climbs where Liken, moss and heavy dirt are present, but not in the Buttermilks; not anywhere in Bishop for that matter. This problem has been here a long time and will remain a classic line as long as you don’t take that brush to it anymore.”

I am a nice guy; I swear. 

“Now, please pick up your beer cans and cigarette butts, and keep the music low, or, better yet, turn it off completely. Ditch the wire brush, and please, for the love of all that is climbing, start respecting this natural environment and those who come here to climb.”

That was all I was able to spit out before I noticed attention being lost.

They’re already turning on me.

I want to continue, explaining to the ignorant children that climbing isn’t a right, it’s a privilege. With disrespect of the land comes the cost of losing it. I want to preach on the practices of climbers who dedicate their time to cleaning up climbing areas, to tell them about The Access Fund and its members working hard to preserve climbing, but they’ve lost interest. The girl who turned off the iPod is holding the device again, her thumb hovering-over the volume button, ready to silence me.

Suddenly, I notice movement out of the corner of my eye and there, standing a few feet away is my friend Alex. How long he’s been standing there I have no idea. Seeing that I’ve noticed him, a devilish grin forms at his lips.

Through a smirk, he says, “What should we do with them, Jonathan? Should I grab my fire poker and give them a brand for their contempt?”

The kids obviously didn’t expect him to matriculate out of nowhere, and, honestly, neither did I. The girls are up and begin gathering all the trash in a pile in front of them by kicking the beer cans together in heaps. The music remains off, for now, and I almost start to feel sorry for them. That is, until my gaze returns to one of my favorite boulder problems. That’s when I notice the thick white tick marks lining the hand holds from end-to-end, like middle-school graffiti on a train boxcar. They are a mile long and thick enough to be seen from space.

You bastards!

“I have an idea Alex. Let’s make ‘em work for it,” I suggest. “They need to pay their karmic debts to the climbing community.”

Alex gives me a huge smile as he starts rifling through his backpack. The kids start backing away nervously. They fear a weapon of some sort, perhaps the branding stick Alex had mentioned. His hand slowly starts out of the bag holding something. A hush fills the air. There in his hands, grasped firmly, are black garbage-bags and quick-ties.

“You can start with that metal brush of yours along with all the trash you’ve accumulated. All we ask is that you don’t do this again, and remove those damn tick marks from the boulder problem. It’s sacrilege, even you kids realize that, right?”

The kids all nod in unison like bobble-heads attached to the dash of their mothers’ mini-vans. Alex and I sense their sincerity. Without hesitation, the tall kid with hipster glasses approaches Alex and grabs the garbage bags. The rest of the group follows suit. The kids appear grateful. As we leave to refocus on our boulder problems, I occasionally glance in their direction and notice one of the group bending down to pick up a piece of garbage.

Well done.

We watched their car slowly descend the Buttermilks road several minutes later. They were mindful of the washboards as they left, and we didn’t hear a single peep of music as they departed. They didn’t appear to drive over 10 mph on their way.

“Damn kids,” Alex offered, as we see them leaving.


I didn’t finish the problem that day but made many attempts in peace. Additional climbers filtered in and did likewise.

Knowing we had approached the situation logically was pure satisfaction. If climbers don’t police areas themselves, leaving them desecrated, surely the spaces will close. This lewd behavior is being witnessed everywhere. Once quiet crags and bouldering sites are bustling these days, and with it comes a surge of unthoughtful behavior. This is a negative variable to a rise in popularity that rock-climbing is witnessing during this decade. Hopefully, the days of closures will never come. Perhaps all it takes to school younger climbers on proper etiquette, is speaking up when we see insolence. While approaching groups may seem brash and bullish, the message can be loud and clear.


WORDS BY: Jonathan Hogue – Lead Route Setter and Marketing Director N3C

The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the North Country Climbing Center.