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.

Theft and Sendage || Road to V5

Jesus Cristo, what a morning.

I’m happy to report that the Subee is purring once again. I’m $175 poorer, but she’s purring again until someone tries once more to cut out the catalytic converter. Where did that happen? Was it when I was parked at the Clear Cut Boulders yesterday in Gold Bar? When I left my car by the Sculpture Park to walk to the ferry? Or here at the marina when it was sitting in the gravel lot at night?

Who knows.

Bottom line is this: Yesterday when I was driving back from Gold Bar I went to pass someone and all of the sudden it sounded like an F-16 was landing next to me on the highway. Then I realized the noise was actually coming from my car, from my beloved Subee, and that I hadn’t actually been overtaken by a troupe of souped up Honda Civics. When I got back to Seattle I took it to my sister’s mechanic and he immediately found that someone had cut the exhaust. The reason I only discovered it when passing someone is because it was hanging by a thread and my accelaration caused it to become separated completely. What kind of asshole tries to steal someone’s catalytic converter? Well, I guess we do live in Seattle.

Anyway.

Bouldering.

Yesterday I had a delightful sesh up at the Gold Bar boulders. I had three goals: 1) Send The Container V2, a long time project (or something I just used to give a burn on here and there), 2) Hang the starting holds on Silver Slippers V4, and 3) Try the starting move of World’s Best V7. And I SORT OF accomplished all of those goals. I sent The Container despite completely thrutching out the top out.

(video hopefully soon to come. can’t upload it. wordpress sucks.)

It felt good to send The Container, and it also felt good to do the start of it a few times after I’d sent it just to see how efficiently I could do it. There was definite opportunity for a heel hand match, and it might’ve even be the most efficient line.

After The Container I went up to World’s Best V7, which is a trek. First of all it’s a trek to get to the Gold Bar boulders, and then Jaws, which is where World’s Best V7 is located, is a bit of a trek from there. However, I found the boulder without too much deviation, and wasn’t super surpised to find it’s quite overhanging, since A) it’s V6-7, and B) you could tell it was somewhat overhanging in videos and in my experience things are always WAY more overhanging in real life. So I started trying the first move, and then realized I might not be able to properly commit without proper paddage. Then I started trying the SECOND move, which is a gorgeous left heel hook followed by slapping the left hand up to a good hold. Again here I had a tough time committing, 1) because my heel hooks REALLY need work, and 2) because I was afraid of falling. I’m just starting to take some more falls after hurting my back about a month ago, and so I’m still being quite careful.

It felt amazing to try some moves on a V7, and on a boulder with such satisfying movement. I can’t wait to go back, but I need to go back either with friends or more pads or both, and hauling more than one pad up there would be quite the task.

After WBV7 I went down to Silver Slippers V4, located in the Aries area, and STILL COULDN’T HOLD THE START HOLDS. Like, I couldn’t establish. I’m pretty sure that if someone held a Nerf gun to my head I could do the boulder tomorrow from one move in, but holding those start crimps is killing me. Guess I just have to get stronger.

After the sesh is when I realized someone had tried to steal my catalytic converter, and so I spent the rest of the afternoon dealing with that. This morning an awesome dude up on Aurora welded it for $160 plus tax, and now she’s good to go again, but how do you prevent someone from trying to steal your catalytic converter? The sad answer is you can’t. And the sad answer is that it’s becoming really common.

But let’s end today’s blog on a good note. It’s a gorgeous, sunny day here in Seattle. I’m probably going to Leavenworth this weekend. I’m probably going to BC soon. And I’m also, despite certain difficulties, generally pretty stoked.

The Road to V7 lives on!

Tenaya Demo in Redmond/Trying Moves on a V7???

Friends, something’s happening today:

I’m going bouldering.

Yes, I know some of you were worried I’d become a full-on sport climber, lying awake at night thinking of the Yosemite Decimal System and a new pair of TC Pros, but I assure you that’s not the case. My roots are still in bouldering. I would still rather have a crash pad draped over my back than a length of rope. I still dream of heel hooking and toe hooking and the day when I’ll finally place a knee bar.

Maybe today could be that day?

I’m going to the Clear Cut Boulders today, partly since I wanna do the hike and partly because I consider them my “home boulders.” These boulders will always hold a special place in my heart because they’re the first place I really bouldered outside. There is also something magical about being high up on a mountain, away from the road, surrounded only by the smells and the sounds of the forest.

Not to mention the sic(k) blocs.

BUT BEFORE I TALK ABOUT BOULDERING I’d like to talk about the Tenaya demo I went to at Vertical World Redmond yesterday. I must say, I had high hopes for this demo. I thought it would be a scene. I thought Drew Ruana would be there, esconced in a pair of Iati’s, projecting V25 and generally looking cool. INSTEAD, however, there was just one dude standing behind a card table with a bunch of dirty shoes perched on top. And here’s the worst part: They didn’t even have all their shoes! Of the four top of the line shoes they sell (Mastia, Oasi, Iati, Tarifa) they only had two there. Two. They didn’t have the Mastia or the Iati, two of the shoes I most wanted to try on. They DID have the Oasi LVs (low volumes), so I cranked those on and went around to various V1s and V2s pretending like I knew what I was doing, testing out the edging, the smearing, the heel hooking. But how am I supposed to pull the trigger if I can’t even try on the Mastias?

So yeah.

Mildly disappointing.

Goals for the bouldering sesh today:

  1. Hold the start holds on Silver Slippers V4 (like actually hold all my body weight off the ground)
  2. Try the first move on World’s Best V7
  3. Send The Container V2

The Container V2 is an interesting one. Barold and I tried it one of our first ever times in Gold Bar and loved the movement on the bottom but got shut down by the top out. And then I went there a year later as a much better boulderer and loved the movement at the bottom but got shut down by the top out. The top out is bulbous and the holds aren’t very good over the lip, but I think I’m making it harder than it’s supposed to be. The guidebook says, “Top out directly above,” but top out directly above what? Where you started? No. The large features on the right? Maybe. Either way one goal today is to finally send this problem, since I’ve gotten shut down by it too many times and it’s time to dedicate some actual time to it.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: What does it mean to “refinance” a home?

You’re also thinking: Trying moves on a V7???

And to that I say, “Yes, obviously.” You’ve got to try things that inspire you, and after watching countless videos of people sending World’s Best V7 I am becoming mildly obsessed with it. Plus, some of the moves look totally doable. So either I’ll go there and be served a healthy serving of humble (and possibly rhubarb) pie, or maybe I’ll do a move or too. There’s nothing quite as humbling as bouldering.

Slash why is Silver Slippers so crimpy.

Slash why I am I not sleeping well.

Slash I live on a boat.

OK, that’s about it for today.

Who’s going to Joshua Tree with me in November?

– Wetzler

Four Days of Rest || Road to V5

Part 1

I haven’t climbed in four days. My body has been resting for four days. What do four days of rest look like? Not much different than one day. My hip flexors still hurt. My fingers are still swollen. But something’s gotting be working, right?

Wrong.

Well, no, probably right.

I’m at my bro’s house. Today is the last full day of pet sitting. Tomorrow I do my pet sitting and plant watering duties and then I head back to the great world of Seattle. Ahhh…..city of dreams. City of….overpriced supermarkets. City of overpriced everything. But still the city I call home for now. Well, the city I will always call “home” until I live somewhere else for an extended period of time. But Seattle will always feel a bit like home.

You might be wondering what climbing plans I have for when I get back to the Seattle area. Because here’s the thing: I do have climbing plans, and possibly for as early as tomorrow. You see, tomorrow it’s supposed to “rain” in Gold Bar. There’s supposed to be “precipitation” which could make the boulders “wet” (see: juicy). But there’s also a chance it “won’t rain.” There’s a chance it will “hold off.” The forecast is calling for rain MAYBE starting around 4pm. Which means I’d have all morning to boulder. If I got up and got after it. Which I’m not sure I’ll do. But we’ll see.

If I DO go to Gold Bar I’d like to hike up to the Clearcut Boulders. I’d like to re-send some of my favorites, like Regatta de Blanc V0, BMOC V2, and Magic School Bus V2. I’d also like to work on some of my projects, like Cabin Stabbin’ V4, The Container V2 (I’m embarrassed to call this a project but I still haven’t sent it so there you go), Midnight Lichen V4 and Stinking Slopers V5. Depending on how I’m feeling it would also be great to get on some new blocs: Johnny Cash V3, Silver Slippers V4, Metroid Prime V6, Obesity V7, Water V6, for example.

This is a slightly embarrassing thing to admit, but I still haven’t broken the 10 V-point barrier outside. I.e., I haven’t sent boulder problems totaling at least 10 V-points in one day. Why should I be embarrassed about this? Because I feel like it’s almost a laughably low goal. I feel like it should’ve happened by now. And when I think about it, it COULD’VE happened by now. I could go out tomorrow and climb all the easiest V2’s I know and ones I’ve done many times, like the two V2’s on the Leggo My Ego boulder, Offa My Cloud, BMOC and Eight Bit Slab in Gold Bar, and that would be it. That would be 10 V-points right there, and it would be simple. But it would also feel a little meaningless just truly going for v-points. I’m more excited for when it happens naturally, when I look back on the climbs I’ve done one day and think, Damn, I just got 15 v-points. Or when I send a single boulder problem that gets me half way or most of the way there. That’s when I’ll really be excited. But to go out and re-send a bunch of problems just for one measly goal. Sounds pretty great.

Slash I think I need tea right now. Or some other form of caffeine. Slash this house feels cold. Why am I not out enjoying the sun right now.

Slash I think I’m going to go get a matcha latte.

Part 2

I went and got my matcha latte. Today is the one month anniversary of my newfound sobriety, so I’m celebrating. I got a matcha latte and some chili. And now I’m back at my bro’s house, writing this blog and contemplating how to spend my afternoon. I got a few books on yoga from the library. I still need to do Day 8 of the Yoga with Adriene 30 Days of Yoga series I’m doing, and my body currently feels too sore to do yoga. Why does my body feel sore all the time now? This is distressing. What should I be doing about it? Presumably, yoga.

God I just want to climb.

And climb V5.

 

 

 

 

 

Water V6: An Ode to My New Favorite Boulder

Water V6, Gold Bar, WA. Photo: Pat M.

We will fall in love several times throughout the course of our lives. Often, it happens when we least expect it. Perhaps you’re crossing the street and you twist your ankle and she helps you to the curb. Perhaps you’re shopping in the frozen foods section for some peas to ice your mangled hand and she whispers in your ear, “I like peas too.” Perhaps you’re sitting at home on your boat watching YouTube videos, wishing things were different, wishing you had purpose, wondering if purpose is even necessary, and she strides down the dock, lost, looking for a neighbors’ boat, and you start chatting, first about the weather, then about the Mariners, then about the stock market, numbers are exchanged, tensions run high, and the rest is history.

Perhaps.

Or perhaps if you’re like me yesterday you fall in love in an entirely different way.

You fall in love with a boulder.

Meet Water V6. She hails from near Gold Bar, Washington. She’s about 12 feet tall, with a gorgeous neck, shapely sloping hips, and beautiful, delicate feet. She’s made of granodiorite, like many of the other boulders in the area. What separates Water V6 is how un-contrived she is, how unassuming. You come across her and think, Hot damn, that’s a beautiful line. I’d like to get on that line. I’d like to caress those slopers. I’d like to see if my fingers fit in that seam. I’d like to see if I can get up that thing.

And so you inspect closer. You run your hands along her beautiful lines. You contemplate where you’d put your feet at the sit start, what the first move might be. Do you go up with your left hand or your right hand? And then where do you put your feet? Do you match? How do you get to that sloper? What’s the best place to grip it? How’s the lip? Can you lunge for it or should you try to do it really controlled?

And then you remember it’s V6 and the hardest thing you’ve climbed outside is V4. How can this be V6? you think. How can something this beautiful, this inviting, be so outside my wheelhouse? Is it outside my wheelhouse? Because I look at it and think, I could do this. I could climb this boulder. I could climb this bloc. Or I could at least do some of the moves.

It’s hard to walk away from her, but finally you do. There are other boulders to look at: Midnight Lichen V4 (if you can just do the first move!), Stinking Slopers V5, Metroid Primer V6, The Samurai, whatever its V-grade is. As you walk away from Water, the new love of your life, you glance over your shoulder to see if she’s still there. She is. She looks demure, pouty even. She looks sad you’re leaving. You’re sad you’re leaving, too, of course. You’re already making plans to come back. You’re thinking what you’ll ever say to her parents if you ever meet them.

You’re getting ahead of yourself.

You walk off and look at a bunch of different boulders. You crimp the starting holds of BMOC V2 and talk with your friend about how it’s a short but actually quite fun problem. You trek further up the hill and look at more blocs before making your way back to the dirt road, where you slowly descend, the setting sun off to your right, the crunch of the gravel under your feet.

And all the while you’re thinking, When will I see her again? When will I see Water?

You breathe in sharply to stifle a sob.