I Flashed a Pink || R2V6

I thought yesterday’s cup of tea was an anomaly, that I was off caffeine for good. But today, as if in a trance, I found myself putting the kettle on, pulling the teabag out of the box, putting it in the cup, waiting for the familiar gurgle (or ALMOST gurgle since I never let the water boil), and then pouring the steaming hot liquid onto the tea leaves  — and even glancing at my clock to see what time it was so I don’t let it steep too long!

This could easily snowball into my caffeine consumption from before, basically going from grocery store to grocery, cafe to cafe, all day buying caffeinated products.

And I don’t want that to happen.

WE don’t want that to happen.

You’re probably wondering about the title of this post.

“Ha, good one Mark. Nice clickbait,” you may have said.

But no, yesterday at SEATTLE BOULDERING PROJECT POPLAR, I actually flashed a pink. This means that I established on the starting holds and then maneuvered my way up to the boulder to the top, where I delicately placed both hands on the finishing hold, held them for the requisite time, and then delicately climbed back down.

I am not a liar.

Here’s the thing, though: I didn’t get THAT much satisfaction from it. I didn’t put any work into it. I didn’t suss out the beta a bunch beforehand. I didn’t look at the moves. I just got on it and climbed, and it happened to be exactly my style (aka a stemmy problems where you basically don’t need arms) and then a few seconds later found myself at the top. Sure, I was STOKED, I mean obviously — but it didn’t give me the satisfaction that a black I’d been working on for the past half hour before and wasn’t sure if I was gonna get gave me. Because you see the black I actually had to work for, whereas the pink was a proverbial stem in the park/bouldering gym.

Anyway, other than that I don’t have much to report, but I’m going to keep talking for a bit anyway, as I’m wont to do.

What else could I talk about.

It’s sunny here today in Seattle, so that’s nice.

I just shaved my beard and so feel like a spring hen.

After this I think I’m gonna go to Whole Foods and get a matcha bar, and then MAYBE run the Howe stair climb.

I really wish I had some honey for this black tea.

I literally check the status of my Nexus application every day. It’s so dumb. It could be another two months before they process it, and yet I check every day.

Slash am I going to Pembina, North Dakota?

I do actually want to do a bit of traveling this summer. Here are the destinations I’d like to visit, in order of how badly I’d like to visit them:

  1. Alaska — I’m yearning to go back. Haven’t been back in a long time.
  2. Quebec — I’m yearning to go back. And to boulder in Les Laurentides. And talk to monolingual French speakers.
  3. Sweden — I mean, how awesome would it be to spend midsummer in Scandinavia jumping over a fire with some kind of crown of woven sweetgrass braided into your hair?
  4. German/Europe — I kiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiinda wanna go to Europe. But, like, not that bad. So I probably won’t. Not too high on the list. So freaking far.

And then of course there’s Squamish. I hope to spend a LOT of time in Squamish this year. Like, a decent amount. Like, a little bit. Like, I hope to get up there at least a couple times.

My reading material last night as I lay in bed was the Squamish Bouldering guidebook, by Marc Bourdon. It’s not exactly Dostoyevsky, but it it moves me in the same way and drives me to contemplate life. There are so many quality problems there I want to get on, and I’m convinced in the next couple weeks the weather’s gonna turn and it’s gonna be scorching hot in Leavy and even too hot in Gold Bar and everyone’s gonna flock to Squamish and I’m gonna be there, happy as a damn razor clam, alternating between sleeping in my car/tent and commuting back to my cottage on the border in Blaine. It’s going to be wonderful, and I hope to see you there. We’ll climb V0’s — we’ll climb V2’s! Hell, we may even climb a V5. And by V5 I of course mean V6, since that’s the title of this series (for now!). In fact, I already have figured out the V6 we’re going to climb. It’s called Lounge Act, and it’s in the Easy Chair area. And I better see you there. And you better try it with me. And then afterward we’ll go celebrate with a cup of tea.

– Wetz

Which is Better: SBP Poplar or SBP Fremont?

Note: For the original review of SBP Fremont, click here.

I have consulted with the rock gods and they have provided me with the answer to the question posed in the title of this post: Which is better: Seattle Bouldering Project Poplar or Seattle Bouldering Project Fremont? You might think this would be subjective and that there could be no definitive answer. But as I found out after talking to the rock gods for several hours over a sour yesterday at Fremont Brewing, especially the god of granodiorite, you’d be wrong.

Let’s start with a few comparisons that are objectively objective:

  1. Size

SBP Poplar is much bigger than SBP Fremont Main. However, if you add Upper Walls to SBP Fremont (and for the purposes of this post we do), SBP Poplar is still bigger, but not THAT MUCH bigger.

Advantage: Poplar

2. Training facilities

Poplar has way more hangboards, two spray walls, a fitness room, a way bigger gym, and two treadwalls.

Fremont has nice moon/kilter boards, a smaller gym, and that’s about it.

Advantage: Poplar

3. Age

Fremont is, obviously, much newer.

Advantage: Fremont

……………………………………………………………………………………….

So far the advantage seems to be going to Poplar. Now let’s move onto things that are slightly more subjective.

4. Setting

Advanced climbers seem to be able to appreciate the differences in setting between the two locations. I, being an ignoramus who’s only climbed for 2+ years, do not. To me they seem pretty much the same. The only blue I’ve ever flashed was at Fremont, and the only pink I’ve ever sent was at Fremont, but I also climb at Fremont quite a bit more since it’s closer to where I live. I generally like the volumes and walls better at Fremont because they seem newer, but that could just be mostly in my head.

Advantage: Push

5. Vibes

OK, so this is a tough one, but it’s also the most important one. Which location has better vibes? By “vibes” I mean ambience, environment, mood, feeling. Which one are you more likely to go to and come out saying, “Damn, the people were rad there tonight. People were crushing and everyone was so nice and I think that one girl even looked at my butt.” Again, the purists would say SBP Poplar, because the purists live in south Seattle and are jaded. But after consulting the gods over our second sour at Fremont Brewing, the goddess of schist, a cute little number named Trina who loves crimpy face problems and hates kneebars, provided the definitive answer: SBP Fremont (and actually Upper Walls).

Advantage: Fremont 

6. Staff

Again, a tough one. I have more experience with the SBP Fremont staff and I’m inclined to say they’re nicer there, but it’s not like they’re “not nice” or “not professional” at either of the locations. That said, I used to go to Poplar all the time before Covid, and in all have had way more solid interactions with the staff at SBP Fremont. So I’m going to go out on a wiry sapling’s branch and say it:

Advantage: Fremont

7. Crowds

This one could probably be put in the subjective category if I talked to the people at SBP. I’m sure they could tell me in two seconds which one gets more traffic, though I’m not sure they could tell me which gets more traffic relative to size. I’ve been to both at times (read: weeknights) when they feel like an absolute Covid factory, and I’ve been to both when they feel like ghost towns (read: weekdays). The main areas of both gyms I would say are equally crowded on a weeknight, while the lesser-known areas (the northwest room at Poplar and Upper Walls in Fremont) aren’t so bad. So…..

Advantage: Push (except when it’s Seattle Pacific night at Fremont, in which case, run for your life)

8. Location

Obviously Fremont is easier to get to for me, but I think most would agree Fremont is just a much nicer location in general. It’s close to restaurants, cafes, Gas Works, and in a nice residential neighborhood. Poplar is close to I-5 and a homeless encampment where I saw a lady the other day blocking the road and intimidating a small dog. Not a great scene. Fremont you can walk out of and go to Fremont Brewing or the Pacific Inn and grab a beer with your friends, Poplar you can walk out of and go to a…Shell station.

Advantage: Fremont

9. Miscellaneous

What kind of things could you include in a “miscellaneous” category. Well, I haven’t really talked about facilities so far. Poplar, for example, has WAY more storage for your stuff. Fremont basically has none. People end up just strewing their shit on the ground like it’s a yard sale. Poplar also has a sauna, though to be fair the men’s locker room usually smells like a dirty gym sock. Poplar also has more chilling areas, more places to lurk and watch people climb, though the mezzanine section upstairs at Fremont is quite nice. One thing I will say about Poplar: they sell guidebooks, and some obscure ones at that, like the Okanagan Bouldering Guidebook. So…advantage?

Advantage: Poplar

There you have it, folks. In a close but not that close race, Seattle Bouldering Project Fremont wins the competition in the illustrious “Who’s Better?” challenge. This isn’t to say that SBP Poplar isn’t worth visiting, of course. Both are fabulous climbing gyms, something that becomes apparent as soon as you climb anywhere else. And the vibes are great at both too, generally, and something your attitude greatly influences and a subject on which the bouldering gods (except for Trina) were curiously unable to comment. Either way, get out there and rip some pinks. Or oranges. Or whites. Or just sit in the mezzanine and watch other people crush.

– Wetz

Bend to Seattle Driving Directions

I leave the LOGE, everyone’s favorite hipster motel, at around 8:00am. I’ve now been fasting for over 60 hours. At 72 hours, I can break the fast. I’ve put a lot of thought into what I’ll break my fast with. So far the frontrunner is grass-fed bougie yogurt by Alexandra, which I plan to purchase at Whole Foods on the way to my boat. Other candidates include bone broth, sardines and a coconut smoothie.

The girl at the reception gives me coffee despite saying that it’s only for guests “who’d been promised it.”

I was promised no such thing, I tell her, but she gives it to me for free anyway.

I’m now on the road, making my way through Bend to Highway 97, drinking said coffee. There isn’t much traffic.  A little bit heading north to Redmond, but that soon peters out. After Madras and a stop to refuel at the Plateau Travel Plaza, a place I’ll now go to for all my gasoline needs since they allow self-service in Oregon (!), it peters out completely. It’s just me and the open road and a Subaru who seems hellbent on passing me. Heckbent. I pull over to check some boulders, but realize their access is blocked by a gate because they’re on private land. How many amazing boulder problems will never get climbed because they’re owned by some guy named Cleatus in Central Oregon who’d rather shoot you full of buckshot than let you climb his fantasy blocs? Probably not that many, actually. But some.

I like transitions when driving. I imagine we all do. Which is why it pleases me when the ponderosa pines and the sage brush give way to evergreens as we climb into the foothills of Mount Hood. Then it’s all evergreens, and it’s wet, and pretty soon it’s snowing. A black BMW is tailgating me and eventually passes me in a lane covered with slush and pebbles, their tires slinging slush at the Subee. I flip them off. Damn right I flip them off. Why not? They’re driving like an asshole, and I want them to know it.

In Sandy, Oregon, I stop at Safeway hoping they’ll have the FitAid Zero recovery drink, which has only five calories and I’ve decided is OK for my fast, but they don’t. In fact, they don’t stock any FitAid products. Instead I buy some kind of Evian drink with zinc and magnesium, and also some Smart Water, and go out in the parking lot and sit in my car. In about a half hour I’ll be in Washington. As far as any weather goes, the hardest part of the trip is behind me. But the only interesting part of the trip is also behind me, too. Driving the I-5 corridor up from Portland to Seattle is about the most boring drive on the planet, especially when you’ve done it many times. To top it off, the Subee doesn’t do well at high speeds. She hates them. The Subee was happy back when the speed limit was 55, because then she could go 59 and feel like a badass. But she doesn’t like I-5. Going 67 feels SORT OF OK, but anything above that and she gets nervous. Couple that with the fact that I feel a bit delirious from the fast and the coffee and I’m not exactly looking forward to the second half of the trip. But c’est la vie, or asi es la vida, or so ist das Leben or however you’d like to say it. For now the only thing that matters is that I’m sitting in a parking lot in Sandy, Oregon, and life is pretty good. I’m in the process of doing my longest fast ever. My body feels supremely not inflamed, though it must be said that the recent back exercises I’ve started doing have me feeling a bit weird. But whatever.

I stop at a rest stop somewhere on the I-5 corridor about a half hour north of Portland to do a little walking around and possibly my back exercises. There’s a dude with an old Subaru with a bunch of shit in it and a cardboard sign that says something like, “Homeless. Anything helps,” and I think, Dude, you’re not homeless. You have a car. I do a couple laps around the rest stop. Rest stops are such a weird environment. Everyone is transiting. No one really talks to each other.  Most people don’t stay for more than a few minutes. I guess the truckers stay for a long time sometimes. The truckers sleep. The truckers sit in their trucks watching YouTube videos. The truckers sit in their trucks reading Proust.

My body starts feeling gnarly right around Centralia. My back feels gnarly. I need to get out of this fucking car. I love the Subee but mother of god get me out of here. In about four hours I can finally eat, but I have a sudden urge to do some climbing on the way home, and also to hang out with someone. I want to see what it’s like to hang out with someone after not having eaten for three days. I call Matt and ask him if he wants to climb at SBP. He says he’s there “working” and just come get him when I get there. When I get there we sit and talk about climbing and his living situation for a bit, and then we make our way downstairs to do some easy climbs. My body feels gnarly, but it also feels kinda good. I feel kinda free. I don’t feel strong, exactly, but I feel kinda free. I have abs. There’s nothing like starving yourself for a few days to get abs. I can’t wait to get home and pee on a keto strip to see just how deeply I’m in ketosis. Thing’s gonna be purple AF. I climb fairly easy, not trying anything harder than a purple, and down climbing rather than falling. And when things get too hard I bail and down climb, rather than push myself to where I might take a fall. My back will thank me. My back is thanking me.

Finally, after a stop at Whole Foods on the way home from climbing, it’s time to eat. I do my back exercises one more time and then it’s 5:33pm and now I can do whatever I want. The world’s my oyster, and it’s shucked and sitting right in front of me with lemon and a nice mignonette. Except in my case the oyster is a vat of premium yogurt, which I tuck into. Or at least try to tuck into. It doesn’t taste that good. It’s disappointing. And my body is actually screaming for something else, so I reach for the sardines.

 

 

10 Minutes

I just had some matcha sludge and I’m sitting on the boat with the heater on thinking about what I’m going to do today. I’m going to go to Poplar at some point and possibly bring my laptop so I can work on the novel or possibly a blog post or possibly apply for jobs. And possibly climb of course, possibly with Matt. We’ll see. The only thing I know for sure is I just meditated for 14 minutes, aka sat there, and I also did a decent amount of stretching. I’ve been starting out the mornings with cat cow, child’s pose, baby cobra, and the one where you’re on your knees with your elbows on the ground way out in front of you and your hands in a fin above your head. That one’s good for the tris and the shoulders. And probably the low back. It’s imperative I fix my low back. I mean, it’s not terrible right now, but I couldn’t run or jump right now. That would be suicide. So the fact that I couldn’t run a mile right now without probably screwing my low back? Not good.

I can hear the sound of the lock doors opening. Not sure whether it’s the large or the small locks. Do they make the same noise? The sunset is about at 5:10pm now. Getting later everyday. It’s February 2nd, 2022, aka 2/2/22. I’m sure people are talking about this. I’m sure I’m underemployed right now. I’m sure I’m still obsessed with bouldering and I want to climb V6 and V7 as soon as possible and I’m going to climb The Engineer this summer. I know that’s a bold claim. But I’m going to do it. That problem does not require an insane amount of strength. It requires balance and technique and a head for heights. I have all three of those things in various measures. I used to have an amazing head for heights before I hurt my back.

I’m going to heal my back.

The mergansers are in full force near the boat.

So. Here’s the plan.

I’m going to tell you the plan.

Just give me a second.

The last week in July, or the first week in August, my friend Dan and I are going to sail my boat south to either San Diego or Ensenada, Mexico. And then we’ll either continue on together or I’ll continue on by myself, with the next goal being Scorpion Bay, Baja California Sur, and then probably San Jose del Cabo, and then the Sea of Cortez, and then either keep/sell the boat in La Paz or maybe even continue further south, to Puerto Vallarta and points beyond. That is the plan. If Dan can’t do it or otherwise backs out, I’m going to do it myself. The prospect terrifies me a bit, and excites me even more. I think the thing I find most daunting is the polyphasic sleep system.

HOWEVER.

However.

That is still a few moons off.

Until then what am I going to do?

That’s a great question.

Get in shape.

Boulder.

Eat well.

At some point I’d like to do a 72 hour fast.

I’d like to go down to Bend, to Bishop, to Tahoe, to Red Rocks — maybe even to Joshua Tree.

But more than anything I’d just like to focus on making my life in Seattle the best it can be. Because when you have your head in the clouds all day, when you’re CONSTANTLY dreaming of being somewhere else, when you’re constantly thinking your life would be BETTER somewhere else, it makes you neglect the here and now. And the here and now is all we have, and is all we’ll ever have.

Anyway.

Time to get dressed and go to Poplar? Shall I lift weights today? Do a bit of a core/chest workout? Hopefully not hurt my left shoulder.

We’ll see. Either way, spring is around the corner, and I’m excited, and I hope you’re excited too, because good things are coming, great things are coming.

I don’t see how it could be any other way. And I have excellent eyesight.

— Wetzler

P.S. This was just me writing for 10 minutes straight. That’s why it maybe sounds a bit rushed/not cohesive. But I think it’s also a good exercise and I might continue to do it. Just FYI.