Friday, 1 April 2016

Perfectly Unexpected by Jen Wilby

The day my world changed. 

There are only a few moments in life which are truly life changing. There are those which have a temporary impact and those which have a permanent one, but then there are those which smack you straight in the face and turn your world upside down. From these moments, you can never go back, they have changed you forever. Your soul has shifted and molded, twisted and turned. It all began driving down the Buttermilk road when the perfectly unexpected began to unfold. 
Had to get the classic photo
I always said I had no expectations for this trip and I meant it, in terms of my climbing. Preferring to see what happened with the climbing. Sure, I had a "too look" at list, but nothing more. However, there were some expectations which I didn't really think twice about. Such as , two days climbing one day off and on the rest days we would go visit places such as Death Valley, Rock Creek etc. The expectation that we would likely to be climbing alone for most of the time, joining in when pads were needed but nothing more.

Photo By Adam Newbery
We drove down the Buttermilk road wondering where the climbing was. There were blocks left and right, which in England, would be a prime bouldering destination. Scanning the guidebook, trying to see if I recognised anything, it was then that we finally turned the corner and spotted the Peabody
Photo from Nina Williams
Just wow, these boulders are huge, you can try and describe them to someone, but unless you have been there I don't think words can do them justice. Those first few glimpses of the Buttermilks made me a little numb. I'd watched countless videos of Bishop and it looked like dream land and honestly somewhere where I thought I would never go, I have no idea why. Maybe the climbs and climbers I saw in the video's set the Buttermilks in my mind as a fantasy land which could not be touched. I remember seeing the photo of Nina Williams on Footprints a few years ago and always said that was the line I wanted to do, not this trip, but at some point and standing underneath it this time that has not changed. 

The Buttermilks are surrounded by the most stunning back drop and wondering around the sandy walk ways meandering through the boulders I've never felt so calm. When climbing in England, I tend to go and project something as I've been climbing for a while and done many of the mileage problems around Wales, Lakes and Yorkshire. So going out always had a little bit of pressure attached to it, I was going out to do something. At the start of this blog I said I had no climbing expectations, however, we wouldn't be human if deep down we didn't think we would accomplish something which we found physically and mentally demanding, after all, its inherent in all of us. Yet here, in the milks, within thirty minutes that all washed away and I felt nothing but peace, I knew then that something inside of me had changed and that I would be leaving a part of my soul here and taking away a part of theirs.

Taking it all in 
We spent the first day, totally jet lagged and just wondered around seeing what was what and testing out how sharp the rock really was. To answer that question, its sharp, but it's not as bad as we first thought. 

The warm up's here are of an amazing quality
One of the first things that struck me was how clean this place was, there was no litter in sight and something which I think the Brit's should take note of. If you like your crag, don't mess it up! 

The second thing that struck me was how nice everyone was, no one minded if you jumped on a climb with them. In England, people are so pessimistic about people joining in on a problem with them, you get a look and you get the feeling of eyes staring at you wondering if you'll fall off, how you did a move and it rarely feels like it's in a positive way. In Bishop, everyone loves climbing with everyone and everyone is so psyched to see you climb something, whether its a V1 or V14. No one cares - and this was such a welcoming relief and very addictive. It made for such a positive climbing experience and something which is hard to walk away from. 

Everyone chipping in on High Plaines
We knew after a couple of days there the snow was going to hit, and everyone told us it never hit Bishop. did, which meant that climbing was out for a few days in the Milks but it was stunning to look at. 
Still trying despite the snow
I also managed to get a really bad cold, which basically meant I could barely climb for a few days and then felt super weak for the rest. To say I was gutted was an understatement. to have gone all that way, to be in this stunning place and I was ill. Then I managed to pop my finger on Stained Glass, which meant for the last week I was trying to climb quality over quantity - got a great tan though! 

Calm before the pop
I wrote a blog at the start on this, as the plan was to blog on rest days, but I deleted this as it was wrong to post it. Given the nature of this place, it was wrong to post such a negative blog, despite how I felt at that moment in time. After all, there were worst places to be ill! 

Snow over the Tableland
You won't get lost.
We ventured out to the Happy's and Sad's whilst waiting for the snow to leave the Milks. I had heard mixed reports about both, but I have to say, in my opinion, they are fantastic. Sure, they are not the Milks, but if you compare every crag to the Milks, you'll be in for a rough ride. Both the Happys and Sads have some amazing problems and all you have to do in the Sads is go wondering, go and get lost and you'll come across some fantastic climbs! 
Warming up
Action Hero V6

Go for a walk over the top of the canyon, you won't be disappointed
I've found it hard to write this blog as it's really hard to put into words the experience I had. What I can say, is that after the snow and the illness and after meeting some awesome people who we ended up spending the full three weeks with - all expectations left me and what came was the perfectly unexpected. I began to live in the moment again, something which I'd not had since our 12 month trip. Began to take every day as it came, to let go and to enjoy every moment, no matter what it brought. I stopped with the photos, stopped taking video's of the climbing, because none of it mattered. We ate, we drank and were merry, on more than one occasion and possibly on too many occasions - and if we had been wanting to "crank", it wouldn't have been a wise choice. I don't regret any of it, sure I've come back with a slightly worn out liver and added a few lbs, but I don't regret any of it. It was a blast. 
Fire at the Pit
Rusty's - it's a must visit place if you are there
Standard snow play
 Adam, one of the nice Canadians : ) (shout out to Sam who endured us for three weeks!)  we climbed with had this to say after we left: 

"Hey you crazy Britts!

I really enjoyed your company over the last few days, a fresh bit of realism and raw unfiltered humour, certainly a trip I won't forget anytime soon! "

This made me laugh so hard and smile so much, it's possibly one of the nicest things anyone has ever said to us and I won't forget that any time soon. It's not about the grade, or who crushed what, it's about being in that moment with the people you are with and not thinking about tomorrow. Such is the timeless beauty of the road and what seems to be totally lost in the UK.

Driving to LA, I'm not going to lie, I was super emotional, not in a crazy hysterical way but emotional non the less. The last time I had that sinking feeling was when we came back from the 12 month road trip, but this was different. I had just sold my house in the South the day before, and I began to wonder if this was one of those cross road points that happen in life and I could literally stay or go. I thought about it, long and hard.. I had the chance...but then I also thought back to when I had to come back from the 12 month trip. Having to go back to work was awful, so I knew, that the plan that was already in motion was the right one and I needed to head back. That still didn't stop the near panic attack on the plane! 

Bishop has changed me a lot, but when I got home I got some devastating news, for reasons which I can't disclose what, but this news also threw another curve ball my way and do you know what if I had heard it out there, I really don't think I would have come back. 

At the end of the day, we all cease to be here, it all boils down to one outcome for us all, so I would say to you, don't wait until you lose it, treasure what you love each and every day, go and have fun, throw caution to the wind and do what you love! 

So I've taken many things away - and given part of my soul to that place, thankful for what it has taught me and there are going to be some changes coming to help me be the person I want to be and to get back out on the road. 

So that is all, well done if you made it this far - if you are not asleep yet! I'll leave you with some photos - Happy Climbing! 

Molly v4

Strength In Number v5

Morning Dove White V7

Morning Dive White V7

Heavenly Path V1

Bowling Pin Sit V6

Bowling Pin Sit v6

Juniors Achievement V8

Juniors Achievement V8

Juniors Achievement V8
For now, its back to the grit and it was amazing to come back to cold conditions and an empty crag! 

Back on the grit all wrapped up! 
Happy Climbing...and if it's's not the end of your world.


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