R2V2 #7: Zen and the Art of Bouldering


The Warm Up Slab V0 in the Doja Boulders, view from above.

I feel compelled to answer the question of why I like bouldering. I don’t think anyone should be required to have an answer for this question. There seem to be two schools of people when it comes to bouldering: the grade chasers and the people who do it for the pure joy of the movement. But from my own experience I know these schools are not mutually exclusive. In fact, I think it would be hard to pertain completely to one or the other. In my case I love them both. I love chasing grades. Grades in bouldering to me are like a road map upon which to chart your progress. I love maps. I love knowing where I am, and I also like knowing where it’s possible to go. Whenever I’m at my parents I sit down with their giant, 300 or so page full color atlas of the world and just page through it, looking at places like Botswana and Southern India and the Kamchatka Peninsula, wondering what those places are like and if I’ll ever go there. And so it is for me with bouldering. I love looking at the guidebook. I love getting stoked on climbs. Last night I made a list of all the slabs in the Sky Valley I want to try. And I can’t wait to get out there and get on ’em.

But I also like just the movement of bouldering, the “Zen.” I love the way the granite feels on your skin. I love thinking about each hold as if it were its own little universe. I love thinking about how each individual move on a boulder problem is a story unto itself. When you can do a climb relatively easily, but not too easy! it’s easy to appreciate these stories. This is how it was for me climbing the V0 slab pictured above. There is a beginning, a middle, and an end. It’s an adventure. And no part of the adventure is more important than any other. The first move is just as important as the last. In true Zen bouldering there would be no cruxes. Each move would be given the same thought, the same care. Maybe this is why when the girl I bouldered with yesterday named Terri (sp?) told me I had terrible footwork I burst out laughing. Because I do have terrible footwork. I know this. And I think it’s hilarious. It would be hard for someone to have less technique than me when it comes to footwork. But she gave me a great tip. “I noticed you’re not looking at the hold a lot of the time when you go for it,” she said.



“You look at every hold?”

“I’d say at least 90% of them.”

This made me think. I do almost never look at the holds. This is something I can change, something I actually want to change. And it ties in with the zen of bouldering. Treating each hold with care. Treating each hold with importance.

But anyway, I actually don’t really want to talk about the Zen of bouldering any more right now. I just want to tell you a few more things about this last weekend, which was my first ever trip fully devoted to bouldering!

Some highlights:

  1. Hanging out underneath the overhang that houses Summer Solstice V3, in a rain storm, looking out over the valley and trying the first few moves.

2. Going to Leavenworth the next day for the first time ever (to boulder) and getting absolutely sketched out by The Classic V2.

3. Saying “screw it” later that evening, driving to Wenatchee and getting a hotel. And enjoying every minute of it.

4. Bouldering the next day again near Gold Bar and meeting Terri and climbing with her for the afternoon. Seeing her flash Beam Me Up V2, which I found so badass.

5. Seeing her send Rocksteadeasy V3, in the first couple attempts.

6. Working on Rocksteadeasy myself, trying to trust my left foot, knowing that it’ll go someday.

7. And finally chilling by the creek by the turn-out after the session, sitting on my crash pad, dangling my feet in the water, watching the sun filter through the plants and the tufts of cotton (though obviously they’re not cotton), drift through the sunlight.

Now I just can’t wait to go back. I have my slab list. I think there’s a legitimate chance that Rocksteadeasy V3 could go on my next trip. There’s a less legitimate chance that Beam Me Up will go, since I don’t have the strength for it yet. And there’s a whole mess of other problems I want to try. Hopefully I finally send The Catcher V0. Hopefully I get up on Tetris Left and Tetris Right (both V1’s). Maybe I’ll make more progress on Summer Solstice V3. Oh! And there’s Mr. Brightside, a V1 that looks super fun.

I’ve decided to do the titles differently from now on. Right now this series is called R2V2 (Road to V2), and when I finally send V2 (I don’t Cud Crack V2 at the Pasture Boulders in Leavenworth, since I was tall enough to not have to use the incut crimps that probably make the problem V2) it will be called Road to V3. And then V4, and so on and so forth…

Also, Terri got a picture of me on the Warm Up slab, and if she sends it to me you know it’ll be going up here on the blog. Even though I look ridiculous.

Because that movement….