For as long as I can remember, my family went climbing in Bishop, California, every year, in the fall and winter. By the time I was 6 years old, I started to climb seriously on my own. Ever since then, I remember every time we would arrive in the Buttermilks, I would look up in awe at Evilution.
Evilution is located on the Grandpa Peabody boulder and you simply can’t miss it. It’s the biggest boulder you see from the parking lot. There’s only one word for the Grandpa Peabody boulder… Massive! Its summit towers about 45 feet in the sky. And Evilution goes right up the steep face in the middle of Grandpa Peabody.
I’ve always walked up to Evilution, looked at the glassy crimps on the huge overhang, and then looked up at the long slab above the lip. Hard, crazy and nuts were the words that always ran through my mind.
I kept thinking about Jason Kehl, Evilution’s first ascentionist, first seeing this beast, envisioning the unthinkable top out, and doing it. Then the French climber Tony Lamiche came later and established the slightly easier, yet even more intimidating direct exit.
When I was finally tall enough to reach the start holds (with a stack of pads under me), I would try to hang onto the holds, but the first move was just GIANT!!!
But as I got increasingly stronger and more capable, I started to think I might actually someday be able to climb this boulder.
A few weeks ago, I came to Bishop and got to spot two French climbers, Michael Fuselier and Axel Ballay, working the crux at the lip on a top rope. I had met them before in Bishop, then the Red River Gorge, and also the Gorges du Tarn.
I started working the lower part with them. Meanwhile, I watched Michael and Axel get super close to toping it out. They kept falling on the hard moves above the lip. The fall seemed big but clean.
For my part I struggled with the first move. I could touch it, but was always just a little shy of sticking it. With the help of a power spot, I was able to try the next few moves and they seemed fine. I was getting stoked!
On one of my tries, out of nowhere, I surprised myself by sticking the first move! I was so surprised I almost fell, but I got my act together and focused on climbing through the next few moves. Suddenly, I found myself 20 feet off the pads at the lip of the Grandpa Peabody boulder. I couldn’t believe it! I had just sent Evilution to the lip.A V10 by itself I tried to refocus and keep going, but I was just too excited, and I fell almost immediately above the lip.
I felt so psyched to send Evilution to the lip, but the feeling didn’t last long. I was already thinking about the ultimate goal: topping out.
Enzo Oddo was also there and I watched him top out Evilution, making it look easy. That was a huge motivation boost for me.
The next couple of days, however, I became frustrated as I kept missing the first move. The one time I stuck it, I once again climbed back to the lip, but fell just a little higher. The fall was huge and scary, but clean. By now, it was time to go back home.
A few days later I got word that Michael Fusilier had also sent. I was really psyched for him but I couldn’t wait to get back to Bishop and have another try.
I took a rest day. The next day, I came back just after sundown, but again, I wasn’t able to stick the first move. Finally, I stuck it but felt so tired from all those other burns that I promptly fell off on the next move. Frustrating…
So I took another day. I spent the day hanging out with friends and climbing easy problems. But the whole day, the only thing on my mind was the thought of sending Evilution Direct. I replayed the first move in my head over and over. I told myself to go big, to keep my core tight, and to crimp on hard on the next hold. I spent the whole day just picturing myself doing it!
That evening, I managed to rally lots of crash pads and many spotters. I was going to go for it ground up. I slipped on my shoes, chalked up, took a big breath, and went for it…
And I missed the first hold. Again.
But I was so determined, I didn’t let that get me down. I shook it off. I relaxed. And I tried again.
This time I stuck the move. I kept climbing. I moved through the next sequence, and soon I was at the lip. I took a moment to calm my breathing and shake out a bit. I knew the next move was really big and hard and committing because you have to make a big lock off with a high heel hook, 25 feet above the pads! I had to execute it perfectly. I waited until I felt ready, then went for it.
My heel hook just seemed to get sucked into the hold. My body moved in one big dynamic and fluid motion, and my left hand just stuck on the hold! This time, it felt so easy … I took a deep breath and focused. There was another 20 feet of sketchy slab climbing to reach the top.
Right hand up, match, and bring up the foot. I locked off and reached up with my right hand and crimped down on the little hold above my head. Once I felt comfortable, I slowly brought up my left foot high. Carefully, I rocked over on it, grasped the left hand intermediate, and bumped to the final hold. I latched onto it!
At that moment I couldn’t believe what I had just done. I was in complete disbelief. It felt like this could be a dream. I finished up the remaining slab and was soon standing on top of the boulder. While climbing the boulder I was very aware of the height, but I had virtually no fear as I was purely focused on the moves. I knew that if I started to freak out, things would go downhill very quickly, so I kept myself calm, focused, and relaxed.
Standing on the summit of the Grandpa Peabody, having done this big, scary climb that I had been dreaming about since I was 6 years old, gave me a feeling of total exhilaration. I was literally shaking.
A lot of times, finishing off a project is a huge relief because you never have to try it again. But with Evilution, it felt different. Sure, sending was amazing, but it’s almost as if I’m sad to not be going through the process again. To me, Evilution, felt like “The Problem” in Bishop. It was my dream problem, and I think it will always be an important benchmark or stepping stone for me in my climbing.
About the Author
Mirko Caballero, 12 years old, is a three-time National Champion in Youth Bouldering. He was born in Bedford, New Hampshire, but moved to Los Gatos, California, when he was a baby. His parents are from Switzerland and Bolivia, and are also climbers themselves. Mirko says he has climbed his whole life, but didn’t take it seriously until he was 6. He has sent over 60 boulder problems in the grade range V10 to V13, and over 60 sport climbs in the 5.13a to 5.14b range. He climbed One Summer in Paradise (V13), his hardest boulder problem to date, last summer during a trip to Magic Wood, Switzerland. His hardest sport climb to date is Stop Sika (5.14b), Rawyl, Switzerland, but the route he’s most proud of sending is Scarface (5.14a), Smith Rock. He turns 13 in January.