Between the Burns | Road to V4+

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“People you’ve been before/that you don’t want around anymore.” — Elliott Smith

Yesterday while driving to Whole Foods I noticed I could see all the way to the Cascade Mountains. It was semi-dry in Seattle. I thought to myself, Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm…I wonder if it’s dry in Gold Bar. If I can see all the way to the mountains it’s probably dry. At least sort of dry.

I started driving toward the mountains and almost immediately turned around to get my phone. I thought this little setback would break me. I thought I’d cozy up on my boat and never leave it. But then I was off again on the road with the snowy peaks in the distance and hope in my heart, headed for the Camp Serene Boulder and hopefully some burns on my now long-standing project, Serenity Now V4+++++++++++++++++++ (-).

I made a mandatory stop at Safeway in Monroe and bought the following: A Kind bar (sea salt caramel), smoked salmon, and a blackberry mint Guayaki. After this I was ACTUALLY on my way, still dry in Monroe, still dry in Sultan, STILL DRY IN STARTUP, STILL DRY IN GOLD BAR and…………………………………….mostly dry at the Camp Serene Boulder.

I parked and immediately noticed the wind was screaming. Common for this type of year, I’m learning. The wind whips through the Skykomish Valley like a peregrine falcon descending upon a naked mole rat. So I began my long warmup process. When the only thing climbable is a V4 and V4 is your absolute max, you need to figure out creative ways to warm up. So I did tons of jumping jacks. I ran back and forth to the car. I ran up the hillside a bit, turned around, and sauntered back down. I did more jumping jacks. I stretched. I did some hanging, partially loading my arms and shoulders and fingers and then fully loading my arms and shoulders and fingers. And then finally, once I felt sort of warmed up, I started doing some of the first moves. I was a bit worried about my finger after the slight pulley sprain the other day. But I taped it up tight in an “X” pattern and hoped for the best.

I fell in love again with the first moves on this boulder. Straight arms on the starting ledge. Daintily place your left foot on the shelf out left. Bring your right foot up to the small edge. Reach up to the jug crimp left. Cross your right foot over to the thin but good ledge. Flag your left foot out. Deadpoint up to the far right jug crimp. Smear your left foot, right foot up on the ledge, switch the feet quickly, and dive into the corner. I’ve done these moves so many times. I honestly think I might be able to do them with my eyes closed. But then I get to the crux and everything sort of shuts down. Except lately I’ve been making micro progress. Or actually probably macro progress.

While I was resting between burns two girls showed up. They’d seen me driving by and figured they’d check out the boulder. Their names were McKenna and Karen, and we immediately started working Serenity Now a bit together, and then moved over to Insanity Later V2, which was wet but not unclimbable. I sent it after a few tries and then Karen got to the top but didn’t want to top out with the wetness and the general precariousness of being up that high. Then we chilled by Serenity Now again, and they busted out snacks, which instantly made them two of my favorite people on the planet.

I figured I’d give Serenity Now a couple more burns before having to head back to Seattle, and I got closer to getting past the crux than I’ve ever gotten on that boulder. “I want to see you send it,” Karen said. After the first burn the rain whipped into the valley and the second burn suffered. It started pouring pretty much instantly and we hightailed it out of there.

The moral of the story is this: A day I thought was going to be unclimbable turned out to be one of the most fun days I’ve had in awhile. I made progress on my project. I met some new friends. And the best part is the forecast said “rain” all week, and now I’m realizing that all you need is a dry morning, or a dry afternoon, and you can probably sneak a little climbing in.

Which is totally rad.

– Wetz