What’s the most important element in sending boulder problems quickly?

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I’ll spend the first four sharpening the ax.” – Abraham Lincoln

Let’s say you know the most efficient possible move but do it with bad technique. You’re still probably doing it about 80% or more efficiently. But let’s say you have the completely wrong beta. In this case, it’s very possible you’re only doing the sequence 10% to 50% efficiently (especially since you’re probably adding moves). Long story short: figuring out the most efficient beta is the number one thing you can do to solve a boulder problem quickly. Figure out the most efficient beta, figure out how to tweak it to make it even more efficient (straight arms, micro rests, micro beta), and then execute.

How to learn how to read beta? Climb outside, climb by yourself (so you’re forced to figure out the moves), and sometimes climb with people better than you, so you can learn from them how to read beta. Just remember: You might have V6 strength, but if you don’t have the most efficient beta you’re making that problem a V7, V8 or even a V17.

 

So Much to Report

Oh dear it’s been over a month since I’ve blogged and there’s so much to report.

For example: I sent my fourth V4. It was a problem called The Giant’s Nose in Squamish and it took me two sessions which is the fastest I’ve ever sent a V4.

Another thing to report is I’m DEFINITELY not living in Blaine beyond September 5th. This is because I have a job starting in Seattle in late August, and also because the only things I wanna do in Blaine are drink and watch YouTube videos.

The third thing to report is I’ve got new life goals. These are goals I hope to complete in my 39th year of life, which is starting shortly. Among them are: 1) Get barreled on a surfboard, 2) Send V7 outdoors and 3) Run in a mile in under six minutes. I ran a mile in under six minutes awhile ago, but I think it’d be cool to do it again. The V7 outdoors goal is gonna be tough; I need to get working on that right away. And the get barreled on a surfboard goal is gonna require, well, surfing. Which I haven’t really been doing lately.

I’m sure there are tons of other things to report, but that’s all I got for now since I’d rather keep this post short and sweet than long and boring. ‘

Love you guys.

– Mark

16th and Oak

I’m sitting here on 16th and Oak in Vancouver, BC, muttering to myself in Spanish and English. I’m taking an interpreter test on the 28th in Yakima, and I thought it prudent to study. I used to do medical interpreting a lot, but it’s been a few years. I’m rusty. For example, I always forget how to say “exhale” and “inhale.” I mean, yeah, the words “exhalar” and “inhalar” exist in Spanish, but I’m not sure the layperson uses them, and as an interpreter it’s not enough to know a word that technically works; you need to know the word people actually use.

Two coffees was definitely too much this morning. I woke up after sleeping nine hours and tried to mobilize to get ready to go to Vancouver. I’ve had a bit of a sinus thing going on lately, and have felt a bit off. It’s getting better though; the sore throat is gone. I hit the road and drove into Blaine, where I filled out the ArriveCan stuff in the Cost Cutter parking lot, because there’s free WiFi there. And then I got in the border line, which was only supposed to be 20 minutes. Turned out to be more like an hour. When I finally got up to the lady at the booth, she asked me how working for Booking.com was. I wanted to say, “Um, well, I haven’t actually done work for them in two months. They suck. They keep telling us there’s going to be work, and then there never is.”

But instead, because I didn’t want her to realize I was basically unemployed, I said something about how it was “great at first, but the veneer of working for what I thought was a cool company quickly wore off.” Then I said something about a job interview I had on Monday that I was excited about.

After crossing the border my first stop was Tim Horton’s in Delta, where I got a large coffee with two creams. Traffic wasn’t terrible, as was to be expected for a random Saturday morning. Yes, traffic at the border was bad, but it was also somewhat heartening to see more people crossing it. Almost all WA plates heading north, and almost all BC plates heading south. Again, probably pretty normal for a Saturday morning.

Upon entering Vancouver I thought about what to do until I meet my friend Nomi at 230pm and she gives me instructions to take care of her devil cat Penny I’ve taken care of several times in the past. Penny and I actually get along quite well once we get used to each other. I lock myself in my room at night and she’s not permitted to enter. In the morning, like the little shit she is, she scratches the door to try to get me to come out. Ostensibly to feed her. And sometimes she gets a bit aggressive with demanding attention, which is annoying. The key is to wear jeans. I might have to buy jeans.

Since I had a couple hours to kill I stopped at the cafe, where I currently am, at 16th and Oak. I’ve just had my second coffee of the day, and my neurons are sizzling like batter freshly-poored on a wafflemaker. After this I’ll probably head to the MEC near Science World, so I can look at their climbing shoes and climbing guidebooks and almost definitely not buy anything. I climbed at VITAL Climbing in Bellingham yesterday, and so probably won’t climb until Monday, when it’s supposed to be dry in Van and somewhat dry in Squamish. And then it’s supposed to be dry again on Thursday, making for a perfect two days of rest. I kind of wrenched my should yesterday in Bellingham on a moderate sit start problem. I’d never been to a gym with more sit starts. It was kind of awesome/how things are outside.

The Bellingham climbing gym was small, but the setting was awesome. Was it as awesome as SBP? No, because nowhere is as awesome as SBP. But, a couple aspects of it were actually better!!! The fact that they had sit starts, for example, which SBP almost never has. The fact that they had more problems that resembled outdoor problems, which SBP doesn’t really have. Would I rather climb at VITAL for the rest of my life than SBP? Not in a million years. But at least it had a couple good things going for it.

And now it’s time to head downtown, and see what this cloudy Vancouver day holds in store. When way too caffeinated the best thing you can do is move, so that’s what I’m going to do now.

– Wetzler

Tiny Tim and the Pleasure of Godman Creek || R2V6 #3

I was going to cut my hair, but then the bathroom was occupied so I thought I’d write this post. And then I was going to write this post, but I got occupied checking flights to Quebec City from Vancouver (nonstop, obviously) for a week in July. I could fly nonstop from Vancouver to Quebec city for $463 roundtrip. Not bad. Really good, actually. I haven’t been to Quebec in a long time, at least five years or so. And yet I listen to Quebecois radio all the time living near Vancouver. And I once did an immersion program in Quebec, so for a brief period of time in the summer of 2010 or 2011 my Quebecois French was pretty damn good.

La, la.

Fait que….

(one person in a thousand will get the previous two lines and I’ll love them forever because of it).

I’m on the boat right now, heading back to Blaine tomorrow and then up to Vancouver on Saturday to take care of my friend’s cat for a week. It’s a pretty good deal, though at times I think her cat is the spawn of Lucifer. But other than that, it’s a sweet apartment in Vancouver, close to climbing, and it’s like a vacation from my life that’s already a vacation. Plus, when her cat is not acting like the spawn of Satan, she’s pretty sweet. Her name is Penny. She’s overweight. She takes an inhaler.

The point of this post is to write about my sesh at GODMAN CREEK the other day, but we’ll get to that. First I want to talk about my latest experiments with OMAD (one meal a day), or the “Warrior Diet,” or whatever you want to call it. For the past four days or so I’ve basically done an extreme form of intermittent fasting. I (mostly) fast 20 hours a day, and then I allow myself a four hour eating window. I say “mostly” because it’s not a true fast. It’s a dirty fast. I allow myself to have cream in my coffee or tea, I allow myself to have drinks like Spindrift (five calories per can), and I allow myself to have collagen/protein before and after climbing on the days that I’m climbing. But the calories I consume during the 20 hour fast are pretty negligible.

If my climbing sessions during this intermittent fasting experiment are anything to go by, it’s having exceptional results. At GODMAN CREEK I climbed the hardest I had in a long time. Most of my efforts were spent on a V3 called Tiny Tim. The top of Tiny Tim is easy; it’s the first couple moves that are tricky, especially the sit start. After getting the top wired and trying the sit start a bunch there was a distinct moment in the session where I thought, Oh, man, normally this is where I give up.

Why would I give up? Because I wouldn’t want to push my body too far. I wouldn’t want to get injured. And that feeling has come up repeatedly over the past six months whenever I’ve tried to climb hard, which means I basically haven’t sent anything in the past six months. But something different happened at GODMAN CREEK. After thinking, OK, this is where I give up, I sat down, took a breather, and realized my body actually felt pretty good. I realized I had it in me to keep toying around with the start, and by working the problem from above I came upon on a new placement for my right foot (pistol squatted on a good leg right under me), and that changed everything. I was not only able to pull onto the boulder, I was able to move from the initial position. And within a few goes, I sent the boulder (and got it on film but then lost the footage when I erased my iPhone to give it to my mom).

There was something very significant about this send. It wasn’t so much the grade (though I hadn’t sent V3 in a while); it was about how hard I was able to try. It was also implementing new projecting techniques which allowed me to figure out ideal beta much more effectively than in the past. Sending this boulder was a triumph on so many fronts, and a reminder that good diet is key to climbing hard when you’re in your late 30’s. Basically, after sending Tiny Tim and a couple other fun boulders (see: Tic Tac Toe V1), I was elated, and felt as good as I had climbing in a long time. I spent the rest of the afternoon in a kind of post-good-session bliss, that is, until I ran into traffic in the Langley/Aldergrove area and kind of wanted to die (why is Vancouver traffic so bad ALL THE TIME??? slash the city has multiple millions of people and a road system designed for 1500 inhabitants max).

Today I’ve (sort of) broken with the OMAD thing. I’m still only allowing myself a four hour eating window, but I took one of those hours from 12:15pm-1:15pm. Aka I had lunch. But it’s still better than my regular eating schedule, because normally I just eat all day to fill the gaping voids in my soul, and this way I don’t.

Anyway.

GODMAN CREEK.

Great Vancouver bouldering is so far awesome. Squamish is awesome. BC bouldering (and just in general) is awesome.

Slash, I need to marry a Canadian girl.

Slash Tim Horton’s.

Slash “They’re always specifying whether they’re paying with Mastercard or Visa.”

– Wetz

Climbing Journal 6/7/22 (Catamite’s Delight, new projecting techniques)

“If you listen to your body when it whispers, you won’t have to hear it scream.” – Unknown

Today I climbed in Squamish.

I warmed up with some scapula pullups and did a couple where I engaged my core, did a little stretching (child pose, cat cows), but most of the warm-up came via climbing or simply touching the rock. For example: I high-stepped my foot onto the starting shelf of one of the problems and just leaned in and stretched. I got close to the wall. It was like doing a high lunge in yoga. I did it with the other foot, too. I also pulled on some of the holds, but standing on the ground, not to put too much weight on them.

This kind of slow, thoughtful warm-up, where I actually got into the positions a bit first but in a low stakes, low impact, non-climbing situation, was huge. I plan to do it again.

When it actually came to climb, I was decisive. I launched myself onto the start shelf of the V0+ I’d stretched on so I could reach a good hold. Then I kind of stood there and experimented with some hand holds, looked for feet, and then came back down. Flashing is going to be a rare occurrence for me in the future, as it is anathema to the kind of thoughtful, intelligent, meditative way I want to approach boulders. If you approach each boulder as having something to teach you, you’ll often find it will. But if you just try to brute force flash something and then move on, you might miss the wisdom, and this climbing wisdom is something I desperately yearn for.

So I climbed the V0+ a couple times, trying to find better feet, trying to do it more efficiently, and most importantly, trying to keep straight relaxed arms and not be locked off and gripped the entire time. This boulder reiterated to me that my default state has been to be locked off and gripped. Even when you’re just slightly locked off and over-gripping, you use a lot more energy (and it’s harder on your elbows) than if you’re straight-armed and relaxed.

The V0+ was a highball, according to the guide. My second (I think) Squamish highball. It wasn’t that high, though.

Next was a V1 called Catamite’s Delight. This problem was cool in that the starting hold was a unique, horizontal, perfectly uniform ledge pinch, and also cool in that the guidebook just said to start on that hold and said nothing else. On this boulder I learned something about flagging versus feet switching, and also implemented Paul Robinson’s tactic where he never tries to flash a boulder unless it looks insanely easy. Catamite looked a bit tricky, so I broke it into sections. When I finally sent it, it was so satisfying. And when I finally sent it using good beta, it was even more satisfying.

After Catamite I was quite happy and there was a quiet voice whispering through the trees that the baller move would just be to end the session right then. Part of me wanted to end the session then, having learned so much and not having pushed my body into injury territory, but another part (one influenced by society) was saying, “You’re gonna drive all the way out to Squamish and climb for a half hour? What about that V2 you wanted to try? What about doing some moves on that V5???” Amazingly enough, however, I decided to heed the first voice, and I’m so glad I did. My body actually feels good right now! I don’t feel like I pushed my shoulder or my elbow too hard!

Seriously, I learned something about flagging versus foot switching versus barn dooring. I learned something about keeping straighter arms, being more relaxed, which is in the same vein as finding mini rests in a climb, or just ways to make a position more restful. I learned more about projecting, and I’m so glad I didn’t try to flash the V1, even though I might’ve been able to. Instead I broked it into a couple pieces and basically figured everything out except for the first move, and that had me so much more confident when I finally sat down to do the first move. The whole experience was a pleasure.

Today’s session makes me realize that if I were to go out to Squamish and climb 50 V1’s and dedicate them all this same attention, I would truly master that grade. And then I could do the same with V2’s, and V3’s, etc. I could get to the point where I am now, still never having sent a V6, but feel like such a competent climber. I could achieve mastery, even if on a scale completely divorced from what the pros and so many other people are doing. So that’s the plan, for now. To become a better climber. To learn how to move on rock. Everything else will come in due time.