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.

Prison Blocs #1

The goal of these posts is to chronicle my relationship with a boulder project, as much for my own personal records as for my development as a writer. I’m not going to tell you what the boulders are (at least not yet), though if you boulder much in the Leavenworth and Gold Bar areas you’ll probably be able to guess what they are pretty quickly. I’m not going to tell you the grades, either, though the fact that these are “Prison Blocs” should give you somewhat of a hint. I climb at about the V3 level (right now!!!!!!), which means I expect to be able to send some V3’s in the first sesh, and most V3’s within a few sessions. I’ve sent a few V4’s. I’m projecting some V5’s and V6’s but still haven’t sent any. But I would probably never consider a V5 or a V6 a “Prison Bloc,” because I’d expect to send a V5 relatively quickly if I devoted my heart and soul to and it kept going back to it. Prison blocs, however, are a different thing. When I sit down at a prison bloc (or stand up I guess if it’s a stand start), I think, Wow, this seems impossible. Or, Wow, never in a million years. Or, as I thought about the boulder I was trying the other day, and the subject of this first Prison Bloc post, Wow, maybe if I was in prison and that boulder was sitting in the middle of the prison yard and one of the guards said to me, ‘If you send that boulder, you can leave here.’ Maybe then, after days and days of trying it, months of trying it, thinking about it, thinking about the holds, devoting myself to it in heart and body and mind — then maybe I’d send it.

And that’s how Prison Blocs was born.

So, let me take you back to two days ago, when I found the first of these blocs. I was on my way back to Seattle from Wenatchee, having just looked at some land. Forty acres, very hilly, about an hour north of Wenatchee. Still within about an hour of Leavenworth, which is sort of my limit if I’m going to buy land out there. I want to be able to make a trip to Leavenworth to climb relatively easily. So I looked at the land, stopped to try to get coffee at Argonaut going through Leavenworth (it closes at 2pm), and then figured I’d look at some blocs on the way out.

When I got to the bloc in question, I caressed the first hold, which is a sloper, lovingly, the way you might caress a baby. I took note of the amount of chalk on it. I examined the crystals of the granodiorite, the undulations. I looked at it from a profile view, to see which parts weren’t as steep and that I might be able to better grab on to. And, then, of course, I touched it. I ran my hands over it, the way a blind person might run their hands over the countours of someone’s face, looking for any kind of divots or protrusions that allow for some kind of purchase.

I then sat in front of the boulder. I reached both hands above my head and tried to grab the first sloper. With my butt angled in front of me and my legs in front of me, sitting, the sloper felt pretty good. But then I would start to lift my body off the ground and it would swing out and I’d slide off like an ant trying to climb a pane of glass in the wind. I’d peel off like a peel of bosc pear falling to the ground. It became evident VERY QUICKLY that I needed to somehow keep weight on my feet, and that required keeping my feet on the rock. And I couldn’t figure out how to do that. The footholds are fine, but as soon as I started to weight the sloper my feet would drift off the holds like little harrier jets taking off from an aircraft carrier. And I’d fall to my butt on the mat. And by fall, I mean alight from about three inches high.

So then I tried a left heel hook, but that felt wrong/the way I injured my LCL. I tried two sort of two hooks/scums. That didn’t work. I wanted to get my left knee high, to do a knee bar/scum, but couldn’t get my knee to touch the rock (I also didn’t try that hard). I experimented with a variety of different footholds. I also tried to vary the way I placed my hands on the sloper. The temeperature was perfect — about 40 degrees — so I had no excuse there. I simply had to find a way to keep my feet pasted on the wall, and therefore make the angle of force on the sloper slightly more optimal, and make the amount of weight my hands were supporting on the sloper less. But I couldn’t keep my feet on.

That first move, then, felt COMPLETELY IMPOSSIBLE. Completely. I imagine it sitting in a prison yard. You go up to it, sit at its base, put your hands on the first hold, and can’t even remotely lift off the ground. Other inmates stroll the yard around you. Some look at you, thinking, There goes that idiot again. Some laugh. The prison guards watch you from afar. You can barely get your butt off the ground, you strain and try and kick at the rock, and then eventually you give up.

However, that night, you lie in bed thinking of ways you could keep your feet on the wall. You think the left knee scum is the way, and so you resolve to try that the next day. Your life is imbued with purpose. If you can solve this, you get out.

I am not in prison, of course, but I have a vivid imagination and I like to imagine this scenario, like to imagine how if it were true how much dedication I would put into the boulder, how I would come to know every inch of it perfectly, the feeling of every body position perfectly. And that’s what I want with this first prison bloc. It feels impossible right now, completely impossible. But I know it’s not. I can’t even pull off the ground right now, can’t even come close to establishing, but if I really try — really dedicate myself to this — I know I’ll figure it out. At least make some progress.

I’m already plotting my next trip back there. I’ll try this bloc again. Try the first move. Why not? Even if I make no progress. No progress in bouldering is still progress. Backwards progress in bouldering is still progress. It’s just me and the boulder. No one else. No agenda. No place to be. Just me having a relationship with a bit of stone. Hoping it will reveals its secrets to me. Open to what it can teach me.


Tenaya Demo in Redmond/Trying Moves on a V7???

Friends, something’s happening today:

I’m going bouldering.

Yes, I know some of you were worried I’d become a full-on sport climber, lying awake at night thinking of the Yosemite Decimal System and a new pair of TC Pros, but I assure you that’s not the case. My roots are still in bouldering. I would still rather have a crash pad draped over my back than a length of rope. I still dream of heel hooking and toe hooking and the day when I’ll finally place a knee bar.

Maybe today could be that day?

I’m going to the Clear Cut Boulders today, partly since I wanna do the hike and partly because I consider them my “home boulders.” These boulders will always hold a special place in my heart because they’re the first place I really bouldered outside. There is also something magical about being high up on a mountain, away from the road, surrounded only by the smells and the sounds of the forest.

Not to mention the sic(k) blocs.

BUT BEFORE I TALK ABOUT BOULDERING I’d like to talk about the Tenaya demo I went to at Vertical World Redmond yesterday. I must say, I had high hopes for this demo. I thought it would be a scene. I thought Drew Ruana would be there, esconced in a pair of Iati’s, projecting V25 and generally looking cool. INSTEAD, however, there was just one dude standing behind a card table with a bunch of dirty shoes perched on top. And here’s the worst part: They didn’t even have all their shoes! Of the four top of the line shoes they sell (Mastia, Oasi, Iati, Tarifa) they only had two there. Two. They didn’t have the Mastia or the Iati, two of the shoes I most wanted to try on. They DID have the Oasi LVs (low volumes), so I cranked those on and went around to various V1s and V2s pretending like I knew what I was doing, testing out the edging, the smearing, the heel hooking. But how am I supposed to pull the trigger if I can’t even try on the Mastias?

So yeah.

Mildly disappointing.

Goals for the bouldering sesh today:

  1. Hold the start holds on Silver Slippers V4 (like actually hold all my body weight off the ground)
  2. Try the first move on World’s Best V7
  3. Send The Container V2

The Container V2 is an interesting one. Barold and I tried it one of our first ever times in Gold Bar and loved the movement on the bottom but got shut down by the top out. And then I went there a year later as a much better boulderer and loved the movement at the bottom but got shut down by the top out. The top out is bulbous and the holds aren’t very good over the lip, but I think I’m making it harder than it’s supposed to be. The guidebook says, “Top out directly above,” but top out directly above what? Where you started? No. The large features on the right? Maybe. Either way one goal today is to finally send this problem, since I’ve gotten shut down by it too many times and it’s time to dedicate some actual time to it.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: What does it mean to “refinance” a home?

You’re also thinking: Trying moves on a V7???

And to that I say, “Yes, obviously.” You’ve got to try things that inspire you, and after watching countless videos of people sending World’s Best V7 I am becoming mildly obsessed with it. Plus, some of the moves look totally doable. So either I’ll go there and be served a healthy serving of humble (and possibly rhubarb) pie, or maybe I’ll do a move or too. There’s nothing quite as humbling as bouldering.

Slash why is Silver Slippers so crimpy.

Slash why I am I not sleeping well.

Slash I live on a boat.

OK, that’s about it for today.

Who’s going to Joshua Tree with me in November?

– Wetzler

Four Days of Rest || Road to V5

Part 1

I haven’t climbed in four days. My body has been resting for four days. What do four days of rest look like? Not much different than one day. My hip flexors still hurt. My fingers are still swollen. But something’s gotting be working, right?


Well, no, probably right.

I’m at my bro’s house. Today is the last full day of pet sitting. Tomorrow I do my pet sitting and plant watering duties and then I head back to the great world of Seattle. Ahhh…..city of dreams. City of….overpriced supermarkets. City of overpriced everything. But still the city I call home for now. Well, the city I will always call “home” until I live somewhere else for an extended period of time. But Seattle will always feel a bit like home.

You might be wondering what climbing plans I have for when I get back to the Seattle area. Because here’s the thing: I do have climbing plans, and possibly for as early as tomorrow. You see, tomorrow it’s supposed to “rain” in Gold Bar. There’s supposed to be “precipitation” which could make the boulders “wet” (see: juicy). But there’s also a chance it “won’t rain.” There’s a chance it will “hold off.” The forecast is calling for rain MAYBE starting around 4pm. Which means I’d have all morning to boulder. If I got up and got after it. Which I’m not sure I’ll do. But we’ll see.

If I DO go to Gold Bar I’d like to hike up to the Clearcut Boulders. I’d like to re-send some of my favorites, like Regatta de Blanc V0, BMOC V2, and Magic School Bus V2. I’d also like to work on some of my projects, like Cabin Stabbin’ V4, The Container V2 (I’m embarrassed to call this a project but I still haven’t sent it so there you go), Midnight Lichen V4 and Stinking Slopers V5. Depending on how I’m feeling it would also be great to get on some new blocs: Johnny Cash V3, Silver Slippers V4, Metroid Prime V6, Obesity V7, Water V6, for example.

This is a slightly embarrassing thing to admit, but I still haven’t broken the 10 V-point barrier outside. I.e., I haven’t sent boulder problems totaling at least 10 V-points in one day. Why should I be embarrassed about this? Because I feel like it’s almost a laughably low goal. I feel like it should’ve happened by now. And when I think about it, it COULD’VE happened by now. I could go out tomorrow and climb all the easiest V2’s I know and ones I’ve done many times, like the two V2’s on the Leggo My Ego boulder, Offa My Cloud, BMOC and Eight Bit Slab in Gold Bar, and that would be it. That would be 10 V-points right there, and it would be simple. But it would also feel a little meaningless just truly going for v-points. I’m more excited for when it happens naturally, when I look back on the climbs I’ve done one day and think, Damn, I just got 15 v-points. Or when I send a single boulder problem that gets me half way or most of the way there. That’s when I’ll really be excited. But to go out and re-send a bunch of problems just for one measly goal. Sounds pretty great.

Slash I think I need tea right now. Or some other form of caffeine. Slash this house feels cold. Why am I not out enjoying the sun right now.

Slash I think I’m going to go get a matcha latte.

Part 2

I went and got my matcha latte. Today is the one month anniversary of my newfound sobriety, so I’m celebrating. I got a matcha latte and some chili. And now I’m back at my bro’s house, writing this blog and contemplating how to spend my afternoon. I got a few books on yoga from the library. I still need to do Day 8 of the Yoga with Adriene 30 Days of Yoga series I’m doing, and my body currently feels too sore to do yoga. Why does my body feel sore all the time now? This is distressing. What should I be doing about it? Presumably, yoga.

God I just want to climb.

And climb V5.






Day is for Resting

It’s so quiet at my brother’s house where I’m pet sitting. I’d forgotten it could be this quiet. No sound of the road. I can’t hear the wind outside because the windows are probably somewhat soundproof. There’s no humming of a washing machine or a dishwasher or even the refrigerator. I hear a crack every now and again and also some kind of very low whooshing sound that might be the hum of the universe. And of course I hear my fingers typing. But that’s it. Other than that, the silence is deafening.

Today is day two of what will be at least four — possibly five — rest days. My tendons and muscles are so happy to get a rest. I woke up this morning with my fingers completely swollen. I wondered: How long would it take to stop waking up with swollen fingers? Obviously diet has some influence in this. My diet lately has been….not great. With proper diet I bet I could stop waking up with swollen fingeres in about a week. Without proper diet I think it would take at least twice as long. Which reminds me…I’m thinking of fasting tomorrow. I say “thinking” because that’s all I usually do with fasting lately. I think about it. The last time I fasted for any significant period of time (i.e. 24 hours or more) was right around the summer solstice. So, late June. Which means it’s been at least two months since a proper fast. I’m due. My digestive system is screaming for a break.

In other news, I went climbing the other day at SBP with my friend and former physical therapist. He’s a much stronger climber than me. Not so much grade wise, but more in just technique and overall competency. He’s one of those people that climbs and you’re like, “OK, that guy climbs.” Some people get on a route and they can sort of do it just because they’re strong. And other people get on a route and you’re like, “Damn, that guy/girl knows what they’re doing.” You can just tell. They’re smooth. Even if they’re straining they go confidently between holds. They read problems well. They’re efficient. And this is exactly how my friend/former physical therapist is. Efficient, smooth, skilled.

I learn a lot climbing with people like that.

That session was Friday evening. It’s now Sunday. I won’t climb again until Thursday at the earliest. Temps are looking PERFECT for Thursday. Thursday evening could be a super sesh, though the whole day looks great. Though shit, I just checked the forecast for Gold Bar and now it’s saying a 30% chance of rain! Oh well, these things are never really accurate more than 48 hours out. Could always go to Leavenworth. Could always go to Mad Meadows, since I STILL HAVEN’T BEEN THERE. And for some reason I’ve been thinking about Dirty Dancing V4 lately. After my essentially religious experience on this problem, I’ve been thinking about how much I liked it and how much I’d like to repeat it. It really is a perfect boulder problem for my level right now. The holds are JUST good enough. Just bad enough. Just perfect enough. Just dishy enough. And also I want to try the V2 across from it again, Slam Dunk, and also the V5 next to that, Buried Alive, and maybe — maybe? — try the first moves of Lion’s Den V8. I mean, why not. I can heel hook. I can do compression (maybe). I can sit start.

Other problems to try:

Schist Cave Right V5

Footless Traverse V5

Weather Report V3 (got close last time!)

Shaniqua V5 (this thing looks rad and I wanna see just how high this start is cuz people are talking about how you need to stack like 40 pads)

Yosemite Highball V4 (couldn’t do the first move last time)

Alfafa vs Spanky V5

And don’t worry, a bunch of easier ones too.

Also, I’d love to go back to Gold Bar sometime soon. I haven’t hiked up to the Clearcut Boulders in a lukewarm minute. I have so many projects up there. And so many boulders I’d like to repeat. Basically I wish I could climb all day every day from now until the end of Septmber. And who knows, maybe once my tendons adjust I’ll be able to do that. But regardless of how your body hangs in, it’s hard to keep up stoke for that long. One thing I’ve learned: taking breaks is the best way to get back stoke. After a break your body is raring to go and your mind is raring to go, too. You’ve had time to reflect. You’ve had time to absorb good technique and hopefully ditch old patterns.

God it’s still so quiet in here. What am I going to do. I think I’m gonna go up to the high school and kick a soccer ball around a bit. I think I’m gonna eat some beets. And chug some whater. And maybe watch the rest of a 1998 Gwyneth Paltrow film I got into just before I came here. Sunday, lazy Sunday.