Four hundred and fourteen dollars of pending charges on my new Air Canada credit card.
A cup of black tea, the water still quite hot.
A rainy, chilly day.
But good weather in the forecast.
At least good for climbing.
I have acupuncture today, and I’m excited. My back, all things considered, is actually feeling quite good. I’ve been eating decent, taking turmeric pills, doing a shit ton of yoga, and also doing my physical therapy somewhat regularly.
And even though I didn’t send anything, I felt MUCH better than the the session at Mad Meadows the other day. Like, much better. Like, I actually felt kinda good. Like, I actually almost felt like a person. Like, I got shut down by Alfalfa or Spanky V5 but made a bit of progress on it. Like, Fountainblues V0 felt really hard for me. Like, I flashed my first ever V3, but it was bitter sweet cuz it was a terrible, terrible problem (Unknown V3 at Forestlands, #63 in the guidebook), that probably shouldn’t have been V3. But I’ll take it. It’s not on Mountain Project, so there’s no one to dispute it.
After Forestlands and Alfalfa or Spanky (God I love that first move) we went to the Beach Forest area and I wanted to try The Savage Act V5 and The Terrible V7, but my body was feeling kinda gnar. But then on the walk back I crossed Highway Dos and checked out the Gaze of the Grasshopper boulder, which features the eponymous V4 that Harlow Huber calls V2/3. WHATVER the grade is, it’s an epic boulder and has three or four good-looking lines ranging from V3 to V6. And actually I hope Gaze of the Grasshopper is soft, because on both Mountain Project and Sendage it’s a V4 (V4- on MP) which means if/when I do send it I can claim another V4. Which would be nice, cuz I feel like I haven’t sent anything hard lately.
Oh, climbing. How one day you can feel so bad and the next day so good.
Or vice versa.
In completely unrelated news (though actually very related), my move to Blaine has gotten delayed till June 2nd. This means I won’t be ALMOST Canadian till June, which is actually good cuz Squamish doesn’t really start getting dry till June. It’s also good cuz May is an AMAZING month in Leavenworth, and I wanna do at least 2-3 more trips there this month and ideally camp in my car a bit and send hella V4’s and maybe even some 5’s and…….
…..maybe even a 6?
Is that too much to ask?
Is that demanding?
I’ve started strength training again, aka dead lifts and L-sits and pushups. And bench with free weights. I love deadlifts. I use a kettle ball to do them, and just pick it up and put it down again. It’s primal and simple and awesome. My diet has been decent lately, not great but decent, and, and I’ve learned that I NEED to rest at least two days after a hard climbing sesh. Preferably three. Or four. I think once my body gets used to climbing again I’ll be able to get away with no more than two days rest and maybe even one day’s rest and OCCASIONALLY two days in a row, but damn, your body needs to get used to climbing outside. Like, you need calluses, and you need to be used to pulling. And somehow pulling outside is very different from pulling in the gym.
Since I haven’t written in quite awhile, I’m determined to write a post today. I’ve even made myself a cup of tea specially for this endeavor. I’m sitting in front of the laptop and all I have to do is type. All I have to do is type and not get distracted and go start watching YouTube videos or something. All I have to do is type. Type. Type. Type.
So, two days ago I went to Leavenworth. The idea was to climb on Friday, stay in a hotel in Wenatchee Friday night, climb Saturday morning, and then drive back to Seattle. And that’s what I did. I sort of had to FORCE myself to do it, because lately the inertia has been real. It’s hard for me to do anything that requires more than a half hour of driving. I wouldn’t say I’m CONTENT to sit around all day and watch YouTube videos and go on walks and do some work, but I’ve realized that flitting all over the place doesn’t make you content either, indeed makes you LESS content, so for now I’ve chosen the lesser of two evils. But I also know that I love bouldering more than anything in the world, so I was pretty sure if I hauled myself over the Cascades to Leavenworth I’d be glad I did.
And I was right.
And I climbed two new V3’s in one session, the first time I’d ever done that.
One of them, Giant Man, was a V3/4 in the guidebook, but a V3 on Mountain Project, and tall people seem to think it should even be V1 or V2. I can see the V2 rating from a physical perspective, but the danger factor definitely makes it harder to execute the moves. And I know John Sherman, when he invented the v-system, said the danger factor should not be taken into consideration when deciding the grade, but let’s face it, that’s not what’s happened in practice. Doing a V2 move 10-feet off the deck feels like doing a V3 move, or even V4. I’m all for the danger factor being taken into consideration with the grade, because I think the grade should be more holistic anyway.
Left foot out to the slightly-sloping but still good edge. Right food up to the diagonal edge. Reach the right hand over and grab the good hold just beneath the lip.
After sending Giant Man on like the third or fourth try (the V3 flash still eludes me), I went over to The Ferret V3, which I had just watched Random Crusher do before me, a dude who was at The Carnival Boulders with no pad, just his climbing shoes, chalk and dog. So I had the beta (I’d also just watched him do Giant Man [with no pad!!!]) and had the beta for that, too), which made things a lot easier. One of the hard parts of The Ferret is actually starting it out. You start on not a great edge on a slightly overhanging face, and have to do sort of a right drop knee to get your right hand out to the first hold. I then went through a forest of bumps, but most people, after latching the first hold, just reposition their feet and are able to proceed accordingly. But I’m still a bit of a novice. Not so good at figuring things out on my own. Or rather, I can figure things out on my own, but often my beta is wack and it takes me a LONG time to find the good beta.
After you get to the “ferret” hold you traverse up and left along a pretty good rail with some knobby holds on it. I did a right heel hand match at some point, but it probably wasn’t necessary. But it sure did feel cool. The top out was a bit gnarly ‘cuz there was a puddle in it, but easy once you figured out how to avoid the puddle and find the good holds.
I also did something on The Ferret that was extremely mature, and sort of had to force msyelf to do it in the moment. After I’d kind of puzzled out the start, and ALMOST sent it from the “ferret” hold (about three moves in), I figured I could probably send it from the ground up. HOWEVER, I forced myself to top it out starting from the ferret hold, and I think that move paid sweeping dividends. What could’ve easily happened if I hadn’t done this is I would’ve started at the bottom, gotten to the top out somewhat pumped, freaked out, not sent it (or fallen), and then spent subsequent attempts trying to redpoint it when all along I should’ve figured out the top out first. But what ACTUALLY happened is I topped it out from the ferret hold, and then on the very next go sent it from the ground up with relative ease.
Bam, two V3’s in one day, the first time that’s ever happened.
As a sort of dessert I then went over to The Washout Boulders, where I sent Slam Dunk V2, a boulder I’d tried in the past, in a couple tries. Slam Dunk is basically one big move from a huge ledge to a small edge just below the lip, and one thing you realize is that edge isn’t quite as good as you expect it to be. But I still sent it, and it was a great way to end the day. And by “end the day” I mean I sat there for awhile staring at Diry Dancing V4, bathed in waning afternoon sun, wondering if I should give that a go, too. It could’ve been glorious. But I didn’t; I held off, wanting to end the day on a good note.
So, my blog gets about 200 views per month. Which is unsettling, because I probably look at it upwards of 100 times per month. So does that mean this blog, which I devote aorta and soul to, is only getting about three views a day?
I’ll take it.
Because hey, you never know, it could be enriching the lives of three people. Or making them laugh. Or making them think. Or making them want to boulder.
Speaking of which, I thought we could talk about bouldering today, since I rarely devote time to this subject. Specifically, we could talk about yesterday’s session in Leavenworth, specifically at Barney’s Rubble, specifically centered around such boudlers as The Hesitator V2 and Alfalfa or Spanky V5.
But actually I don’t want to talk about bouldering JUST YET. I’m not quite there yet this morning. I’m still drinking my tea. I haven’t had any carbs yet so maybe that’s why I feel a bit drained. Plus I always feel a bit down the day after a good climbing session. The days I don’t climb often seem a bit…empty. Yes, this is troubling. No, I haven’t taken any concrete steps toward solving this problem.
Slash is bee pollen considered refined sugar?
OK, pull yourself together, Mark.
Maybe I need to watch a YouTube video real quick.
God I burnt the absolute BEJEEZUS out of my tongue this morning at MIRO tea shop in Ballard. I got a large yerba mate and it steeped for like five minutes then I was walking outside with it and I’m like Oh it’s probably had plenty of time to cool off I’m just gonna… And then JESUS it hurt and now I just had some chips and salsa and salsa is not something you wanna eat on a burnt tongue slash I’m watching THIS video:
And you should probably be watching it too.
Obviously I’ve seen this video before.
But sometimes it’s good to revisit.
Watching this video actually reminds me a lot of my attempts on Schist Cave Right V5 in Leavenworth yesterday. I mean, both climbs are roof/cave climbs. Both climbs are either at my limit or beyond. Both climbs involve chalk and climbing shoes and holds. And both climbs I’d love to put down some day. So they have a lot in common. The biggest different is actually probably the rock composition.
OK, NOW we can talk about yesterday’s sesh.
So, Adi and Pablo and Wyatt and the crew were all out in Leavenworth yesterday for a mix of bouldering and trad and top roping, and it was a capital occasion. I got there after everyone, since some of the people went out on Friday to party and the rest early Saturday morning from Seattle. I, on the other hand, was on Bainbridge, so my departure got delayed by the ferry. However, I did make it out there after traversing Snoqualmie Pass and then Blewett Pass and at some point on the journey I started drinking a Runa and started basically shaking and trembling with anticipation of getting out there. When I got there people were JUST getting back from Forestland, a session I heard basically nothing about. It’s not clear to me whether they actually climbed there, since no climbs were mentioned. The words I most heard were “chillin'” and “heat.” However, then we all headed down to Barney’s Rubble, and that’s where the real climbing began.
Pablo, who seems to be growing stronger by the nanosecond, started working on Ouchies V6. This is an interesting climb, because it has zero stars in the guidebook and yet has become one of the most popular climbs in the area. It’s also kind of funny because I don’t think the name really applies anymore. After years and years of getting climbed, the holds aren’t nearly as sharp as they once probably were (just judging from caressing them myself and also from Sendage, though to be fair I haven’t tried the boulder yet). It’s also got a perfectly flat landing, and it’s probably on the easy end of V6. All these factors have made it quite the popular rig, and one I’m stoked to try some time soon.
While Pablo gave Ouchies a few hellfire burns I started suiting up to warm up on some of Barney’s Rubble’s easier blocs, aka The Rail V0, a perfect warm-up bloc to climb up, hang from, down climb, traverse on, etc etc. However, since the caffeine was starting to kick I was feeling restless, and somehow got convinced/wanted to try The Hesitator V2. I love slab, so I thorougly enjoyed the climbing up to the dish before the “leap,” especially one sequence that involved a foot crossover and trusting a small edge. I also enjoyed mantling into the dish, as that felt somewhat tenuous. Now, let it be known that just prior to this someone had told me that tall people could grab the lip from a good edge below where most people have to smear. And that it was easy. And that the lip was a jug. So I felt pretty good about going for it, and indeed, after looking down to make sure the pad was in the right place and testing the foot out a bit, that’s what I did.
And it was glorious.
All the stars.
A good way to start the session.
AKA Pablo also sent ouchies, his first V6!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (all the exclamation points).
Fuck Snow Lakes?
Next we went down to where people top rope/trad climb at Barney’s Rubble. Aka we went cragging, and I loved it because I did all the things I love about cragging, aka sitting on a crashpad and snacking and talking while other people climbed. At no point did I have to put on a harness or a helmet, and at no point did I have to tie in. All of the fun without any of the hassle. HOWEVER, I still did want to do some climbing, so after he tried a 10a Pablo and I went down to Alfalfa or Spanky V5, a dihedral problem that we’d looked at in May last time we were there. Except this time we actually gave it a few burns. And you know what? We sort of figured out the beta. AKA we figured out none of the beta, aka we DID figure out the beta up to the crux, but couldn’t figure out how to actually haul our carcesses into the dihedral, which is the crux. Still, it was great to get on this bloc, since it’s a primo bloc. And it was great to start projecting V5! It definitely didn’t feel too much out of my wheelhouse, and I’m stoked to go back and try it more, especially now that I’ve re-watched a few more videos.
At the end the day everyone else went to Mad Meadows and I went to Schist Cave Right V5 in the Swiftwater Area because that was my main goal for getting out there. I started off by flashing Bam V2, and found it underwhelming. I didn’t even find it WHELMING. I just sort of found it meh. Then I went to Schist Cave right and started trying the first moves and by the end of the session could go from the beginning to where you place the knee bar, but didn’t actually place the knee bar well a) because I’ve never done a knee bar before and b) because I was wearing shorts. However, I was satisfied with my progress on this bloc. And I was satisfied to have done a bit of roof climbing.
Climbing days always go too fast, and yesterday was no different. One minute you’re projecting gorgeous blocs with your friends, the next minute you’re back on your boat in Seattle drinking yerba mate and (almost) crying.
Before this video I had no idea who Ned Feehally was. Now I’m obsessed with him. Did you know that Ned Feehally is one of the few climbers in the world to have flashed V14? Did you know he’s also one of the co-founders of Beastmaker? Did you know I’m one of the few people who live on a 27-foot Catalina in the Greater Seattle Area to have flashed V2? Did you know any of these things?
He also just wrote a book called Beastmaking: A fingers-first approach to becoming a better climber. You can (and will, because I command it) pre-oder a signed copy right here. Prepare to spend the rest of your life climbing. Prepare to flash V14.
ANYWAY, nothing like starting off a blog post on a tanget. Because I’m not here today to talk about Ned Feehally. I’m here today to talk about climbing shoes. And Leavenworth. And Mad Meadows. And actually MOSTLY Mad Meadows, and the Sword Boulders, and sending V2, and chilling with tons of people at the boulders, and having tons of mats, and generally having a wonderful time. Because that’s what went down this last Saturday in Leavenworth. We had a mega crew, and that led to a mega sesh.
Slash I had to take it easy because I COULD NOT FALL. Aka could not fall from high up. Aka could not aggravate my back. Aka.
I think I might need to make some sausage and eggs right now.
Bear with me.
We started off on The Hueco Route V1. Keira sent. I sent. Then we went over to Barnacles V1. Keira sent. I sent. At some point during the warm-up I completely ravaged my right middle finger. Yes, the one that’s been super fucked up for a long time. Then we went UP the trail over to The Rail boulder, and started working on a V2 called The Crack. Keira sent. I sent.
This wasn’t your ordinary V2. The first move was, like, kinda hard. I tried the heel hook beta and couldn’t do it cuz I suck at heel hooking. Kiera said, “I don’t think I’m gonna be able to do it without the throw,” and then proceeded to stick the throw, and then thrutch the shit out of the top out. I stuck the throw but wrenched the shit out of my shoulder, and thought about calling it a day (aka calling it a boulder). But then I felt inspired to see if I could do the throw without wrenching my shoulder. And I did. And I found a hold on the top out that made the top out, like, pretty darn easy, despite the guidebook calling the top out “strenuous.” And so I decided I loved the boulder, even though we were baking in the sun like geoducks at low tide, and even though I’d wrenched my shoulder, and even though I failed on the heel hook beta.
And then the Mega Crew showed up.
The crushers: B-Rad, Emi, Meli. Co-starring: Franz.
They proceeded to session the shit out of The Crack and do every kind of beta imaginable. I’m not sure why they didn’t try the V3 around the corner, The Rail, which is supposedly classic. They seemed more stoked on just doing The Crack over and over. It was rad to watch B-Rad’s heel hook methods. It inspired me to go back and do it again with the heel hooks, and just get better at heel hooking in general. Why am I so bad at it. Is it because I want so badly to be good at it? Is that it? Are the gods taunting me?
Um, so yeah.
Then we went to The Sword Boulders.
And sent a bunch of V0’s.
And maybe a V2.
And then Emi tried the dyno on The Hourglass V6 for like an hour. And by an hour I of course mean a half hour. And then it was, like, late. So we left. And went to the diner by Cole’s Corner. And I got a club sandwich and instantly regretted it. And also sort of regretted not getting a milkshake.
But GOAL ACCOMPLISHED. First goal: send a new V2. Second goal: find more V5’s to project. That goal I didn’t accomplish. I wanted to go check out Pentaphobia at Clamshell Cave or The Dihedral at the Carnival Boulders. We did none of those things. It’s hard when you have a big group. Things always take longer than you expect. You’re not gonna spend your entire day traipsing from boulder to boulder. No one likes to traipse.
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.
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.