The Case for Not Trying Hard: R2V6

Your ego’s writing checks your body can’t cash. –Stinger

It’s hard to watch a bouldering video on YouTube and not hear people telling other people to try hard.

Come on. Right here. All the tension in the world. Try hard, Jimmy. TRY HARD.

But I’m here today to make a case for the opposite. I’m here to make a case for NOT trying hard.

You see because trying hard is good some of the time. Or actually very little of the time. But most of the time trying hard is not good. It’s actually counterproductive, and it’s the quickest way to injury, especially if you’re a climber in your late 30’s who hasn’t been climbing that long and whose body is crumbling.

I would say that trying hard is appropriate maybe 2% of the time.

A bunch of situations where trying hard is NOT appropriate: 

  • When you’re warming up
  • When you’re cooling down
  • When you’re warmed up but still not ready to pull hard
  • When you’ve been climbing too many days in a row or too frequently
  • When you can feel a body part starting to get aggravated
  • When you should actually step back and just puzzle out the beta better instead of trying to power your way through the problem

Let’s start with this last one, since other than not getting injured, it’s das beste argument for not trying hard. Let’s say you’re working on an orange at Seattle Bouldering project (V0-V3 outside grade depending on the problem) and you’re finding that a certain move is really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really–just really.

And maybe your buddy who’s standing there watching says, “Come on, Mark, try hard.”

And maybe you walk up to your buddy and punch it in the face because trying hard is EXACTLY what you don’t need to do. What do you need to do? You need to figure out a better way to do the sequence, since you’re obviously doing it wrong. You need to figure out better footwork. You need to figure out a better hand sequence. You need to figure out better footwork. And you need to figure out better footwork.

You could probably just try hard and send the problem. If you tried hard enough. But would you learn anything? Well, yes, actually you would. You’d ingrain a terrible habit that when the going gets tough you just need to try harder, when actually you need to be smarter. If you’re trying a problem you know is under your limit and encountering stopper moves, it’s not because you’re not strong enough, it’s because you’re doing it wrong. So step back. Try something else. Try the move in isolation using a different approach. Watch other people do the problem.

But for Vishna’s sake, don’t just try harder.

Look, I know it’s fun to go out there and just flow, and not get all cerebral about the problems. And there’s definitely a space for that. Sometimes you just gotta get on the wall, crush some greens, crush some purples, flail on some blacks. Sometimes when you’re climbing outside it’s good just to let your fingers touch the granodiorite without getting all analytical. Let your body figure it out. Then maybe if you fail step back and think, Hmmmmm, what should I cook for dinner tonight.

And like I said, there’s definitely a time and place for this kind of climbing. In fact, I would say that if you’re not sponsored by Asana putting up videos with shitty rap sountracks then this is most fo the climbing you should be doing. You should be focusing on having fun.

But inevitably you’ll encounter problems you can’t just flow your way through, and this is when you need to step back and take a two step approach:

  1. Figure out the problem
  2. Try hard

You cannot have number two without number one. You CAN have number one without number two.

What does that mean?

It means that sometimes after number one you won’t even need number two.

Because when you figure out the correct sequence sometimes you don’t even NEED to try hard.

OK I’m bored of writing this post. I’m going to leave you with a music video.

Have a great day. Or don’t. Whatever.

— Wetz

Gaze of the Grasshopper Pt. 1 || R2V6

Four hundred and fourteen dollars of pending charges on my new Air Canada credit card.

A cup of black tea, the water still quite hot.

A rainy, chilly day.

But good weather in the forecast.

At least good for climbing.

I have acupuncture today, and I’m excited. My back, all things considered, is actually feeling quite good. I’ve been eating decent, taking turmeric pills, doing a shit ton of yoga, and also doing my physical therapy somewhat regularly.

Yesterday we went to Leavenworth.




And even though I didn’t send anything, I felt MUCH better than the the session at Mad Meadows the other day. Like, much better. Like, I actually felt kinda good. Like, I actually almost felt like a person. Like, I got shut down by Alfalfa or Spanky V5 but made a bit of progress on it. Like, Fountainblues V0 felt really hard for me. Like, I flashed my first ever V3, but it was bitter sweet cuz it was a terrible, terrible problem (Unknown V3 at Forestlands, #63 in the guidebook), that probably shouldn’t have been V3. But I’ll take it. It’s not on Mountain Project, so there’s no one to dispute it.

After Forestlands and Alfalfa or Spanky (God I love that first move) we went to the Beach Forest area and I wanted to try The Savage Act V5 and The Terrible V7, but my body was feeling kinda gnar. But then on the walk back I crossed Highway Dos and checked out the Gaze of the Grasshopper boulder, which features the eponymous V4 that Harlow Huber calls V2/3. WHATVER the grade is, it’s an epic boulder and has three or four good-looking lines ranging from V3 to V6. And actually I hope Gaze of the Grasshopper is soft, because on both Mountain Project and Sendage it’s a V4 (V4- on MP) which means if/when I do send it I can claim another V4. Which would be nice, cuz I feel like I haven’t sent anything hard lately.

Oh, climbing. How one day you can feel so bad and the next day so good.

Or vice versa.

In completely unrelated news (though actually very related), my move to Blaine has gotten delayed till June 2nd. This means I won’t be ALMOST Canadian till June, which is actually good cuz Squamish doesn’t really start getting dry till June. It’s also good cuz May is an AMAZING month in Leavenworth, and I wanna do at least 2-3 more trips there this month and ideally camp in my car a bit and send hella V4’s and maybe even some 5’s and…….




…..maybe even a 6?

Is that too much to ask?

Is that demanding?

I’ve started strength training again, aka dead lifts and L-sits and pushups. And bench with free weights. I love deadlifts. I use a kettle ball to do them, and just pick it up and put it down again. It’s primal and simple and awesome. My diet has been decent lately, not great but decent, and, and I’ve learned that I NEED to rest at least two days after a hard climbing sesh. Preferably three. Or four. I think once my body gets used to climbing again I’ll be able to get away with no more than two days rest and maybe even one day’s rest and OCCASIONALLY two days in a row, but damn, your body needs to get used to climbing outside. Like, you need calluses, and you need to be used to pulling. And somehow pulling outside is very different from pulling in the gym.

Tesla. La Croix. Cortado.

God I just want to send V6.

Aka V5.

Aka V4.

Aka Gaze of the Grasshopper.

I Need a Proj: R2V6

I need a proj.

Like, a proper proj.

I need the kind of proj where you go back time after time and obsess about the moves and learn the moves perfectly and start obsessing over micro beta — like, what if I turned my thumb over slightly there? Or, what if I brought my left foot in slightly here?

The kind of proj where you make incremental progress, that’s perfectly at your limit — or actually perfectly just beyond your limit, that forces you to become a better climber so you can reach that limit.

The kind of proj you want to just sit next to and breathe in the air.

That’s the kind of proj I’m looking for.

Because it’s been too long. That’s the way it was with U2 V3, that’s the way it was with Toto V4, and Dirty Dancing V4 and even Zelda Rails V4. But I haven’t had a project like that in awhile, and I’m desperate for one.

So here are a few I’m thinking could be some candidates, just based on the amount of moves they have or watching people try them on YouTube or in real life or how aesthetically striking they are:

Slingblade V6, Leavenworth

Dope line that’s not super long and can either involve a huck to a rail or some tricky bicycle/outside flag beta that lets you crimp your way to the rail, and then after that a somewhat tenuous topout.

Slice of Cake Right Variation V7, Leavenworth

I love underclings, and this one starts off with a sick undercling. Plus the top must be about V3, since the problem was V3 before the big flake broke, creating the undercling. Or did that flake have lots of bomb footholds that made it V3? I don’t know. Either way, the problem looks sick.

Black Slabbath V7, Squamish

Oh wait, this one’s in the rockfall closure area under the Grand Wall. Bummer.

Sobriosity V6, Kombucha V7, Five Star Arete V6, Gold Bar

I’m lumping these three together because I think I could do them all (with some projecting of course) and because they’re all on the 5-Star Boulder in Gold Bar, and they’re all majestic problems. Like, the kind of problems where you look at them and get goose pimples a bit. Like, the kind of problems where you look at them and get gooseBUMPS a bit. Like, the kind of problem (Kombucha) where you look at it and your left shoulder hurts just contemplating the first move.

The Engineer V7, Index

Not putting the V9 guidebook grade in here, because I’ve heard it’s about V6 physically. The thing about projecting this one is….are you gonna project it and take a bunch of falls from way up high? Because that doesn’t sound very fun. But are you gonna project it on top rope? Maybe. I don’t know the answer to these questions. All I know is it’s one of the sickest blocs in Washington and it’s on my lifetime tick list and I need to get on it soon.

Other candidates: Water V6 (Gold Bar), World’s Best V7 (Gold Bar), The Doja V7 (Gold Bar), Road to Zion V5 (Gold Bar), Mosserati V7 (Skykomish), Metroid Prime V6 (Gold Bar), and probably some in Leavenworth, too (and hopefully in Squamish!!!)

Right now my proj is to rest. I climbed in Leavy yesteryore and got absolutely THRASHED. Consolations from the sesh: gonna have some bomb callus buildup in a few days; sent a new V3; re-sent my first V3 (U2) for the first time; and still had some fun despite feeling hecka weak and getting thrashed. This project will see me resting AT LEAST two days, but ideally three. Because I just read an interview with Katie Lamb who recently sent The Penrose Step V14, Washington’s hardest bloc, and she said she often rests FIVE days when she’s projecting something.

We should all be more like Katie.

Slash I am not a volume climber.

Update: Road to V6

Well, friends, it’s been a long time since I’ve written on here, and an even longer time since I’ve posted in the Road to V-whatever series, which is now the Road to V6 ever since I sent Zelda Rails Right V5 way back when, a problem that is somehow V5 on both Mountain Project AND Sendage despite being significantly easier than many V4’s (in my opinion) Why haven’t I been writing? you ask. Or maybe you don’t ask. But let’s say you DO ask, in which case I’ll tell you: I haven’t been writing because I haven’t really felt like it. It’s that simple. But this morning I kind of DO feel like it, and it turns out I’ve been climbing quite a bit lately, so I thought a “Road to…” post might be appropriate.

Basically, here’s the deal: I recently took a month off from climbing to travel to Mexico and South America, and that month did me a lot of good, not only in terms of letting my body recuperate but also in terms of getting rid of some mental baggage that had been building up for me with climbing. For lack of a better term, I was sort of in a rut. I wasn’t listening to my body. I THOUGHT I was eating well but looking back I think I was basically just starving myself. And as far as climbing goes I was getting into all kinds of mental ruts involving progression and grades and WHY I was climbing and all that stuff. It sort of wasn’t even that fun for me anymore. I mean, yes, it was fun, but I didn’t feel that free. I felt like I had to climb a “certain way” and that “certain way” was the only way to get better. I thought I had to focus on my footwork, that I had to focus on keeping my hips close to the wall, that I had to get better at climbing static, etc etc etc etc etc etc ad infinitum.

And here’s the thing: All those things are true. I DO need to get better at climbing static, at keeping my hips into the wall, and all that crap. But obsessing over that stuff and getting down on myself for it was not only holding me back — it was also keeping me from having fun and developing the things I’m really good at, i.e. dynamic climbing and intuitive movement. Now, when it comes to dynamic climbing, that’s pretty straightforward, because I like dynamic movement and come from an athletic background. But the intuitive movement part is a bit more nuanced. Intuitive movement is a strength of mine IN GENERAL, but it’s not necessarily a strength of mine in climbing. The movement that will help you get past someone in soccer or scramble up a talus field or quickly load the dishwasher is a good kind of thing to be able to do intuitively, but the problem is sometimes in climbing the best movement is NOT intuitive. Or, as I was discussing with my friend Matt the other day, sometimes ONE non-intuitive movement will then lead to a much easier sequence down the road. For example, it might felt really natural to go for the crimp with your left hand, but if you could just figure out how to grab it with your RIGHT hand then all the subsequent moves would be much easier. And so, knowing that this was true, I was becoming TOO cerebral with my climbing, as opposed to just getting on the wall and seeing what would happen. You have to find the middle path, not only in movement but with all things. So when I came back from South America I was just climbing, not overthinking it, and the result was I was having tons of fun and actually climbing pretty well. And now as time goes on I’m trying to incorporate thinking, but also not thinking too much. Thinking is especially good for when you’re tired, and also for sussing out a climb. Most of the time you can look at a climb and decide whether it’s possible for you or not. Other times you need to just turn off your brain and pull on.

All that said, let’s talk about the session in Leavenworth last weekend, in which I sent a new V3, got shut down by the top out of a new V4….

(to be continued next post)


Things I Didn’t Do

I can’t sleep. This is not ideal. It’s 11:26pm in Mexico City and I’m sitting in the living room of my Airbnb and I can’t sleep.

I just put on a playlist called “Selva” on YouTube Music. Maybe this will help. Otherwise the plan is just to get into bed soon and read the book Sleeping Bear by Connor Sullivan.

I definitely like Mexico City better than Guadalajara. Like, it’s not even close.

I feel like I just had two or three coffees. Damnit.

I wish I could talk to you about something profound. But I don’t know if I have anything profound. And I don’t really want to just tell you everything I did today.

Well, I guess I could, since that would only take a few seconds. I got my teeth cleaned. Darren and I rode bikes to La Condesa and got lunch at Ojo de Agua. I got a haircut and a shave. I got a chai latte. I started filling out my paperwork for the Chile covid stuff. We got burgers. I worked a bit, namely prepping tasks and seeing which ones are gonna require questions. I had two glasses of wine. I did some pullups. I did some pushups. I did some dips.

But these are the things I DID. What about the things I…..did.

When I woke up I cracked the sliding glass door and watched two morning doves sit on the railing. The looked in at me over their shoulders and I thought they might fly in. The air smelled cool and clean and like Mexico City. I enjoyed lying in bed, happy that I’d been able to get back to sleep after waking up at 7:30am.

I rode the bike standing up, gleefully hopping all the deformities in the pavement.

I stared at myself in the mirror of the barbershop, willing my beard to be gone. And then when it was gone I thought, I like this so much better. Why do I let myself have a beard. And on the way out I said, “Que tengan buena tarde” to all the people in the barbershop.

After watching the morning doves I enjoyed a cup of coffee by myself on the balcony, looking out at the plants and at the world trade center building behind me.

I didn’t shower.

Let’s talk about things I didn’t do.

I didn’t shower.

I didn’t change clothes except for my pants and shirt. I put on my Surf Wyoming shirt.

I didn’t write any booking descriptions.

I didn’t write Clara back.

I didn’t book my ticket to Chile.

I didn’t do my physical therapy. But I did do yoga.

I didn’t meet any new people.

I didn’t smoke any cigarettes.

I didn’t eat breakfast.

I didn’t boulder.

I think it’s about time for me to get into bed. Or at least try. I’ll read my book and hopefully that’ll relax me and I’ll be able to sleep. We’ll see.

I’m not going to publish this I’m gonna wait till tomorrow to see what kind of disaster it is.