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?

 

Welcome to the Olympic Peninsula

The drive out to the Olympic Peninsula, if you’re leaving downtown Seattle, takes you through Bainbridge Island. You get off the ferry and you’re on Highway 305, the main artery bisecting Bainbridge from north to south and ending at the ferry terminal. If you want to go further south on the island you have to take arterial roads.

The first traffic light you pass is the intersection of Winslow Way. Take a left and you’ll be in downtown Winslow. Park your car. Get a latte from Blackbird Bakery. Stroll the main street (Winslow Way). Pop into Willow Market for a kombucha or some crystals, or pop into Eagle Harbor Books for some literature. Get pizza at the newer Bruciato, the Island’s swankiest restaraunt and still only place on Bainbridge that makes you feel like you’re “out.”

Or don’t go into downtown Winslow at all! You wouldn’t anyway, you uncouth miser. Continue straight on Highway 305, not even glancing sideways to take in the splendor that is Bainbridge Island, though from the highway it’s admittedly not that splendid anyway. Mostly embankments and second or third or eighth-growth trees. A McDonald’s. The Day Road Industrial Park. The Seabold Church. A sign promising Bloedel Reserve if you’ll just slow the hell down and take a goddamned right.

But you won’t.

You must keep going.

Now you’re in Poulsbo, and things are heating up. You’re muttering to yourself in Norwegian. You’re still on 305 if you somehow once again resisted the charms of a small Washington State town built on a bay. Poulsbo is ALMOST as charming as Bainbridge. Almost. Nearly. But somehow not quite as charming. No one knows why, but everyone knows this is true. The one thing Poulsbo does has going for it is it’s probably easier to get a Danish or similar Scandinavian pastries. Some people find the Norwegian flags charming. These people are cretins.

Congratulations, you’ve escaped the clutches of the Kitsap Peninsula and crossed the Hood Canal Bridge! If you didn’t accidentally drive off the bridge and get swept under the current, you’re now on the………….

…wait for it…..

….on the…..

….keep waiting….

….OLYMPIC PENINSULA!

Prepare to get eaten by a black bear.

Or don’t, because most of the wildlife got killed off a long time ago and is still making its comeback. In all my forays onto the Peninsula I’ve never seen a black bear. Never seen a brown bear either, ’cause those got killed off a long time ago. Never seen a cougar, ’cause those suckers are damned elusive. The most wild thing I’ve seen on the Olympic Peninsula is a seal. A cute little seal. And maybe a merganser.

After the Hood Canal Bridge you’ll pass Discovery Bay, home to a few weed shops, and from there it’s smooth sailing to Sequim and Port Angeles. Over the age of 65? Stop in Sequim and stay there until you die. Like firearms? Stop in Port Angeles and stay there and hang out with other folks like yourself. Hate the US and want to leave and never come back? Well, you used to be able to take the Black Ball Ferry over to the illustrious town of Victoria, but those days are long gone due to a linear chain of 1,273 amino acids which compose a spike protein. Go figure. You could always swim, or paddle board, or take a pleasure craft, but you might have to deal with the Canadian authorities.

If you have a real taste for adventure, continue westward past Port Angeles to places like Joyce, Clallam Bay, Sekiu, Neah Bay, and Forks. In case you’ve been living under a piece of granodiorite for the past 20 years, Forks is where Stephanie Meyer’s hit book series “Twilight” is based. It’s a wonderful town (in theory). In practice it’s a (semi) impoverished logging town with a weirdly good skatepark, a shit ton of rain, and an underwhelming grocery store. Oh and also some pretty good Mexican food, if I remember correctly.

If these riches of the Olympic Peninsula don’t sound spellbinding, your best bet might be to turn around and head back to Seattle. Life slows down a bit on the Peninsula. For better or for worse, but usually for the better.

Welcome to the Olympic Peninsula. Take only pictures, leave only footprints.

 

 

Just Nudge || Road to Recovery

Random boulders in northern New Mexico.

I am so happy to be here on the boat, sitting with a cup of a green tea, the heater caressing my shins, checking stocks, checking the sunset time, checking the weather for the next few days, and thinking about what I’d like to do with the rest of my life.

It is joyous.

Sometimes when you’re struggling or down a bit or not sure what to do next, or somehow unhappy with your current circumstances, the only thing you can do is get in your car and drive 7,000 miles. I’m kidding, of course. Sort of. Is it ironic that I needed to drive 7,000 miles to realize that I would be better off not driving anywhere at all. Unless that place is Gold Bar, WA, of course, where I will of course have to drive as soon as I can climb again. Oh, and Leavenworth. I must go to Leavy. But the climbing season hasn’t really started in Leavy yet. It won’t really start until March or April, when things stop being snowy.

The appointment with the physical therapist yesterday was incredibly fruitful. For the first time I feel truly optimistic about my recovery. My goal when I talked about this a couple weeks ago was to be climbing sometime in April. But now I might even move that up again. I think I could be back in the climbing gym in March. If I eat well, if I inject the shit out of my knee with BPC-157, and if I really go to town on rehab and physical therapy exercises, I think I could be back in the gym sometime in the next month. Which would be incredible. There is nothing I want more. But of course it will be the gym — climbing outside will have to wait longer. Climbing outside = gnarlier landings, more unpredictable landings, more unpredictable everything, really. I could go climb a yellow in the gym today. But that’s not really climbing. That’s more: Can you get up a ladder without falling? I could probably climb a green today, too. But I wouldn’t feel comfortable falling. I wouldn’t feeling comfortable being up high. I never realized until this injury how important falling is in bouldering. Generally I feel really good falling, I almost like it. I take pride in my falling. But now falling is terrifying. Somehow I will have to get my body ready to fall again, and fall hard. And from places on high.

In other news. I feel like there was other news. Oh yes, I have started implementing certain lifestyle changes that are already paying sweeping dividends. I have implemented some diet changes, and I don’t want to give too much away here but they basically involve having less caffeine, or having less of a certain kind of caffeine, and also having less sugar. And by less sugar I mean less SUGAR, less CARBS, since carbs are basically sugar. Also, I think I’m realizing that different carbs affect me differently. I ate a bunch of tortilla chips yesterday and didn’t really feel inflamed. But other kinds of carbs do make me feel inflamed. I can feel it in my knee. I desperately need to buy a blood glucose meter. AKA they sell pure oxygen canisters at Fred Meyer now.

I am trying to nudge myself in the right direction. Every day. Every day, just nudge myself a bit. Don’t push! Don’t force! Just nudge. You don’t get anything done by forcing. Whatever you force will rebound upon itself with an equal force. But if you just nudge. If you encourage. Then you can do anything. Like wake up at the same time every morning. Which is actually kinda huge.

Another cup of gree tea. Barcelona play PSG at noon. I hope Kylian Mbappe scores a hat trick but Barca still somehow destroy them. I would murder for a matcha latte right now but don’t want to leave the boat. I can’t eat Go Macro bars anymore because they have 39g of carbs. Damnit. I just finished the book News of the World and it was incredible. Now to watch the movie. The preview looks terrible.

I am sending love to you all and wish you all a wonderful day,

Wetz

Somewhere in the American West.

Last Day || Richland, WA to Seattle, WA

Somewhere near Richland.

As I walked to Wal-Mart this morning I thought, Why should I rush to get home? Why should I rush to get this Wal-Mart experience over with? Why should I rush to have my matcha tea, why should I rush to get back to the hotel, why should I rush to see what breakfast they have, why should I rush up to my room, to get packed and changed and ready to go, to write this post.

Why should I rush to do anything at all?

We spend our lives rushing about, only to realize it did nothing to hasten or delay the arrival of death. When you die will it matter all the stuff you did? Will it matter, all the things you crammed into every day? The things you stressed about?

It’s snowing outside the Home 2 Suites by Hilton in Richland, WA, and my tea has just finished brewing. I’m sitting on the couch in my immaculate room, this, finally, the NICEST room I’ve stayed in this entire trip. It took till the last night to find the perfect hotel. That’s what this trip was about, staying in hotels. Finding myself in hotels across the US and Mexico, watching YouTube videos. Watching chess videos. Watching bouldering videos. Drinking tea.

Today I’ll pack up my stuff, leave my hotel room, start my car, amble onto the freeway, and drive home to Seattle. I have mixed feelings about this. Sure, I’m excited as fuck. That goes without saying. But at the same time if there’s ANYTHING this trip has taught me is that arriving at your destination doesn’t matter. Things aren’t going to be great “once you get there.” Things aren’t going to be great “once you get to Guam,” or “once you get to Mexico,” or “once you go on vacation,” or “once your kids are back in school,” or “once you get that job promotion,” or “once you start making more money,” or “once you start eating better.”

OK, the eating better thing is actually kind of a big one.

But seriously, we spend our entire leaves thinking we’ll be happy ONCE SOMETHING HAPPENS. Our ability to be happy is so conditional. Watch, sometime, yourself having these thoughts, and then watch what happens when you get the thing that you thought would be it, or the place you thought that once you got there everything would be fine, and watch how as soon as these things are attained your little rat brain goes searching for some other requirement to make it happy. Oh, we’ll be happy once we get to our hotel and we can relax and unpack our stuff and go swimming in the pool. But then you get to your hotel, and other little things come up. Where are we going to dinner? We’ll be happy once we just get some dinner. We’ll be happy once we just get a good night’s rest. And on and on and on and on until it becomes, oh, we’ll be happy once this vacation is just over and we’re home.

(hold on a sec while I get my tea).

Or maybe you guys don’t have this problem. Maybe I’m the only one sitting in the Hilton in Richland eating sardines with jalapenos for breakfast because he thinks a low-carb diet will solve his knee troubles.

Anyway.

Now I’m worried that this entire room smells like sardines. K, I really need to drink my tea.

All I know is this: this is literally the only thing I know: that my body feels better when I eat a diet lower in carbs, lower in grains. I feel like I have less inflammation. Like if I eat a big thing of rice? My fingers and joints instantly start cracking. I feel like my body’s on fire. But when I eat a low carb diet? My body feels lubed up. I feel light. I feel like a kid again, albeit a kid with a partially torn LCL.

Except maybe it’s not torn anymore. Maybe it’s kind of healed and it just needs to continue in the remodeling phase and I need to load and……all that other stuff.

And so, I’m going to savor the drive today. Fuck that, I’m going to savor everything about today. I’m going to savor the wonderful sound my car makes when starting up, the familiar purr despite always fearing a bit it won’t start up. I’m going to savor the crunch of the tires on the snow as I slowly drive out of the hotel parking lot and towards the arterials. I’m going to savor the whine of the engine as I pull onto an onramp and get it up to speed on the interstate. I’m going to savor driving by Yakima. I’m going to savor driving by Ellensburg (that one’ll be tough for some reason). I’m going to savor the snow that will inevitably be falling. I’m going to savor the first glimpse I get of Seattle as the skyscrapers peak over Beacon Hill when I come out of the tunnel after Mercer Island.

And if all this goes to shit, if my car doesn’t start, if there’s tons of traffic going over the pass, then, well, I’m going to savor that too. No expectations. Savoring everything that comes my way, including this shitty cup of earl grey. Savoring the lingering taste of sardines in my mouth.

No, but seriously.

 

Snow in Twin Falls || The Grand Road Trip

No desire to get out of bed today. It’s snowing:

This is a horribly taken picture from my hotel room here in Twin Falls with my laptop. My iPhone is out of battery so I couldn’t use that. Like I said, it’s snowing, sideways, and I don’t think I can get out of bed until it’s stopped snowing or until the I-84 webcams show the interstate as being at least somewhat clear. Here’s how they look now:

If you think I’m gonna get out there in drive in that you’ve got that exact thing coming. Because that is what I’m going to do. Once I slowly muster myself here, and drink some tea, and pack my shit, and finish raging at the stupid neighbors above me who spent all night stomping around, I’m going to hit the road. I don’t know how far I’ll make it. Maybe only to Boise. But I’m going to hit the road all the same since there’s no way I’m staying here again with these neighbors above me. I’d rather at least make it to Boise.

Also, tomorrow looks like a decent day for driving.

As the morning draws on the roads should get better. It is still snowing, though.

I desperately need to shave. Maybe what I’ll do is get up, walk over to Winco Foods, get some tea, get either another mechanical razor or maybe even an electric razor, attempt to shave, stretch or pad around my room and rage at the neighbor upstairs, and then finally start loading up the Subi.

The Subi.

Her name is not Bella. She rejected that name.

Also I’ve been looking at other Subi’s. In the 2014 year range. If I do get a new car I have two requisites: 1) That it be less than 10 years old. 2) That it have less than 100,000 miles on it. Maybe even less than 80,000 miles on it. I can’t even imagine getting into a car I own and being like, “Damn, this feels really comfortable and safe.” Because right now when I get into the Subi I think, “Get me the fuck out of here,” and, “We’re going to die.”

I really need to get her brakes checked out.

Yesterday I asked my friend Steve two questions: 1) What US state would you least want to live in? and 2) What Latin American Country would you least want to live in? He said Indiana and El Salvador. Indiana cuz of the vibes he’s gotten while driving through there, and El Salvador for the crime. I said Kansas or Nebraska or somewhere in the Deep South. And on third thought it would probably be somewhere in the deep south for me. Whichever deep south state has the worst bouldering. As for Latin American country: Honduras.

K, almost time to walk over to Winco Foods.

I went to Barnes and Noble yesterday and spent 40 minutes contemplating which book to buy, the whole time standing there farting cuz I’d just had a bunch of dates, and then eventually left empty-handed. I really wanted the Elton John autobiography, but if I bought that I got another book at 50% off, and none of the other books at 50% off looked that good. And I couldn’t bring myself to buy the EJ book without taking advantage of the deal. So eventually I left.

The idea today was to make it to the Tri-Cities. At least to Pendleton or La Grande. That’s definitely not happening.

It will not stop snowing.

At the same time, I must look at the positives of the snow. If I had woken up and saw this as a little kid, I would’ve been stoked. I would’ve been prancing around the room in my undies. I would’ve been stoked for the hotel breakfast and stoked to get in the car and stoked to have adventures. The snow is beautiful. I’m in a strange town, in Twin Falls. As long as I take it easy on the highway and drive carefully, the world, aka Idaho, is my oyster, aka spud. So now I’m actually going to get out of bed. I’m going to get bundled up. And I’m going to walk across the street to the grocery store. It is a winter wonderland, and I plan to walk in it.