Everything You Got | R2V7/4 #24

The author getting ready to crush (get owned) at the Paradise Boulders.

Four days of rest. Four days of rehab. Four days of mental preparation, all leading up to tomorrow’s session. At the beginning of this summer I set the following goal: to climb V7 by the end of the summer. I have not done it. I have not, some might say, come close. Others might say that I am on the very precipice of greatness, all I need to do is take that step towards the edge…

Tomorrow. High temps around 70. The coldest temps in a long time. A tick list in my head. Which boulders to try. Dirty Dancing V4. Briefs V3. Alfalfa or Spanky? V5. The list goes on.

And on.

And on.

(and then it ends).

Listening to Kid Francescoli to mentally prepare. Doing pushups. Doing hip mobility exercises. Hanging from the ceiling of my boat. And most importantly: drinking yerba mate. The Trader Joe’s variety, 60mg of caffeine per bottle (usually in the cold drink section or over by the rest of the teas; you can always ask if you can’t find it. Also: I just asked today if they had discontinued it because I didn’t see it the other day at the Ballard Trader Joe’s but the guy working assured me they had not. Just an FYI). 60mg of pure psyche. Pure psyche that will have you climbing blocs you never thought possible to climb. You think you’re gonna climb V4 today? Wrong: You’re gonna climb V5. You think you’re gonna climb V7 today? Wrong: You’re gonna climb V2 (you’re going to have an uncharacteristically bad day due to crazy hot temps and a lingering finger injury). The point is this: today is gonna be special. So prepare. Have another sip of yerba mate. Have two. Hell, finish the damn bottle and then crush it in your hands (actually don’t because the bottles are glass. though if you could you probably have crazy strong grip strength).

When any of us strive toward a goal there will come a judgment day. A day when your preparation is put to the test. For me that day is tomorrow. I’ve spent the whole summer preparing. I’ve spent the whole summer mentally preparing. I have dialed in my diet, my training, my meditation, all with the goal of getting to V4 sometime in the next few days. And tomorrow it all pays off. Or it doesn’t. Tomorrow is the day of reckoning. Tomorrow my hands will grab holds and my feet will smear granite. Tomorrow the world will be watching.

And so as you go to bed tonight think of the goal you’ve been working on. How bad do you want it? Why do you want it? The thing about having bouldering goals is that when I wake up in the morning and go for a walk or run stairs to warm-up, I’m not just doing it to make myself feel good. I’m doing it because my focus is laser sharp. I’m doing it because I want to stretch afterward and work on my hip mobility, my shoulder mobility, my pelvic mobility, my tarsal mobility, my elbow mobility, my neck mobility, my social mobility. If you work out because you “want to feel good” or because “you think you should” you’re a damn fool. You need a goal, and you need it to be as specific as possible. Having the goal of climbing V7 and then at the last minute changing it to V4. That’s as specific as it gets. Because when I’m running up those stairs and my heart rate is climbing I know it’ll all be worth it when I get to the lip and people are screaming, “Come on, Mark. Try hard. Come on, Mark. Right now. Everything you got. Strong. Come on, Mark. No, seriously, come on, Mark. We gotta go. It’s getting dark and we have a decently long drive ahead of us plus we kinda wanted to get Chick Fil-A on the way home. So come on, Mark. So strong. Right here. Everything you got. And then let’s pack up the pads and get the hell out of here and maybe even get some tea on the way out. Come on, Mark.”

And then your hand reaches for the lip. They told you it was a jug but actually it’s kind of slopey. But you hold on anyway. The temps have dropped and you hope you don’t drop too. You’re slipping. This could’ve been it. This could’ve been your first V4, everything you’ve been working for. Come on, Mark. Strong. Everything you got. And then you realize there’s actually a really good foot hold that you didn’t notice because you didn’t even look down. And so you use that foothold and the top out is a piece of cake.

You pack up the pads and drive away with your friends. Oh, the satisfaction. Oh, the euphoria. There’s never been a sweeter drive home. The mountains have never felt higher.

And then you get home and realize on Mountain Project it’s only a V3.

– Wetz

 

A Modified Bouldering Goal | R2V7 #23

camp serene boulder aka zeke's boulder
Zeke’s Boulder aka The Camp Serene Boulder. Gold Bar, WA.

Autumn 2020 in the Northern Hemisphere will begin on September 22, 2020. This is earlier than I thought. I thought it was September 28th, or something like that. But that’s besides the point. The point is this: I have very little time to accomplish my goal, which was to send V7 by the end of the summer  (hence The Road to V7 that has dominated this blog for much of the past few months). There’s still a hail Mary chance it could happen. I COULD go to Mr. Smooth next week at the Skykomish River Boulders and somehow send it, but at this point I don’t really care. I wouldn’t consider sending Mr. Smooth really sending V7 since it would be such a fluke. So I’m going to concentrate on a modified goal, one that is actually achievable by the end of this summer (aka in the next four days): Climbing V4.

Yes, that’s right friends, you heard it here fifth: My goal has changed. I have modified my goal. Does this mean I’m going to give up on climbing V7 altogether? Of course. In fact, after I climb V4 I’m probably just going to give up on life. I’m going to let myself become obese and I’m going to start drinking again and I’m going to spend the majority of my days railing on about the “ills of society.” I’m going to move to Italy, and by Italy I of course mean New Hampshire. I’m going to buy a little cabin in the woods and fester there. I’m going to start talking to animals. And maybe, when no one’s looking, I’ll head out in the middle of the night, naked, to try to relive my bouldering glory days, a bottle of Fireball in one hand, a tube of liquid chalk in the other. Some Birkenstocks on my feet. And I’ll climb V0.

I’m kidding, of course. Guys, I’m not done bouldering. I’m just getting started. Yesterday I had a conversation with the doctor about my shoulder. It went a bit like this:

“Yoooooooo, Marko, what is cracking?”

“Hey doc, still running from all those malpractice suits?”

“Ha ha! You know it, dog. So tell me about your shoulder.”

“Well, doctor, it really does seem to be a classic overuse injury, I’m just not sure exactly which tendons/muscles it’s affecting. Apparently the most used muscles for climbing are the lats, but judging merely by its location it seems like it could also be the teres major.”

“Interesting, interesting. So, basically you’re just a huge pussy?”

“That’s right, doc. Haven’t even sent V4 yet.”

“Jesus.”

“I know.”

“I can literally send V4 using only one arm and one leg.”

“Doc, I’ve only been climbing for less than a year.”

“By the end of my first year I was already sending V10’s. Of course, there was a lot of coke going around those days…”

“Bishop?”

“God no. Red Rocks.”

“Cool.”

“OK. Here’s what to do about your shoulder.”

“I’m 78% ears.”

“First of all, stop complaining about it. Second of all, do some damn stretching. And third of all, send V4.”

Doc hangs up.

OK, so that was slightly different than the actual conversation, but I had to paraphrase because I don’t remember most of the real conversation. Basically it ended with the wonderful doctor giving me a referral for physical therapy. The thing is, I’ve already started doing my own physical therapy. I’ve found some killer videos on shoulder and hip mobility made by a guy named Tom Merrick in England. I’ve gotten a foam roller for my back and shoulder and IT bands and adductors and hamstrings. I’ve started doing chest exercises to strengthen the muscles that oppose the shoulder muscles. And lastly, I haven’t climbed in two full days. I’m resting. I’m a good little patient. I want to get better. I want to get strong. I might not even climb tomorrow. Or Sunday. I could possibly get three or four days of nourishing, unadulterated rest! Or I could just get in my car right now and drive to Serenity Now V4 and possibly send it. Or I could just leave my boat and walk to the grocery store. Or I could meditate. Or I could drive to REI and return the stupid therapy cane I bought which is completely superfluous now that I have a foam roller.

Before I go, I’ll leave you with a list of the most likely V4’s that could go in the next four days, thus completing my goal. One criteria! They must be listed as V4 in the guidebook AND ALSO ON MOUTAIN PROJECT! This means no I Don’t F$#ck with Cockroaches or French Tickler at the Paradise boulders. Anyway:

Zelda Rails V4 (Index)

Serenity Now V4 (Highway 2 just past Gold Bar)

Fridge Center V4 (Leavenworth) 

Unnamed V4 (on the King of Hill Boulder, Paradise, Skykomish)

Bushy Tail Traverse V5 (Paradise Boulders, near Skykomish)

(Side note: I walked to the bathroom right now and tried to think of more on the way but couldn’t. And then there was someone in the bathroom and I wanted to murder them. AKA I need to finish this post and go back. All caps AKA is way too aggressive. Aka is much better)

All right, so that’s it, that’s the goal. Send V4. I will be pretty happy if in the first nine months of my bouldering I’d already sent V4 outside. I feel like that’s not terrible. I’m already fairly happy just with V3, but V4 sounds way more badass. If you’re reading this and have any suggestions for V4’s that are ALSO V4’s on Mountain Project but on the softer side (see: Egyptian cotton pillow), please let me know. It’s gonna take some cooperation from the weather and my shoulder and my psyche for this to happen.

That said, a quiet confidence lingers throughout…..

Stay happy, stay healthy!

– Wetz

Questionable Shoe Purchase | Road to V7

Yeah, yeah, it’s the Road to V7, homies. As in, one day, insha’allah, I’ll climb V7. Or maybe I won’t. It doesn’t really matter at this point. All that matters is the movement. The way you touch the stone. The placement of a foot on a foothold. The crackle of a bag as you grab some tortilla chips while you listen to El Sonido on your boat at 10pm on a Monday night.

(hold on a sec while I do my daily Duolingo German).

OK done.

Today was my first time climbing in about two and a half weeks. It was pretty fun, but all I could think about was my shoulder. Has my shoulder healed? Am I ready to send V16 in Switzerland with Giuliano and the boys? Or is it going to be super hard to repeat all the V2’s and the two V3’s I’ve already done, let alone continue making progress, project more V3’s and V4’s and V5’s and beyond.

I have no idea. My shoulder felt….OK. Barold and I might go climbing tomorrow. I think it’ll be fine as long as I don’t overdo it, and by overdo it I mean as long as I don’t climb many days in a row. But I have no idea. I just went to Mexico and basically surfed 11 days straight and my shoulder hung in there. So why can’t I just climb like crazy? Why?

Speaking of climbing, you might be wondering why I’m doing Duolingo in German. I’ll tell you: It’s because I feel drawn to this language. It’s in my blood. All of my ancestors (well, almost all of them) come from Germany. Is it possible that on an instinctual level it feels comfortable for me to speak it? Or is that just woo woo hogwash? Are the Canucks going to win Game 5 tomorrow and then somehow force a Game 7? Or will Vegas take them down like the bullies they are? Is Quinn Hughes the best young player in the NHL right now?

The Skykomish river is so freakin’ low right now.

My recent trip to Mexico kind of got me excited about traveling again. But being forced to kind of hang around Seattle has also made me realize how much there is to do wherever you are. You don’t need go to faraway places for stimulation. I’ve always kinda thought you do. It’s always kinda been my answer for everything. But this morning I got up and walked to Fremont and on the way stopped to sit on a bench and look out at the ship canal, and there was just a slight tinge of fall in the air, and some leaves lying scattered on the ground, and the slightly muted light that fall brings, and it was beautiful. Why flit about the country like a fool when everything you need is in your backyard?

Well, cuz flitting is also kinda bomb, too. Slash, I’ll probably go to Chile this winter (their summer) if they open up again.

Also my life coach has me concentrating on making my boat a more habitable space. Now that I have plants there (see: friends) I actually kinda want to come back to it. To see how they’re doing. To make sure they’re OK.

Only one thing in my life is absolutely certain right now and that’s that I’m taking back the size 44.5 Scarpa Instincts I bought at REI today. I was so excited: An aggressive shoe! I’m going to be like Adam Ondra! I’m going to flash Midnight Lightning and move to Brno. But instead I got outside (you can’t try em on inside barefoot), put them on and almost started weeping. They were so tight. I could barely get my right foot in. And I know this is how badass climbers do it, I know they stretch out, but I’m just not cut out for a stress fracture in my right big toe right now because some stupid shoes are too tight.

Pies de gato?

So I’m going to take them back. And either exchange them for a less aggressive pair, or a bigger size, or maybe just keep sending my blown-out Scarpa Origins.

Anyway, that’s that. Send it.

(pardon the intermission)

Hello friends. As you may or may not have noticed it’s been awhile since I blogged. This is because I haven’t been bouldering and this blog is currently, ostensibly, dedicated to stone-wrestling. However! Do not despair, because I am not only back in the United States of America, I am also probably going bouldering pretty damn soon. Like, maybe even tomorrow. Like, I might just drive to the Camp Serene boulder tomorrow after my call with my life coach and try to send Serenity Now V4 once and for all, a prospect which terrifies me, like actually terrifies me, because once you get past the crux of this boulder (which I’ve never done), you’re, well, pretty damn high. And I don’t really know what to expect up there. I do know there is a gorgeous hold which basically looks like a brick. I do know that at the top of the boulder there’s a juggy seam which, once you grab, should make it pretty easy to top out. But I only know all of this in theory. I don’t know it in practice. I would like to know it in practice. I would like to know what it’s like to send V4.

But also, once I send V4 it doesn’t make me a V4 climber. You could give someone a basketball who’s never played the game before and tell ’em to shoot half-court shots and sooner or later they’re probably gonna sink one. Which is kind of like me projecting these V4’s right now. I still struggle with plenty of V2’s. Hell, I struggle with some V1’s. But also I feel like Serenity Now is within my wheelhouse. I feel like I’m pretty close to sending. I feel like it’s more mental than anything. And here’s the thing: I’ve never gone to this boulder fresh and just dedicated a session to trying to send Serenity Now. Like, given it my all.

Which I still might not do tomorrow because even if I do go bouldering I don’t know if I wanna just go to one boulder and have that be the whole session.

I’m sitting on my boat right now and one thing I’ve noticed since getting back yesterday evening is that the temps are starting to drop. We’re starting to get into the fall season. Leavenworth is going to be game on very, very, very (very) soon. This Saturday looks great for Leavenworth, but sadly (happily) I think I’m going surfing. Because that’s what I was doing the whole time in Mexico and I actually have surf muscles right now and I want to take advantage of them while being on the Olympic Peninsula with friends.

I hope you all have been well. Yesterday was a bit of a gnarly evening because I got back and drank a Focusaid and smoked a rollie and then had a hell of a time getting to sleep. I probably slept about five hours. If it weren’t for a wee nap around 12:30pm I would’ve been completely frazzled all day.

Friends, I’m having trouble once again finding purpose in life. I didn’t find it in my last job. It’s not completely there with bouldering or surfing. Something’s missing and I’m not sure what it is. It’s not a woman, though I would love to have a partner right now. It’s not a job, though actually it might be a job, just the right job. Maybe it’s writing? Maybe it’s blogging? Has that ever been enough? Have I ever dedicated myself in mind and soul and body to the blogging life? Maybe I should.

I’ll let you know tomorrow, or the next day, if I end up going bouldering tomorrow. I’ll let you know either way. If I don’t go tomorrow it will definitely be sometime next week. I’m thinking the Morpheus Boulders. I’m thinking the Clearcut Boulders. I’m thinking Fern Crack V3. I’m thinking Fridge Center V4 in Leavenworth. I’m thinking Fountain Blues V0 over and over and over.

Fall is coming and I’m not even mad about it!

 

Hellfire Burns (and Climbing Everyday) | R2V4 #16

If someone had a gun to my head today and said, “Send V4 or I’m gonna pull the trigger,” what would I do? Honestly, I don’t know if I would get in my car right now and go right to Serenity Now V4. I don’t know if that has the best sending potential. I DEFINITELY wouldn’t go to Zelda Dyno V4, since you gotta be able to rag on some decently small crimps for that one, and I don’t want to do that right now. I’d need something that I sort of have the beta on, and that’s sort of my style. Maybe The Enigma V4, at the River Boulders? Maybe Dropping the Chicken V4 up at the Devil’s Club Forest Boulders, though last time I wasn’t really even coming close to getting the first move? Maybe Fridge Center V4, though the high today in Leavenworth is supposed to be…..dear jesus…104?

Anyway, just some fun morning thoughts. I guess in the end I would realistically drive straight to Serenity Now V4, mess around on the slab a bit, maybe climb up the downclimb to warm up, and then give it a few balls-to-the-wall burns.  Like, hellfire burns. Like, scream burns. Like, pretend-you-don’t-have-a-pad burns. Like, actually take your pad away to make falling less of an option? burns. Or something like that. The question is, would the dude (I’m assuming it’s a dude) with the gun ride shotgun with me to the boulder, holding the gun to my head the whole way? Would he drive his own car? Would that car be something vaguely pathetic, like a newish Mustang? Would he be the kind of guy who wears a leather coat? And why would he care so much about me sending V4? Why wouldn’t he want to just support my progression as a climber? Or maybe he WOULD be supporting my progression as a boulderer, just in ways beyond my comprehension.

Is this the lion’s mane talking?

For the time being I’m going to do one of two things: Not write posts for awhile, until I can start climbing again. OR, ALTERNATIVELY, write posts every damn day. Because since I’m not working right now I have more time to write, and I kind of like starting the morning in this way. I get up, I prepare myself a cup of matcha bacopa lion’s mane sludge, and I pull out the laptop. I think about bouldering even if I’m not really trying to. I think about going climbing that day even though I definitely shouldn’t. Or maybe I should climb everyday. Maybe I should legitimately figure out a way to basically be climbing everyday. Like, put myself on a schedule where I’m climbing two days on, one day off, and it doesn’t matter how hard I send, it doesn’t matter how long I climb or what I climb, I just have to get out there. Though that’s a lot of driving. And I JUST froze my gym membership. Not that I really feel like climbing in a gym right now anyway. But if I DID do that, and my body were to adjust, then I’d get really damn strong, really damn quick. I’d be sending a message to my body that says, “Hey, dickweed, we’re going to be doing this (almost) everyday. So get used to it. Maybe help me out with those tendon flexors a bit? Thanks.” But instead the message I’m sending to my body right now is, “Ohhhh, are you hurt? Are you feeling bad? I’m so sorry. Take a week off. Take two. Wouldn’t want to overdo it….”

No, the answer is: overdo it. Be a gladiator. Be a warrior. Send V4.

Bogged Down in the Mire | R2V-enlightentment

Yours truly preparing for lift-off on Hueco Man V0, one of two V0’s in the Western Washington Bouldering guidebook’s Top 100. Pictures of Barold crushing to come.

I may have to take a break from bouldering. Yes, you read that correctly. Yes, I’m still planning on bouldering tomorrow (see: hiking), and yes, this is something that would injure me to my very soul (and not just my finger pulleys). The thing is: My right hand is dying. It feels kinda dead. Yesterday I was trying to crank the first move on Mr. Smooth V7 (Aka River Arete Aka V-Bizarre), and I felt something in my right index finger just kinda…pull. Like a pully? Did I fuck up my pulley?

Maybe.

And so Barold and I stopped bouldering. Not so much actually because I had possibly just injured myself, but because it was getting hot as balls at the Skykomish River Boulders and we were kind of over the whole scene, aka we had both sent Hueco Man V0, which involves a fun, frictiony first move and a rather unsettling top out, and we’d also sent an Unknown V1 that was super fun, and we’d also made significant progress on an Unknown V3 that really needs to be named because it’s a tremendous problem (is it a tremendous problem?), involving a beautiful sloping ledge and a kind of mantle/lock off thing to a gaston just below the lip that brought us unexpected amounts of joy despite our lack of sendage.

And then we went back up to the van, which was, kind of, sort of, completely, stuck. Like, the right rear wheel was just spinning. And we couldn’t move forward because a tree was blocking us. So what did we do? We smoked a rollie and chilled. And then what did we do? Well, I started stressing slightly because I had an engagement later that evening at 7:30pm at an historic Volunteer Park, and I was a bit concerned I was gonna miss that. I also started stressing a bit because I figured we might have to call Bubba’s Towing Service (name approximate) and that he would charge us an arm and a clavicle to yank the Sprinter out of the mire. I was also worried that I might use the word “mire” and that Bubba might think I was calling him a name and try to get physical (in which case I could surely outrun him).

But none of this happened. Because we did the best thing you can EVER DO WHEN CONFRONTING A DIFFICULT DECISION (caps Bubba’s):

We took a walk.

Yes, friends, it was a beautiful summer’s day, and Barold and I took a summer stroll through the forest toward Index, where Barold flagged down a passing and cyclist and demanded, “What ho, are you a local(e)?”

To which the local replied: “Yes. Why do you ask?”

To which I responded: “Kind sir, our chariot has become bogged down in the mire. We try to reverse but one of the wheels (aspirated “h”) just spins. Might you have a shovel?”

To which he responded: “Dude, hell yes I have a shovel. Let me just grab it for you real quick.”

Which he did.

Also on the walk to get the shovel, an idea occurred to Barold: Why don’t we jack up the offending tyre, put a bunch of rocks under it, no, essentially build a MOTHERF@!KING ROAD under it, and then let the tyre down and try to reverse then. Because you see the problem was that the tyre wasn’t able to gain purchase on anything, since the car was (mildly) high-centred. And so we were pretty confident that using the jack technique, and also shoveling the dirt out from behind the right front wheel (another quagmire altogether), we would be successful.

Back at the vehicle, Barold went to work jacking and I went to work shoveling. I was a modern-day laborer, getting by by the sweat of my back. I took the mound behind the front right tire and quickly reduced it to a….smaller mound. Meanwhile, Barold built what was essentially a cobblestone I-90 under the rear right tire, and we were able to give it a go. And guess what? It worked (though actually on the second attempt).

Fist bumps and even a high five abounded. The day was successful, in a type 2 sort of way.

But back to my “injury.” I believe my injury is at least partly mental, though I do believe my body is screaming for an extended break. Which is why, friends, after tomorrow’s hiking and very moderate sesh (I’ll maybe climb the Warm-Up Slab just for fun), I plan to take a week-plus off from bouldering. Yes, again you have a read correctly. A week plus. I need to start healing. I need to get back to where I was, both physically and mentally, before I went off the rails a couple weeks ago and overdid it and derailed myself both physically and mentally. I need to get my brain and body out of the mire.

Purity | R2V∞

I feel like some of the purity from my “early” bouldering days has been lost. I’m not sure why this is. I feel like the golden days of my bouldering were a couple months ago when I was making rapid progression, gaining muscle and finger strength, bolstering my head game outside, and making little trips to Gold Bar and Leavenworth whenever I could that were all the more special because I couldn’t do them that often.

Fast forward to now, when I could literally boulder every day if my body permitted it (which is of course exactly what happened the week before last). I’ve hit a sort of plateau at about V2 despite still constantly watching bouldering videos on YouTube, constantly thinking about bouldering, and still climbing quite a bit. Honestly, the best thing I could probably do for myself would be do take two weeks off. And I’ll do something similar to that soon if my right hand doesn’t figure itself out. If I continue to have finger problems on a my right hand over the next couple weeks, I’ll get out of dodge, maybe sail up to the San Juans, maybe fly down to Mexico, and take some time off. After all, bouldering is supposed to be like piano for me. Pure, only for myself. When I start stressing about grades or whether or not I’m making progress, when I start getting injured and trying to push through those injuries, some of that purity is sacrificed.

But I also think of it this way: This was bound to happen. I couldn’t continue my meteoric progression. At the rate I was going, easily from V0 to V1 to V2 and then getting a couple V3’s and starting to project V4’s it looked like bouldering V7 by the end of the summer was entirely possible, if not reasonable. But this isn’t how it works. Especially when you’re almost 37 and you’ve been bouldering for last than a year. You’re going to push it too hard. You’re going to get injured. And if you do it from an egoic place in which the only thing that matters is proving something or doing a certain grade, you’re fucked. I need to go back to Fountainblues V0 in Leavenworth and just do it over and over, savoring the slopers. I need to get back to the micro side of bouldering, the way a hold feels when you grab it. Giving each hold the love and attention it deserves, not just focusing on sends or progression. And I also have to think of it this way. I was going to have to deal with setbacks eventually, better to do it now and figure out what I’m made of. Figure out how badly I want this. Figure out if I’m capable of continuing “pure” bouldering, bouldering just for myself, for no one else, and not because it means anything, but rather expressly because it doesn’t.  Realize that the Road to V7 is not actually a road, and the destination is not actually V7. The road is actually an entire universe of valleys and forests and rivers and lakes, meadows, pitfalls, rain, sunshine, clouds. And the destination is not actually V7 but rather the feeling of my fingers touching granite, the feeling of moving perfectly from one hold to the next, the feeling of, just for an instant, my brain turning off. I haven’t forgotten what the purity is, even if I’ve momentarily lost touch with it.

How to Not Boulder | R2V4 #11

What if I told the most important thing about bouldering was….not bouldering?

What if I told you that?

What if I came to your house in the middle of the night, broke in, started preparing a bowl of cereal with milk in your kitchen and then, when you came down, irate and holding a firearm, I told you, “Hear me, Grasshopper: The way to crushing V10 is to…not climb at all.”

Because this is exactly what I’ve learned ever since I “quit” my job just over two weeks ago. That if you want to crush, if you want to send gnarly blocs, if you want to mangle overhanging walls with tiny crimpy pseudo-holds, what you really need to do is train properly. And, as my new Czech friend Ales explained to me yesterday, thus sparking a sort of apostrophe (see: Hook) on my part, “Rest is an important part of training.”

I think the reason it resonated with me so much is because he employed the word “training.” I like the idea of training, because I like the idea of being an athlete. I’m an athlete. I’m a 36-year-old man-athlete. I have a low resting heart-rate. I’ve done long bike rides and walked across countries. I’ve played just about every sport there is. But now it’s time to start treating myself like an athlete. Eating properly. Training properly. Bouldering properly. Sending properly. RESTING PROPERLY.

Because yesterday I sent nothing at all.

Nothing new, at least.

Last week I climbed 6 OUT OF 7 DAYS, and it almost destroyed me. My shoulder began to fail. About half the knuckles on my hands started to fail. I was literally (figuratively) falling apart. I was not making progress. I was making reverse progress, and not in a good way (though actually totally in a good way because progress can NEVER be in reverse if you have the right attitude. Because what has all this REVERSE PROGRESS DONE? WHAT HAS IT DONE? It’s led me to this amazing realization that if I want to get stronger and send harder that I need to incorporate forced rest days into my training routine. There, I said it: training routine. There, I said it again: training routine. And one last time, I said it again: metacarpophalangeal).

So yeah, I don’t even really want to talk about yesterday’s sesh too much. Ales and I walked up to the clearcut boulders, he sent Cabin Stabbin’ V4 after a few tries. I couldn’t even get close. We walked up to Summer Solstice V3. He flashed it. I barely made progress at all. We went to Bricklayer V2 and I shit my pants at the bottom and didn’t even try it. We went to Midnight Lichen V4, which he flashed, I SORT OF made a tiny bit of progress on, and then he projected Stinkin’ Slopers V5 and eventually sent it in amazing fashion (one of those slopers on that boulder is built out of marshmallows and probably tastes like it. If you’ve been there you know which one I’m talking about).

So today is a FORCED REST DAY. I mean, not stagnation. Just not climbing. Plenty of other stuff.

Which reminds me: I need to go buy some mate…..

Metacarpophalangeal | R2V4 #10

Waking up on the boat drinking mate. Isn’t that pretty much exactly how I started the last post? I feel a bit like I’m in some sort of purgatory waiting for the next climbing session, but like I’m also TERRIFIED for the next climbing session because of the state of my fingers, see: finger. The swelling has finally gone down in my hands to where I pretty much wake up with no swelling, except that I still can’t close the middle finger on my right hand and there is definite pain in the MCP (metacarpophalangeal) joint, aka the joint closest to the finger tip. This is distressing. Is it a stress fracture? Partial tendon or ligament tear? Micro tears? Strain? I obviously have no idea. All I know is that there is pain. One thing that is GREAT is that now I’ve at least figured out where the pain is, since I’d previously thought the pain was actually in my index finger. Which caused me to leave my index finger out every time I had to crimp, locking off my MIDDLE finger a la Tommy Caldwell, and this is probably what actually led to the injury in the first place. I thought my index finger was messed up, so I start using my middle finger instead. And now my middle is effed. And I’m not sure what to do. I’m not going to STOP climbing. That would just be ridiculous. I have to figure out ways to still climb and let this heal while still pushing down the illustrious, silky, Mesopotamian, mate-laden, ROAD TO V7.

The most distressing thing is that I’m legit kinda scared to go climbing tomorrow. Scared of the pain, scared of hurting myself even more, and also scared of getting up there and not being able to send at all because one tiny little joint on ONE of my fingers is messed up. There’s gotta be a way around this. I will find a way around this. The only thing I know for sure is that just NOT CLIMBING would be the worst decision possible (or possibly a great decision).

Plan: rest one more day (today). Do some hanging/core training today, see how it feels (no crimping involved, obviously). Tomorrow, when I climb, do not do a single closed crimp. Not a single one. Not even if I’m about to send V7 and the only thing between me and the lip is a tiny little chip that’s just begging for the tip of my middle finger. Nope. Stay away. No right hand closed crimping. Maybe a half. Certainly open. And try to leave that middle finger out of it. Here’s the deal about bones: they get stronger when they’re put under stress. Unless the stress is too much, in which case they break. I have broken fingers in the past and it wasn’t a big deal. I broke one of my fingers in high school and didn’t even know it until I broke it again. Rest if you HAVE to. Sometimes rest can be the best decision. But if you rest and then go right back to doing the same exact thing that was hurting you, you’ll likely just hurt yourself again. But if you keep going in a MODIFIED way, then you can climb forever, and send V7, and everyone will love you. But if you quit climbing no one will love you.

Should I splint it???

This Road to V4 is dragging on, isn’t it? Maybe tomorrow I’ll just send The Enigma V4 at the Index River Boulders and be DONE WITH IT. Move on to V5! Start projecting Piano Man V5 at the Morpheus Boulders! Or maybe I’ll just send Mr. Smooth V7 tomorrow and be done with it completely! Although I was thinking: Ideally I should send at least three V7’s to really be able to claim the grade. One crimpy V7, one slopery V7, and one wildcard V7. Because sending one V7 might just mean that you found the EXACT boulder suited to your style, and on a perfect day you were able to send. But you still can’t send V5. And you’re an overall V2 climber. Or something.

I feel like I wanna talk about other stuff in my life, not just about bouldering. So what can I talk about? Well, the weather has been gorgeous in Seattle lately. I’ve been swimming everyday. The climbing gym is also open, though this week I haven’t gone at all due to wanting to become un-injured. The blackberries are starting to get ripe. I have coconut meat in my fridge. I’ve been drinking a TON of yerba mate. I’m going backpacking with my friend Dan in August for a few days and also hope to sail up to the San Juan’s at some point.

One thing I would LOVE to do is come up with some sort of detailed plan for the next few months of my life. So I’ll try a rough esquema right here:

1) This week: don’t climb more than twice (once outdoors and once indoors). Try not to get more injured (but also try to send V4).

2) Next week: Try to climb three times (twice outdoors and once indoors)? Continue to be mindful of fingers on right hand.

3) August: Boulder my ass off, go backpacking, go on a sailing trip to the San Juan’s, surf a little bit, eat really really really healthy.

4) Late August early September: Start prepping for the long voyage. Buy dinghy, Garmin InReach, solar setup, and fix the jib.

5) Late September: Leave south.

Something is still lacking. I can’t figure out what it is. Meditation, maybe. Yoga. Quality time with Quality people. I’m not exactly sure what’s lacking, but I plan on figuring it out.

Hella Seaweed | R2V4 #9

Chillin’ on the boat, drinking mate and listening to Polo & Pan. Just got back from Oregon/Westport yesterday and went straight to the climbing gym, where Barold and I projected a couple blacks and blues and sent a couple oranges at Seattle Bouldering Project. I was stoked because I flashed two oranges, which I’d never done before. Now, just to dispel any doubts: from my experience the problems set in the Northwest Room of SBP are not any easier than the problems anywhere else. The black we were trying yesterday felt as hard as any of the blacks anywhere else, i.e. we couldn’t do them but we could sort of get close. I could do a few of the moves on one of the blues, which has been consistent with my experience anywhere else in the gym. Where did this rumor come from that the Northwest Room is somehow easier or for “different body types?” Can someone please not enlighten me?

Now, one thing I’m going to be candid about here because I’ve always been candid with you guys and I feel like that’s the kind of relationship we’ve developed: My right hand feels fucked. Like, it’s sort of become a claw more than a hand. I can’t fully close it. I definitely can’t close the right middle finger. The second joint of my right middle finger is noticeably bigger than the one on the the left. Couple this with the on-point calluses currently on all my fingertips, and it feels a bit like I have “climbing appendages” more than hands. Which is kind of rad.

Also, I have a three-point plan for attacking this latest finger malady: 1) Eat hella seaweed, 2) Use the anti-inflammatory cream I have, 3) switch to open-handed crimps. All of these are easy to do and implemented properly could potentially yield sweeping dividends. Especially the seaweed. There’s something about eating seaweed that just makes you feel kind cool.

The other thing I’m going to do is rest. Sort of. I’m at least not going to climb “today,” aka today, and I might not even climb tomorrow since the high in Gold Bar is in the mid 80’s and the high in Leavenworth is probably in the mid 200’s. But I will have to climb sort of soon. Ideally I would not climb for the next two days, but I know that’s not going to happen. Also, in my experience the following is often true: If your body is acting up from overuse, sometimes the best thing you can do is keep going. Whenever I go on surf trips with my friend El Cazador we always surf at least twice a day and at the beginning my left shoulder is always hanging on by a thread but I just try not to push it TOO hard and my body always ends up adjusting. Like, when stressed, your body adjusts. And movement is almost always a good thing. So with my right hand right now rather than STOP CLIMBING COMPLETELY like a Donald I’m just going to take a few strategic breaks and also modify certain behaviors. Keep sessions short and sweet. Avoid crimping with my right hand when possible, and when not possible employ open-handed crimps. Search out slopers like a bloodhound. Make sure to keep moving even if I’m not climbing. Etc etc?

I feel like I’ve been on the Road to V4 for a long time now. But this is what’s going to happen. I have a FEELING that there we might be a quick jump between V4 and V5, or V5 and V6, but other than that I feel like each V-grade from now on is going to be a bit of a saga unto itself. The Road to V7 is not paved with gold. It’s more paved with swollen fingers and frustration and wondering why your’e not getting better despite the fact that you climb almost everyday. But you are getting better. You just don’t realize it. Yesterday for instance I did something I’ve seen people do in videos that I’d never done. I threw a heel hook on a hold where my hand already was so I could then move my hand. So sick. This is the kind of movement that you only learn by watching people way better than you, and it made the climb so much easier, and just made me feel really cool.

Also: the new pic from the homepage is from Cannon Beach, where Barold and I hit up a bloc we found on Mountain Project. The line in question is a V3 called Spare Change we weren’t able to send but should go next time we’re back with a pad and better beta. Sick line and thanks to whoever put it up. We started on the right, shelf-like undercling rather than the smaller one on the face. No idea if that was “right” but it was definitely more fun and allowed for more climbing.

Now it’s time to watch Chelsea play in the FA Cup, aka Christian Pulisic, aka Cha Boi!