Classic Climbs: High Planes Drifter

The story behind one of Bishop’s most prized (and misspelled) problems

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Bishop High Planes Drifter V7 Bouldering Rock climbing Ben Ditto
Bishop local Ben Ditto latches the last hard move on High Planes Drifter (V7).Julie Ellison

After four decades of this Buttermilks classic being misnamed, its first ascensionist, Dale Bard, wants to set the record straight: “It’s high but not too high, it’s a pretty flat and smooth angle of rock, and it drifts right—that was High Planes Drifter right there,” Bard says, 40 years post-FA. Thanks to the 1973 Clint Eastwood movie High Plains Drifter, which filmed at Mono Lake, about one hour northwest, the misnomer is not surprising.

Bard did the problem in the late 1970s in the style of the day: no spotters, no crashpads. “We used Bachar technology—you climb as far as you can, then when you can’t do the moves, you downclimb to a spot where you can jump off safely,” Bard says. After doing the slightly shorter Change of Heart (V6) on the same boulder, he scoped the patina edge just to the right. “On my fifth attempt, I blew the heel hook and took an inconvenient fall that knocked the wind out of me,” Bard says. He promptly sent next go.


Buttermilks, Bishop, California




25 feet to 15 feet of mellow slab


Dale Bard, 1978