The Duck Pond (and other thoughts)

Five days ago since I wrote the last post, and I’ve made a couple attempts to write posts since then. The problem is usually I start too late in the day, and for me to be even remotely successful at writing blog posts I have to start in the morning. Take now, for example. It’s 1:53pm. I just boiled water for mate. I’m sitting at my computer. Things are quiet and I feel a bit tired. I don’t have much to talk about. After this paragraph whatever enthusiasm I’d garnered will probably peter out, and I’ll be left just staring at a computer screen, wondering if I should go in the next room and watch YouTube videos. I know it sounds a bit depressing. It sort of is. But in November in the Puget Sound region when you should be working and can’t climb, there’s not much else to do.

I did got to Victoria this weekend. Victoria, British Columbia, to be exact. There I stayed in the James Bay Inn and saw some old friends, wandered around the city a bit, and went to the local bouldering gym. Probably my favorite part of the trip — apart from seeing friends — was hanging out around the duck ponds in Beacon Hill Park. I love watching ducks interact with each other. I often watch them by my boat where I live in Seattle. I love the seriousness with which they go about their tasks. Life is a serious thing to them. Predators are a serious threat. Finding a mate is not a trifling matter. Conversely, in our species, life is a serious matter. Getting a job is serious. Finding a mate is serious. We do all of these things as if they have some kind of inherent meaning.

When I was in the park I couldn’t help but think about Eckhart Tolle, and how after his supposed enlightment he spent a couple years sitting on park benches. It made me think about how the contents of our brains are probably generated by the stimuli that goes into them, and if you were to sit on a park bench for a couple years, contemplating the ducks, your life would probably be as serene and carefree as the scene is when you stop to watch it for two minutes. However, when you start exposing yourself to the ‘real’ world, to busy streets and deadlines and people yelling at each other, the contents of your brain start to resemble that. I’m not saying we should all go sit on park benches for the next couple years, but I am saying a couple of us should. Maybe I should step up and take the plunge. Maybe you should. Some of us have the responsibility to be the keepers of a tranquility that the rest of us will never know.

Taking the ferry back to Port Angeles, the Olympics were bathed in celestial light. On Tuesday, I had the pleasure of seeing my therapist in person. I’ve been talking to her for a year, and I’d still never met her in person, mostly because she’s far away. I wondered how doing a session in person would be different from doing a video session. And it turns out it was different. It was more intense. I somehow felt inhibited by being around a real, actual person, instead of just a face on a screen. However, when we started getting into the nitty gritty, I also felt the intensity of the atmosphere, the intensity of her words, so much more than if I were sitting at home on my boat by myself. In fact, throughout the rest of the day, I felt lighter, empowered, in a way that I’ve felt after few sessions with her.

Maybe it’s finally time to sell my boat.

And now I’m going to try to work. I say try because this week it’s felt like an immense struggle. All I’m doing today is writing two blurbs. That’s it. Two blurbs. And yet it feels like I’m trying to move mountains. I’m compensating with mate. I’m trying to get my diet right. Figure out how to have more energy. But it’s a slow process. You can’t give up, and basically since July I’ve given up on trying to be healthy, thinking it didn’t matter that much. And now I feel worse than I’ve ever felt in my life, body health wise. So I’m going to claw myself out of this hole, one intermittent fast at a time, one 24-hour fast at a time, one less carb at a time, one more cup of mate at a time.

 

Go Climb (or don’t)

I’m back on the boat. The road trip is over. All in all it was about 10 days, and not a ton of climbing happened.

One reason not a ton of climbing happened is that my body didn’t feel up to it. I was sacrificing my body to the V5 gods, and the V5 gods said, “We don’t want this.”

There was one specific day in Bishop where everything changed. I was in the Sads. I was by myself. I was trying to warm up on some easy stuff, and then basically wrenched the crap out of my body establishing on a dumb, V3 slab. I got to the top. It wasn’t satisfying. And I thought to myself, What am I doing? Why am I doing this? Do I even like climbing?

Enter: the time since that, up until present day, sitting on my boat, burning incense to ward off bad energy, listening to the drone of my heater, thinking about how I should probably be doing my Booking work right now, NOT doing my Booking work right now, wondering what I’m going to do with the rest of my day.

But first, rewinding to the end of the trip, in Bishop, California, the eastside of the Sierras, the Year of Yaweh Two Thousand and Twenty-One:

I’d thought that I’d give Molly V5 a few burns before I left Bishop. And then, if I was getting kind of close, I thought I might stay an extra day in Bishop so I’d have a chance to possibly finally send my first V5. What ACTUALLY happened, however, was that I drove to a spot just north of Lee Vining and looked for first ascents. I found a beautiful egg-shaped boulder that I dubbed The Dragon’s Egg that you can actually perceive with your very own retinae right here:

(The boulder almost right in the center of the frame.)

Anyway, this boulder had a nice looking line on it, probably somewhere in the V0-2 range, but I JUST WASN’T FEELING IT. So I pressed on. I got to Tahoe, and DIDN’T CLIMB THERE. Or actually I sort of climbed there. I checked out some boulders on Kingsbury Grade Road as I was getting in, specifically one that had a high right hand pinch, a crappy left hand, and a right heel hook, that was somewhat overhanging, and I tried for a bit just to see if I could heel hook with my right heel to free up my right hand. Which I couldn’t. I tried no other moves on the boulder. I didn’t WANT to try other moves on the boulder. And then I left.

And that, friends, is how my sessions have been lately. I show up. I look for lines (or just moves) that inspire me. I don’t look in the guidebook until after the sesh, or before the sesh for directions on how to get to the spot. Basically, I just do what feels good. And you know what? Hardcore trainers would probably say that’s the worst way to approach a session, the worst way to get better. But I don’t care. A) I know they’re wrong, B) It makes me happy, and C) I realized in Bishop that I had to start completely over. I had to re-learn my love for climbing, and I had to learn, once and for all, HOW TO CLIMB. I’m not really sure how to do that, but I think it involves approaching climbing the way I did when I first started bouldering outdoors. I didn’t try to do things like “train my weaknesses” (unless I wanted to). I didn’t make myself try a boulder over and over if I wasn’t feeling it. I basically didn’t do anything I didn’t want to. I would basically roam around the hills of Gold Bar, taking a burn on something here or there, and then move on. I wouldn’t sit at a boulder for three hours making no progress and hurting myself. The only time I would stay at a boulder for awhile is if I was making progress, having fun, and feeling like I was sort of getting close to sending. And you might be saying to yourself: Well, that approach to bouldering isn’t the right one. And the thing is: You’re absolutely wrong. Because it’s right for me. And if it’s right for me that’s all that matters.

OK, and now I sadly have to do some ACTUAL work at my ACTUAL job, because I’m a working stiff (see: semi-rigid) now. I wish you all a glorious day. Go climb. Or don’t.

– Wetzler

 

 

My Supple Bod (and other thoughts)

OK, Where’s Wetzler blog post, take two. The first take did not feel good. I haven’t been super confident in my writing lately, but I also haven’t cared that much, either. As long as the goal is MOSTLY to have fun writing, and only secondarily to make it good, this blog is sustainable. But if the goal is ANYTHING ELSE — readership, views, to write “effective” articles — then I can’t do it for very long. I burn out. Let’s face it: I’m going to blog from now until the end of time. Even if I’m never “successful.” I’ve accepted this. Blogging for me is like going on your morning run is for you, or doing your morning yoga, or whatever the hell it is you sickos do in the morning.

That out of the way, I’d like to talk about a few things today, in no particular order (though in this exact order): my body, climbing shoes, my sesh yesterday, the possible sesh tomorrow, and whatever else comes to mind.

First things first: my sweet, supple, 38 year old bod. This is, contrary to popular belief, the only body I got, and probably the only body I’ll ever have. For most of my life I haven’t really focused on “treating my body right,” whatever that entails. Ironically (or perhaps just logically), you don’t really think about treating your body right until things start to go wrong. And boy, have things started to go wrong lately. Basically since I started bouldering things have started to go wrong. Right now the following body parts hurt: my wrist (particularly frustrating since I can’t pinpoint the cause), my fingers (especially my right middle), and my back (Oxford comma woo woo). My back I think I’ve got figured out: I’ve been doing yoga every day lately, and the up dog followed by falling from great heights to my feet at the bouldering gym (coupled with old back ailments, of course) is I think what’s caused it. The finger is pretty easy: I first hurt it pulling as hard as I could laying back on either Mr Smooth V7 or River Slab V3 at the Index River Boulders where I felt a sort of “giving” sensation. Ever since then I haven’t been able to close it all the way and it’s just felt kinda gnarly. But as long as I don’t push it too hard it doesn’t really give me too many problems. Lastly, there’s my wrist. It’s hurt for a few days now. Certain movements and rotations are particularly dastardly. And I have no idea what caused it. Could it have been the golf from the other day? Possibly. Is it getting better? Doesn’t seeem to be. Frowny face.

Luckily, I have some strategies for getting my sensuous, nearly-middle-aged-man-bod back on track:

  1. Diet

That whole attitude I had in Europe like, “Oh, I can eat whatever I want and it actually doesn’t make that big a difference”? Yeah, that was wrong. Turns out it makes a MASSIVE difference, it just took a while for the bad diet to catch up with me. After a month I felt like garbage. Now I still try to listen to what my body wants, but I nudge it in a healthier direction. I try to cut down on wheat and grains in general, since that seems to help. I try to do a little bit of intermittent fasting.

2. Yoga

I think the yoga is a good thing. Just have to take it easy on the back and in general. But yeah, I think it’s a good thing.

3. Climb less

This is a tough one, but instead of going one day on one day off I think I might need to mostly go one day on two days off, with the OCCASIONAL one day one day off. This translates to climbing about 3 times a week, which honestly is kind of a bummer. But I want to be able to try hard. And after going balls to the formica the other day at Index, for example, sending my third ever V4, I was barely able to climb yesterday after one day of rest. So yeah, might neeed to rethink the strategy. Especially since that’s what Ashima Shiraishi does.

OK, now let’s talk about climbing shoes. Last post I talked about how I went to REI to try on climbing shoes since A) La Sportiva shoes are 25% off there and B) my Miuras are just about done. I REALLY want the Solutions to be the right shoe for me, mostly so I can be like Nalle Hukkataival and possibly speak Finnish, but I just don’t think they are. But I’ve also never really thought the Miuras were, even though they were a great second shoe. After more puzzling and more research, I’ve decided I’m going to go BACK to REI today to try on the Theories and the Otakis. And let me just say the following: I think the Otakis are going to be it. Why? well, they basically have the same heel as the Solutions, but apparently they don’t ride up as high and ravage the achilles tendon. This is critical. Also, apparently they edge like a slightly damp dream, which is good for me since most of the stuff I climb is vertical. As much as I would LOVE to be a Solutions guy, I don’t know if I can hack the heel. So maybe I’ll be an Otaki guy. Hopefully today I find out.

Slash my wrist is hurting just typing this please God help me.

Um, what else were we going to talk about. Oh yeah: sesh yesterday: terrible. I got shut down by a purple. I felt weak.

Sesh tomorrow: might go rope climbing with my friend Wyatt. Basically, lead some easy stuff and maybe just learn the — not even gonna say it — better.

Lastly, whatever else comes to mind. I’ve just had two matcha lattes. My back hurts. It’s cold in the apartment where I am. I think I might just go to REI right this minute instead of waiting around any longer. And oh yeah! The USMNT plays El Salvador tonight in the first World Cup 2022 qualifier. Are you going to watch? Because you’re not a real American if you don’t.

Hope you all have a wonderful day and send something beautiful.

Sincerely,

Mark Thomas Wetzler

Toe Hooks and Happiness

I’m sitting on the  boat drinking a FocusAid. I just got back from Whole Foods Greenlake where I got a hop tea, eggs and sausage, and then after sitting in my car chatting with a friend on WhatsApp went BACK into Whole Foods and got the FocusAid and an Urbn Remedy matcha bar. Why all the decadence? Well, when you don’t drink you can justify just about any amount of dietary decadence. And today marks two weeks of my newfound sobriety. I fell off the wagon a bit there in July. I don’t regret it. It was a good run. It was fun to experiment with alcohol again and have some drinks with friends, but it also served to remind me why I don’t drink. Getting back on the wagon felt like returning to an old friend. I value my health and my body and I want to be my best self. For the forseeable future, alcohol has no place in my life.

SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

How’s everyone feeling today?

I climbed at SBP Poplar yesterday with the crew, and it was wonderful. My body is completely wrecked. By the end of the session I was bleeding from my hand, my knee, my left ankle, and had bashed my right hip against a volume on my way down from a slab. Wonderful. When I got back to the boat I was talking to a friend about the sesh and said, almost without thinking about it, “I’m so happy.”

Which got me thinking: How often when we’re happy do we actually know we’re happy? So many times in my life I haven’t realized I was happy until I look back on the given time period and think, “Wow, that was so great.” Take when I worked in Alaska as a housekeeper, for example. It was one of the greatest summers of my life. But I didn’t think every day, “Wow, I’m so happy.” I was too busy laughing and playing ping pong. Only when the summer was over did I look back and think, “Holy shit, that was pretty much perfect.”

Hindsight also has the strange (but welcome) effect of diminishing the bad times. It’s not like every moment of that summer was perfect. But I also don’t think happiness consists of every moment being perfect. In fact, I think a lot of happiness has to do with Type 2 Fun (the kind of fun that’s only really fun retrospect).  The other time I worked in Alaska (as a lodge helper/fishing guide) also perfectly illustrated this. I spent half of those three weeks wanting to quit. It was hard work. Our boss was a despot. But now I look back on it almost as a formative experience. It was like being in the military. Getting up early, getting yelled at a lot, and from time to time handling firearms. I wouldn’t trade those three weeks for anything in the world.

Anyway, back to the SBP sesh. It started off real slow. Since I’d climbed the day before, my arm and finger strength felt low. The motivation was there — at the beginning I was basically prancing around and yelling — but my body was not quite on the same level as my psych. After really warming up, though, I started to climb a bit better. I sent one new black, which is always a plus in a session. Sent some oranges. Some purples. Didn’t really try any blues. There was a black that had a TOE HOOK to start out, and I desperately wanted to crank on it, but toe hooking requires a bit of hip flexoring, and my hip flexor still isn’t 100%.

Today I’m going to go to REI and look at climbing shoes cuz I noticed yesterday that the Miuras got their first microscopic hole in the toe. This hole will grow until they’re unclimbable. I estimate they have two to three more sessions left in them. Which sucks since they were just starting to get really worn it. Maybe I should’ve had them resoled. Where do you resole shoes in Seattle? The top shoes I’m looking at right now are the La Sportiva Solutions, Evolv Shamans, Scarpa Instincts, and the TC Pros for slab climbing. Or maybe just the TC Pros for all-around climbing? Or maybe just say screw it and get the 5.10 Moccasins and never look back?

Also, THE CANADIAN BORDER OFFICIALLY OPENS TONIGHT AT 12:01AM. Holy shit. It’s been so long since I’ve been to Canada. I love Canada. I want to live in BC. I want to live in BC and stroll the waterfront in Vancouver and go to the beaches and make little trips up to Squamish and Whistler and, hell, maybe even boulder in the Kootenays. However, I can’t pull the trigger on going up to Canada quite yet, because I might have dogsitting obligations down here first. And I’m not sure whether I’d drive or take my boat up there. Either way, I’m stoked.

And now it’s time to enjoy the sun.

 

 

The Journey || Road to V∞

I am continuing to recover from my hip injury, which was probably an injury in some capacity to my rectus femoris tendon. It’s very tender at the spot where it inserts into the anterior inferior iliac spine.

The injuries as of late have encouraged me to take a closer look at what I want out of bouldering. Not that you have to have an answer for this question, but in my case I think it will help me move forward in a way that minimizes injury and maximizes physical and spiritual enjoyment. Because that’s what bouldering is for me at its zenith: spiritual. My ascent a couple weeks ago of Dirty Dancing V4 certainly felt spiritual, being alone at the boulders, on a cold, windy Monday morning at 7:30am, warming up on a reachy V2, saying to myself, “I’m just going to see if I can pull on,” and then moving up, up, up on the thin edges of Dirty Dancing, finally grabbing the big jugs about halfway up, hauling myself into the scoop. It felt spiritual as I sat there on top of the boulder, in somewhat of a fetal position, listening to the wind. And of course it felt spiritual while climbing the boulder problem itself, as if with each raising of the foot the ground disappeared beneath me.

The injuries have pushed me to explore the spiritual side of bouldering and also to lessen my focus on grades. Read almost ANY article on “Bouldering for Beginners” or “How to Get Started in Bouldering” and you’ll find an author almost yelling at you to “not focus on grades.” I’d read this over and over but never really been convinced. If I want to focus on grades, I thought, I’m going to focus on grades. I’m not going to listen to some jackass who writes climbing articles for Gripped. It’s not like I climb for him, anyway. I climb for me.

But did I really climb for me?

This is where things get tricky with grades.

I’d argue that most of the time when you’re climbing for a certain grade, or at least a decent amount of the time, you’re not climbing for yourself. You’re climbing because of how you look in other people’s eyes, so you can tell people you climbed V5, so you can tell yourself you climbed V5, so you can look at other people who are only climbing V4 and think, Fuck yeah, I used to be one of them. Now I climb V5.

Just to be clear, I don’t see a huge problem with this. There are worse things in the world. There are greater injustices. But FOR ME PERSONALLY, this approach has led to dissatisfaction and, more importantly, injury.

You could climb V10 tomorrow, but it doesn’t necessarily mean your experience will be impactful. It doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll grow (spiritually, emotionally) because of the experience. And it certainly doesn’t mean that you climbed “well.” As I progress on my climbing journey, I’m becoming more interested in climbing “well.” This means having good technique, this means that it feels good to climb, like I’m moving efficiently, like I’m in harmony with the holds and the rock. It’s more of a yin approach to bouldering, instead of the yang approach that is sometimes adopted. You’re letting the rock and the conditions and everything else dictate how you climb, and you’re responding to that and using it to your best possible advantage (which might mean on a given day that you may touch the starting holds of a climb and not even pull on at all). This is in contrast to the yang approach, where you’re trying to dominate the rock, wrestle it into submission. It is possible to do this. It’s possible to even derive pleasure from this. But for me, it’s not a sustainable approach, since granite is generally harder than soft tissue, and after several attempts at trying to dominate a V5 dyno, when your body is whispering to stop, take it easy, we’re done, and the universe is telling you to stop, put it on hold, come back another time, you strain your rectus femorus.

And then you can’t really climb for a month, at which point: Why not focus on technique? Why not focus on moving well? Why not see if you can derive just as much satisfaction from a V1 as you can from a V3 or a V4? Or even climbing your first V5?

I know it’s cliche and I know it’s hard advice to follow, but if you focus on moving well, on process goals, on feeling good climbing, grades will probably come. I don’t want to say they WILL come, because they kind of promise can never be made, and also because if you’re only trying to move well or focus on process goals to get a certain grade then you’re kind of missing the point. The ultimate goal for bouldering for me is for it to be a sort of moving meditation. This is bouldering at its most wonderful for me. When I approach the rock and all else disappears. When I am suddenly seared into the present moment, and things slow down. I notice the way the sun hits a particular part of the rock, or the way a leaf quivers in the breeze, or the way a cloud looks in the sky. And then when I’m on the rock my body is moving in harmony with it. Yes, great physical exertion may occur, but only where necessary. There is an element of play involved. And in fact this is something I should’ve mentioned much earlier in this post. Play is so important in bouldering, and in life in general. It feels good to play with the movement, and that’s how you really learn. You tinker. What would happen if I put my right foot up really high? What would happen if I engaged my thumb more? What would happen if I took off my shirt and screamed during the crux?

And so I try to focus on these things, the things I can still focus on regardless of injury. And I find that by focusing on these things my experience of bouldering becomes enriched, and I become a better climber. I’ll probably climb harder grades, but that won’t be the point. Or at least I hope it won’t. These things are never completely cut and dry, and there’s always some wavering back and forth. Which is fine. All part of the journey.