Last Climbing Trip Before Mex | Road to V4

My sister and her son — aka my nephew — and I went on a walk this morning-

Hold on, let me start over.

I went on a walk this morning with my sister and her son, aka my nephew, to “Poo Poo Point,” a short little jaun-

OK, I don’t like that one either.

I’m sitting on my boat drinking matcha this afternoon and what’s different between right now and when I USUALLY sit on my boat is that I’m sitting outside, in the cockpit, feeling the breeze and watching my boardshorts sway in the br-

Damnit.

OK. Sitting on my boat drinking matcha. Boarshorts swaying in the breeze. Sunny. Crows cawing. Tired but feeling ok since I just jumped in the water. Maybe should jump in again to wake up even more? Mellifluous. Not very comfortable. Ducks pissed at each other. Plant looks like it’s dying. What am I gonna do tonight?

OK that’s MUCH better now that I’m sitting on the ground and instead of on that pad. Though the ground is dirty.

Why am I so TIIIIIIIIIIRED right now? I have no good food on my boat except apples and peanut butter, but I’ve already had two apples today. I have kale. What am I going to do with the kale? Eat it plain? Disgusting. Eat it with some olive oil and salt?

OK I’m ready to start.

Good afternoon, faithful Where’s Wetzler readers! My name is Mark Wetzler and I’ll be your host for this afternoon’s blog post. We’ve got a lot to talk about today, including but not limited to: Me going bouldering tomorrow, my hike today, why I feel so tired–

K, sorry, can’t do that either. Can’t do a real post.

Stephen King said: Don’t go lightly to the page. I’m going to lightly to the page right now, Stephen. Light as a feather. Light as one of the leaves on my calathea plant that’s dying. Light as my humor. Light as my right toenail which is becoming slightly ingrown. Here’s the problem with reading books on how to write: It’s like reading books on how to paint pictures. They can only take you so far. At some point you have to launch yourself off the diving board and think: OK, I’m gonna do my OWN thing now. And if people hate it then fuck ’em. I’m going to make the stuff that I know is good, that makes me happy, and if people don’t like it well then they’re the ones with no taste. You don’t tell me what’s good art. I tell YOU what’s good art. I tell you what to like. People don’t know what they like anyway until someone has already given it to them. They say, “Well, I like light comedies,” and then someone makes a horror film and they love it cuz it’s well done and someone says, “But you don’t like horror films,” and they say, “Well, I guess I like that one.”

I’m going to be a piece of shit for the rest of the day and I’ve made peace with that. Go to Whole Foods. Read Pride and Prejudice. You know what I might do tomorrow? I might go session Serenity Now V4 FRESH. I’ve never sessioned that boulder fresh before. Only after a pretty long sesh. So maybe I’ll go there tomorrow, I’ll warm up on the slab a bit, I’ll climb the V0, and then I’ll give Serenity Now some fresh burns. Give it everything I got. And maybe make it past the crux.

K just watched a few videos of people getting up Serenity Now V4 (+!). I think I can do the crux now. And by crux I mean the low crux, there’s also a fairly gnarly deadpoint up to the hold on the lip. God, I got this. I need this. Come on, Mark.

Dirty Dancing in the Dark | Road to V4

Before we talk about anything this morning, let’s talk about grades. Yesterday I went to Leavenworth for the first time in months. If you haven’t noticed, there’s been a pandemic happening but actually that didn’t prevent me from going to Leavenworth at all. What prevented me from going there was the ‘eat. But YESTERDAY I was finally able to go there, and it was glorious, and it was wonderful, and I sent some new shit, and bla bla bla, but I need to talk about grades here because the last problem I was working on is rated differently in the guidebook than on certain online bouldering websites.

And this annoys the shit out of me. But it’s also kinda awesome.

The problem in question: Dirty Dancing V4 (or V4-, or V3, depending on who you consult). This is a beautiful slab located at the “Washout” area, aka Unearthed area in Leavenworth. It’s a unique boulder because it’s essentially river polished granite even though it’s not particularly close to any river. This is because it was buried up until a huge washout (landslide?) happened in XXXXX and presumably (I’m not a geologist) the reason this boulder is smooth is because eons ago it WAS in a river. Anyway. I wanted to go there to try Dirty Dancing V4 because I kind of like slabs and it also just sounded like a cool problem, and so yesterday, after warming up at Swiftwater a bit and sending The Barista V1 and also Unobvious V2 (I started from the rock and not the ground, making it a V2 and not a V3), I went to the Washout.

Actually first I accidentally went to the Upper JY Boulders and was quite confused. And then I traipsed through what might’ve been a bunch of alder bushes, cutting myself up in the process and fairly cursing. But then I found the boulders, and all was well. I scoped the beautiful Lion’s Den V8 and also Buried Alive V6. But my eyes were drawn to what to me is the most striking line there, Dirty Dancing V4.

dirty dancing v4 slab in leavenworth, washington
Where were you / when they built the ladder to heaven? (Dirty Dancing as seen from lying on the boulder mat thinking, “How am I gonna get up this?”)

The first thing I scoped were the holds. Perfect little crimps. And then I scoped where you might start with your feet. “Start from a good edge in the middle of the scar…” the guidebook says. OK, there’s the scar, and there’s what looks like a pretty good edge. Why is there all that chalk on the undercling? Who is using the undercling? What I’ve since come to realize is that shorter people use the undercling because that allows them to establish, but if you’re taller you can just start with a shoulder height left crimp and reach up to a high right hand pocket/crimp. Neither of these holds are particularly great, especially when it’s warm outside and you’re sweating out of nervous excitment. But the first foothold IS great. So here’s what I did: Step onto the good right foot, lock off a crimp on the left hand and then reach up to grab the right hand pocket/crimp (getting established was pretty hard, so I understand people using the undercling). Once established, bring left foot up to pocket just just above the undercling. After watching YouTube videos, no one seems to do it this way. Most people bring the left foot up to an edge just above the right foot, and then do a foot switch. Maybe I’ll try that. But because I’m kinda tall, I can also do it my way.

From there, you’re basically just laddering up on tiny crimps and possibly a smear or two. If you want to see how it’s done BEAUTIFULLY by a dude who’s not that tall, and see where the name Dirty Dancing actually probably comes from, once again watch a vid of the Badwater Brothers doing it:

Damn these guys. They make everything look so easy, so graceful, so dancing, so dirty.

How close did I get on my attempts? Well, pretty damn close. In fact, I have video but I’m not going to show you until I get the send. I got ALMOST to the easy part, aka I had my hands up where the rock starts to level off a bit but just couldn’t quite get my feet right. I think next time it’ll go. It would help to have slightly colder temps and maybe to go there SLIGHTLY fresher. Like, after a few days rest. Like, maybe next week????? Though next week in Leavy is supposed to be pretty hot….

And now back to the grading discrepancy that I promised to talk about at the beginning of this post but have left off till now. Obviously, bouldering grades are subjective. One gal/guy sends a boulder, suggests a grade, and then everyone who climbs after her/him either says, “Damn, that grade is totally right. Good job. That’s a perfect V4,” OR “Bro, are you out of your mind. That is not V4. That’s like V3+.” The question you might be asking is, “WHERE do these grading discussions happen? Like, where is this documented?” And the answer is two places: Mountain Project and Sendage. Obviously there’s the guidebook grade first. In the case of Dirty Dancing it’s listed as  V4. But if you go on Mountain Project it’s listed as a V4-. And on Sendage as a V3. This is because this is the grade resulting from all the people sending it and subsequently grading it. The ANNOYING part of this is when something is listed in the guidebook as a V3 and you get super psyched because you sent V3 outdoors and then you go on Mountain Project and see it’s only a V2. This is actually fairly common. The OTHER way around, problems getting upgraded, is not that common. But it does happen. One I can think of off the top of my head is The Enigma at the River Boulders in Index, listed as a V4 in the guidebook but a V5 on Sendage.

Here’s how I’VE decided to handle this situation: I’m going with the majority. In the case of Dirty Dancing it’s listed as a V4 in two sources and a V3 in one, which means I’m going with V4. Which is a relief becuase I really want this problem to be V4 because I really wanna send V4.

But that’s enough for today! I’ve said too much. I’ve said too little. I haven’t said enough. In case you were wondering, after the Dirrty Dancing sesh I made the tired drive home to Seattle. I thought about camping in Leavy but didn’t really feel like camping alone and also my body was slightly wrecked. The drive home sucked until I got to Safeway in Monroe, where I bought about a gallon of black tea and also come white cheddar Cheetos. God I want to go back to Leavenworth right now….

It’s time to stretch and get coffee and use the foam roller? It’s time to escape to my parents because we’re supposed to get two inches of rain over the next few days? It’s time to meditate?

I don’t know what it’s time to do. But I do know I can’t WAIT to go climbing again.

– Wetz

 

Beam Me Up | R2V7 #A Lot

I feel weird right now. It’s 9:12am and I’m sitting on the boat. Today the only things I’ve ingested are a Spindrift (four calories) and two small swigs of Tunisian extra virgen olive oil. And now I think I’m gonna have another Spindrift.

Yesterday I climbed and it was glorious. Why was it glorious? Because my shoulder seems to be hanging in there, because I didn’t force anything, and because I climbed a beautiful boulder that I’d only ever climbed one time in my life (Beam Me Up V2).

Well, ok, it’s not completely true that everything was unforced yesterday. Lately I’ve been forcing myself to do all kinds of shit (one second while I flush the toilet on my boat; I peed this morning when I woke up and didn’t flush it and I think I need to get some kind of treatment stuff for it because it smells inordinately bad when you don’t flush every single time [god this Spindrift is so fucking good except on the can it just says spindrift maybe I’m not supposed to capitalize the “s”]), like go running, for instance. Basically I’m just trying to do what Sam Harris said in a video I watched yestereday: Get behind myself and push. Which means I’ve been meditating more, exercising more, reading more, just doing all the shit that I kinda know makes me happy, even if I don’t really want to do it. In short, I’m becoming my own parent.

BACK TO CLIMBING. THAT IS WHAT THIS BLOG IS ABOUT. I AM A CLIMBER. Actually no, I’m a boulderer. I would never call myself a climber. Climbing means you probably use ropes and all that dumb gear and you “clip in” and need someone to belay. Bouldering just means you’re kinda badass even though the shit you’re climbing is approximately four inches off the ground.

Yesterday I: Drove to the Whole Foods at Totem Lake, where I bought a: Focusaid, a large Earl Grey with heavy cream, and a Lara Bar. Then I went to Safeway in Monroe where I: bought smoked salmon and: bought water. Then I: got in my car and started eating the smoked salmon, drove up to the parking for the boulders, parked in said parking, walked up to the boulders (taking a break on the way), stretched for a bit, climbed the V0 next to Offa My Cloud V2, then climbed Offa My Cloud V2 (I might be getting the names mixed up here), then went up to the “Warm-up Slab” and climbed Warm-up Slab V0, failed several times on Rocksteadeasy V3 and said, “Fuck it, today is unfortunately not the day for Rocksteadeasy. I’m going to check out Fern Crack V3.”

So I went to Fern Crack and got completely shut down. Like, I couldn’t even do the first move. Like, I couldn’t even hold the first hold well enough to get my feet in position to do the first move.

Which kinda sucked.

But THEN I went to The Container V2, a problem Barold and I had tried wayyyyyyyyyyyyy back in the day, and I didn’t send it but I kind of figured it out and got very close to sending it and wanted to save some strength for Beam Me Up V2.

So I went to Beam Me Up. And on the fourth try, at approximately 1:32pm, on the day of our Lord Tuesday the 8th of September, twenty twenty, I sent Beam Me Up (for the second time). And THAT got me stoked. And you know what else got me stoked yesterday (well, a lot of stuff got me stoked)? The fact that I kinda fucked up my hands. The fact that I pushed myself. I used to get kind of messed up pretty much every time I went bouldering. I used to bleed pretty much every time. And I don’t even remember the last time I bled bouldering. Like, I haven’t been pushing myself that hard. But yesterday my hands and fingers were abraded. I pushed myself. And it felt great.

And my shoulder seems to be kinda decent, too.

 

Todo lo que yo sufrí | R2V4 #7

Friends. Lovers. I’ve missed you so much. I feel like we’ve been apart for quite some time now. I feel like you never want to hang out anymore. I feel like every time I say, “Babe, lets go project some sick blocs. You know you’ve been thinking about the beta for The Doja V7 (direct variation).” And she’s like, “No, I don’t want to go bouldering with you. All you talk about are ‘blocs’ and ‘micro-beta.’ Right hand up to the crimp, wedging it into the wedge. Left hand up to the tic and then mini bump up to the fin? Give me a break. Plus, what’s the hardest you’ve crushed outside, babe? Go on: Tell me: What’s the hardest you’ve crushed outside?”

You turn your eyes downward, ashamed.

“I’ve almost sent a V4…”

She spits on your feet and farts in your direction. Then the two of you get up and make brownies.

ANYWAY.

Yes, I went climbing yesterday. Yes, I know I wasn’t supposed to. My carbon emissions are off the charts. Two days in a driving ALL THE WAY up to the mountains, and ALL THE WAY BACK. Two days in a row hiking six miles roundtrip just to project some sic (sic) blocs (sic). And I mean, it’s been worth it. OBVIOUSLY it’s been worth it. Sent Beam Me Up V2. Yesterday sent another V2 called Moonlight Mile in the Que Luna boulders. Sent a V0 called Offa’ My Cloud. Sent another V0 down at the Index River Boulders called Hueco Man. Calluses are building up. Elbow feels pretty good. I feel like I’m on the ROAD TO V7. Like, I’m not just sitting by the side of the road watching men go by in their horse-drawn carriages, women in their Victorian era hats and frilly dresses. I’m actually on this road with the rest of them. I’m driving one of the damn carriages! Hell, I might even be one of the horses. I might even be one of the Victorian-era hats. I might even by a rock on the road that people stub their toes on. Either way I’m on the road — I’m not just a bystander. I’m not just standing by. Rather, I’m passing by. I’m a passerby amongst other passersby.

Todo lo que yo viví.

Todo lo que yo sufrí.

And today is a quote unquote down day. I’m going to try to not climb today. Give my fingers a rest. Too much crimping. I can’t remember the last time I woke up without swollen fingers. I should probably go back to the keto diet, but I don’t want to. I really like carbs. Plus when I was doing keto I ate so many animal products. Too many animal products. I feel better about eating corn chips than I do sausages. I feel better about fasting than I do sausages.

Ya no queda nada.

Aqui estoy sentado en mi velero, viendo como la toalla se mece en la brisa. Oigo el canto de un pájaro. Bueno, no tanto un canto ya que es un cuervo. Pienso en tomarme otro té. O en comer algo. Me pregunto que si en este mero momento preferiría estar en México. O en Chile. O en Europa. Pero ahorita no se puede ir a Europa si sos gringo. Sí se puede ir a México. México ha cerrado sus fronteras terrestres pero no las aéreas. Así que todavía se puede ir en avión.

 

First Moves on a V7??? | R2V4 #5

I haven’t written in awhile. I think this is because I got laid off/quit and have been going a bit buck wild as a result. By buck wild I of course meaning eating a bit more sugar than normal. Sleeping in till 8am. That kind of buck wild. I’m not suddenly snorting amphetamines, though part of me wants to. Seattle is so boring. Is it boring? Am I boring?

It’s raining outside and my car windows are cracked. This is because this morning it didn’t seem like rain could be in the forecast for the next 14 years. I went bouldering this morning! How is that possible? I woke up at 5:30am and was on the road by 6:06am. By 8:30 my hands were touching the beautiful granite features of Magic School Bus V2, which I sent within a few tries. I found the tall man beta first, which turned the problem into a V0/1, and then sent it with the intended beta, and apart from a spicy topout, it still felt a bit soft for a V2. If I can send a V2 within a few tries it either means A) It’s soft, B) I’m hard, or C) The Red Sox are going to win the World Series.

And now having bouldered this morning AND having watched the Chelsea game this afternoon, what else is there to do? Go to sleep so I can wake up and boulder again? Do I have anything else to live for?

Let me at least tell you about the rest of the session.

So, right before sending Magic School Bus I sent an Unknown V0 which also had a spicy topout and the whereabouts of my pad were somewhat unknown. I mean, I sort of glanced down and was pretty sure it was under me, but I was also pretty sure I wasn’t going to fall.

After these two boulders I headed up to Beam Me Up V2, which I FINALLY DID THE FIRST MOVES ON FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER A FEW DAYS AGO. OMG. But I didn’t top out. Because I got to the second half of the boulder and was kind of pumped/panting and didn’t know the beta. So today, after failing on Mr. Brightside V1 for a few tries, I went back down to Beam Me Up and was able to do the first few moves after the first few tries and, after not topping out AGAIN, thought to myself, Why is it that every time I try to read Catch-22 I give up after 50 pages? I also thought, I better learn the top part. And so I did. And it was easy. And then I gave it a send burn and sent it. And it was somewhat glorious. A long time coming. And then I got the hell out of there.

I was going to hang out in the Bricklayer area of the clearcut boulders but it was insanely crowded. Like, gym crowded. Like, Mariners Game crowded. Like, parade crowded. Like, Montlake at rush area crowded. Like, Pagliacci when they’re having a special crowded. So I headed back to the car and down to the Boulder Drop Boulders, located just a hop skip and a faceplant from the town of Index, where my goal was to A) look at Mr. Smooth V7, B) touch Mr. Smooth V7, and C) maybe even try the first move of Mr. Smooth V7. All three of which I did. And here’s the thing: I ALMOST DID THE FIRST MOVE OF MR SMOOTH V6000. Like, I think I might be able to send this boulder in the next 20 or so tries. And by 20 I mean 19. And by 19 I mean 21.

After Mr Smooth I went to the Camp Serene Boulder, where I got closer on Serenity Now V4 than I have ever gotten.

So it was a good day! But now what do I do?

Ups and Downs | R2V4 #1

Look at it. Look how it glistens in the sun. Look at how much cooler the “4” looks at the end of R2V4 than the “3” looked at the end of R2V3. Yes, friends, we have moved onto a new chapter: V4.

Of course, this isn’t the only bouldering milestone I look forward to in the near future, nor even the only milestone I look forward to grade-wise. I’ve still only climbed ONE V3 outside at this point. I’ve only climbed ONE V2 that wasn’t a slab. So there are tons more grade milestones to achieve that don’t even involve climbing V4. Flash V2, for instance. Climb a bunch more V3’s. Flash a V3. Flash a V16. Move to Finland. Get a tattoo of a spider on my abdomen. Get a tattoo of an eye…on my neck. Get a horrible almost bowl cut mushroom thing. Get ripped as fuck. Start sport climbing. Wait a minute, no on that last one. Never start sport climbing. Sport climbing is lame.

Why is sport climbing lame? Because you have a rope…

Why is bouldering rad? Because you don’t have a rope…

I mean, that’s pretty much it, isn’t it? Sure sport climbing is probably thrilling. But, like, you’re strapped into a harness. That goes around your upper inner thighs and fits all snug. Probably causes your boxers to roll up. And then you have bolts drilled into the rock? Um, cool, that sounds totally natural. Let’s go up on that beautiful granite face and just start drilling shit into it. Awesome. Good idea. Sport climbing is totally rad.

Anyway. I actually did go climbing today. Sort of. I took my sister’s dog up to the boulders, and I tried the sit start on a V3 for like a half hour, sort of learned how to do the first move — maybe? — and then went to Serenity Now V4 where I definitely made some advances. I was able to get my left fingers into the little slot thing and actually hold the position, just hold it there, and prepare to move my right hand somewhere to stabilize myself so I could stand up. After that you’re ESSENTIALLY at the top, except that the top is still (or at least feels) several hundred yards away. What a beautiful dihedral though, right? Have you ever seen a more perfect dihedral?

Dihedral?

I would like to go climbing tomorrow. I would like to go WITH someone. This will not happen. Unfortunately.

What’s happening right now? I’m drinking black tea. And thinking about bouldering. And also thinking about not bouldering. I’m also thinking about taking my sister’s dog for a walk. And about watching Border Town. Honestly I probably won’t go outdoor, real bouldering again until Sunday evening at the earliest. Which is a bit of a bummer. But in the grand scheme of things matters not a whit.

Not a whit.

 

 

The Last Chapter (R2V2 #9)

Ahhhhh friends, where to start? This, this ninth installment, will be the last ever in the existence of “Road to V2.” Why? The answer is quite simple, but nonetheless compelling: I sent V2 outside. Yes! You read that right! This is not some kind of hoax, some kind of bedevilry your eyes are playing upon you: I sent the bouldering grade V2, on real rock, not in a gym. And it was glorious. It was glorious and over all too quickly. And as with sending anything that you’ve been working on for awhile, it kind of felt like, “Wait, that was it?”

The boulder in question: Eight Bit Slab V2, of the Road to Zion boulders, of the Clearcut Boulders, of the Reiter Foothills Boulders, near Gold Bar. When? Two days ago, Wednesday, May 27th, the year of Yaweh two thousand and twenty. What were the circumstances? Please read on…

First, a video of someone ELSE sending Eight Bit Slab:

Now, I know what you’re thinking: I should get a new car instead of a used car. Because they don’t cost THAT much more and you get a warranty and they break down less, right? Plus, I’ve never had a new car.

Actually, you’re probably not thinking that. But you probably HAVE thought that at some point. Now, you’re probably thinking, “Jesus, that’s a beautiful slab.” And you’re damn right. That is a beautiful slab. That’s one of the reasons Eight Bit Slab is rated three stars in the Western Washington Bouldering guide by Pablo Zuleta, the mythical pebble wrestler himself. But climbing slab is of course not like wrestling! No, climbing slab is a dance. It’s like hanging out with that guy from Game of Thrones who always used to call “Arya” boy. Be like water! He said. Or he might’ve not said that. I don’t really remember.

I don’t really remember much about this climb, either. All I was thinking was, “Don’t fall.” The great thing about this boulder is it has a pretty good landing, and a beautiful seam running right up the center of it. It’s also high enough to get your heart beating irregularly, but definitely not a high ball. It’s a “middle ball.” Or maybe a “middle to high ball.” If it were a human it’d be that guy named Ryan who’s 5’10”, drives a newish Subaru, has a good paying job, and has never done anything remotely original in his life. No, no, no. It would be nothing like that. It could never be human. If this slab were animate it would be a whale, rolling in the deep. A mythical beast with perfect handholds.

So now this blog will be called “Road to V3,” and you can bet I’ve already got my sights on some V3’s. There’s the V3 slab I was trying with Terri the other day, Rocksteadeasy V3. There’s Summer Solstic V3, a tantalizing delight of slopers and meathooks and overhanging posterity. There’s the Regatta de Blanc V0 version that traverses into BMOC V2, thus becoming V3. There are the V3’s on Hate Rock in Leavy. The cool sloper one and the two campus ones.

And this is getting a bit ahead of myself but of course I already have my sights set on V4’s and V5’s. You’d have to, right? Today I went and checked out the Beach Boulders in Leavenworth and stood humbled and fairly wetting myself at the base of Beached Whale V3, one of the most epic, horrifying slabs I’ve ever seen. And then there’s Dyno 101 V3, which I know I can send, but unfortunately it’s currently three eights underwater. And as for the the V4’s and V5’s I mentioned in the topic sentence of this paragraph before instantly changing gears, today I started off the day by going to Forestland for the first time, where I sent a V1 called XXXXX and checked the infamous One Summer V5, which looked impossible until I later realized I had been looking at a V6 variation. There was also The Real Thing V4, which doesn’t look completely impossible.

So yeah, I have reached the end of Road to V2, though of course the road doesn’t really end but rather bifurcates in countless directions as you continue to try and fail on other V2’s, project other ones, flash other ones, and generally become a “climber.” I never thought I’d say this after the past 2.5 months of lockdown, but I actually need a bit of a respite from climbing. I’m going to climb tomorrow, of course, weather permitting, in the illustrious East Miller River Valley, on the rainy side of the Cascades. And then on Sunday I might go pick up my hangboard from my parents’ house. Once that gets mounted on the boat I’ll be a crimping machine. And maybe I’ll even lose the belly I’ve been complaining about for the past two months.