U2 Breakthrough | R2V3 #6,433

So so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so.

So.

SO.

Here’s the deal.

I went climbing yesterday.

And it was my best outdoor session to date.

I climbed several new routes, made a momentous breakthrough on U2 V3, ALMOST (at least I think) sent another V3 called Briefs, and just generally felt really, really good. Like all the work so far has paid off. The calluses on my fingers are building up. I can climb for longer. And not that it wasn’t fun before, because it’s always been so much fun, but it’s REALLY fun when you start to see the fruits of your labor. For example, there is a V0 at The Sword boulders called Cubicle Gangster whose start I KNOW would’ve given me trouble just a few weeks ago. The start is really only the hard part. The middle is cruisy. But the start is a bit tricky and I was really stoked to flash it.

Other sends included the one to the right of Cubicle Gangster with a strange name involving the word “Poop,” The Crack V0-, Boxers V0, and making good progress on Briefs V3. I didn’t try I heart Jugs V2 because after doing all the aforementioned problems we wanted to move onto Forestland, and I didn’t try The Classic V2 because there were lots of people and it’s high as hell.

After The Sword Boulders we went to Forestland, and it was a zoo. It was a terrarium. It was, I dare say, a gymnasium. Will I ever go back to Forestland on the weekend? Ever again? The parking lot was full. There were people at most boulder problems, at least in Lower Forestland, and you certainly don’t quite get the feeling you’re out in nature on your own. In fact, you kinda feel like you’re in a big dust bowl.

In other news, I’m feeling a BIT of the Sunday Blues today because I had coffee this morning and because I’m not climbing and because the majority of my Seattle friends are in California surfing and I don’t really know what to do. I bought some ketone testing strips, so that’s been fun. I was in moderate ketosis this morning and I think still barely in ketosis after eating a bunch of blueberries and greek yogurt. Today I might say “To hell with it,” though, and reward myself with a steaming pot of white rice. Wouldn’t that just be reckless?

I could, of course, get in my car and drive to Gold Bar right now. It’s not supposed to rain for the rest of the day. And I might actually do that. But it also seems a bit wasteful, i.e. in terms of gas/emissions/wear and tear on my car. If I really want to climb I could also go to the UW crag. Though that sounds kinda awful.

Another thing about yesterday was that I made massive progress on U2 V3. A kid was there trying The Terrible V7 and helped me with the beta for U2 a bit. ONLY LEFT HAND ON THE UNDERCLING! YOUR RIGHT HAND NEVER TOUCHES IT. And guess what? I got to the rail just below the lip. I got to the rail just below the lip and was kind of wasted by that point and panicky, and all I had to do was lift my right foot up to the beautiful rail your right hand uses instead of going to the undercling, but instead I panicked and dropped off. So no send. But it was still momentous. I was thrilled. The micro beta on that problem is wonderful. Your foot positioning is huge. And the new beta makes it so much easier. So much easier.

Since I’m only working 12 hours a week now I’ll go bouldering again this week, Gold Bar if it’s dry, Leavenworth if it’s not. And maybe Leavenworth too even if Gold Bar is dry. I would also really like to go to Index soon. I have a feeling I can send Zelda Dyno V4, since dynos are kind of my strong suit, but Index hasn’t been dry in several fortnights.

Time to pee onto a strip again, and see what my ketosis levels are. And then. And then.

And then.

Sh*t’s Gone Down! | R2V3 #8

So I know you guys have been sitting by your computers or tablets or whatever technological disease-boxes you have just refreshing your browsers, over and over, and over and over again while you shove Cheetos into your gaping maw, hoping for a Where’s Wetzler, Road to V3 update, and here it finally is.

And let me say this: Shit has gone down.

Like, shit that could totally affect my career as a novice boulderer.

The shit is this: My job hours recently got reduced. From the outrageous 40 that most Americans subject themselves to…to….(wait for it)………..

………….(keep waiting)…………….

………….(maybe go grab a drink from the fridge or put the kettle on or something)…………

…………(ok now wait longer just ‘cuz you’re an impatient fuck)…………………

…………(go do some hangboarding)…………………………..

…12.

That’s right: 12. I now work 12 hours a week. Starting Monday, June 15th, the year of most people in this country’s Lord two thousand and twenty, I will work 12 hours per week. Three hours a day, four days a week. Do the trigonometry.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: This means you could, like, boulder all the time, right? You’ll be climbing V7 in, like, a week, right?

Wrong.

Actually, it could mean the exact opposite for my bouldering career. Here’s why.

You see, I’ve always been a little bit addicted to freedom. But this addiction hasn’t always been good for me, because when I have freedom I don’t always know what to do with it. Aka the last 10 or so years of my life.

Enter: My recent job.

In January of this year I got a job working for a non-profit in Seattle that brings high school students from around the world to the US on J-1 visas. This was/is an office job, 9am-5pm, mostly staring at a computer screen. Right before I got this job I started bouldering, and the two complimented each other well because I could go bouldering after work. It was also especially nice when the Seattle Bouldering Project opened up their latest “project” in Fremond, aka Upper Walls. After work I would get on the bus from U-Village, get off in Fremont, and go boulder my ass off (see: watch other people send while I unsuccessfully battled V3′). The thing is, working 9-5 made me crave freedom more than ever, and I channeled that longing/rage for freedom into bouldering, and thus was starting to become pretty obsess/progress at a pretty good clip.

Then came COVID-19 and the lockdown. This temporarily threw a big wrench in my bouldering career. I was living at my parents’ house on the west side of Puget Sound, I didn’t own a crash pad, I’d NEVER bouldered outside, and so for awhile I just….kinda….you know….like…pretty much…aka mostly….aka completely….stopped bouldering. Well, I never stopped completely. But the pulse was pretty faint for awhile. I bouldered on abandoned building near where my parents live, and then I found a boulder outside the city of Poulsbo, a glacial erratic that has lines on it that are about as pretty as…..can’t think of a good analogy right now.

But eventually I started bouldering outside. I got a crash pad. I got Pablo Zuleta’s guide to Western Washington. I got Kelly Sheridan’s guide to Leavenworth, and the point is this: Working my 9-5 job gave me LASER SHARP FOCUS on one activity, and that activity was bouldering. I couldn’t do much else, especially during the lockdown and because of my job. I couldn’t travel. I couldn’t gallivant around the world as I usually do. I couldn’t go on surf trips. So all I thought about was bouldering. And it was great. It’s still great. But friends, it’s in danger. Because now I have freedom. Now I’m only going to be working 12 HOURS A WEEK. And the world is opening up again, friends. You can like, sort do shit now. You can sit outside at cafes. And pretty soon you’re going to be able to cross international borders. You’re going to be able to travel. So does this mean I’ll go back to my old ways?

I’m not sure. And actually, I’m not too worried about it. Like I’ve ALWAYS SAID, if I want to stop bouldering tomorrow, I’ll do it. I’m never going to force myself to do it. But the prospect of stopping makes me sad. I like being obsessed with it. I like getting better at it. I like spending half the day thinking about the beta for V3’s I still can’t do. And I don’t really want that to change.

So, we’ll see what happens. All you need to know for now is this: I’m going bouldering tomorrow. Tomorrow I’m going back to Leavenworth. And this time I’m actually going with a friend. We’re gonna find great V1’s and great V0’s and great slabs and maybe we’ll even try to dyno into the Wenatchee. Who knows. All I know is that the two can co-exist: My freedom and bouldering. This is an exciting new chapter. In fact, instead of being detrimental for my bouldering, it could take it to the next level.

Time will tell.

What Am I Doing to Get to V7? | R2V3 #7

In early May I set a goal for myself: Climb V7 outdoors by the end of the summer. To many this might seem like an absurd and impossible (and just dumb) goal since I only started climbing last Christmas. And indeed, it’s very possible I won’t reach this goal. To date the hardest thing I’ve climbed outdoors is V2 (Eight Bit Slab V2 near Gold Bar). But I haven’t given up on this goal, and indeed it’s more present in my mind than ever. I’ve also started taking some concrete steps to reaching it.

What am I doing to get to V7??????? (like, what concrete steps am I taking):

1. Diet 

I’ve started transitioning to a ketogenic after being inspired by Dave Mccleod (and countless others) and his success with it. This isn’t something I decided on a whim. I’ve long battled inflammation problems and wondered if radically changing my diet would have a radical effect. So far, so good, but I’m only on like day three and I’ve still got carrots in my fridge. So not FULLY keto yet. But getting there. So far the little paunch I developed during lockdown is starting to disappear and I noticed a significant decrease in elbow pain after my last climbing session. And this is without even going fully keto! Today I’m going to count my carbs. I’m going to count the shit out of them.

2. Climbing as much as possible. 

I’ve been climbing every weekend Leavenworth and have even made some mid-week missions to Gold Bar. Notable happenings from this include: Sending my first V2 outdoors (Eight Bit Slab), projecting Summer Solstice V3, still not sending Beam Me Up V2 because the sit start makes me want to hurt myself, projecting U2 (V3) at the Beach Forest Boulders, feeling the majestic slopers of Fountain Blues V0, and chilling in Leavenworth drinking iced coffees. Aka chilling in the municipal pool parking lot. Aka being a bit of a vagrant.

The biggest thing I need to work on by far is not strength. It’s technique. So what am I doing for that?

3. Watching tons of YouTube videos of good climbers

Watching good people do a task actually makes you better. You internalize it. Which is probably why I watch a shit ton of bouldering videos on YouTube. My favorites are: Anything with Daniel Woods or Jimmy Web, anything with Paul Robinson or Lizzy Ellison, the wonderful videos the Badwater dudes make, Bouldering Bobat, and Eric Karlsson and Emil Abrahamsson videos (from Sweden). Currently my favorite female climbers are Nina Williams, Alex Puccio, Lizzy Ellison, Janja Garnbret and my friend Anya. Watching Nina Williams do highballs is so sick.

4.  Training

Now, when I say “training” I mean this very lightly. Sometimes I hang from the roof of my boat and walk my feet up the mast to practice overhangs and strengthen my core. I do stretching. I walk a lot. I do a little bit of yoga. I do have a hangboard but I’m still trying to figure out how to install it on my boat. Anyway, I don’t do much training. But that’s OK because you don’t want to get really strong when your technique is still shitty.

5. Listening to my body

Yeah, the goal might be V7. But that’s not the real goal. The main goal is just to boulder as much as possible, have fun, and enjoy the movement. The other day I went to the UW crag and literally the only thing I wanted to do for the first 15 minutes was just stand on the ground and feel the holds. I didn’t do this because I was self conscious. But I should’ve. If I want to climb a V0 slab 15 times over and over because it makes me happy, I’m going to do it. If I want to drive to Leavenworth and project a V3 for 20 minutes and then give up because I’m over it, I’m going to do that, too. I’m not bouldering for anybody else. I’m doing it because it makes me feel good. And so what that means as far as listening to my body is that when I can feel my elbow starting to fail (my tendons and flexors are still adjusting), I stop. Or when I just see myself not making any more progress, I stop. I stop when I know it’s time to stop. I don’t make myself top out on a highball if I don’t feel comfortable. I just do whatever feels right.

6. Thinking about beta

I think about beta a lot. I write the beta down. I visualize the holds in my head. I love thinking about beta. It’s one of my favorite parts about bouldering — not being able to do something and then thinking about a way you might be able to do it. Beta is also closely tied to technique. Which, as I’ve said, I really need to work on.

So those are the concrete steps I’m taking. I’m not forcing myself to take these steps, they just seem like a natural part of becoming a better climber. A natural part of getting to V7. But for now, time to concentrate on those V3’s. Aka V2’s. Aka V0’s.

Try hard!

Leavenworth Days (R2V3 #????)

Well here I am in my favorite parking lot in the whole wide world: the Howard Hopkins Memorial Pool parking lot. Yes friends, this place has it all: a tranquil setting without too much vehicle traffic (at least on weekdays), the shade of trees, and — the kicker (but don’t tell anyone) — free WIFI. You see, most people head to the public library in Leavenworth when they want free wifi. But not me. I post up at the Howard Hopkins Memorial Pool with an iced coffee and a bouldering guide on my lap, ready to daydream the day away.

Why am I not on blocs right now? Because I’m working.

Sort of. When work is slow I can do other things.

Like drink iced coffee.

And think about the beta for U2 (V3).

Speaking of the beta for U2, I’m going to go back there today, and I’m going to try the following things:

  1. Grabbing the right side of the undercling gaston but by rotating hand clockwise instead of counter (a reverse gaston?), and then trying to get my right foot up high.
  2. ONLY USING MY LEFT HAND on the undercling, grabbing the right side of it palm up, and then using the big-butt rail on the right side for my right hand and also some kind of crimp just above it.

I’m also really excited to try Fountain Blues V0 again, even though I basically sent it yesterday (I might have dabbed ever so slightly), just because the slopers are so gorgeous. And what I love about the slopers is figuring out how to grab them in just the right way so you get maximum traction. For example, on the sloper as you move up and right, the last sloper before right hand to the jug, there’s this little nubbin on the top of it that you can get one finger on and thus get much more traction. It’s little things like that, sort of micro beta, that can help so much in a send.

In other news yesterday also saw my first attempts on Fridge Center V4. In fact, here’s a video of one of my first attempts:

What a beautiful, beautiful problem Fridge Center is. Gorgeous. I spent about 15 minutes just watching other people try it. The crux is definitely once you get to the bulge at the top, navigating that. Left hand up to the bottom left of the bulge. Nice and juggy. Slap the right hand up high. Hug the bulge! Hug it! I wasn’t going to try this problem because there were a lot of people at it but then they all left and I thought, Why not? And I’m glad I did. Just to be able to do the first few moves gave me so much confidence, just to be able to get to the left facing rail. The next trick will be getting all the way the top of the left facing rail, and making sure my feet are solid. Then you just gotta reach for that jug…

Back at the Howard Hopkins Memorial Pool. Things are pretty breezy here. Breezy in the literal sense and also just care-free. These lazy, almost summer afternoons. Strolling the streets. Sipping iced coffee. Gazing up at the ridges, the clouds, the blue sky. And thinking about beta, always thinking about beta.

I’m in a Funk (R2V3 #5)

After a great climbing session yesterday I find myself in a bit of a funk. Yesterday I was supposed to go to Gold Bar, boulder there, then cross the pass and sleep at the Nason Creek rest stop, but instead it started dumping in Gold Bar so I kept driving straight to Leavenworth and went straight to the Beach Forest boulders where I basically went straight to U2. Actually, that’s not true. I climbed a lame slab to start and then climbed Brickwork V0, which is a fantastic problem even though I got pretty scared and felt completely out of my element on the top out. So I did it again, and the second time felt even more useless on the top out. But the beginning moves! Oh, the beginning moves, the beautiful side-pull jugs, the mini drop knee. Wonderful. Next time I’d like to the experiment with the V3 variation out to the right, aka F*ck the Crystal, and also the V3 that has the same start as U2, aka The Crystal Method. There’s something alluring about that huge slab of of quartz. Kind of makes you want to touch it. Kind of makes you want to gaze at it. If you gaze at it too long you might be transported to another dimension where you don’t live on a boat that smells like mildewy gym sock and where you actually have people to climb with.

But I transgress.

How has it not rained in Seattle today? It was supposed to rain today. But instead it’s been beautiful all day and sure enough when I head out tomorrow morning to Gold Bar it will probably start dumping.

The plan yesterday was originally to stay in Leavenworth, but then my friends said they were going surfing and after projecting U2 V3 for a bit, which was nothing sort of sublime, it started to rain and I thought, I don’t want to sleep in my car tonight at a rest stop in the rain. If they’re actually going surfing I’m going back to Seattle to go with them. So that’s what I did. And then we didn’t go surfing. So now I find myself back in Seattle and in a bit of a funk. Caffeine withdrawals? Possibly. Social contact with withdrawals? More probably.

So the plan is to go to Leavenworth tomorrow. The plan is to give U2 V3 all of my soul. Yesterday I made a critical advancement. I realized that if I grab the right side of the undercling not as a pinch but as a gaston I feel much more solid, and I was even able to — wait for it — hug the wall and get my right foot up. Like all the way up, to the ledge. This is almost the crux! Or at least it feels like it’s almost the crux. I haven’t worked the top part yet because I haven’t gotten there yet. I think the crux is the following: once you’ve stood up, still grabbing the undercling, to switch the grip of both hands so you’re grabbing it with your palms facing upward with the full force of your arms. I don’t think this will be THAT hard, it will just be a question of which hand to switch first, if I can go into it actually with one of the hands already switched — basically I just need to figure out the beta for this part. And then it’s moving right to the sloper, and up to the perfect lip.

God, I want this problem so bad.

The movement on this problem feels fantastic. It feels like a problem set at the gym, except about 6,000 times cooler because you’re not in South Seattle surrounded by a bunch of dudes from Amazon who just started bouldering and whose idea of fun is to go out to overpriced dinners at places like “mbar.”The height of this rock is perfect. The landing is perfect. The setting is perfect. I am falling in love with this boulder, and just how I’ve noticed when playing the piano, sections that once seemed hard are the ones that become the most fun. I feel like I could write a book about the undercling, with a chapter on the left heel hook, and the feeling as you inch your body upward to get the right foot to the ledge. The only thing I don’t understand about this boulder is the name. Were they listening to U2 during the FA? God, I hope not. It’s a beautiful day….

If it’s somehow dry tomorrow on my way out, that will change everything. I’ll either try Serenity Now V4/5 at Zeke’s Boulder just to see if I can do a couple of the moves, “check out the positions,” or I’ll make a quick stop at the Zelda Boulders in Index to check out Zelda Dyno V4 and just gaze up at The Engineer V9 (and maybe even try the start????? [why the hell not….]), or if it’s really dry I might even go up to the Clearcut Boulders and get on Rocksteadeasy V3, my first love who now that Leavenworth has entered the picture I’m quickly forgetting about. Though do you ever forget about your first love?

Not that it’s going to be dry tomorrow. If it IS dry tomorrow, I promise to post a shirt off to send video, half because it’s kind of funny and half because it actually does kind of work. The best attempt I had yesterday on U2 was my last, right after I said “F*ck it,” and took off my shirt to dry my shoes.

But for, let’s see what we can do about this funk…