Crossing the Border to Canada // First Session in Squamish

I’m at my sister’s house in Ballard. I just got back from Canada yesterday. Crossing the border was actually easier going IN to Canada, because I crossed through Lynden and there was no line. The guy asked me almost no questions. He asked to see my negative COVID test and maybe what I was doing in Canada. He didn’t ask me what I did for work, which made me happy because I would’ve felt like I was lying when I said “interpreter.” When I DO work, I usually work as an interpreter or a teacher. This is what I “do” for work. The only thing is I’m not “doing” it right now. Because I’m a semi professional boulderer, minus the professional, minus the semi.

ANYWAY, FIRST SESSION IN SQUAMISH!!!!! WOOOOOOOOO!!!!! V0’s!!!!!! Failing on a crimpy V2!!!!!!!! Climbing a terrifying highball V1 that felt like V5!!!!!!

Even though this was sort of supposed to be a climbing trip, I only climbed once. This is because my body is disintegrating. I’m not resting enough. I’m not taking enough breaks. I’m due to take about a week off climbing (or more), and until I do that I’m probably not going to make any progress and possibly make backward progress. Yesterday I went to SBP Poplar with Barold Doug, the Crush from Down Under (down under being south Seattle), and DIDN’T CLIMB ANYTHING HARDER THAN A PURPLE. I REPEAT: I DIDN’T CLIMB ANYTHING HARDER THAN A PURPLE. I mean, I didn’t really attempt anything harder than a purple, and I still had a blast and became a better climber, but it just goes to show when you’re 38 (oh yes, I had a birthday recently) you need lots of rest, and your tendons need a TON of time to adjust to climbing. I’ve been climbing about a year and half now. My finger tendons are still adjusting to climbing. I assume this process will take at least another couple years (slash never end), at which point I’ll basically be geriatric. I’ll be the only senior citizen at Bishop super psyched on V2’s. Which is fine. I’m completely down with that. As long as you’re stoked, nothing else matters.

We climbed a V1 called Hot Tamale at the Clean Boulders in Squamish after warming up on a couple V0’s. Hot Tamale is a cool line that sort of traverses/climbs a rail from right to left. The start is slightly tricky. But after a couple tries the start became super easy, which is always a great feeling. All of us sent it, and then we moved on to Bear Trap V2, which (almost) shut us all down. The start to Bear Trap involves a sideways facing foot that allows you to cinch your body close to the wall and windmill (bear trap) your right hand over to a TERRIBLE crimp. Charlie skipped this crimp and went for the hella tall guy beta that involved going directly to the sidepull thing. I was SORT OF able to do this, but it made me really stretched out. After a couple goes Charlie got it, and I was stoked because one of us had sent it and I could now stop trying it and feel better about myself. Then we went back to the welcome area, which was crowded as balls, but one line had no people on it at all: Kung Fu Fighter V4 (a V5 on Sendage). This line is incredible. It involes starting in a nice little corner, working your way up to a slab, and then somehow traversing to an arete as footholds become fewer and further between. I tried it a few times, getting to the crux, and then a guy who lived in Squamish started trying it with me, and stoke levels were high. We had about five pads. His French Canadian friend started trying it too, and at this point stoke levels were basically in the stratosphere. The problem: My body felt gnarly. I needed to stop. So mostly I just watched/spotted/fist bumped. And then eventually I got out there, it was already almost 3pm, traffic was gnarly AF getting back to Vancouver, but I was also in a state of relative bliss. I hadn’t eaten anything all day. All I’d had was a coffee with honey, and I don’t drink coffee. So I stopped at the Whole Foods in West Van, possibly my favorite Whole Foods on the planet. I got a burrito bowl and a GT’S Adaptogenic Tea and a slice of banana bread and sat out in the courtyard eating it and reveling in the day and the fact that I was in Canada. And I then I went back into town.

I plan on going back to Squamish in September for subsequent sessions, but I’d like to give my body a good rest first (at least a week) so I can climb a little more aggressively and attempt harder problems. Having only climbed in one area, I’m still not sure exactly what Squamish is like. So far it felt a bit like Gold Bar, albeit with an even higher concentration of quality problems. Kung Fu Fighter frankly blew my mind. That is now on my lifetime tick list. I’d also really like to try Tyler’s Dihedral V3, Phat Slab V5, and at least LOOK at Black Slabbeth V7. I have no idea what a V7 slab looks like, but I’d like to find out.

That’s about all for today. There’s an annoying dog barking outside and I’m about to drink some tea and take my sister’s dog for her second walk. Tomorrow morning is essentially the last day I could climb outside for awhile, but I don’t know if I’ll do it. If I do, I’ll probably go back to the Index River Boulders. Maybe I’ll do Chinook V3 again, maybe I’ll try Finger Crack V3, The Jewel V3, and who knows what else. Or maybe I’ll finally get back on my old Project, Serenity Now V4+. The Sky (Valley)’s the limit.

Oh, Cana….Gold Bar || Road to Enlightenment

Having a little bit a fiesta on the boat over here. I got a wedge of brie and some yerba mate and I’m listening to KEXP. Some kind of DJ. It JUST got fully dark outside, today the sunset after 6pm, all was glorious, I walked to the Locks where I did my physical therapy and hung out with the cormorants a bit.

So today I did the following: This morning I got in my car and drove up to Greenlake. I thought I was gonna go to the Whole Foods on 65th but then I was like fuck it and got on I-5 going north. The plan was to go to Gold Bar and hike up to the boulders and just kinda look at them. Maybe touch them a bit. Maybe just sit there in the forest next to them. Maybe just think about them. Maybe not even make it all the way to the boulders but at least give it my damndest. Then I thought, Screw that, I should drive up to Canada! Well, not all the way to Canada of course, but at least to the Peace Arch Park, where I could at least SEE Canada, where I could go up to the very border, maybe even dip a hand in or a foot in. I’m not sure how they have things set up out there, but from what I understand the American side of the border is open. Who knows when the border will actually open. This is something I check almost every day. I google “US canada border” and check out the results. It’s been a year since the border’s been closed. It’s been OVER a year since I went to Canada. I remember it perfectly. I caught the train after work on a Friday (I think). The train got delayed, because Amtrak is a disaster. I got into Van at midnight. And had a glorious, glorious, weekend. Went swimming at the Mt. Pleasant community center pool with my friend Jeff. Pretty sure I did a gainer.

ANYWAY, I thought about driving up to Canada this morning, even thought about getting a hotel in Bellingham, but at the last second decided to just keep going towards Gold Bar.

(K, had to turn the radio off. And have some more brie. The wedge is gone. I’m gonna have some weird dreams tonight.)

ANYWAY, ok. Where were we. Oh yes, I went to Gold Bar. I debated whether to put the pad on my back for extra exercise but then decided if I could make it all the way up to the boulders, three miles, and back, that would be quite the achievement. Last time I made it probably less than halfway. And keep in mind the steeper parts are towards the end. ALSO keep in mind it looked like it was going to rain. But I pressed on.

After about 10 minutes on the trail I passed a guy walking the opposite way and he didn’t even look at me. Didn’t say hello, didn’t even look at me. There we were, two dudes in the middle of thousands of acres of DNR land, passing on a one-lane dirt road, and home-slice doesn’t even look at me. What a weirdo. What. A. Damn. Weirdo. Or maybe he was a COMPLETELY normal guy. Maybe I’m the weirdo. It’s not like I said hello to him. I just kind of looked at him. And then he passed. And I thought, That guy probably hurts people and enjoys it.

Anyway, I made it up to the boulders. My knee felt pretty good. Just before getting to the boulders it started to rain/snow and I took refuge in the forest, under the BMOC boulder. Not that that really helped, since this boulder isn’t really overhung. But parts of it are kind of overhung, I realized today. This bloc has three lines on it, all of which I’ve done. A great V0, a short but fun V2, and a cool V3 that traverses from the V0 into the V2. Today I just caressed the beginning crimps of BMOC V2 a bit and wondered what it would be like to climb it (again). Thought about where I’d put my feet. Then I took refuge under the rock again.

(It’s officially pouring outside and my boat keeps lurching back and forth and I hate it I hate living on a boat I want to get the fuck off this thing slash I’m going to Leavenworth tomorrow for the love of god).

So yeah, that was the mission.

It was…..pretty awesome.

It was wonderful to be in nature.

And wonderful to touch some boulders.

-Marko

Vancouver, How I Love Thee (#7)

Oh, Vancouver, how I love thee. Let me count the ways…

  1. They call you the City of Glass. With your hyper-modern, mostly-glass apartment buildings, I understand why.
  2. You feel like Seattle, but something’s just a little bit different. Is it the plastic money? The location just a bit further north? The beautiful accent where “been” is pronounced like “bean” and every statement ends with, “Hey?”
The view from the Granville Bridge.

3. You have so much water, so many beaches. English Bay, Jericho, Kits, the Spanish Banks, False Creek, Lynn Canyon, Horseshoe Bay, and all the water surrounding Stanley Park. I need water around me at all times, and you provide it.

4. You have plastic money. In a world where every civilized nation is turning to plastic money because it lasts longer, doesn’t tear, and you can get it wet, you haven’t been left behind. Meanwhile in the States we cling to the very traditions that will be our downfall.

False Creek.

5. The proximity to unfettered nature. Drive a half hour and you’re on the Sea to Sky Highway, mountains looming in the distance, a fjord at your feet. What is that little town with the massive rock face watching over it, the world-class kiteboarding? Oh, right, it’s Squamish, and it’s delightful.

6. The wonderful cafes and restaurants. Mingle with hipsters over a turmeric latte at the Federal Store, or pop into the one and only Rick McCrank’s very own skate shop, Anti-social.

7. People in Seattle are pretty damn chill, pretty damn polite, but Vancouver takes it one step further. Please, bump into me so I can tell you I’m sorry. Please, go in front of me in line. Please, have my last beer and marry my sister.

8. Your green areas. Stanley Park is a world unto itself. And then there’s Queen Elizabeth Park, the Spanish Banks, UBC, and all the spaces in between.

9. No better place in summer. When it’s 60 degrees outside (18° Celsius?) the clothes start flying off. Again, like Seattle, but again, just a little bit better.

10. The quality of life. Everyone seems happy in Vancouver. I’m happy when I’m in Vancouver. Hopefully, I’ll live here one day. But even then I’ll keep counting the ways…

-W