Update: Road to V6

Well, friends, it’s been a long time since I’ve written on here, and an even longer time since I’ve posted in the Road to V-whatever series, which is now the Road to V6 ever since I sent Zelda Rails Right V5 way back when, a problem that is somehow V5 on both Mountain Project AND Sendage despite being significantly easier than many V4’s (in my opinion) Why haven’t I been writing? you ask. Or maybe you don’t ask. But let’s say you DO ask, in which case I’ll tell you: I haven’t been writing because I haven’t really felt like it. It’s that simple. But this morning I kind of DO feel like it, and it turns out I’ve been climbing quite a bit lately, so I thought a “Road to…” post might be appropriate.

Basically, here’s the deal: I recently took a month off from climbing to travel to Mexico and South America, and that month did me a lot of good, not only in terms of letting my body recuperate but also in terms of getting rid of some mental baggage that had been building up for me with climbing. For lack of a better term, I was sort of in a rut. I wasn’t listening to my body. I THOUGHT I was eating well but looking back I think I was basically just starving myself. And as far as climbing goes I was getting into all kinds of mental ruts involving progression and grades and WHY I was climbing and all that stuff. It sort of wasn’t even that fun for me anymore. I mean, yes, it was fun, but I didn’t feel that free. I felt like I had to climb a “certain way” and that “certain way” was the only way to get better. I thought I had to focus on my footwork, that I had to focus on keeping my hips close to the wall, that I had to get better at climbing static, etc etc etc etc etc etc ad infinitum.

And here’s the thing: All those things are true. I DO need to get better at climbing static, at keeping my hips into the wall, and all that crap. But obsessing over that stuff and getting down on myself for it was not only holding me back — it was also keeping me from having fun and developing the things I’m really good at, i.e. dynamic climbing and intuitive movement. Now, when it comes to dynamic climbing, that’s pretty straightforward, because I like dynamic movement and come from an athletic background. But the intuitive movement part is a bit more nuanced. Intuitive movement is a strength of mine IN GENERAL, but it’s not necessarily a strength of mine in climbing. The movement that will help you get past someone in soccer or scramble up a talus field or quickly load the dishwasher is a good kind of thing to be able to do intuitively, but the problem is sometimes in climbing the best movement is NOT intuitive. Or, as I was discussing with my friend Matt the other day, sometimes ONE non-intuitive movement will then lead to a much easier sequence down the road. For example, it might felt really natural to go for the crimp with your left hand, but if you could just figure out how to grab it with your RIGHT hand then all the subsequent moves would be much easier. And so, knowing that this was true, I was becoming TOO cerebral with my climbing, as opposed to just getting on the wall and seeing what would happen. You have to find the middle path, not only in movement but with all things. So when I came back from South America I was just climbing, not overthinking it, and the result was I was having tons of fun and actually climbing pretty well. And now as time goes on I’m trying to incorporate thinking, but also not thinking too much. Thinking is especially good for when you’re tired, and also for sussing out a climb. Most of the time you can look at a climb and decide whether it’s possible for you or not. Other times you need to just turn off your brain and pull on.

All that said, let’s talk about the session in Leavenworth last weekend, in which I sent a new V3, got shut down by the top out of a new V4….

(to be continued next post)

 

Time to Fast || R2V6 #3

For some reason I never posted this. But I kinda like it. So here it is:

OK OK OK OK. I’ll talk about the session at Smith Rock yesterday. I don’t want to talk about it because it involves rope climbing, but I’ll talk about it anyway.

Basically what happened was this: a crew of five of us went down to Redmond, Oregon ostensibly to climb at Smith. The first day though people went skiing. Adi and I didn’t ski but rather hung out with her friend who lives in Bend and played with her dogs. Which was the correct decision. I haven’t skied in 22 years, and so I need to plot my return to glory carefully. Also it would’ve cost $150. So yeah, not skiing was the right decision.

Then YESTERDAY we went to Smith. But first we stopped at Junction Coffee in Redmond. If you’re in the area, I highly recommend this place. The coffee is delicious. The décor is tasteful. And when we were there they had soothing French music playing. I got an oat milk latte and it was sublime. If I wasn’t fasting today I might go back there. Though probably not because I’m sure Bend has great coffee too. Does Bend have good coffee? I have no idea.

The main thing you need to know about Smith Rock is that it’s BEAUTIFUL. Beautiful in an, “Oh my god this place is idyllic I wonder what it looked like before the influence of humans there were probably animals and shit way.” Beautiful in a, “Damn this kind of like a mini Yosemite” way. Beautiful in like a, “God I hate rope climbing literally the only thing you do is bake at the bottom of the cliff and yell at each other” way.  It must be said though that my body was not feeling in tip top shape, so I didn’t try any remotely hard climbs. Had I tried harder climbs, had I LED, I might’ve been more stoked on the climbing. But my body just didn’t feel good, hence the reason I’m fasting right now.

OK so that was Smith. Then afterward I went to the Meadow Camp Boulders for the first time and tried to climb Centrifuge V2 and Zithromax V2. I got shut down on both. I think they’re both fairly stout V2’s. Zithromax seemed kinda sick. I figured out some beta for the start and could probably huck to a good hold up on the arete but wanted to do it static. The landing was not good. I had one tri-panel pad that was basically folded in half on a rock. I’m debating going back there tomorrow for round two, and I’ll probably hike there today from the LOGE, where I’m staying, to check out the rest of the area. The best thing to do on a rest day is check out new blocs.

ANYWAY, as I mentioned before I’m also fasting. The goal for this fast is 72 hours, which is a big goal. I just passed the 16 hour mark, which is actually no small feat. Fasting is all about mindset. If you have it in your head you’re DEFINITELY GOING TO FAST UNTIL YOU WITHER, you’ll fast for a long time. But if you think, Ohhhhh, I’ll just see how it goes. Maybe I’ll do 24 hours, maybe I’ll do 36, then you’ll probably do 16 and go straight to Chipotle and drown yourself in a burrito (which is actually what I did yesterday for my last meal and it was delicious).

So yeah, the goal for the rest of the time in Bend is to fast. The plan right now is to stay till Wednesday morning, still fasting, and then drive back to Seattle, still fasting, and then break the fast at 17:33 on Wednesday. If this happens, it will be my longest fast ever by a day. Mostly I’m stoked right now to get to the 20 hour mark, because that’s apparently when a lot of detoxing happens. I got some detox tea yesterday from Safeway and so far today am actually DOING things. One trap you can fall into when fasting is just laying around all day watching the minutes tick by.

But anyway. Bouldering. Tomorrow. Tomorrow maybe I’ll go to Bar Fly V6, or maybe Blood Knuckle V5, or maybe I’ll just say screw it and go back to Zithromax and throw myself at it and not send it and start crying.

 

Bend to Seattle Driving Directions

I leave the LOGE, everyone’s favorite hipster motel, at around 8:00am. I’ve now been fasting for over 60 hours. At 72 hours, I can break the fast. I’ve put a lot of thought into what I’ll break my fast with. So far the frontrunner is grass-fed bougie yogurt by Alexandra, which I plan to purchase at Whole Foods on the way to my boat. Other candidates include bone broth, sardines and a coconut smoothie.

The girl at the reception gives me coffee despite saying that it’s only for guests “who’d been promised it.”

I was promised no such thing, I tell her, but she gives it to me for free anyway.

I’m now on the road, making my way through Bend to Highway 97, drinking said coffee. There isn’t much traffic.  A little bit heading north to Redmond, but that soon peters out. After Madras and a stop to refuel at the Plateau Travel Plaza, a place I’ll now go to for all my gasoline needs since they allow self-service in Oregon (!), it peters out completely. It’s just me and the open road and a Subaru who seems hellbent on passing me. Heckbent. I pull over to check some boulders, but realize their access is blocked by a gate because they’re on private land. How many amazing boulder problems will never get climbed because they’re owned by some guy named Cleatus in Central Oregon who’d rather shoot you full of buckshot than let you climb his fantasy blocs? Probably not that many, actually. But some.

I like transitions when driving. I imagine we all do. Which is why it pleases me when the ponderosa pines and the sage brush give way to evergreens as we climb into the foothills of Mount Hood. Then it’s all evergreens, and it’s wet, and pretty soon it’s snowing. A black BMW is tailgating me and eventually passes me in a lane covered with slush and pebbles, their tires slinging slush at the Subee. I flip them off. Damn right I flip them off. Why not? They’re driving like an asshole, and I want them to know it.

In Sandy, Oregon, I stop at Safeway hoping they’ll have the FitAid Zero recovery drink, which has only five calories and I’ve decided is OK for my fast, but they don’t. In fact, they don’t stock any FitAid products. Instead I buy some kind of Evian drink with zinc and magnesium, and also some Smart Water, and go out in the parking lot and sit in my car. In about a half hour I’ll be in Washington. As far as any weather goes, the hardest part of the trip is behind me. But the only interesting part of the trip is also behind me, too. Driving the I-5 corridor up from Portland to Seattle is about the most boring drive on the planet, especially when you’ve done it many times. To top it off, the Subee doesn’t do well at high speeds. She hates them. The Subee was happy back when the speed limit was 55, because then she could go 59 and feel like a badass. But she doesn’t like I-5. Going 67 feels SORT OF OK, but anything above that and she gets nervous. Couple that with the fact that I feel a bit delirious from the fast and the coffee and I’m not exactly looking forward to the second half of the trip. But c’est la vie, or asi es la vida, or so ist das Leben or however you’d like to say it. For now the only thing that matters is that I’m sitting in a parking lot in Sandy, Oregon, and life is pretty good. I’m in the process of doing my longest fast ever. My body feels supremely not inflamed, though it must be said that the recent back exercises I’ve started doing have me feeling a bit weird. But whatever.

I stop at a rest stop somewhere on the I-5 corridor about a half hour north of Portland to do a little walking around and possibly my back exercises. There’s a dude with an old Subaru with a bunch of shit in it and a cardboard sign that says something like, “Homeless. Anything helps,” and I think, Dude, you’re not homeless. You have a car. I do a couple laps around the rest stop. Rest stops are such a weird environment. Everyone is transiting. No one really talks to each other.  Most people don’t stay for more than a few minutes. I guess the truckers stay for a long time sometimes. The truckers sleep. The truckers sit in their trucks watching YouTube videos. The truckers sit in their trucks reading Proust.

My body starts feeling gnarly right around Centralia. My back feels gnarly. I need to get out of this fucking car. I love the Subee but mother of god get me out of here. In about four hours I can finally eat, but I have a sudden urge to do some climbing on the way home, and also to hang out with someone. I want to see what it’s like to hang out with someone after not having eaten for three days. I call Matt and ask him if he wants to climb at SBP. He says he’s there “working” and just come get him when I get there. When I get there we sit and talk about climbing and his living situation for a bit, and then we make our way downstairs to do some easy climbs. My body feels gnarly, but it also feels kinda good. I feel kinda free. I don’t feel strong, exactly, but I feel kinda free. I have abs. There’s nothing like starving yourself for a few days to get abs. I can’t wait to get home and pee on a keto strip to see just how deeply I’m in ketosis. Thing’s gonna be purple AF. I climb fairly easy, not trying anything harder than a purple, and down climbing rather than falling. And when things get too hard I bail and down climb, rather than push myself to where I might take a fall. My back will thank me. My back is thanking me.

Finally, after a stop at Whole Foods on the way home from climbing, it’s time to eat. I do my back exercises one more time and then it’s 5:33pm and now I can do whatever I want. The world’s my oyster, and it’s shucked and sitting right in front of me with lemon and a nice mignonette. Except in my case the oyster is a vat of premium yogurt, which I tuck into. Or at least try to tuck into. It doesn’t taste that good. It’s disappointing. And my body is actually screaming for something else, so I reach for the sardines.

 

 

Serenity Now || R2V6 #2

The Road to V6 is in full swing.

Yesterday Matt and I went to the Camp Serene Boulder after going to the Five-Star Boulder and getting shut down because it was wet. The Camp Serene Boulder, however, was gloriously dry, as it often is due to its exposed location and the wind that whips through the Skykomish Valley.

We warmed up on Insanity Later, a V2 slab. It’s a fun problem with the crux somewhat high off the deck, and you have to trust semi-insecure feet. It took Matt about two tries to puzzle it out, and it took me a couple tries (I’d done it before, though) to puzzle out some beta that didn’t involve super high feet, because I didn’t want to aggravate my hip flexors.

We then went over the real business on the boulder, Serenity Now, a divine V4+ highball that’s a V5 in the guidebook, and Ryan’s Problem, aka Climax Control, a V6 (V6- on Mountain Project) that shares the start with Serenity Now but then heads off to the right after the dihedral. Both of these problems are about as epic as they come in the state of Washington, and feature insanely good movement. We had good paddage in the form of two tri-panel pads, one normal-sized pad, and one normal dimension pad but probably only 2-3 inches thick. With the two big pads, though, you can pad almost anything. And you want some pads for the Camp Serene Boulder, since any fall from even halfway up is (or at least feels like) a long way down. We were also able to better inspect the lip and upper holds on Serenity Now and Ryan’s Problem after climbing the V2 slab, which comforted us a bit. If there are jugs in the vicinity of the lip, it’s good to know where they are. And there are jugs up there.

Since we weren’t fully warmed up, we started by just doing some of the first moves, the ones that get you into the dihedral. These are straightforward moves, but they still require some decent pulling, and though the holds are juggy for someone used to climbing V6, they’re not juggy for someone used to climbing V2. I hadn’t tried Serenity Now in a lukewarm minute, so getting into the dihedral felt like quite a bit of work. However, when I did it, I immediately went for a high left foot and then kind of crouched down and tried to pull my right foot up. This allowed me to then windmill my right arm over to hopefully grab either the seam below the bread loaf hold, or the bread loaf hold itself. I fell the first time because I didn’t have my right foot set up properly, but on the second go was able to get the bread loaf hold for the first time in my life, and thus navigated the crux of Serenity Now — something that had stymied me over and over again in the past — for the first time.

Then, however, things get real. The bread loaf is an amazing hold, but then you have to paste your feet on the wall and lock off with your right hand to go for the final jug on the lip. It’s not a crazy hard move, but it requires some strength and nerves since you’re very high at this point. You’re also a bit tired, having navigated quite a few moves to get there (at least six hand moves). I have to admit I was pretty scared at this point, but gave going for the jug a good go, almost got it, sort of latched a bad crimp below it, and then ALMOST got it, aka got about halfway in it, and then backed off for fear of slipping off. It was a scary experience, and I’m glad I backed off and came back down. Better to suss it out, first. And then I could at least revel in getting past the crux and the sublime, satisfying movement required to do it.

After this, Matt started giving Ryan’s Problem some more serious burns. He wanted to test out how going for the deadpoint to the crimp just below the lip felt, and it was super easy for him to get there and get set up for it. On his second attempt at getting set up for the deadpoint he actually went for it, well sort of went for it, didn’t fully commit but took a very controlled fall that he said felt completely fine and gave him lots of confidence for future attempts. At this point I’d called it a session, because I want to go back to Serenity Now with more confidence, and felt good about the progress. Matt also called it a session, because he didn’t feel like going for the top out on Ryan’s Problem until he felt a little better (he’s been sick).

So that was the session. The temps were pretty perfect and the Camp Serene Boulder was dry on the sides that mattered, and the highway noise disappeared as we became engrossed in engaging climbs. We’ll be back for round two and hopefully some sends, and maybe (definitely for Matt) even a V6.

 

A Session at the River Boulders || R2V6 #1

Has the bouldering season already started? Is it going to be sunny in Gold Bar and Index from now until infinity? Is climate change real? Is the snow going to melt and are the boulders going to dry in Leavenworth over the next week? Is it actually going to be 67 DEGREES IN BEND ON THURSDAY? 

These are all questions I’ve been asking lately (except the climate change one).

Taking advantage of this break-in-the-weather bonanza, Matt, Ariana and I headed to the Index River Boulders for a sesh yesterday. We weren’t really sure EXACTLY where we were going when we left Seattle, just whatever felt right and was dry. If the River Boulders were dry, we planned to climb there. We were looking for fun, easy boulders, and I had the plan to try The Enigma V4 if I felt up to it.

We started at the Boulder Drop Slab, a perfectly polished V0 that looks like it’s about 45 degrees less than vertical in the guidebook. In fact, it might only be about 45 degrees, but this thing is deceptively hard. I got shut down despite crimping the hell out of the seam halfway up it, and Ariana and Matt weren’t really into it. It must be said that Matt was feeling under the weather.

Then we went to everyone’s third favorite unnamed V1, called, aptly, Unnamed V1. This is the shelf/ledgey problem around the corner from Finger Crack V3, and directly across from The Enigma V4. As the guidebook states, it has great movement for the grade. Ariana sent it after a few attempts and despite getting quite stymied by it at the beginning, and Matt sent it in approach shoes. And then we turned our attention to The Enigma V4.

The thing about The Enigma V4 is that it looks like an absolutely epic problem, but the first move is done over a gaping pit leading to the river bed below, so I’d never been able to commit to it. But with our plethora of pads and spotters it felt much more secure, and indeed the first moves aren’t that bad, i.e. scooting around the arete, just a little scary. Then the real problem begins. You have good handholds on a kind of jug horn, but basically only smears for feet. At some point you have to (I think) start laybacking the arete above you, but I’m not sure if you’re supposed to try to get a foot up on the jug before you do that. I didn’t. And I don’t want to watch videos (even though I already did a long time ago), because I’m a stubborn cow and want to figure it out. I did make progress, it must be said. And also took quite a few falls. And it was scary. But I think it could easily go on the next session. Or not. It could take 10 more sessions. It’s one of those where it’s hard to judge just exactly how close you are.

After The Enigma V4 we went up to the Leggo Boulder, home to one of the better V2’s in the area in the form of Leggo Arete. Ariana, who only just started climbing a few months ago, had just sent her first outdoor V1 in Unnamed V1, and the proceeded to FLASH Leggo Arete, for her first ever V2 outdoors. Epic. She made it look quite easy, and then tried to re-send it on video and struggled a bit more, but when she actually got the beta dialed made it look effortless again. Matt also sent it, and I went to the top and then tried to downclimb down, since I didn’t want to get my shoes or feet dirty walking off the back.

Almost on a whim I started tooling around on Leggo My Ego V6, the area classic whose start has firmly shut me down in the past. I tried the start again and still got shut down but it somehow felt much more doable, and then I just started trying it matched from the slanting rail. I was able to get my right foot on, but not able to go from there to the right thumb catch. However, it felt quite good. I was happy with the progress, especially since I hadn’t planned to try it. Just goes to show it can be good to take some whatever burns and just mess around on a bloc.

The traffic on the drive home was, to be expected, horrific. However, the sunset coming into Seattle was gorgeous, and it felt good to get outside and have a session with the homies. As I said earlier in the blog, the forecast for the next week is amazing, so I’m sure there will be more sessions like that to come.

Where’s Wetzler exclusive: Ariana sending her first outdoor V2 (Leggo Arete V2, Index, WA).