Road to V3 #3: U2

In case you missed it, R2V3’s post was a “vlog” yesterday:

That’s right: R2V3 is the next step not only in my bouldering “career,” but also in my “writing/taking video about my bouldering ‘career.'” The vlog starts off with a beautiful shot of the Bavarian village of “Leavenworth,” coupled with sing-songy German music. And then pans up to me drinking a delicious, albeit overpriced, americano from famed “J5 Roasters” in Leavenworth.

But I’m not here today to talk about climbing. Well, that’s actually the only thing I’m here to talk about, but I’m not here to talk about any aspect of it in particular. I don’t know why I say “climbing” when many “climbers” probably wouldn’t consider bouldering “climbing.” Many climbers look down upon bouldering, whereas I do the exact opposite. I have little to no desire to ever go sport climbing in my life. Maybe I will someday and maybe I’ll think, “Man, this is fucking awesome,” but if someone were to ask me tomorrow, “Mark, wanna go sport climbing?” I’d say, “Yes, but let’s leave the ropes and harnesses at home and let’s only do really short climbs on smaller rocks.” I’m all about that kind of sport-climbing.

I’ve always been drawn to sports that require minimal gear when there is a logical counterpart or “cousin” to that sport that requires more gear. For example, in the world of board sports my sport of choice is skateboarding. Minimal gear. A board. No bindings. You’re not attached to the board. Contrast that with snowboarding, where you’re ATTACHED to the board, you need chair lifts, you need to drive to the mountain, etc. etc. Thus, skateboarding to me is the “purest” of boardsports, along with maybe (aka probably) surfing. But this also applies to regular sports! Of all the regular sports the one I like most is soccer. Why? Minimal gear. For basketball you need a hoop! For baseball you need gloves and a bat and bases and an overweight umpire and chewing tobacco and 30,000 drunk fans. But for soccer you only need a ball. Goals are nice, too, but they’re very easy to improvise. Much easier to improvise than a basketball hoop.

And then we come to bouldering. Again: minimal gear. If you’re Charles Albert all you need is chalk. If you’re an old-school purist all you need are shoes (and no chalk). And if you’re a regular boulderer all you need are shoes, chalk, and a pad. Some other things are nice, too, like a brush, and a couple extra pads, but they’re by no means necessary. I’ve been having the time of your life with only one pad.

OK, and now I actually DO want to talk about climbs. About boulders. Because I’m still completely obsessed with U2 V3 from the Forest area of the Beach and Forest Boulders, and I’m dying to go back. I contemplated (very briefly) driving all the way back to Leavenworth today just to get up on this bloc. But. My body needs a rest. And I don’t want to do four and a half hours of driving just to try a boulder for 15 minutes. Also, I’ve noticed that when projecting a boulder rest days can be the most beneficial training you can do, and not for the muscle recovery but for the beta. I’ve noticed that you learn beta for a boulder not when you’re trying the boulder but when you’re resting, thinking about it. It also helps to watch videos. For example now I feel completely confident in the beta for U2 and feel like I can go back, do the start really easily (because it’s easy), get up to the undercling, and then get my right foot higher, stand up, and reach over to the slopers. That’s really the whole problem. This is what I got from watching the guy from TinyDynos do it, though he looks pretty short, so hugging the undercling the whole time might be harder for me.

I need to do laundry today. I don’t want to do laundry. Man, what I would give to be in a warm apartment or a warm house right now. But I’ll take a cold, damp boat instead.

Beta to Try Tomorrow (R2V2 #8)

The Wenatchee River V12.

I’m headed back to Gold Bar tomorrow morning. Climb the Clearcut Boulders in the morning, then go up to the Morpheus Boulders for the evening sesh. The next morning head to Leavenworth and hit up some Tumwater boulders on the way in. In the evening hit somewhere not too far down Icicle Canyon.

I’m psyched to try some new beta on this trip. I’ve been thinking about these problems a lot. You always think of new beta, and then get there and realize it won’t work. But sometimes it does. And the best is to see someone else do it and steal their beta. That’s what I’ve done in a lot of these cases. Got to use my height! Other than my just pure zest for dermis on diorite right now, my height is the best thing I’ve got.

Today I started training on my boat. I realized I actually have a perfect place to hang from, and if I walk my feet up the wood that covers the bottom of the mast in the cabin, I can simulate bad footholds on a severe overhang. Bonus, since this is one area where I struggle most. Now I just need to get the hangboard on the boat, so I can simulate bad crimps with bad footholds on a severe overhang. There there’ll be nothing stopping me….

Anyway, here’s some beta I plan to try to tomorrow. If I send even a couple of these climbs I’ll be super happy.

The Catcher V0:

Move left onto the shark fin jug. Lunge for the top hold. Don’t even mess with the side rail.

Shortstop V2:

Start in the actual right place. Lunge the right hand up to the arete. Strong.

BMOC V2:

Try it fresher this time? Actually go for the crimps?

Beam Me Up V2:

Think about core tension. Go for that intermediate left hold. Try putting all your weight on the left foot. Think core tension and go for that beautiful edge.

Mr. Brightside V1:

I mean, at least try it this time.

Rocksteadeasy V3:

Ohhh, so much beta to try for this one. Try the right hand on the seam instead of the crimp. Try doing it fast. Experiment with bumping the right foot out and smearing it on the wall and inching it up. Trust the left foot more. Maybe both hands on the seam? Right hand on the crimp and left hand on the seam? Are there any holds I’m missing?

 

 

R2V2P5: Beam Me Up (session 1)

I accidentally typed “R2V2,” which would stand for Road to V2, which is NOT the name of this series (it’s Road to V7), but considering the events of the past week much more fitting. Ladies and boys, I still haven’t sent V2 outdoors. But I’ve figured out which boulder it’s going to be: Beam Me Up, located in the Rubik’s Cube cluster of the Reiter foothills boulders.

Behold:

OK this isn’t a picture of the boulder. It’s just a sick picture Barold took on our first ever mission to the Reiter Foothills. Minutes after this picture was taken we spotted the elusive “Five Star Warm-Up Boulder,” where both of us got shut down by a slopey V3.

Here’s the actual boulder:

OK this isn’t really the boulder either. It’s me sitting next to it with my sock on my hand after getting shut down by it. I couldn’t do the second move. But now I think I’ve got it figured out: Move the legs to the side to get them out of the way, hug my body in closer to the wall, reach up blind to the first left handhold. Before I think I had my body too far away from the wall. Also, I need to just practice this second move till I get it, since it’s essentially the “crux” (can V2’s have cruxes?). Once you get your left hand up to the good crack you can bump it up further and then pull yourself up onto the ledge you had your hands on to start. And it’s pretty much smooth sailing from there. You’ve sent your first V2 and can move on to your first V3, aka Summer Solstice:

Look at this beautiful block. I never thought I’d have to project V3 but this is totally going to be a project for me. The first part is just moving from the fabulous first hold to the sloper. Then it’s traversing the sloper and getting to the fabulous jug on the right side of the photo. And then it’s just a couple more good holds to the top. Last time the problems were I was tired from failing on Beam Me Up, it was raining, and I didn’t put the crash pad right where it needed to be for me to just collapse onto it from the slopers. But I know I’ll make progress when I go back. Summer Solstice, I’m coming for you. How sick would it be to send Summer Solstice on or before the summer solstice? That would be a good step on the road to V7.

In other words I have TWO days off next week in addition to have Monday off for Memorial Day. So where am I going? I don’t actually know. I’ll probably try to go back to the Reiter Foothills to climb Beam Me up, and if it’s too wet keep going to Leavenworth, in which case my first V2 plans would have to radically change. Nothing highball please; I’m a huge wuss.

I’ve never been more excited to send V2. This is what I love about bouldering aka being 36 and starting bouldering. Sending V2 for me is going to be huge. I’m going to be so stoked. It’s going to be like sending V10 for most people. And then sending V3 aka Summer Solstice aka hopefully some boulder in Bend on my way down to Cali in June? Even better.

Progression is what’s so exciting. Progression. Getting stronger (even though before COVID I was way stronger but whatever).

Anyway, just wanted to give you an update on what’s going on in these down days. Dreaming of granodiorite and perfect holds.

The Road to V7, Part 4: Run for the (Foot)Hills

There is a little bouldering area just outside of Gold Bar, WA, called the “Reiter Foothills.” You probably haven’t heard of it unless you’re into riding dirt-bikes/being from Monroe. The thing about this area is the following: A few years back some people discovered that there were big-ass boulders there, and that “problems” could be found on these boulders, and that these “problems” could even be rated on the quote unquote “V scale,” and that using this scale people from all over the world (but mostly the Seattle area) could come to enjoy the grand outdoors and test their climbing mettle.

Which is exactly what my friend Barold and I did on Friday.

Some sources compare Beam Me Up to pitch 15 on the Dawn Wall.

Barold and I drove separate cars to the Reiter Foothills. We stopped at the Safeway in Monroe to stock up on provisions/people watch. I love people watching in places like Monroe because, though it’s just 40 minutes out of Seattle, the culture is completely different there. This is huntin’ culture, goddamnit. This is, “Hey baby, why don’t we go down to the that Mexican restaurant later and get a couple margaritas and some of those fajitas,” type culture. These people are real “salt of the earth” types, whatever that means. I think it mostly means they have less of a problem with eating multiple meals a week at McDonald’s and with xenophobia.

But I’m not here to judge, damnit! Who would I be to judge? I’m here to get my hands in some granodiorite holds. I’m here to get exercising while having the time of my life. I’m here to see some new blocks. I’m here to send V2, damnit.

If you read my last post you know that on this trip I fully expected to send V2. You might say I took it for granted. I even had the perfect V2 scoped out, “Beam Me Up,” located in the Rubik’s Cube cluster. I had even watched videos on how to do this boulder. I had beta. It was a (insert expletive) V2. That’s mostly the reason I fully expected to send it. I climbed V5 at the gym once, right? So V2 outdoors should be a walk in the dog park.

But I didn’t send it. In fact, I didn’t even really come all that close, in that I couldn’t even do the start.

The start of Beam Me Up is a table-sized jug that you could serve dinner for six on. The problem is it’s a sit start, and since I’m kind of tall I had to splay my feet out wide. The other problem is that the holds after the start are good but not that good. I mean, to Daniel Woods and Jimmy Webb these holds would be veritable craters that you could camp in, let alone fix your hands on. But to me they were the razorest-thin crimps. So I got my right hand up to the first little crimpy rail, and then..had no idea what to do with the left. I would just kind of collapse onto my pad like someone kicking a deflated soccer ball. I tried multiple times, and Barold even pulled up a video — SO I HAD THE BETA RIGHT THERE — and still couldn’t do it. Too weak, too slow. It was a rude awakening. It was how I might imagine it to be to fall off your bed into a Finnish lake in winter.

The only upside? I flashed the V1 next to it, “Scotty.” Woooooooooooooooooo….

L’Hotel du Chemin.

After this it started to rain, so Barold and I made our way to other boulders to check them out. I tried Summer Solstice (V3) and failed even harder. We went to climb a V0 crack and the only other people out at the boulders that day were already there. Then, after sort of bushwacking, we happened upon a beautiful V2 called “The Container.” This one was actually fun. We could actually do some of the moves. And it didn’t even matter that it was raining, because it was slightly overhanging and the holds were roughly the texture of Harrison Ford’s voice in “The Fugitive.” So at this boulder we felt a little better about ourselves. Granted, we couldn’t top out, because sending V2 just wasn’t in the cards for us, but we still had fun. Barold took some vids and pioneered the beta. I took my shirt off. The rain continued. And at some point it was time to call it quits, not so much because of the rain because both of us (or at least I) were completely wasted. Time to head back to the cars. The V2 Bombers would have to wait for their day in the sun.

 

 

Finger Strength

The end of a long week. Sitting on the couch watching bouldering videos and listening to the song “Loyal” by Odesza. Making black tea. Drinking said tea. Playing the game “Tomb Raider II,” starring the enigmatic Lara Croft. Making forays into the garage to do max hangs on a board screwed into the wall. So far on the two pad setting (which is, incidentally, the only setting, since it’s a 2×6), I can almost do 20 seconds. I know this is not a lot. I am not a strong climber. I am not a TERRIBLE climber, because I’m not super afraid of falling and am quite athletic, but I have next to zero climbing technique and also very little finger strength. I regularly fail on V3’s/V4’s in the gym. But it doesn’t matter. Because I love it. I love it and I have no plans to stop.

I pound a cup of black tea but it’s just not cutting it. I need more caffeine. The Friday afternoon doldrums have set in. It’s almost as if everything has lost its flavor. I’m bored of playing the piano, I’m bored of going on walks, I’m bored of playing video games, I’m bored of watching movies, I’m bored of seeing how long I can hang from a board in my garage. I want to do what I’ve done best all my life: Just get up and go. But since I CAN’T do that right now, I’ll just talk about what I hypothetically would do if I could.

What would I do right now if I could do anything, go anywhere, but of course taking into account current coronavirus closures, social distancing guidelines, the strength of the yen, etc.

First, I would go for a surf. It’s been a long time since I got in the water. Sunday is looking decent. Monday, too. So I’d do that. Then I’d come back, spend another week or so on Bainbridge, do one last big grocery run for my parents, and then get out of dodge. And by out of dodge I of course mean I would go to my boat. Where I would spend a few days cleaning it, making it less awful, etc. And then. And then. And then I would head for the mountains in my ’97 Subaru. Or I would go up to the San Juan’s in my boat. The stratosphere is the limit. And then I would head south, stopping at famous bouldering places on the way, until I got to southern California, where I would wait on the northern side of the Mexican border until they opened it and I could finally get across. More bouldering, more surfing. Speaking Spanish. Eating tacos. Some tacos. Smoking a few rollies even, maybe. I’m in Mexico!

Further and further south in my car? Maybe.

Or maybe not. At this point I would make my way back to Washington where I would star The Grand Adventure, aka sailing to South America in my 27 foot sailboat. First night, Port Townsend. Bounce around the San Juans for a bit. Maybe, MAYBE, stop in Victoria. Then round Cape Flattery and start heading south. Stop in La Push. Stop in Westport. Stop in Oregon, and then make the big push for Southern California. Bonfires on the beach, more surfing, and then back into Mexico. A couple weeks in Ensenada. Fixing things that have broken on the boat. Fitting it out for even more sailing, bluewater, bluewater baby, bluewater all the way, all the way to Puerto Vallarta and points further south, anchoring at La Calechosa to surf, anchoring by that little town across the bay and paddling over, that beautiful right point break, oh how she’s beautiful, further and further south, surfing La Ticla, surfing The Ranch, SKIPPING LA SALADITA, and further and futher south, and now we’re in Central America, and Costa Rica, and Panama, and maybe we just say to hell with it and go through the Canal. Into the Caribbean. And that’s it. Why would you need to go any further?

Western Washington Bouldering by Pablo Zuleta

Yesterday I got the book Western Washington Bouldering by Pablo Zuleta. It’s very possible that this book will change my life. In November of 2019 I tried bouldering for the first time at Seattle Bouldering Project. Then in December I became hooked. By February I had even taken a class, three sad guys on Valentine’s day with the teacher who had us trying an orange on a slab that I thought I wasn’t going to be able to do and both of the other guys did and then I finally sent it. Then we tried a purple and all of us failed miserably. My obsession with bouldering became such that before the lockdown I would go to the new SBP in Fremont, Upper Walls, and just sit in the upper viewing area with my notebook writing down beta. Left hand and left foot on sloper, right hand on pinch thing, right foot dangling below left hand. Slowly reach left hand up to pinch/sloper thing, match, reach up with left hand….etc. Back before the lockdown I had successfully done one V5 indoors, though the only reason I was able to do it is because it didn’t require much technique, only a lot of leg strength. I said back then that my goal before the summer was over was to do a V7, outdoors. That’s still my goal. I think I’ve found the problem. It’s called “Naughty Corner” and it’s located in the Index area. It looks gorgeous.  A bit crimpy, and with a dyno to finish. Dynos are my specialty, since they require athleticism more than anything. My technique with bouldering is subpar. But I’m good at jumping and grabbing shit.

Western Washington Bouldering has also shown me my dream problem: “Midnite.” Midnite is a V9 also located in the Index area. It’s gorgeous. It’s a clean face that might be slightly overhanging, crimpy line up to another dyno. The dyno looks sick. Right hand up to a sloper, then top out. My goal this summer is not to do it, but maybe just to get some of the moves down. Maybe to just be able to do the first 2-3 moves. Then again, the whole problem is only like five moves. And the dyno, like I said, looks siiiiiick. But you want more than just one pad to do this problem. Which means I either need to get more pads or go with friends. Either way I’ve already got my hopes up, like I’m going to be able to send this problem by fall or something. Which is a bit unrealistic. You don’t go from barely climbing V5 indoors to suddenly sending V9 outdoors.

Lately I’ve been bouldering a bit on a boulder in Port Gamble Heritage Park in the middle of a clear cut field (could there be a more depressing place to boulder?), and this is officially the first place I’ve ever bouldered outside. The rock is not great. There are no defined problems. But it’s still good to feel the rock against your skin. There is one sloper hold that I’m a bit obsessed with. I think sloper holds will be my next love. I think one day I will grow to love crimps, but for now I despise them because I’m terrible at them. I find that bouldering somehow has a lot to do with playing the piano. You chop boulders up into doable segments, learning a couple moves at a time, and then stringing the whole thing together. Same with piano. You learn little bits of the song with the hopes of stringing it all together in the end. And ultimately the whole allure with both bouldering and piano is learning one relatively small thing but doing it so that you completely master it, so that you can make it look easy, graceful. Becoming obsessed with one tiny little thing. Memorizing the moves. Exactly where you place your fingers. How your body feels when you do it. In my opinion bouldering is like solving a Rubik’s cube, but with your entire being. The ultimate goal is to disappear into the moves.

There was a purple at Seattle Bouldering Project that I was obssesed with. It involved grabbing a slopey ledge and somehow not barn-dooring, matching on the ledge and then powering to the top. I tried it for like three weeks. I finally got some beta on how to do the “crux,” which involved a mini right heel hook that kept you from barn dooring. So then I could grab the ledge, and even match, but by that point I was too pumped to finish it. But then one day I showed up, walked up to it and just sent it. The heel hook felt incredible. A move that had stymied me so many times I now loved. I loved grabbing the ledge, matching, grabbing the next hold with my right hand, and then moving the right hand further to grab the next hold, repositioning the feet, and reaching for the top. It’s still the most satisfying boulder problem I’ve ever done. And it was probably V3.

So that’s the deal: send a V7 by the end of this summer. Why not? It’s going to require bouldering a lot, eating somewhat healthy to keep inflammation under control, and most of all, having fun. That’s one other reason I associate bouldering with playing the piano. I never force myself to play the piano. I only play when I want to. I never force myself to practice. In this way it remains pure for me. I don’t do it to get better, or impress people. I only do it because it feeds my soul and it’s fun. I’ve decided to do the same with bouldering. If I ever get sick of it, I’ll just stop. If I decide tomorrow that I’m over bouldering, I’ll just stop and never do it again. I’m not going to force myself to do it. I’m not going to do it for other people. I want to do a V7 because I want to do it. Because I like grades and pushing myself. Because I like having clearly-defined goals. But it’s just for me. It’s a way to rise above the shackles of everyday life, naked and free.

-Wetz