Go Climb (or don’t)

I’m back on the boat. The road trip is over. All in all it was about 10 days, and not a ton of climbing happened.

One reason not a ton of climbing happened is that my body didn’t feel up to it. I was sacrificing my body to the V5 gods, and the V5 gods said, “We don’t want this.”

There was one specific day in Bishop where everything changed. I was in the Sads. I was by myself. I was trying to warm up on some easy stuff, and then basically wrenched the crap out of my body establishing on a dumb, V3 slab. I got to the top. It wasn’t satisfying. And I thought to myself, What am I doing? Why am I doing this? Do I even like climbing?

Enter: the time since that, up until present day, sitting on my boat, burning incense to ward off bad energy, listening to the drone of my heater, thinking about how I should probably be doing my Booking work right now, NOT doing my Booking work right now, wondering what I’m going to do with the rest of my day.

But first, rewinding to the end of the trip, in Bishop, California, the eastside of the Sierras, the Year of Yaweh Two Thousand and Twenty-One:

I’d thought that I’d give Molly V5 a few burns before I left Bishop. And then, if I was getting kind of close, I thought I might stay an extra day in Bishop so I’d have a chance to possibly finally send my first V5. What ACTUALLY happened, however, was that I drove to a spot just north of Lee Vining and looked for first ascents. I found a beautiful egg-shaped boulder that I dubbed The Dragon’s Egg that you can actually perceive with your very own retinae right here:

(The boulder almost right in the center of the frame.)

Anyway, this boulder had a nice looking line on it, probably somewhere in the V0-2 range, but I JUST WASN’T FEELING IT. So I pressed on. I got to Tahoe, and DIDN’T CLIMB THERE. Or actually I sort of climbed there. I checked out some boulders on Kingsbury Grade Road as I was getting in, specifically one that had a high right hand pinch, a crappy left hand, and a right heel hook, that was somewhat overhanging, and I tried for a bit just to see if I could heel hook with my right heel to free up my right hand. Which I couldn’t. I tried no other moves on the boulder. I didn’t WANT to try other moves on the boulder. And then I left.

And that, friends, is how my sessions have been lately. I show up. I look for lines (or just moves) that inspire me. I don’t look in the guidebook until after the sesh, or before the sesh for directions on how to get to the spot. Basically, I just do what feels good. And you know what? Hardcore trainers would probably say that’s the worst way to approach a session, the worst way to get better. But I don’t care. A) I know they’re wrong, B) It makes me happy, and C) I realized in Bishop that I had to start completely over. I had to re-learn my love for climbing, and I had to learn, once and for all, HOW TO CLIMB. I’m not really sure how to do that, but I think it involves approaching climbing the way I did when I first started bouldering outdoors. I didn’t try to do things like “train my weaknesses” (unless I wanted to). I didn’t make myself try a boulder over and over if I wasn’t feeling it. I basically didn’t do anything I didn’t want to. I would basically roam around the hills of Gold Bar, taking a burn on something here or there, and then move on. I wouldn’t sit at a boulder for three hours making no progress and hurting myself. The only time I would stay at a boulder for awhile is if I was making progress, having fun, and feeling like I was sort of getting close to sending. And you might be saying to yourself: Well, that approach to bouldering isn’t the right one. And the thing is: You’re absolutely wrong. Because it’s right for me. And if it’s right for me that’s all that matters.

OK, and now I sadly have to do some ACTUAL work at my ACTUAL job, because I’m a working stiff (see: semi-rigid) now. I wish you all a glorious day. Go climb. Or don’t.

– Wetzler

 

 

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.

 

Already Seven Days In

Today is already day seven of my road trip with my friend Darren to the Southwest. We’re in Bishop, California. There’s a cat sitting on the table next to me and it’s only 6:45am and I wish I’d slept longer but I couldn’t. I don’t know what’s wrong with me this trip. I went to bed at 11pm last night and this morning woke up at 5am. I need rest so my body can recover and I can boulder hard. And yet I wake up early and lie there and don’t feel that tired and after an hour or so of lying there think, Well, I might as well get up.

We spent the first night in Bend. I wanted to climb a V3 called Widgi Face I was convinced I was going to be able to climb, but got shut down for the third straight time. Well, I shouldn’t say shut down. I got shut down in that I didn’t climb the boulder, but made progress, and you can never really call it getting shut down when you make progress. The crux is getting a high right foot and then rocking your way over onto that foot while holding a tiny crimp with your right hand, and then reaching up with your left to a thin crimp ledge. Last time I was there I had trouble even getting to the tiny crimp, let alone holding onto it. And this time that was easy, and getting the high right foot was fairly easy, and rocking some weight over onto it and point my knee to the sky made all the difference. Also, just actually trying made all the difference. Like, sometimes you just have to say to yourself, I’m going to do whatever I can to get up this boulder. Screw technique, screw the beta I think I knew was right — just try to get up it. And so that’s what I did, and made some progress.

One of my goals for this trip was climbing V5 but I’m wondering if I need to reevaluate that. I wonder if my goals to just climb hard numbers are holding me back at all, preventing me from having fun and from becoming a better climber. Though maybe the goals can coexist with the less tangible stuff, too.

Our second and third nights were spent in the town of Likely, California. Not really a town, actually. More a group of a few houses and some ranches and a general store. It’s about a half hour south of the town of Alturas, which is more of a town. Alturas supposedly has about 2,000 people. We went to a Basque restaurant where when you sit down they bring over a caraffe of wine, some semi-questionable bread and chicken noodle soup. We both ordered steaks because we were in cow country. I told Darren, “There’s no way this meal is gonna cost more than 20 bucks. People would never pay more than that here.” Turns out Darren’s cost $32 and mine $27. Who are these rich cowboys.

The fourth and fifth nights were spent in South Lake Tahoe, where I finally bouldered for the second time. I met a guy named Jay at Sport Ltd in South Lake Tahoe and he lent me some guidebooks and then it turned out he was actually in the guidebooks. He was one of the developers of the area. We went to the Zephyr Boulders the next day and promptly got semi-wrecked by some V0’s. There was a fairly fun arete called Home Wrecker, but not the greatest warmup for someone with a wrenched shoulder. Then there was a tricky V0 called (I think) Chalkaholic, another arete at the Red Hut Boulder that was tricky until we figured out you could grab both aretes, and then we went over to a V2 called Ooh La La.

And Ooh La La was amazing.

But not V2 in a million years.

But still amazing.

But more like V0 climbing.

And now we’re in Bishop and there’s this guy at the table next to me in the common area where I am and all he does is talk and talk and talk. He’s pro gun and yesterday he was talking about how when he goes on business trips he leaves a loaded gun on his nightstand so his kids can defend the house. This was right about when I got up and exited the room, despite the fact that I had a cat on my lap and was loathe to disturb the cat. There’s something very comforting about watching a cat sleep.

Today I’m going to (I think) climb at The Sads, and the only reason I say “I think” is because my body doesn’t feel great and I didn’t sleep that well last night. God, why is it only 7:07am. I should probably do some work. I should probably not drink coffee, but I’m tempted to drink coffee. I should probably have some kind of sustenance because drinking tea on an empty stomach makes my stomach feel gnarly.

If we do go to The Sads I’m going to try French Press V6, and probably get shut down. They say you should always believe in yourself and be optimistic, but I think there’s a place for realism too.

 

Surfing La Push Slash Why Does My Back Hurt

Friends. Lovers. Times are tough right now in Wetzlerlandia. I hurt my back last Wednesday and I still don’t know how bad it is. I was just jumping down from a route at the climbing gym, just using my legs to break my fall, and I felt something kind shift or get tweaked in my back and it’s felt gnarly ever since. Surfing a lot yesterday and the day before might not have helped. It might have helped, but it also might not have helped. That remains to be seen. Either way it feels stiff and gnarly right now and makes me sad.

But.

Anyway.

Hi.

My succulents are sitting in the cockpit. I just did some child’s pose and cat cow. Smoked SO many cigarettes (rollies) over the past two days, so now my body is detoxing. I need to axe cigs completely, but it’s kind of a ritual with the friends I smoke them with and so I’ve been hesitant to completely axe them. But, like, they’re gnarly. Not good. They don’t make my body feel good. They don’t make me feel good. The only thing they DO do is make my cognition as sharp as a tack. But I’m not ready to sacrifice my soft tissue for that.

Do you follow?

You don’t follow.

You’re not even paying attention.

How dare you.

It’s a beautiful sunny day here. Please stand by while I check the Gold Bar forecast.

….

OK the HIGH tomorrow in Gold Bar, WA is supposed to be 80. Which means I could go bouldering in the morning. Which I won’t do because my back feels gnarly. HOWEVER! The highs for like the ENTIRE week after that are only around 70 degrees. Aka perfect bouldering attempts. Aka will I ever go back to Canada? Aka I need to talk to my physical therapist today about my back. Aka I’m drinking matcha right now and it tastes disgusting. Aka I just bought four packs of sardines. Aka bee pollen. Aka turmeric pills.

OK. Time to concentrate.

Honestly that might be it for today.

I guess I could talk about the surf trip.

El Cazador and I went to the Olympic Peninsula on Sunday, surfed near PA on Sunday morning and then La Push Sunday evening. It was my first time surfing in a couple months and only my SECOND TIME SURFING since my knee injury though lately I never think about my knee my knee is great it’s my damn hip flexors now and MY MOTHEREFFING BACK GOD WHY DOES MY BACK HURT SLASH.

The waves at La Push yesterday were, in one single word, primo. Well, they were “good,” but the sun was out and they were fun and playful and it felt pretty darn good to be back in the water. I only surfed one sesh cuz I wanted to take care of the BOD, but El Cazador surfed two cuz he’s a beast. Then we slow-rolled out of there and made the late 8:10 ferry back to Seattle and I didn’t get home till like 10:10pm. I was tired. I still took the time to rinse my westuit and shower and get all the gnarliness off me. So many things went well from the expedition, namely the WEATHER. Sun in La Push?????????????? Almost never happens. Mist in La Push? Happens all the time. But so much sun that your face gets charred? Um, yeah, pretty rad.

Now I’m back on the boat as I alluded to earlier, drinking matcha and stuffing my maw with bee pollen. I want more caffeine. But I’m not going back to Whole Foods. But I want more caffeine.

Slash.

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?