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.

Where Are The Sasquatch Boulders (and other pertinent life questions)?

Hello, friends. That was quite the deluge last night, wasn’t it? Anytime it rains that hard I find myself thinking: OK, I live on water, and now there’s water coming from the sky. I’m surrounded by water. I’m going to drown.

Actually, I didn’t think that. I gobbled down half a wedge of brie last night and proceeded to have nightmares. But at least I slept almost a full eight hours.

ANYWAY, we’re not here today to talk about rain or fine cheeses. We’re here today to talk about one thing and one thing only: The Sasquatch Boulders. Specifically: Where are they? How do you get to them? How hard is the river crossing? What should I climb when I get there? Is there any other pertinent information I should know?

Let’s start with a photo of the river crossing from last Thursday, September 16th, 2021, when the river was at about 250 cubic feet per second:

Adi braves the raging (tranquil?) waters of the North Fork Skykomish River.

Can we talk about these colors? The azure of the sky, the brown tannins of the river, the pink of the crash pad, the vermillion greens of the forest. So, this is where I personally recommend crossing the river (Disclaimer: crossing the river is inherently dangerous and could result in injury or death. If you have any doubts, don’t do it). Not that I recommend crossing the river, per se. The guidebook (Western Washington Bouldering by Pablo Zuleta) recommends only crossing at 900 cubic feet per second or less, and having crossed at about this level last year I can second (and possibly even third) this notion by saying you wouldn’t want to cross with the river any higher. Unless maybe you have a raft. Or a zip line. But anyway, just to give you an idea of where exactly this is in case you’re planning a future trip (for next year since after last night the river is raging), here it is:

Also, pro tip: The guidebook says to wear surf booties, and I fully second this notion. Luckily, I own supple seven millimeter O’neill booties. It’s cheating, basically. When we went on Thursday Adi kept talking about how cold it was in her Chocos, while I was as comfortable as a harbor seal. So yeah, wear surf booties if you got ’em, Tevas or Aquasocks if you don’t. But don’t go barefoot.

OK, but where are these boulders exactly? If you have the guidebook or just zoomed out on the map, you’ll know they’re near the town of Index, Washington, bouldering haven but much better know for its sport/trad climbing. The parking for the Sasquatch boulders is located 2.1 miles from the Index bridge down Index-Galena Road. At about 2 miles the road will run right alongside the river. The parking is located on the left side after the road stops going along the river and becomes separted from it by a thin stretch of forest. Once you’ve parked, look for a path down a short but steep bank with a huge cable running across it and a rope that sort of won’t help you down, as it’s tied on one end to saplings. Follow this trail onto the river bed, where it will soon turn right and and head along another embankment. Follow this for about a few hundred yards until you see a path running down to the left that makes its way down this embankment. There are many of these little paths, so if you have to jump, it’s too steep and you’ve chosen the wrong one. Keep going. Once you’ve found the one that’s not TOO steep and gotten onto the actual river bed, follow the trail until you come to the river, AKA the pin I marked on the map above. Here you can sort of pick your poison. You can cross in the rapids where the water is shallower but more quickly moving, or you can cross where it’s slower and deeper. I’ve always opted for slower and deeper. But I’m not your mother.

OK, SO NOW YOU’VE CROSSED THE RIVER AND YOU’RE STOKED OUT OF YOUR GOURD. But wait, where are all the boulders? They’re in the forest, my friend. You’re almost there, but not quite. Luckily, the hard part, aka the river crossing, is over. You’re just about to climb, I promise you that. In mere minutes your hands will be caressing the granodiorite fantasies that are the starting holds of The Network V5, Yin Yang V7, Where the Wild Things Go V2, or whatever it is you want to climb.

After you’ve crossed the river and gotten situated and maybe taken some Instagram pics making a duck face with the river in the background, look for a dry creek bed heading off to your left. Follow it for 200-300 yards until you see a trail heading up the bank to your right marked by either a cairn or a log with a piece of orange hunter’s tape tied to it or both. The trail is AFTER you’ve passed the gorgeous little natural pool polished rock thing, and should be quite obvious. If you find yourself saying, That could be a trail, it probably isn’t. Once you find the trail, follow it up for a steep minute or so until it flattens out. Two minutes after that you’ll be at the boulders.

To recount real quickly: 

To get to the boulders: 

  1. Take Highway 2 towards Index, WA.
  2. Turn left on Index-Galena Road (if you’re coming from Seattle).
  3. Once you pass the bridge leading to Index keep going for two miles till you see the river.
  4. At about 2.1 miles park on the left side of the road and look for a trail going down the parking with some rope on it.
  5. Follow the directions above to get to the river.
  6. Cross it.
  7. Follow the directions above to find the trail to the boulders.
  8. Send hard.

Got it? Good.

Things you might need:

  1. Surf booties
  2. A dry bag
  3. Board shorts or swimsuit bottom
  4. Snacks
  5. Stoke

Now, I know you’re all asking: BUT MARK, WHAT DO WE CLIMB WHEN WE GET THERE? 

And the answer is easy: Giraffe V1.

And then you go home (I’m only sort of kidding).

More to come on which blocs are best later. For now I hope this post on how to get to The Sasquatch Boulders was useful. Feel free to leave any pertinent question, bouldering or otherwise, in the comments.

Happy sending.

— W

Trying on Climbing Shoes and My Third V4

So much to talk about tonight. So. Much. To talk. About. First of all: What is this insane pain in my wrist? Ever since playing golf the other day it feels like my wrist is half broken. Like, when I do certain movements it reminds me of when I broke my scaphoid. It’s a terrible feeling. And I have no idea what it is.

Next order of business: I’m drinking an “Organic Sparkling Yerba Mate Beverage” from Trader Joe’s right now, with “Hibiscus & Citrus Flavors.” Sixty milligrams of caffeine. I know, a little dangerous to be drinking at 8pm, but then I’m a wildman. I’m hoping to fast 16 hours from whenever I stop eating tonight till tomorrow afternoon. My hopes are high, since I was able to complete my 24 hour fast last week. I feel like I can do anything now, at least when it comes to not consuming food.

I WENT TO REI TO TRY ON CLIMBING SHOES TODAY. Yes, you read that correctly: I went to REI to try on climbing shoes this evening. Just a couple hours ago. The takeaways? The Solutions feel so damn good but they ravage my achilles tendon. I think I MIGHT be able to pull them off if only wear them for a little bit at first until they’re broken in. Maybe. Or maybe not. I LOVED the sock-like feel they have, and I loved the toe box. I noticed a massive difference between size 44 and 43.5, though. I was swimming in the 44’s and edging felt terrible, and the 43.5’s were a little too snug but edged like a dream. And also ravaged my achilles.

I also tried on the Skwama’s and didn’t like them.

And didn’t try on the Theories.

Honesly, I just wanna get the Solutions, but I’m worried about my achilles. I will lose sleep over this.

Aka mate.

Fuck I have to do yoga today still and I really don’t want to. I think it’s something like 17 minutes of hatha yoga. I don’t know what hatha yoga is. I think it’s all the yoga we’ve been doing. Today is day 14. Fourteen days straight of yoga. I feel good and can’t stop now. Slash my wrist feels terrible.

OK, so I guess we should talk about the elephant in the room. The big, beautiful, chalk-covered elephant. Yesterday was a bit of a landmark day for me climbing-wise in that I sent my third ever V4 outdoors. If you recall, my first V4 outside was Toto in Leavenworth in December of 2020, followed by Dirty Dancing (also in Leavenworth) in May of 2021, and yesterday, during my fourth session on the problem, I sent Zelda Rails V4 at the infamous Zelda Boulders in Index, Washington. Conditions were perfect. It was somehow dry. It was cold and somewhat windy. It was actually quite similar to the conditions in which I sent Dirty Dancing, though for Dirty Dancing it was even colder and windier and earlier in the morning and I was completely jacked out of my mind on an americano from everyone and their great aunt’s favorite cafe in Leavenworth: Argonaut. I’ll probably dedicate an entire post to the experience in a few days down the road but let me just say that this was the closest I’ve ever walked the line on a boulder between falling off and staying on. And when I topped out I experienced something similar to what I experienced with Dirty Dancing, i.e. overwhelming emotions and the desire to just sit in the fetal position and tremble. It also taught me a TON about projecting boulders, and hopefully I internalize it aka actually learn it. But again, I’ll probably go into this more in depth down the road a bit. Or maybe not. But probably.

As for tonight, I have to do this damn yoga. And I have my heater on. Jesus, I have my heater on. It’s getting colder. But what am I complaining about? That means fall climbing season is just getting started. And I have so many plans for fall climbing season. I want to project, amongst others, the following boulders: Obesity V7, Alfalfa or Spanky V5, Chubby Fairy V4, Twisted Tree V4, Pentaphobia V5, Piano Man V5, Miller Light V5, Diamond Engagement V6, and so, so, so, so (so) many others.

But for now it’s time to a little bit more and then stop eating. And do this damn yoga.

 

Adventures at the Zelda Boulders // Road to V5

For the post “Misadventures at the Zelda boulders”, one of my first outdoor bouldering missions, click here. 

Yesterday my friend Adi and I left Seattle at 8am with the plan to go to the Morpheus Boulders in the East Miller River Valley to sample some tasty blocs (see: blocs). After the obligatory stop at Whole Foods Totem Lake we were on the road, pooch in tow, braving the asphalt of Highway 2 and the Skykomish Valley. (Since I know you love hearing about what I buy at Whole Foods, I got: 1 Health Aid RecoveryAid, a Hop Tea, a matcha bar, and a sandwich. Aka some caffeine and some sustenance. Oh, and I also got an Epic Chicken Sriracha bar for some extra protein.) With Adi’s expedient driving and fairly new Ford we arrived quickly at the boulders, where, lo and behold! despite tons of cars in the parking lot (read: six) there was no one on the Car Door Boulder, aka the fun warm-up boulder, aka home of the best V0 (V1 in the guidebook) in the whole valley: Car Door Traverse. After a warm-up of jumping jacks and hooting and hollering we both quickly dispatched Dee Dee V0 and also the legendary Car Door Traverse, whose smooth granite rails we caressed with zeal.

After Car Door we headed across the path and down to the river to the also legendary Lines of Latitude V3. The river was plenty low. All deadfall had been cleared. But the boulder was also kind of……somehow…..

……

……

….wet.

I’m assuming dew?

I wanted to try the V1 “Climbing North” before trying Lines of Latitude, but it was a bit wet and scary. The top out looked particularly mossy and scary. Also the holds on the lip were not great. It’s funny, because Car Door Traverse is a V1 in the guidebook and essentially the easiest problem in the multiverse, and Climbing North, just a hop skip and a twisted ankle away, is ALSO a V1, but infinitely harder. Pablo Zuleta, what was your logic on this? Also, now that I’ve got you here, where ON EARTH do you start the V2 “Hump Day” on the Car Door Boulder. There are multiple underclings. Multiple right-facing side pulls. Is it the good underling all the way on the left?????? K, thanks.

I did send Climbing North after a few tries, and the top out was terrifying. Luckily, as soon as this was over, and after a couple failed attempts on Lines of Latitude, we got the hell out of there.

I mean like completely out of there, out of the East Miller River Valley, back to the Skykomish Valley, where after a quick lunch by the river in Index, we went to………..

….The Zelda Boulders!

It was a wonderful day in the Zelda Boulders. Light filtered through the evergreens, the smell of organic peat moss wafted about. There was one other party at the boulders, two guys and a girl, and also some lone wolf who from what I could tell climbed up one boulder, inspected the top of it for several minutes, and then left entirely. What he was up to I do not know. Adi and I were trying the arete next to Zelda Dyno V4, and then we moved to a slab that’s not in the guidebook but is on Mountain Project. I gotta say: What a fun slab. The holds were scoopy and dishy and smeary. It was a V0. Only the holds were scrubbed. Good heighth. Basically a super fun, not too hard slab.

After the slab I tried roof crack V3 for a bit and got completely shut down. Then we stemmed for a sec in the Open Book Corner, and then we made friends with the party who we’d seen coming in, the two guys and a girl. And they were rad. They were crushers. And super nice. And full of helpful beta. They were trying Zelda Rails Right V5, and I wanted to give Zelda Rails V4 a few burns since it’s a project of mine. I was feeling a bit shy but they welcome us over and I started giving it goes with the heel up beta but then they advised me to maybe try the toe on beta and showed me the EXACT PERFECT PLACE to grab the second rail with my right hand to keep my body in close to the wall. With this new microbeta I was able to get to the left hand intermediate slimper easily, and go for the bump to the good crimp below the lip.

I was ecstatic. This was huge progress for me, because this is the crux. Once you get to the good hold below (or sort of on) the lip it’s all easy from there. Reposition your feet. Send. I didn’t send yesterday but am actually confident it’ll go next time I’m there. The start with the toe on feels super secure, and grabbing the better part of the rail before the bump made a massive difference. Plus, these people were just a joy to climb with. The two dudes had already sent the V5 and the girl, Melissa, was trying it and making good progress. It was awesome to watch her body positioning as she prepared to go for the crux. It’s always awesome to watch competent climbers.

I was fairly in a state of bliss after this session. We took the long way back along Reiter Road, checking out the INSANE amounts of cars at the Index Town Walls parking and also the Clearcut Boulders parking. I’d never seen so many cars. How there were so few people at the Zelda Boulders I don’t know. But I felt fortunate. Also, it was such a gorgeous day. A great day to be out with a friend, making more friends, climbing gorgeous blocs and making progress.

And now if you’ll excuse me I have to go make a matcha latte.

 

 

A Terrifying V0 and A Trip to Canada???

Yesterday I woke up around 6am and got straight in my car and drove to the River Boulders in Index. The high temperature was supposed to be 95, so I knew early morning would be the only time to climb. I got to the boulders at about 8am after the obligatory stop at Safeway in Monroe where I bought two Bobo’s Otmeal Bars, a gallon of water, toilet paper and a venti earl grey with a little bit of heavy cream from Starbucks. This is exactly how I order it: a venti earl grey with a little bit of heavy cream. It’s key to say it in this manner so you don’t get a bucket of hot, steamed cream as happened to me in Starbucks in Vegas on the way to my first rope climbing experience in Red Rocks. It’s also imperative to say HEAVY cream instead of WHIPPING CREAM, even though they’re the same thing. If you say WHIPPING CREAM they might give you whipped cream, as has also happened to me. Mmmmmmmmm, bergamot with….whipped cream.

I warmed up on Unnamed V1, around the arete from Finger Crack V3. As the guidebook says, this does have fantastic movement for a relatively short, easy boulder problem. It’s got a lieback and a gaston and all sorts of ledges. The landing is semi-terrible so you don’t really wanna fall from the top even with a pad right under you. I warmed up by just hanging from the ledges a bit and climbing it twice, and then I tromped over to Unnamed Warmup V0, the one where you step off the adjacent boulder to start the climb.

This problem, Unnamed Warmup V0, is somewhat terrifying. You step off a boulder a few feet off the ground so that as soon as you start climbing you already feel pretty high. Also, you basically can’t fall till you get to the lip, since you might fall on the boulder you started on. I’d tried this on one, maybe two previous sessions. Last time I tried it it was just too scary. But this time I got my right foot up on a small edge and also used a high right crimp before going to the lip. I felt pretty insecure the whole time. Afterward I just kind of sat there, stoked that I’d done it, reflecting on how scary it was. I’m not exactly rushing back to do it again.

Then I made my way to the meat of the session, the Leggo boulder. Goal: send the two V2’s, hopefully send Chinook V3, and work Sigmund Freud V4, Gimme Back My ID V5, and Leggo My Ego V6. It sort of worked out. I sent the two V2’s easily. I sent Chinook V3, my first V3 in a long time, after much beta tweaking and puzzling and resting, which was really satisfying. What a cool problem. Slopers. A high right foot. Some weight distribution. Beautiful. How this problem escaped the guidebook’s creators is a bit mistifying. Maybe it just looked too easy.

As for the harder problems, I got completely shut down. I still couldn’t pull off the ground for either Sigmund Freud or Gimme Back My ID, and I made negative progress on Leggo My Ego. The techy section at the start is beyond me. I don’t think it’s cuz I’m not strong enough; I think my beta is screwed. At the same time I don’t really wanna watch videos to figure it out; I wanna figure it out on my own.

So that was the outdoor session. Then, in the EVENING, I went to SBP Fremont with the crew and fell in love with a problem. I think I fell in love on multiple levels, with multiple objects of affection, but the strongest feelings were for a heel-hooky black on the arete upstairs. Seriously, I’ve never seen a problem so good for practicing heel hooks. You could throw like four or five throughout the problem if you felt so inclined.

Tomorrow I’m going to CANADA. I repeat: CANADA. I just got my COVID test. I’m gonna  be catsitting from Saturday to Tuesday in Vancouver and hope to make two little trips up to Squamish. Dip my toes, as they say. See what Squamish is all about. Hopefully send a bunch of V0-V2’s and maybe even a V3 or V4. Maybe even a V14.

That’s all for now. Hope you all are having a wonderful day.