Go Climb (or don’t)

I’m back on the boat. The road trip is over. All in all it was about 10 days, and not a ton of climbing happened.

One reason not a ton of climbing happened is that my body didn’t feel up to it. I was sacrificing my body to the V5 gods, and the V5 gods said, “We don’t want this.”

There was one specific day in Bishop where everything changed. I was in the Sads. I was by myself. I was trying to warm up on some easy stuff, and then basically wrenched the crap out of my body establishing on a dumb, V3 slab. I got to the top. It wasn’t satisfying. And I thought to myself, What am I doing? Why am I doing this? Do I even like climbing?

Enter: the time since that, up until present day, sitting on my boat, burning incense to ward off bad energy, listening to the drone of my heater, thinking about how I should probably be doing my Booking work right now, NOT doing my Booking work right now, wondering what I’m going to do with the rest of my day.

But first, rewinding to the end of the trip, in Bishop, California, the eastside of the Sierras, the Year of Yaweh Two Thousand and Twenty-One:

I’d thought that I’d give Molly V5 a few burns before I left Bishop. And then, if I was getting kind of close, I thought I might stay an extra day in Bishop so I’d have a chance to possibly finally send my first V5. What ACTUALLY happened, however, was that I drove to a spot just north of Lee Vining and looked for first ascents. I found a beautiful egg-shaped boulder that I dubbed The Dragon’s Egg that you can actually perceive with your very own retinae right here:

(The boulder almost right in the center of the frame.)

Anyway, this boulder had a nice looking line on it, probably somewhere in the V0-2 range, but I JUST WASN’T FEELING IT. So I pressed on. I got to Tahoe, and DIDN’T CLIMB THERE. Or actually I sort of climbed there. I checked out some boulders on Kingsbury Grade Road as I was getting in, specifically one that had a high right hand pinch, a crappy left hand, and a right heel hook, that was somewhat overhanging, and I tried for a bit just to see if I could heel hook with my right heel to free up my right hand. Which I couldn’t. I tried no other moves on the boulder. I didn’t WANT to try other moves on the boulder. And then I left.

And that, friends, is how my sessions have been lately. I show up. I look for lines (or just moves) that inspire me. I don’t look in the guidebook until after the sesh, or before the sesh for directions on how to get to the spot. Basically, I just do what feels good. And you know what? Hardcore trainers would probably say that’s the worst way to approach a session, the worst way to get better. But I don’t care. A) I know they’re wrong, B) It makes me happy, and C) I realized in Bishop that I had to start completely over. I had to re-learn my love for climbing, and I had to learn, once and for all, HOW TO CLIMB. I’m not really sure how to do that, but I think it involves approaching climbing the way I did when I first started bouldering outdoors. I didn’t try to do things like “train my weaknesses” (unless I wanted to). I didn’t make myself try a boulder over and over if I wasn’t feeling it. I basically didn’t do anything I didn’t want to. I would basically roam around the hills of Gold Bar, taking a burn on something here or there, and then move on. I wouldn’t sit at a boulder for three hours making no progress and hurting myself. The only time I would stay at a boulder for awhile is if I was making progress, having fun, and feeling like I was sort of getting close to sending. And you might be saying to yourself: Well, that approach to bouldering isn’t the right one. And the thing is: You’re absolutely wrong. Because it’s right for me. And if it’s right for me that’s all that matters.

OK, and now I sadly have to do some ACTUAL work at my ACTUAL job, because I’m a working stiff (see: semi-rigid) now. I wish you all a glorious day. Go climb. Or don’t.

– Wetzler

 

 

Head Full of Rust

Waking up at Motel West in Bend, Oregon. I slept nine hours last night. I guess I was due. Now I’ve gotta figure out what I’m gonna do with my day. I’m gonna go to the Mountain Supply climbing shop on the off chance they’ll have a copy of Central Oregon Bouldering. I doubt they will.  I think the book’s out of print. Then I’m gonna go scope the bouldering at The Depot. There’s a V5 called Blood Knuckle I want to look at.

I’m staying another night in Bend at LOGE. I like this place even though it’s quite a bit more expensive than the budget places and also a bit pretentious. Mostly I like the location. It’s out in the middle of nowhere, almost right across the street from the Widgi Boulders. I might try Widgi Face V3 on this stayover in Bend. Or I might not. Mostly I just want to try the crux move and also see if there’s an alternative beta that involves a right arm lockoff.

K nevermind I just watched a video of Widgi Face and there’s definitely no way to do a lock off with the right hand on the hold where usually you have a high right foot before reaching to the crimp ledge. Damn.

Yesterday I drove to Bend from South Lake Tahoe. It was a long day. I stopped first in Carson City to get gas, then in Reno to go to the REI. At the REI I bought a pair of La Sportiva Solutions, so I can finally try them, and the book Beyond Tape, by Mike Gable. Then I drove to the Doyle Area Boulders, where I walked around in the hills for a bit looking for things to climb. If you’ve never been to Doyle (and I doubt you have), it’s kind of like the Joshua Tree of Northern California. Except way worse. Sure, there’s plenty of rad stuff to climb there, and there’s so much room for development, but I had it in my head it might even rival J-Tree, or be like a mini J-Tree, and it definitely doesn’t seem to be that.

After Doyle I drove to Susanville, where I went to the Grocery Outlet. And then I drove to Klamath Falls, where I got more gas. And then to Bend in the dark. When I got to Motel West there were strange noises coming from the room next door. I wasn’t stoked on it. Also, it’s fairly obvious people live here — they have their detritus ‘decorating’ the hallways’ — which lends a bit of a half-way house vibe to the place.

K time to go to Mountain Supply to see if they have that guidebook. And also get the hell out of Motel West. And maybe even get a matcha latte. And maybe do some work for Booking. And maybe go bouldering.

 

Already Seven Days In

Today is already day seven of my road trip with my friend Darren to the Southwest. We’re in Bishop, California. There’s a cat sitting on the table next to me and it’s only 6:45am and I wish I’d slept longer but I couldn’t. I don’t know what’s wrong with me this trip. I went to bed at 11pm last night and this morning woke up at 5am. I need rest so my body can recover and I can boulder hard. And yet I wake up early and lie there and don’t feel that tired and after an hour or so of lying there think, Well, I might as well get up.

We spent the first night in Bend. I wanted to climb a V3 called Widgi Face I was convinced I was going to be able to climb, but got shut down for the third straight time. Well, I shouldn’t say shut down. I got shut down in that I didn’t climb the boulder, but made progress, and you can never really call it getting shut down when you make progress. The crux is getting a high right foot and then rocking your way over onto that foot while holding a tiny crimp with your right hand, and then reaching up with your left to a thin crimp ledge. Last time I was there I had trouble even getting to the tiny crimp, let alone holding onto it. And this time that was easy, and getting the high right foot was fairly easy, and rocking some weight over onto it and point my knee to the sky made all the difference. Also, just actually trying made all the difference. Like, sometimes you just have to say to yourself, I’m going to do whatever I can to get up this boulder. Screw technique, screw the beta I think I knew was right — just try to get up it. And so that’s what I did, and made some progress.

One of my goals for this trip was climbing V5 but I’m wondering if I need to reevaluate that. I wonder if my goals to just climb hard numbers are holding me back at all, preventing me from having fun and from becoming a better climber. Though maybe the goals can coexist with the less tangible stuff, too.

Our second and third nights were spent in the town of Likely, California. Not really a town, actually. More a group of a few houses and some ranches and a general store. It’s about a half hour south of the town of Alturas, which is more of a town. Alturas supposedly has about 2,000 people. We went to a Basque restaurant where when you sit down they bring over a caraffe of wine, some semi-questionable bread and chicken noodle soup. We both ordered steaks because we were in cow country. I told Darren, “There’s no way this meal is gonna cost more than 20 bucks. People would never pay more than that here.” Turns out Darren’s cost $32 and mine $27. Who are these rich cowboys.

The fourth and fifth nights were spent in South Lake Tahoe, where I finally bouldered for the second time. I met a guy named Jay at Sport Ltd in South Lake Tahoe and he lent me some guidebooks and then it turned out he was actually in the guidebooks. He was one of the developers of the area. We went to the Zephyr Boulders the next day and promptly got semi-wrecked by some V0’s. There was a fairly fun arete called Home Wrecker, but not the greatest warmup for someone with a wrenched shoulder. Then there was a tricky V0 called (I think) Chalkaholic, another arete at the Red Hut Boulder that was tricky until we figured out you could grab both aretes, and then we went over to a V2 called Ooh La La.

And Ooh La La was amazing.

But not V2 in a million years.

But still amazing.

But more like V0 climbing.

And now we’re in Bishop and there’s this guy at the table next to me in the common area where I am and all he does is talk and talk and talk. He’s pro gun and yesterday he was talking about how when he goes on business trips he leaves a loaded gun on his nightstand so his kids can defend the house. This was right about when I got up and exited the room, despite the fact that I had a cat on my lap and was loathe to disturb the cat. There’s something very comforting about watching a cat sleep.

Today I’m going to (I think) climb at The Sads, and the only reason I say “I think” is because my body doesn’t feel great and I didn’t sleep that well last night. God, why is it only 7:07am. I should probably do some work. I should probably not drink coffee, but I’m tempted to drink coffee. I should probably have some kind of sustenance because drinking tea on an empty stomach makes my stomach feel gnarly.

If we do go to The Sads I’m going to try French Press V6, and probably get shut down. They say you should always believe in yourself and be optimistic, but I think there’s a place for realism too.

 

Two V3’s in One Day || Road to V5

Since I haven’t written in quite awhile, I’m determined to write a post today. I’ve even made myself a cup of tea specially for this endeavor. I’m sitting in front of the laptop and all I have to do is type. All I have to do is type and not get distracted and go start watching YouTube videos or something. All I have to do is type. Type. Type. Type.

So, two days ago I went to Leavenworth. The idea was to climb on Friday, stay in a hotel in Wenatchee Friday night, climb Saturday morning, and then drive back to Seattle. And that’s what I did. I sort of had to FORCE myself to do it, because lately the inertia has been real. It’s hard for me to do anything that requires more than a half hour of driving. I wouldn’t say I’m CONTENT to sit around all day and watch YouTube videos and go on walks and do some work, but I’ve realized that flitting all over the place doesn’t make you content either, indeed makes you LESS content, so for now I’ve chosen the lesser of two evils. But I also know that I love bouldering more than anything in the world, so I was pretty sure if I hauled myself over the Cascades to Leavenworth I’d be glad I did.

And I was right.

And I climbed two new V3’s in one session, the first time I’d ever done that.

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

One of them, Giant Man, was a V3/4 in the guidebook, but a V3 on Mountain Project, and tall people seem to think it should even be V1 or V2. I can see the V2 rating from a physical perspective, but the danger factor definitely makes it harder to execute the moves. And I know John Sherman, when he invented the v-system, said the danger factor should not be taken into consideration when deciding the grade, but let’s face it, that’s not what’s happened in practice. Doing a V2 move 10-feet off the deck feels like doing a V3 move, or even V4. I’m all for the danger factor being taken into consideration with the grade, because I think the grade should be more holistic anyway.

Left foot out to the slightly-sloping but still good edge. Right food up to the diagonal edge. Reach the right hand over and grab the good hold just beneath the lip.

After sending Giant Man on like the third or fourth try (the V3 flash still eludes me), I went over to The Ferret V3, which I had just watched Random Crusher do before me, a dude who was at The Carnival Boulders with no pad, just his climbing shoes, chalk and dog. So I had the beta (I’d also just watched him do Giant Man [with no pad!!!]) and had the beta for that, too), which made things a lot easier. One of the hard parts of The Ferret is actually starting it out. You start on not a great edge on a slightly overhanging face, and have to do sort of a right drop knee to get your right hand out to the first hold. I then went through a forest of bumps, but most people, after latching the first hold, just reposition their feet and are able to proceed accordingly. But I’m still a bit of a novice. Not so good at figuring things out on my own. Or rather, I can figure things out on my own, but often my beta is wack and it takes me a LONG time to find the good beta.

After you get to the “ferret” hold you traverse up and left along a pretty good rail with some knobby holds on it. I did a right heel hand match at some point, but it probably wasn’t necessary. But it sure did feel cool. The top out was a bit gnarly ‘cuz there was a puddle in it, but easy once you figured out how to avoid the puddle and find the good holds.

I also did something on The Ferret that was extremely mature, and sort of had to force msyelf to do it in the moment. After I’d kind of puzzled out the start, and ALMOST sent it from the “ferret” hold (about three moves in), I figured I could probably send it from the ground up. HOWEVER, I forced myself to top it out starting from the ferret hold, and I think that move paid sweeping dividends. What could’ve easily happened if I hadn’t done this is I would’ve started at the bottom, gotten to the top out somewhat pumped, freaked out, not sent it (or fallen), and then spent subsequent attempts trying to redpoint it when all along I should’ve figured out the top out first. But what ACTUALLY happened is I topped it out from the ferret hold, and then on the very next go sent it from the ground up with relative ease.

Bam, two V3’s in one day, the first time that’s ever happened.

As a sort of dessert I then went over to The Washout Boulders, where I sent Slam Dunk V2, a boulder I’d tried in the past, in a couple tries. Slam Dunk is basically one big move from a huge ledge to a small edge just below the lip, and one thing you realize is that edge isn’t quite as good as you expect it to be. But I still sent it, and it was a great way to end the day. And by “end the day” I mean I sat there for awhile staring at Diry Dancing V4, bathed in waning afternoon sun, wondering if I should give that a go, too. It could’ve been glorious. But I didn’t; I held off, wanting to end the day on a good note.

A Tale of Two Sessions || Road to V5

I’d like to talk about two bouldering sessions today: One, the other day when I went to Gold Bar and climbed basically nothing and then it rained; and two, when I went to the River Boulders in Index last weekend and it was glorious.

I’ll start with Gold Bar.

The Gold Bar sesh was actually SUPPOSED to be a Leavenworth sesh, but as sometimes happens when I got to Gold Bar on the way to Leavenworth it was still dry and I thought, Why not just climb here? I figured it would still be kinda wet, but that at least the blocs not under trees would be dry.

And I was mostly right.

My goals were to get 10 v-points, try the start of Metroid Prime V6, try the first move of Midnight Lichen V4 and send Stepping Razor V2. I accomplished none of these goals. I warmed up on a new V0 around the corner from The Shorstop V2 and then went over to Stepping Razor V2 and The Button V3 and got shut down by both. Except I couldn’t just get shut down and let it go. I had just sent The Button a week or so previous fairly easily and so became obsessed with re-sending it. Then I would mix in burns on Stepping Razor, berating myself for not being able to send V2. My psyche spiraled. After burns on The Button I would scream “fuck” into the forest, no one around to hear it. Eventually I felt myself getting weaker and, in retrospect somewhat thankfully, it started to rain.

So I went back down the mountain, stopping to try the first moves on Obesity V7.

My worst sesh in a long, long time. And yet there were still positives to take from it. It made me more humble? It made me realize the important of multiple rest days between sessions? It made me realize that bouldering strength ebbs and flows and not every day can be a try hard day?

Contrast that with the session last weekend at the Skykomish River. This time I went into the session with no goals, the only goal being to climb whatever I felt like and to have fun and hopefully learn something. I actually started the session at the Five-star Warm-up boulder in Gold Bar but it was mostly wet and so pivoted to Index. The river boulders were dry. I started at the first boulder you come to, with some high-ball, polished warm-ups. I tried sending the polished slab, a V0, in bare feet and then when I felt myself getting closer put shoes on for the send. This was a satisfying V0 because I hadn’t gotten it the session before, it’s extremely polished and basically you just have to trust your feet. A great exercise in friction climbing.

After the slab I went over to Finger Crack V3 and got absolutely owned. I don’t know what it is about this boulder, but I can’t decipher it. I watch people in videos do it and it looks so easy, and then I try it and can barely get off the ground. But since it wasn’t part of my goals and I was just trying to have fun, I didn’t stress and moved on. To the Jewel V3.

At The Jewel, a bloc I’ve wanted to try for a LONG time but never had the pads for, something mystical happened. I tried various forms of beta, never able to reach the lip and feeling a bit off-balance, until I finally figured out a sequence in which I brought my right foot up, kept my left hand out wide, and then did a sort of side toe hook with my left foot on the same hold my left hand was on, allowing me to stand up on the good right foot and reach the lip. The lip was slopey but I’d spotted it before hand and knew there was a great ridge to the right. After matching the lip I was able to bring a foot to the good pocket where my right hand had been and then get my right hand onto the ridge, which felt like grabbing a granular loaf of bread.

This figuring out of beta was one of the most satisfying things I’ve experienced to date as a boulderer. It make something that felt like V3 or V4 feel like V1. I also, in just that one little move, learned a great deal about technique and balance. After the send I sat on my pad a bit, looking out over the river in the sun, and then schlepped the two massive pads back up to the car, where I had a glorious Hop Tea waiting for me.

So yeah, the first session not so great, but the Index Session? Glorious.