Time to Start Training // A moderate boulderer’s experience with the 9c strength test

Yesterday I tried the 9c strength test that’s kind of been trending in the internet climbing world lately. The Wide Boyz made a video of it, and Magnus Midtbo made a video of it, but the video that got me REALLY stoked on it was Louis Parkinson in the Catalyst Climbing video. I don’t know why his video got me stoked on it more than the others. To be fair, I didn’t even watch the others, so I guess I should say I don’t know why his video actually induced me to watch as opposed to the other two.

ANYWAY, yesterday I tried it!!! And guess what??? I’m weak as hell!!! My friend WHO DOESN’T EVEN CLIMB scored just as high as me on the test. Which means, if I’m calculating correctly, that with perfect technique my friend WHO DOESN’T EVEN CLIMB should be able to climb V6. And that I should be able to climb V6. With perfect technique, of course, which I don’t have. But does this mean my technique is 66% perfect since I’ve climbed V4 and that’s 66% of V6??? Does that make sense???

Anyway, to the actual test.

The first exercise is hanging from a 20mm crimp. I had access to a Beastmaker and I think the smallest edge on that is around 18mm or 20mm. If you can hang from that with 100% bodyweight for five seconds, you get one point. And I barely did it. And I thought my right middle finger was going to break, or that the pulley was going to rupture, but it was more or less fine. I didn’t even try to add weight to get more points.

Next exercise was the weighted pull-up. First I did a normal pull-up. Easy. Then I tried adding 10% of my bodyweight to get a an extra point, and that wasn’t that bad either. I didn’t want to push it though — I was just looking for a baseline result to start training from — so I stopped there.

So far: three total points.

Next was the core strength exercise, and this one got me stoked. I thought for sure I’d smoke my friend in it, since I climb a lot and I thought climbing would give me a good core, but he actually kinda smoked me. He was able to hold an L-sit for 14 seconds, and I could BARELY get 10. Still, not terrible. Both of us remarked afterward how it kinda hurt our backs. Tough love, though. My back feels good today, so I think it was honestly good for it. This is an area I’m stoked to train.

The ten seconds gave me four more points, for a total of seven points. At this point I should be able to climb 6c+, which is what, like V3?

The last exercise was the dead hang from a bar for as long as you can. If you can do it for six minutes, you get the full 10 points. My friend and I both did it, and both struggled to get a minute. But I’m stoked on a minute. That was the first time I’d ever just hung from a bar for a minute. Suprisingly satisfying. If you have a spare minute and something to hang from, I suggest you try it. One minute hanging gave me another two points, which means my total score was….

Nine points.

Or: 7a.

Or: V6.

Which means that with PERFECT technique, I should be able to climb V6. And this makes sense, because I’ve started projecting a couple V6’s (namely Ryan’s Problem at the Camp Serene boulder and Barfly in Bend), and I could see myself definitely completing these climbs if the moons aligned. Strength isn’t really the issue in either of them. It’s having perfect beta and a perfect send burn.

Mostly I’m stoked to have completed this test because it gives me a point to start from. Now I can start training the hang, and hopefully get it up to a minute and a half and then two minutes. I can start adding a bit more weight to the pull-ups (not too often, of course) and hopefully get that up to about 150% body weight. The L-sit and front lever, like I said, I’m definitely stoked to train. I’d love to get my L-sit up to 20 seconds, and then from there start doing front levers. Front levers are just about the coolest thing ever. Now, if I did ALL the things I just mentioned (2-minute dead hang, 150% body weight pull up, etc) and even just kept the small crimp hang the same, I’d score 17 on the test, which corresponds to a 7c rating, which (though I’m not sure if this is Font scale or sport scale and how that affects things) means I should be able to boulder around V9. Which is amazing. That’s what I’m going for. I want to be able to send Midnite in Index, a crimp rail v9 testpiece, and if I had that strength (and perfect technique!!!) I might just be able to do it.

So time to start training.

Head Full of Rust

Waking up at Motel West in Bend, Oregon. I slept nine hours last night. I guess I was due. Now I’ve gotta figure out what I’m gonna do with my day. I’m gonna go to the Mountain Supply climbing shop on the off chance they’ll have a copy of Central Oregon Bouldering. I doubt they will.  I think the book’s out of print. Then I’m gonna go scope the bouldering at The Depot. There’s a V5 called Blood Knuckle I want to look at.

I’m staying another night in Bend at LOGE. I like this place even though it’s quite a bit more expensive than the budget places and also a bit pretentious. Mostly I like the location. It’s out in the middle of nowhere, almost right across the street from the Widgi Boulders. I might try Widgi Face V3 on this stayover in Bend. Or I might not. Mostly I just want to try the crux move and also see if there’s an alternative beta that involves a right arm lockoff.

K nevermind I just watched a video of Widgi Face and there’s definitely no way to do a lock off with the right hand on the hold where usually you have a high right foot before reaching to the crimp ledge. Damn.

Yesterday I drove to Bend from South Lake Tahoe. It was a long day. I stopped first in Carson City to get gas, then in Reno to go to the REI. At the REI I bought a pair of La Sportiva Solutions, so I can finally try them, and the book Beyond Tape, by Mike Gable. Then I drove to the Doyle Area Boulders, where I walked around in the hills for a bit looking for things to climb. If you’ve never been to Doyle (and I doubt you have), it’s kind of like the Joshua Tree of Northern California. Except way worse. Sure, there’s plenty of rad stuff to climb there, and there’s so much room for development, but I had it in my head it might even rival J-Tree, or be like a mini J-Tree, and it definitely doesn’t seem to be that.

After Doyle I drove to Susanville, where I went to the Grocery Outlet. And then I drove to Klamath Falls, where I got more gas. And then to Bend in the dark. When I got to Motel West there were strange noises coming from the room next door. I wasn’t stoked on it. Also, it’s fairly obvious people live here — they have their detritus ‘decorating’ the hallways’ — which lends a bit of a half-way house vibe to the place.

K time to go to Mountain Supply to see if they have that guidebook. And also get the hell out of Motel West. And maybe even get a matcha latte. And maybe do some work for Booking. And maybe go bouldering.

 

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!