A Year of Bouldering Progression

Chapter 1: Gym Climbing

I’m still trying to figure out when I went bouldering for the first time. Well, the VERY first time was sometime in maybe 2017 or 2018 when my friend’s friend Marc was visiting Bainbridge from Luxembourg and they took me to the gym on Bainbridge and I was literally fully pumped within 10 minutes (maybe less) and didn’t have a very pleasant experience. That was the FIRST time. But that didn’t start it. I wasn’t like, “Holy shit what is this new activity I must practice it all the time.”

Then at some point I took an Intro to Bouldering class at Vertical World in Seattle. This was (I think) sometime in late November of 2019. I think it was late November because with the intro class they gave you two weeks of free membership but I didn’t use it at all because I immediately went to Vietnam and also didn’t really….want to.

OMG ok here we go I found it. I’m looking through old emails and there it is:

So. I did this class. Was kind of intimidated. Not super stoked. And it’s unclear to me whether or not my friend Hunter took me BEFORE or after I’d done this class. Because that was the critical moment, when my friend Hunter took me to Seattle Bouldering Project. That’s when I might’ve done some reds and maybe even some greens and FOR WHATEVER REASON…became super stoked on bouldering. Because then after he took me I started going on my own. And it’s all history after that.

Chapter 2: Outdoor Climbing

VB-V3

From January to March (aka when the lockdown started) I climbed VERY REGULARLY at the gym. Just before lockdown I was basically climbing at the gym every day, mostly at Upper Walls in Fremont but also at SBP Poplar.

Then lockdown hit.

And I stopped climbing and moved to India.

Aka I took my climbing outdoors.

In March of 2020 I went climbing outdoors for the first time. In April I got Pablo Zuleta’s Western Washington Bouldering guidebook, and that also changed everything. I went to the Morpheus Boulders in the West Miller River Valley and sent my first “real” outdoor boulder problem: Car Door Traverse V0 on the famous Car Door Boulder.

(The first ever blog post I did about bouldering: https://whereswetzler.com/misadventures-of-a-novice-boulderer-part-1/)

The first thing bouldering outside taught me is that bouldering outside is WAYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY harder than bouldering in a gym. At least grade-wise. And landing-wise. And conditions-wise. And holds-wise. And pretty much everything else-wise. Bouldering outside you’re falling on a four-inch thick pad that’s (in my case) 4X6 feet and often times uneven. Bouldering inside you’re falling on a perfect pad that’s probably two feet thick and never uneven. Bouldering inside the holds are always dry and they never break and the holds are usually pretty damn good. Bouldering outside the holds are sometimes wet or slippery or covered in crap and usually much crimpier they are than indoors (depending on where you’re bouldering, of course).

Basically, they’re two different disciplines. And both rewarding, though let’s be honest, bouldering outside is the real deal, and bouldering inside is (albeit super super a;sldfjads;lkfjadl;k fun) training.

Or something.

In May of 2020 I sent my first V1 outdoors and got fully owned by a V2 (Beam Me Up) that I’d been looking at forever in the guidebook.

A couple weeks later I sent my first V2 outdoors (Eight Bit Slab, Gold Bar, WA).

And then in late June I sent my first V3 outdoors after projecting U2 in Leavenworth for a couple months.

The Road to V4

It would be a LONNNNNNNNNNG time before I sent V4 after sending V3. Like, many moons. Like, about six moons, to be exact. In the meantime I sent a bunch more V3’s, a bunch more V2’s, and I took my first every bouldering road trip, to Bishop, California!!!!!!!! Which was incredible. What an eye-opening experience. What amazing blocs. What amazing movement. What amazing, juggy holds (at the Happies). What cold camping!!!!!!! I almost froze to death!!! Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh but it was glorious and I can’t wait to get back. I didn’t send V4 there but whatever. I had a wonderful time. I got a bit stronger. Met some cool people.

Then, in December of 2020, I finally sent my first V4. I had been working on several V4’s: Serenity Now, Toto, Fridge Center, and Dirty Dancing. But Toto was the first to go, probably because it’s one of the easiest, and also since it’s slightly overhanging and under a tree it stays dry pretty much all winter. I climbed it just a couple days before Christmas, and I was ecstactic:

Injury

And then, on New Year’s Eve 2020, I got injured. I was bouldering at Goat Rock State Beach in Sonoma County, California with Carolyn and tore my LCL and probably damaged my meniscus due to a heel hook gone bad. I won’t go into details. I’m currently on the mend. In fact I’m getting better every day and I’m stoked and starting to feel really good again and I’m gym climbing and so I’ll just segue into the next segment…..

Chapter 3: Recovery and Beyond

As I said, I’m on the mend, and more stoked every day. I’ve found a lot of silver linings in this injury. For one thing it’s just made me more cognizant of the fact that you CAN get injured bouldering if you’re not paying attention, if you’re careless. Also, you can get injured even if you are these things. In fact, if you boulder for long enough, you’re likely to get injured. But what happens when you get injured? Do you bounce back? Do you learn from it? I hope to do both of these things and more. Recently I started climbing in the gym again, and I’m starting to feel good. My body is adjusting, but more importantly I’m becoming more mentally comfortable. I’m doing physical therapy, I’m trying to eat well, and I’m even injecting experimental peptides into my knee. All in the name of….bouldering? Progression? Purpose? V8?

I hope to continue to feel better, I hope to continue to heal, and I hope to keep climbing in the gym and at SOME point, maybe in April, maybe in May, start climbing outdoors again. I will only say this once, right here: My goal by the end of the fall season is to send V8 outdoors. I know it’s insane. But I also know I can do it. It would be incredible, and of course even if I don’t do it it will be incredible just to progress at bouldering and continue to have it be an integral part of my life. Because that’s what it is. Bouldering has now become an integral part of my life, and I’m thrilled about it. I’m thrilled to try new blocs, get stronger, have fun, and meet new people. And also to connect on some very fundamental level with movement, nature, and presence. Because that’s what it’s all about, right?

 

Hella Sardines | R2V4 #18

Hella sardines.

I did something deviant yesterday. I bought a ticket to…..MEXICO????? ARE YOU KIDDING ME???? ARE YOU GOING TO MEXICO, BRO???? YOU’RE NOT GOING TO MEXICO….

But yes, I’m going to Mexico. On August 15th. A day before my birthday. For 11 days. And everyone’s invited. Slash no one’s invited. Slash Barold might come but that’s about it. There’s a good chance I’ll be alone on my 37th birthday, though I hope I’m not ACTUALLY alone, i.e. I meet people in San Pancho, where I hope to stay.

You’re not God, dude…

Now, before everyone starts going insane and shaming me for traveling during a pandemic, at least do your research.

A couple points:

1) Alaska Airlines is taking HELLA precautions to make sure flying is safe. With their HEPA filters their air quality is comparable to what’s found in hospitals. Masks are, obviously, mandatory. You must sign a health agreement before flying. The list goes on.

2) I’m not going to Puerto Vallarta to club, guys (well, I’m not really going to Puerto Vallarta anyway but the surrounding areas). I’m not going to stand in enclosed spaces around a bunch of other people. In fact, other than in my hotel room, I don’t plan on ever being inside, ever. And I’m not going to be around a bunch of people because I don’t KNOW a bunch of people there. I know less than I do here. So I’ll mostly be on my own. Surfing, on my own, and driving around. Which is actually kinda sad. And kinda awesome.

3) I plan on getting tested when I get back. If It’s free, I’m going to do everything I can to get tested when I get back so I can put those around me at ease. And I will definitely not hang around my parents until I either a) get the results of the test or b) a suitable amount of time has passed.

Why on earth am I justifying myself to you?

Maybe I’ll delete that. Or maybe I’ll just leave it.

I’m doing a bit of the quote unquote INTERMITTENT FASTING today, aka I ate my last food at 10pm last night which means today I’m not allowed to eat till 2pm. I bought HELLA SARDINES yesterday when I was at Safeway, aka hella smoked fish and shellfish, aka smoked baby clams, smoked scallops, LIGHTLY smoked sardines, and smoked oysters. They were all on clearance for some reason, which I patently don’t understand considering 98% of people go to Safeway to buy little tins of smoked seafood.

I MIGHT climb tomorrow, because I’m probably not climbing on Thursday, and Friday Dan and I leave on our backpacking trip to the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. Who knows. I gotta say, I am a bit hungry right now. Two and a half hours till I can eat. What am I gonna have. Chipotle? Hella sardines? A salad from Evergreens? I mean, I gotta have something KINDA healthy. Like, I can’t break my fast with pizza. Not that that’s even THAT unhealthy. But I mean the whole reason I’m doing this is to get healthier. Get leaner. Improve healing. Etc. Etc. Etc. Etc.

OK, I think that’s everything. There’s almost literally nothing I could tell you that would be novel. Update on the state of my fingers: They’re doing fucking great. Update on my shoulder: Slow going but slowly healing. Update on the state of my mind: Fasting is fucking awesome.

 

Rolling in the Deep (aka Dirt) | R@V$ #17

Don’t have much to report today. Sitting in my boat. Woke up at 7:58am. Cloudy outside today. Drinking my matcha bacopa lion’s mane organic “Brain Booster.” Waiting for the Chelsea v. Arsenal game which starts at 9:30am and…..blogging.

Blogging hard.

Real hard.

Does anyone blog anymore?

So remember how I was “injured” and I was going to have to, like, “stop climbing” or “take a break?” Yeah, fuck that. I think I’m just gonna keep going. Yesterday I climbed at the gym with Barold and didn’t push it hard and made sure to take my time getting ready and warming up and didn’t try anything crimpy and, most importantly, DIDN’T TRY TO SHOW OFF (99% of the time I hurt myself it’s either “showing off” or doing something differently because I know or think someone is watching which is fucking ridiculous), and I had a wonderful session. Such a good time. Flashed a really fun purple. FLASHED A BLUE, which I’d never done before, and granted it was EXACTLY my style, aka stemmy, aka leggy, aka I guarantee some people who have never climbed before in their lives could flash it, but still, I was elated. Also granted I got the beta, or the start of the beta, from some RANDOM HERO who I watched try the boulder a couple times, so it was a flash, not on sight, but still. And ALSO, Barold for the win because when I was stuck on the “crux” Barold said, “Why don’t you put both feet on there?” there being a huge Dr. Seuss hold elephant nose thing and he ACTUALLY meant put both my feet on the volume but I thought he meant put both feet on the hold so that’s what I did and then I was able to just crouch down and lift up both hands to place them on the finishing hold.

AMAZING!!!!!!!

Amazing.

Amazing?

Yesterday was actually pretty wonderful. After climbing Barold and I WASHED OFF THE FUCKING SUBARU. It was so fucking disgusting. It had bird shit all over it. I hadn’t washed it in literally several months, and because I essentially live in the wild aka a marine environment there was bird shit all over it and it looked like an anchor that’s been sitting on the bottom of the ocean gathering barnacles and waiting for a its chance to star in a Johnny Depp movie. Barold used the pressure washer while I used the brush. Months and months and months and months and fucking months of grime just dripping off. So satisfying. ESPECIALLY SATISFYING BECAUSE I have a date on Sunday and I kind of need to impress, though impress and ’97 Subaru have never been used in the same sentence before, except MAYBE one time in 1997 (and probably not even then). That being said, and I know this is a tangent, I fucking love that car. I love being able to sleep in it. I love that it has four wheel drive. And I love that it’s not a fucking Prius or some stupid car people buy who pretend to care about the environment even though THE NEW FUCKING CAR THEY BOUGHT is just another thing brought into the world, and required strip-mining to manufacture it. And then those same stupid people produce way more emissions in just about every other way, flying all over the place, consuming consuming consuming, consuming more than they need. Living in a house way bigger than they need. Filling their huge-ass recycling bin with plastic every two days, BUT OH, IT’S OK BECAUSE WE’RE RECYCLING. Um, actually it’s not ok. You’re wrecking the planet. Like, wrecking it. Like, stop consuming so much.

An.

Y.

Way.

I’ll chill now.

(I blog).

So yeah, climbed yesterday, and going climbing tonight with another friend, this time out in Gold Bar, and literally my only goal is to send Warm-Up Slab V0 as smoothly and as “fun-ly” as possible and get it on camera, and also send Regatta de Blanc V0 from as LOW A START AS POSSIBLE, aka no pad, aka lying on the dirt, aka rolling in the deep, aka Adele, aka weight loss. AND MAYBE, MAYBE I’ll try a new problem. Like maybe I’ll go look at Fern Crack V3 and if if doesn’t look too crimpy for the right hand I’ll jump on it. But we’ll see. Or maybe I’ll try to send some other random V0’s.

That is all for now. Twenty eight minutes until this soccer game starts. Time to maybe meditate for a second and maybe do some stretching.

It’s AUGUST!!!!

Hellfire Burns (and Climbing Everyday) | R2V4 #16

If someone had a gun to my head today and said, “Send V4 or I’m gonna pull the trigger,” what would I do? Honestly, I don’t know if I would get in my car right now and go right to Serenity Now V4. I don’t know if that has the best sending potential. I DEFINITELY wouldn’t go to Zelda Dyno V4, since you gotta be able to rag on some decently small crimps for that one, and I don’t want to do that right now. I’d need something that I sort of have the beta on, and that’s sort of my style. Maybe The Enigma V4, at the River Boulders? Maybe Dropping the Chicken V4 up at the Devil’s Club Forest Boulders, though last time I wasn’t really even coming close to getting the first move? Maybe Fridge Center V4, though the high today in Leavenworth is supposed to be…..dear jesus…104?

Anyway, just some fun morning thoughts. I guess in the end I would realistically drive straight to Serenity Now V4, mess around on the slab a bit, maybe climb up the downclimb to warm up, and then give it a few balls-to-the-wall burns.  Like, hellfire burns. Like, scream burns. Like, pretend-you-don’t-have-a-pad burns. Like, actually take your pad away to make falling less of an option? burns. Or something like that. The question is, would the dude (I’m assuming it’s a dude) with the gun ride shotgun with me to the boulder, holding the gun to my head the whole way? Would he drive his own car? Would that car be something vaguely pathetic, like a newish Mustang? Would he be the kind of guy who wears a leather coat? And why would he care so much about me sending V4? Why wouldn’t he want to just support my progression as a climber? Or maybe he WOULD be supporting my progression as a boulderer, just in ways beyond my comprehension.

Is this the lion’s mane talking?

For the time being I’m going to do one of two things: Not write posts for awhile, until I can start climbing again. OR, ALTERNATIVELY, write posts every damn day. Because since I’m not working right now I have more time to write, and I kind of like starting the morning in this way. I get up, I prepare myself a cup of matcha bacopa lion’s mane sludge, and I pull out the laptop. I think about bouldering even if I’m not really trying to. I think about going climbing that day even though I definitely shouldn’t. Or maybe I should climb everyday. Maybe I should legitimately figure out a way to basically be climbing everyday. Like, put myself on a schedule where I’m climbing two days on, one day off, and it doesn’t matter how hard I send, it doesn’t matter how long I climb or what I climb, I just have to get out there. Though that’s a lot of driving. And I JUST froze my gym membership. Not that I really feel like climbing in a gym right now anyway. But if I DID do that, and my body were to adjust, then I’d get really damn strong, really damn quick. I’d be sending a message to my body that says, “Hey, dickweed, we’re going to be doing this (almost) everyday. So get used to it. Maybe help me out with those tendon flexors a bit? Thanks.” But instead the message I’m sending to my body right now is, “Ohhhh, are you hurt? Are you feeling bad? I’m so sorry. Take a week off. Take two. Wouldn’t want to overdo it….”

No, the answer is: overdo it. Be a gladiator. Be a warrior. Send V4.

Bogged Down in the Mire | R2V-enlightentment

Yours truly preparing for lift-off on Hueco Man V0, one of two V0’s in the Western Washington Bouldering guidebook’s Top 100. Pictures of Barold crushing to come.

I may have to take a break from bouldering. Yes, you read that correctly. Yes, I’m still planning on bouldering tomorrow (see: hiking), and yes, this is something that would injure me to my very soul (and not just my finger pulleys). The thing is: My right hand is dying. It feels kinda dead. Yesterday I was trying to crank the first move on Mr. Smooth V7 (Aka River Arete Aka V-Bizarre), and I felt something in my right index finger just kinda…pull. Like a pully? Did I fuck up my pulley?

Maybe.

And so Barold and I stopped bouldering. Not so much actually because I had possibly just injured myself, but because it was getting hot as balls at the Skykomish River Boulders and we were kind of over the whole scene, aka we had both sent Hueco Man V0, which involves a fun, frictiony first move and a rather unsettling top out, and we’d also sent an Unknown V1 that was super fun, and we’d also made significant progress on an Unknown V3 that really needs to be named because it’s a tremendous problem (is it a tremendous problem?), involving a beautiful sloping ledge and a kind of mantle/lock off thing to a gaston just below the lip that brought us unexpected amounts of joy despite our lack of sendage.

And then we went back up to the van, which was, kind of, sort of, completely, stuck. Like, the right rear wheel was just spinning. And we couldn’t move forward because a tree was blocking us. So what did we do? We smoked a rollie and chilled. And then what did we do? Well, I started stressing slightly because I had an engagement later that evening at 7:30pm at an historic Volunteer Park, and I was a bit concerned I was gonna miss that. I also started stressing a bit because I figured we might have to call Bubba’s Towing Service (name approximate) and that he would charge us an arm and a clavicle to yank the Sprinter out of the mire. I was also worried that I might use the word “mire” and that Bubba might think I was calling him a name and try to get physical (in which case I could surely outrun him).

But none of this happened. Because we did the best thing you can EVER DO WHEN CONFRONTING A DIFFICULT DECISION (caps Bubba’s):

We took a walk.

Yes, friends, it was a beautiful summer’s day, and Barold and I took a summer stroll through the forest toward Index, where Barold flagged down a passing and cyclist and demanded, “What ho, are you a local(e)?”

To which the local replied: “Yes. Why do you ask?”

To which I responded: “Kind sir, our chariot has become bogged down in the mire. We try to reverse but one of the wheels (aspirated “h”) just spins. Might you have a shovel?”

To which he responded: “Dude, hell yes I have a shovel. Let me just grab it for you real quick.”

Which he did.

Also on the walk to get the shovel, an idea occurred to Barold: Why don’t we jack up the offending tyre, put a bunch of rocks under it, no, essentially build a MOTHERF@!KING ROAD under it, and then let the tyre down and try to reverse then. Because you see the problem was that the tyre wasn’t able to gain purchase on anything, since the car was (mildly) high-centred. And so we were pretty confident that using the jack technique, and also shoveling the dirt out from behind the right front wheel (another quagmire altogether), we would be successful.

Back at the vehicle, Barold went to work jacking and I went to work shoveling. I was a modern-day laborer, getting by by the sweat of my back. I took the mound behind the front right tire and quickly reduced it to a….smaller mound. Meanwhile, Barold built what was essentially a cobblestone I-90 under the rear right tire, and we were able to give it a go. And guess what? It worked (though actually on the second attempt).

Fist bumps and even a high five abounded. The day was successful, in a type 2 sort of way.

But back to my “injury.” I believe my injury is at least partly mental, though I do believe my body is screaming for an extended break. Which is why, friends, after tomorrow’s hiking and very moderate sesh (I’ll maybe climb the Warm-Up Slab just for fun), I plan to take a week-plus off from bouldering. Yes, again you have a read correctly. A week plus. I need to start healing. I need to get back to where I was, both physically and mentally, before I went off the rails a couple weeks ago and overdid it and derailed myself both physically and mentally. I need to get my brain and body out of the mire.