A Tale of Two Sessions || Road to V5

I’d like to talk about two bouldering sessions today: One, the other day when I went to Gold Bar and climbed basically nothing and then it rained; and two, when I went to the River Boulders in Index last weekend and it was glorious.

I’ll start with Gold Bar.

The Gold Bar sesh was actually SUPPOSED to be a Leavenworth sesh, but as sometimes happens when I got to Gold Bar on the way to Leavenworth it was still dry and I thought, Why not just climb here? I figured it would still be kinda wet, but that at least the blocs not under trees would be dry.

And I was mostly right.

My goals were to get 10 v-points, try the start of Metroid Prime V6, try the first move of Midnight Lichen V4 and send Stepping Razor V2. I accomplished none of these goals. I warmed up on a new V0 around the corner from The Shorstop V2 and then went over to Stepping Razor V2 and The Button V3 and got shut down by both. Except I couldn’t just get shut down and let it go. I had just sent The Button a week or so previous fairly easily and so became obsessed with re-sending it. Then I would mix in burns on Stepping Razor, berating myself for not being able to send V2. My psyche spiraled. After burns on The Button I would scream “fuck” into the forest, no one around to hear it. Eventually I felt myself getting weaker and, in retrospect somewhat thankfully, it started to rain.

So I went back down the mountain, stopping to try the first moves on Obesity V7.

My worst sesh in a long, long time. And yet there were still positives to take from it. It made me more humble? It made me realize the important of multiple rest days between sessions? It made me realize that bouldering strength ebbs and flows and not every day can be a try hard day?

Contrast that with the session last weekend at the Skykomish River. This time I went into the session with no goals, the only goal being to climb whatever I felt like and to have fun and hopefully learn something. I actually started the session at the Five-star Warm-up boulder in Gold Bar but it was mostly wet and so pivoted to Index. The river boulders were dry. I started at the first boulder you come to, with some high-ball, polished warm-ups. I tried sending the polished slab, a V0, in bare feet and then when I felt myself getting closer put shoes on for the send. This was a satisfying V0 because I hadn’t gotten it the session before, it’s extremely polished and basically you just have to trust your feet. A great exercise in friction climbing.

After the slab I went over to Finger Crack V3 and got absolutely owned. I don’t know what it is about this boulder, but I can’t decipher it. I watch people in videos do it and it looks so easy, and then I try it and can barely get off the ground. But since it wasn’t part of my goals and I was just trying to have fun, I didn’t stress and moved on. To the Jewel V3.

At The Jewel, a bloc I’ve wanted to try for a LONG time but never had the pads for, something mystical happened. I tried various forms of beta, never able to reach the lip and feeling a bit off-balance, until I finally figured out a sequence in which I brought my right foot up, kept my left hand out wide, and then did a sort of side toe hook with my left foot on the same hold my left hand was on, allowing me to stand up on the good right foot and reach the lip. The lip was slopey but I’d spotted it before hand and knew there was a great ridge to the right. After matching the lip I was able to bring a foot to the good pocket where my right hand had been and then get my right hand onto the ridge, which felt like grabbing a granular loaf of bread.

This figuring out of beta was one of the most satisfying things I’ve experienced to date as a boulderer. It make something that felt like V3 or V4 feel like V1. I also, in just that one little move, learned a great deal about technique and balance. After the send I sat on my pad a bit, looking out over the river in the sun, and then schlepped the two massive pads back up to the car, where I had a glorious Hop Tea waiting for me.

So yeah, the first session not so great, but the Index Session? Glorious.

Hellfire Burns #2 || Road to V5

So, my blog gets about 200 views per month. Which is unsettling, because I probably look at it upwards of 100 times per month. So does that mean this blog, which I devote aorta and soul to, is only getting about three views a day?

I’ll take it.

Because hey, you never know, it could be enriching the lives of three people. Or making them laugh. Or making them think. Or making them want to boulder.

Speaking of which, I thought we could talk about bouldering today, since I rarely devote time to this subject. Specifically, we could talk about yesterday’s session in Leavenworth, specifically at Barney’s Rubble, specifically centered around such boudlers as The Hesitator V2 and Alfalfa or Spanky V5.

But actually I don’t want to talk about bouldering JUST YET. I’m not quite there yet this morning. I’m still drinking my tea. I haven’t had any carbs yet so maybe that’s why I feel a bit drained. Plus I always feel a bit down the day after a good climbing session. The days I don’t climb often seem a bit…empty. Yes, this is troubling. No, I haven’t taken any concrete steps toward solving this problem.

Slash is bee pollen considered refined sugar?

Slash.

OK, pull yourself together, Mark.

Maybe I need to watch a YouTube video real quick.

God I burnt the absolute BEJEEZUS out of my tongue this morning at MIRO tea shop in Ballard. I got a large yerba mate and it steeped for like five minutes then I was walking outside with it and I’m like Oh it’s probably had plenty of time to cool off I’m just gonna… And then JESUS it hurt and now I just had some chips and salsa and salsa is not something you wanna eat on a burnt tongue slash I’m watching THIS video:

And you should probably be watching it too.

Obviously I’ve seen this video before.

Obviously.

But sometimes it’s good to revisit.

Watching this video actually reminds me a lot of my attempts on Schist Cave Right V5 in Leavenworth yesterday. I mean, both climbs are roof/cave climbs. Both climbs are either at my limit or beyond. Both climbs involve chalk and climbing shoes and holds. And both climbs I’d love to put down some day. So they have a lot in common. The biggest different is actually probably the rock composition.

OK, NOW we can talk about yesterday’s sesh.

So, Adi and Pablo and Wyatt and the crew were all out in Leavenworth yesterday for a mix of bouldering and trad and top roping, and it was a capital occasion. I got there after everyone, since some of the people went out on Friday to party and the rest early Saturday morning from Seattle. I, on the other hand, was on Bainbridge, so my departure got delayed by the ferry. However, I did make it out there after traversing Snoqualmie Pass and then Blewett Pass and at some point on the journey I started drinking a Runa and started basically shaking and trembling with anticipation of getting out there. When I got there people were JUST getting back from Forestland, a session I heard basically nothing about. It’s not clear to me whether they actually climbed there, since no climbs were mentioned. The words I most heard were “chillin'” and “heat.” However, then we all headed down to Barney’s Rubble, and that’s where the real climbing began.

Pablo, who seems to be growing stronger by the nanosecond, started working on Ouchies V6. This is an interesting climb, because it has zero stars in the guidebook and yet has become one of the most popular climbs in the area. It’s also kind of funny because I don’t think the name really applies anymore. After years and years of getting climbed, the holds aren’t nearly as sharp as they once probably were (just judging from caressing them myself and also from Sendage, though to be fair I haven’t tried the boulder yet). It’s also got a perfectly flat landing, and it’s probably on the easy end of V6. All these factors have made it quite the popular rig, and one I’m stoked to try some time soon.

While Pablo gave Ouchies a few hellfire burns I started suiting up to warm up on some of Barney’s Rubble’s easier blocs, aka The Rail V0, a perfect warm-up bloc to climb up, hang from, down climb, traverse on, etc etc. However, since the caffeine was starting to kick I was feeling restless, and somehow got convinced/wanted to try The Hesitator V2. I love slab, so I thorougly enjoyed the climbing up to the dish before the “leap,” especially one sequence that involved a foot crossover and trusting a small edge. I also enjoyed mantling into the dish, as that felt somewhat tenuous. Now, let it be known that just prior to this someone had told me that tall people could grab the lip from a good edge below where most people have to smear. And that it was easy. And that the lip was a jug. So I felt pretty good about going for it, and indeed, after looking down to make sure the pad was in the right place and testing the foot out a bit, that’s what I did.

And it was glorious.

All the stars.

A good way to start the session.

AKA Pablo also sent ouchies, his first V6!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (all the exclamation points).

Fuck Snow Lakes?

Next we went down to where people top rope/trad climb at Barney’s Rubble. Aka we went cragging, and I loved it because I did all the things I love about cragging, aka sitting on a crashpad and snacking and talking while other people climbed. At no point did I have to put on a harness or a helmet, and at no point did I have to tie in. All of the fun without any of the hassle. HOWEVER, I still did want to do some climbing, so after he tried a 10a Pablo and I went down to Alfalfa or Spanky V5, a dihedral problem that we’d looked at in May last time we were there. Except this time we actually gave it a few burns. And you know what? We sort of figured out the beta. AKA we figured out none of the beta, aka we DID figure out the beta up to the crux, but couldn’t figure out how to actually haul our carcesses into the dihedral, which is the crux. Still, it was great to get on this bloc, since it’s a primo bloc. And it was great to start projecting V5! It definitely didn’t feel too much out of my wheelhouse, and I’m stoked to go back and try it more, especially now that I’ve re-watched a few more videos.

At the end the day everyone else went to Mad Meadows and I went to Schist Cave Right V5 in the Swiftwater Area because that was my main goal for getting out there. I started off by flashing Bam V2, and found it underwhelming. I didn’t even find it WHELMING. I just sort of found it meh. Then I went to Schist Cave right and started trying the first moves and by the end of the session could go from the beginning to where you place the knee bar, but didn’t actually place the knee bar well a) because I’ve never done a knee bar before and b) because I was wearing shorts. However, I was satisfied with my progress on this bloc. And I was satisfied to have done a bit of roof climbing.

Climbing days always go too fast, and yesterday was no different. One minute you’re projecting gorgeous blocs with your friends, the next minute you’re back on your boat in Seattle drinking yerba mate and (almost) crying.

Maybe I need to move to Leavenworth.

 

Theft and Sendage || Road to V5

Jesus Cristo, what a morning.

I’m happy to report that the Subee is purring once again. I’m $175 poorer, but she’s purring again until someone tries once more to cut out the catalytic converter. Where did that happen? Was it when I was parked at the Clear Cut Boulders yesterday in Gold Bar? When I left my car by the Sculpture Park to walk to the ferry? Or here at the marina when it was sitting in the gravel lot at night?

Who knows.

Bottom line is this: Yesterday when I was driving back from Gold Bar I went to pass someone and all of the sudden it sounded like an F-16 was landing next to me on the highway. Then I realized the noise was actually coming from my car, from my beloved Subee, and that I hadn’t actually been overtaken by a troupe of souped up Honda Civics. When I got back to Seattle I took it to my sister’s mechanic and he immediately found that someone had cut the exhaust. The reason I only discovered it when passing someone is because it was hanging by a thread and my accelaration caused it to become separated completely. What kind of asshole tries to steal someone’s catalytic converter? Well, I guess we do live in Seattle.

Anyway.

Bouldering.

Yesterday I had a delightful sesh up at the Gold Bar boulders. I had three goals: 1) Send The Container V2, a long time project (or something I just used to give a burn on here and there), 2) Hang the starting holds on Silver Slippers V4, and 3) Try the starting move of World’s Best V7. And I SORT OF accomplished all of those goals. I sent The Container despite completely thrutching out the top out.

(video hopefully soon to come. can’t upload it. wordpress sucks.)

It felt good to send The Container, and it also felt good to do the start of it a few times after I’d sent it just to see how efficiently I could do it. There was definite opportunity for a heel hand match, and it might’ve even be the most efficient line.

After The Container I went up to World’s Best V7, which is a trek. First of all it’s a trek to get to the Gold Bar boulders, and then Jaws, which is where World’s Best V7 is located, is a bit of a trek from there. However, I found the boulder without too much deviation, and wasn’t super surpised to find it’s quite overhanging, since A) it’s V6-7, and B) you could tell it was somewhat overhanging in videos and in my experience things are always WAY more overhanging in real life. So I started trying the first move, and then realized I might not be able to properly commit without proper paddage. Then I started trying the SECOND move, which is a gorgeous left heel hook followed by slapping the left hand up to a good hold. Again here I had a tough time committing, 1) because my heel hooks REALLY need work, and 2) because I was afraid of falling. I’m just starting to take some more falls after hurting my back about a month ago, and so I’m still being quite careful.

It felt amazing to try some moves on a V7, and on a boulder with such satisfying movement. I can’t wait to go back, but I need to go back either with friends or more pads or both, and hauling more than one pad up there would be quite the task.

After WBV7 I went down to Silver Slippers V4, located in the Aries area, and STILL COULDN’T HOLD THE START HOLDS. Like, I couldn’t establish. I’m pretty sure that if someone held a Nerf gun to my head I could do the boulder tomorrow from one move in, but holding those start crimps is killing me. Guess I just have to get stronger.

After the sesh is when I realized someone had tried to steal my catalytic converter, and so I spent the rest of the afternoon dealing with that. This morning an awesome dude up on Aurora welded it for $160 plus tax, and now she’s good to go again, but how do you prevent someone from trying to steal your catalytic converter? The sad answer is you can’t. And the sad answer is that it’s becoming really common.

But let’s end today’s blog on a good note. It’s a gorgeous, sunny day here in Seattle. I’m probably going to Leavenworth this weekend. I’m probably going to BC soon. And I’m also, despite certain difficulties, generally pretty stoked.

The Road to V7 lives on!

Tenaya Demo in Redmond/Trying Moves on a V7???

Friends, something’s happening today:

I’m going bouldering.

Yes, I know some of you were worried I’d become a full-on sport climber, lying awake at night thinking of the Yosemite Decimal System and a new pair of TC Pros, but I assure you that’s not the case. My roots are still in bouldering. I would still rather have a crash pad draped over my back than a length of rope. I still dream of heel hooking and toe hooking and the day when I’ll finally place a knee bar.

Maybe today could be that day?

I’m going to the Clear Cut Boulders today, partly since I wanna do the hike and partly because I consider them my “home boulders.” These boulders will always hold a special place in my heart because they’re the first place I really bouldered outside. There is also something magical about being high up on a mountain, away from the road, surrounded only by the smells and the sounds of the forest.

Not to mention the sic(k) blocs.

BUT BEFORE I TALK ABOUT BOULDERING I’d like to talk about the Tenaya demo I went to at Vertical World Redmond yesterday. I must say, I had high hopes for this demo. I thought it would be a scene. I thought Drew Ruana would be there, esconced in a pair of Iati’s, projecting V25 and generally looking cool. INSTEAD, however, there was just one dude standing behind a card table with a bunch of dirty shoes perched on top. And here’s the worst part: They didn’t even have all their shoes! Of the four top of the line shoes they sell (Mastia, Oasi, Iati, Tarifa) they only had two there. Two. They didn’t have the Mastia or the Iati, two of the shoes I most wanted to try on. They DID have the Oasi LVs (low volumes), so I cranked those on and went around to various V1s and V2s pretending like I knew what I was doing, testing out the edging, the smearing, the heel hooking. But how am I supposed to pull the trigger if I can’t even try on the Mastias?

So yeah.

Mildly disappointing.

Goals for the bouldering sesh today:

  1. Hold the start holds on Silver Slippers V4 (like actually hold all my body weight off the ground)
  2. Try the first move on World’s Best V7
  3. Send The Container V2

The Container V2 is an interesting one. Barold and I tried it one of our first ever times in Gold Bar and loved the movement on the bottom but got shut down by the top out. And then I went there a year later as a much better boulderer and loved the movement at the bottom but got shut down by the top out. The top out is bulbous and the holds aren’t very good over the lip, but I think I’m making it harder than it’s supposed to be. The guidebook says, “Top out directly above,” but top out directly above what? Where you started? No. The large features on the right? Maybe. Either way one goal today is to finally send this problem, since I’ve gotten shut down by it too many times and it’s time to dedicate some actual time to it.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: What does it mean to “refinance” a home?

You’re also thinking: Trying moves on a V7???

And to that I say, “Yes, obviously.” You’ve got to try things that inspire you, and after watching countless videos of people sending World’s Best V7 I am becoming mildly obsessed with it. Plus, some of the moves look totally doable. So either I’ll go there and be served a healthy serving of humble (and possibly rhubarb) pie, or maybe I’ll do a move or too. There’s nothing quite as humbling as bouldering.

Slash why is Silver Slippers so crimpy.

Slash why I am I not sleeping well.

Slash I live on a boat.

OK, that’s about it for today.

Who’s going to Joshua Tree with me in November?

– Wetzler

A Day at Vantage || Road to 5.12???

Good morning, all. How is everyone doing this morning? If you’re like me you’re sitting on your boat thinking about what caffeine you’re going to drink next, reveling in the incredible forecast for Seattle, Index and Leavenworth for the next week. Take a gander at the Seattle forecast:

That’s a lot of yellow orbs, if I’m not mistaken. A lot of sun. Highs right around room temperature. Lows around the sending range. A good time to get out on your project, if I dare to say so myself.

AKA.

Vantage?

Yesterday was only my second ever rope-climbing experience outdoors! I repeat: second ever rope-climbing experience outdoors! The other time was in Red Rocks in Vegas where I might’ve top-roped 5.8? I’m not sure. That experience has been lost in the sands(tone) of time as I no longer remember what the route or even the area was called. Something about a Wizard’s Hat? Calico Basin? The Kraft Boulders? Sorange V3?

A senhora entende?

Honestly I don’t remember. I do remember I got an earl grey with heavy cream from the Starbucks on the way to that rope-climbing expedition and instead of just giving me a LITTLE heavy cream they gave me all heavy cream. No water. It was just a wet sock in a bucket of cream.

And it was kind of delicious.

But anyway. Vantage.

Yesterday Adi and Wyatt and I and a MASSIVE (see: like seven people) crew went to Vantage to do some good ol’ rope dangling. Some hangdogging. Some cragging. If you didn’t know I’m HUGE into cragging, especially the part where you sit at the base of the crag minding the dogs and hopefully eating the chocolate chip cookies. Every other part? Not so much. I mean, I guess the APPROACH to the crag ain’t so bad. I guess the climbing itself ain’t so bad. And even belaying ain’t so bad. So why don’t I like cragging more? Why do I kind of regard cragging as a stressful, windswept, sunburnt shit show? I don’t know. I think the main reason is I don’t feel comfortable doing all of the things surrounding rope climbing. I don’t feel comfortable with the climbing itself. I don’t feel that comfortable belaying. I always feel like I’m gonna be in someone’s way or do something wrong or do something that’s going to hurt or piss someone else off. Add to this the fact that in this already stressful situation you’re usually perched AT THE BASE OF ONE CLIFF AND AT THE TOP OF ANOTHER and it’s all kinda just like…stressful.

Not to say that there weren’t wonderful moments yesterday.

AKA I almost sent 10c.

AKA I almost top-roped 10c.

AKA I had to ask Spencer, the guy who belayed me, to take, and I was so bummed about it even though my elbow tendonitis had flared its ugly head like the Lernaean Hydra come to devour an unsuspecting sailor, and even though I was also pumped as balls because I was climbing like dog shit — perpetually locked off, arms not even close to straight or efficient, basically cruxed and gripped out of my mind. I sat there for a second after he took, thinking about the next moves and wishing I could just lower down, but then when I actually went for it it wasn’t that bad and next thing I knew I was at the anchor and all I could think was, Why didn’t I just climb better so I didn’t have to ask him to take? Why is my technique so bad? Why can’t I just spend all day in a perpetual outside flag?

Aka flagging.

Aka outside flag.

Aka back flag.

After trying Professor Pogue’s Precarious Pinnacle (the 10c) I was basically done and went into support/dog watching mode. I found a nice little niche under where people were climbing and chilled with the dogs, who spent much of the time either crying or lying on a dirty sweatshirt. I, alternately, spent much of the time squinting/wearing a dirty fleece. Behind me I could hear belayers talking to climbers and vice versa, and people (possibly) sending. Wyatt went for broke on a 10b called Steel Pulse and Adi stemmed the shit out of an aesthetic trad line called Tangled Up In Blue 5.9. There was also a dude with us, Kyle, who had never climbed before in his life, and who kind of rocked a 5.7 or 5.8 (can’t remember) called The Chossmaster and who tried his damndest on Tangled Up In Blue. I was stoked to see him try hard, and also stoked to get tons of top rope belay experience holding someone tight since I basically yarded on the rope after having him ever so slightly too loose at the beginning and letting him mini-deck.

Wyatt on Steel Pulse.
Adi high up on Tangled Up In Blue.

As things were winding down Wyatt started to really crank on a (I think) 5.11b/c mixed route called (again, I think) Crossing the Delaware with Your Pants Down. At this point I only had one thought on my mind though: Get back to the car. Eat. So I skedaddled while the people with dogs took the  long way home and we all met at the cars, where I was sitting in the back seat drinking energy drinks and generally not reflecting on the day but rather just staring out at the stunning vistas, plains, mesas and buttes that are Frenchman Coulee. Then people got back to the car, we ate some sour gummy worms, and drove home.

So, second rope-climbing experience was MORE successful, but comfort and full-on stoke for rope-climbing is still a long way off. I need to ease into it more. I need to get my own equipment, go with a friend to a baby crag, and just mess around. None of this long (see: normal) pitch stuff. I need to get comfortable being on a rope. I need to get comfortable belaying.

Or I just need to stick to bouldering.