Seattle Bouldering Project Fremont: A Preliminary Review

Hello, friends, and welcome to a preliminary review of Seattle Bouldering Project’s new Fremont location. Why “preliminary?” Well, because I’ve only climbed there a few times and since I’m still injured I haven’t been able to push it too hard, PLUS I still haven’t climbed upstairs on the beautiful aretes and freestanding walls. But I have used most of the facilities. I’ve climbed downstairs. I’ve used the fitness area. I’ve used the hangboards. And so at this point I feel adequately qualified to give a preliminary review.

Let start with……location. The location of SBP Fremont is, in a word, spectacular. Right off Stone Way. Walking distance from downtown Fremont. Walking distance from Gasworks. And even closer walking distance to Upper Walls (SBP’s OG Fremont location that opened pre-pandemic). So, when you’ve sent all the hard blocs at SBP Fremont you can hop skip and toe cam over to Upper Walls and send all the hard blocs there. And then when you’ve sent ALL the hard blocs and ripped your shirt off and screamed at passerbyes you can walk to downtown Fremont and get a ridiculous matcha latte at Milstead, and then keep walking to get the best pizza in Seattle at PCC (bold claim I know but don’t fight me on this). Or, in the summer, you can project pinks till your fingers bleed and then go wash them off with a nice swim in Lake Union (provided you’re cool with getting typhus). In short, the location is good.

But who really cares about location, right???? I mean you want it to be easy to get to, but when it comes to a climbing gym what really matters is how are the blocs, right? How is the setting? What are the walls like, the holds like, the ground like, the movement like? You want to know all these things and more, because you’re a discerning boulderer.

Well, so far, the walls and setting and holds are pretty much exactly like SBP Poplar, just, like, newer. As I’ve said, I’ve only climbed downtairs, so I’ve yet to sample the roof upstairs or any of the spire-like aretes. Also since I’m injured I can’t just walk up to blues and huck my carcass at them; I basically stick to the reds and greens, the occasional purple, and today I even tried an orange. But so far I’m super stoked on the setting and the climbing in general (I mean, it’s exactly like SBP Poplar, which is amazing). Great movement. Interesting climbs. One thing I MIGHT say, and maybe this is crazy, is that at least in the downstairs of SBP Fremont things seem a LITTLE easier than SBP Poplar. Maybe that’s just because I’ve gotten better from watching so many bouldering vids while being injured, or maybe it’s because it’s actually easier. I tend to think it might be a little easier since right now I’m basically hucking myself at the wall like a one-legged bonobo. But I could be wrong. I could very easily be wrong.

Next we’ll talk about the fitness area and the hangboards and moonboards and the overall layout. Fitness area? Smaller than SBP Poplar. Hangboards? Less of those, too. Moonboards? Fucking gorgeous and brand new and one day I’ll get on them but for now it’s like I got all these brand new blocs why am I going to go to a climbing gym and get on a fucking moonboard?

One thing I love about the layout is the viewing area up above, since I like to go up there and just kind of watch people climb and snatch beta and just generally be around bouldering. And this viewing area is great for that. They have a viewing area at SBP Poplar, too, but the Fremont one is way better. I’ll be up there with my litte notebook writing down things like, “Right hand out to the tiny crimp, then bump to the better jug,” etc etc.

One question I do have: Are there no bathrooms downtairs??? Did I miss them? Because that might be a slight oversight. At SBP Poplar there are definitely bathrooms downstairs, and they definitely come in handy.

Lastly, what’s the VIBE like at SBP Fremont. What’s the AMBIENCE like. How do you feel when you walk through the doors? Well, if you’re me you feel pretty fucking great, because you always feel pretty fucking great when doing anything even tangentially related to bouldering. And the vibes in SBP Fremont are good. I can’t decide if there are more crushers there or at Poplar. I feel like it’s a wash. There are a lot of lower-level boulderes at SBP Fremont, but there are at Poplar, too. There’s a lot of sitting around, chilling, laughing, talking. For some reason SBP Fremont seems a little less familial, for lack of a better word. Like, it seems like people are kind of less homies at SBP Fremont. Maybe that’s because Poplar is the OG SBP or maybe it’s because Poplar has (had) the cafe or maybe it’s just because of the pandemic! Who knows. Doesn’t really matter.

In conclusion, SBP Fremont is awesome and I’m happy I renewed my SBP membership so now I have access to all of their wonderful locations. I do wish the hangboard area was a little bigger at Fremont and I do wish they had another warmup bike, but hey, small potatoes.

I mean, when you just wanna project polyurethane perfection it’s all pretty much small potatoes.

Happy crushing.

Walking Fremont at Night | Road to Recovery

Not even 9am and I’ve put a General in. Really seizing the day. My knee feels significantly worse but that’s due to self massage. I’ve been massaging the shit out of it. The stiffness worries me, though. It’s still quite stiff and it’s been over two weeks since the injury. God, I want an MRI. How can I get them to give me an MRI. Maybe today I leave for Mexico?

The power did not go off on the boat last night. The heater stayed on. I slept well. Yesterday was sunny in Seattle and today promises more of the same. In fact, it’s only supposed to rain two days in the next week or so. So not a terrible time to hang around a little longer. Wait to see if the MRI referral gets approved. Check SHAK every 15 minutes. Revel in the glory of its meteoric rise. Feel the heater buzzing at my feet. Hang out with friends. Walk to Whole Foods. Read good books. Watch my succulent become increasingly healthy. Watch my green queen become increasingly not.

Yesterday I went to Fremont for dinner, aka PCC, aka I bought a bunch of goodies and then went to Ophelia’s bookshop with the idea that I wasn’t leaving there without buying a book. I bought three: Emotional Alchemy, by Tara Bennett-Goleman, Manuscript Found in Accra, by Paulo Coelho, and The Greatest Treasure-Hunting Stories Ever Told, edited by Charles Elliott with contributions from such heavy hitters as Edgar Allen Poe and Jules Verne. I did not deliberate long when buying these books. The whole escapade took about 10 minutes. The bookstore was packed, which I was happy to see. People do not read enough.

After Ophelia’s I walked over to the new SBP in Fremont, which was an experience both amazing and traumatic. Traumatic because it pained me to see such beautiful blocs, such a beautiful climbing facility — the lobby glowing in the night winter air — and not be able to climb. Amazing because the gym looks amazing, and because I climbed up a set of stairs on the outside and just stood there, looking in like a boy looking at a Christmas tree display in a department store, watching two crushers climb in the corner. One of them flashed an orange. One of them flashed a pink. “Enough, Mark,” I said. “Enough.”

I’ve been sleeping well ever since I gave up caffeine. I’ve been feeling more creative. It is important to let your mind rest if you want to be creative. There is nothing more creative than an idle mind. I don’t mean idle in the sense that it’s not working. Our minds are always working. I mean idle in the sense that you’ve given it some time to just wander. Sometimes my mind is my greatest enemy, but ultimately it’s my dearest friend.

Giving up caffeine was hard. The first day was fine because I was coming down off a wicked yerba mate high, my neurons still sizzling far into the afternoon. But the next day I woke up with a headache, irritable. It felt good to be irritable and not be ashamed of it. I felt more like myself than I had in a long time. My mind becomes more my enemy when I abuse by doing things like drinking too much caffeine. With caffeine when I get irritable I have a tendency to discount my irritable feelings because I think they’re coming from the caffeine. But with no substances governing my brain I know that the irritability is real and needs to be respected. It’s easier to respect and honor your shadow when you know it hasn’t been provoked by a substance. Much of my twenties and thirties have had me ashamed of my shadow, constantly trying to suppress it or sweep it under the rug. Anytime I felt jealous or angry or insecure I told myself these feelings were unacceptable. When you read lots of books on Buddhism and Zen and Taoism you start following an unachievable ideal. Would the Buddha be jealous? Of course not. The Buddha sat by a river for 16 hours a day watching the ripples and eating rice. Would a Zen master be perturbed by someone calling her a name? Of course not. She would only smile. But I am not a Zen master, or even remotely enlightened. I experience all of these feelings, and sometimes to a deafening, heart-wrenching degree. And to want to rip them out of myself, to want to excise them, to want to slice them out of my brain like a surgeon might do with a scalpel — that’s not healthy.

SHAK seems to be finding some support at the 112 mark.

My boat is littered with books but because space is a premium they don’t last long. Most of them come, stay for awhile, and then get shuffled off to one of the little lending libraries so common on the Seattle streets. Some of them have stayed — I’ll never give them away, titles like Book 5 of My Struggle and The Order of Time by Carlo Rovelli. The bouldering guidebooks will also stay. Bouldering guidebooks are something I’m happy to accumulate. Even if I’ve never bouldered in Tennessee or have any intention of going there soon I wouldn’t think it a terrible idea to buy a guidebook for that region. You buy a guidebook and next thing you know you’re planning a trip there. Motivation doesn’t breed action, but the other way around.

I washed my hair with distilled white vinegar last night.

It’s time to get off the boat now. It’s time to do a long walk and see how my knee holds up. And by “long walk” I of course mean walk to my car and drive to Whole Foods. Because I like to be amongst the things, the commerce! I like to be amongst the bars…