Stoked on Mad Meadows || ROAD TO V5

So, I’m watching this vid right now:

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.

BUT.

But.

BUT.

But.

(But.)

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.

She wears short skirts I wear t-shirts.

Five V points.

Didn’t hurt my back.

Stoked on The Crack V2.

Stoked on:

Photo: Adi.

 

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.

 

Day is for Resting

It’s so quiet at my brother’s house where I’m pet sitting. I’d forgotten it could be this quiet. No sound of the road. I can’t hear the wind outside because the windows are probably somewhat soundproof. There’s no humming of a washing machine or a dishwasher or even the refrigerator. I hear a crack every now and again and also some kind of very low whooshing sound that might be the hum of the universe. And of course I hear my fingers typing. But that’s it. Other than that, the silence is deafening.

Today is day two of what will be at least four — possibly five — rest days. My tendons and muscles are so happy to get a rest. I woke up this morning with my fingers completely swollen. I wondered: How long would it take to stop waking up with swollen fingers? Obviously diet has some influence in this. My diet lately has been….not great. With proper diet I bet I could stop waking up with swollen fingeres in about a week. Without proper diet I think it would take at least twice as long. Which reminds me…I’m thinking of fasting tomorrow. I say “thinking” because that’s all I usually do with fasting lately. I think about it. The last time I fasted for any significant period of time (i.e. 24 hours or more) was right around the summer solstice. So, late June. Which means it’s been at least two months since a proper fast. I’m due. My digestive system is screaming for a break.

In other news, I went climbing the other day at SBP with my friend and former physical therapist. He’s a much stronger climber than me. Not so much grade wise, but more in just technique and overall competency. He’s one of those people that climbs and you’re like, “OK, that guy climbs.” Some people get on a route and they can sort of do it just because they’re strong. And other people get on a route and you’re like, “Damn, that guy/girl knows what they’re doing.” You can just tell. They’re smooth. Even if they’re straining they go confidently between holds. They read problems well. They’re efficient. And this is exactly how my friend/former physical therapist is. Efficient, smooth, skilled.

I learn a lot climbing with people like that.

That session was Friday evening. It’s now Sunday. I won’t climb again until Thursday at the earliest. Temps are looking PERFECT for Thursday. Thursday evening could be a super sesh, though the whole day looks great. Though shit, I just checked the forecast for Gold Bar and now it’s saying a 30% chance of rain! Oh well, these things are never really accurate more than 48 hours out. Could always go to Leavenworth. Could always go to Mad Meadows, since I STILL HAVEN’T BEEN THERE. And for some reason I’ve been thinking about Dirty Dancing V4 lately. After my essentially religious experience on this problem, I’ve been thinking about how much I liked it and how much I’d like to repeat it. It really is a perfect boulder problem for my level right now. The holds are JUST good enough. Just bad enough. Just perfect enough. Just dishy enough. And also I want to try the V2 across from it again, Slam Dunk, and also the V5 next to that, Buried Alive, and maybe — maybe? — try the first moves of Lion’s Den V8. I mean, why not. I can heel hook. I can do compression (maybe). I can sit start.

Other problems to try:

Schist Cave Right V5

Footless Traverse V5

Weather Report V3 (got close last time!)

Shaniqua V5 (this thing looks rad and I wanna see just how high this start is cuz people are talking about how you need to stack like 40 pads)

Yosemite Highball V4 (couldn’t do the first move last time)

Alfafa vs Spanky V5

And don’t worry, a bunch of easier ones too.

Also, I’d love to go back to Gold Bar sometime soon. I haven’t hiked up to the Clearcut Boulders in a lukewarm minute. I have so many projects up there. And so many boulders I’d like to repeat. Basically I wish I could climb all day every day from now until the end of Septmber. And who knows, maybe once my tendons adjust I’ll be able to do that. But regardless of how your body hangs in, it’s hard to keep up stoke for that long. One thing I’ve learned: taking breaks is the best way to get back stoke. After a break your body is raring to go and your mind is raring to go, too. You’ve had time to reflect. You’ve had time to absorb good technique and hopefully ditch old patterns.

God it’s still so quiet in here. What am I going to do. I think I’m gonna go up to the high school and kick a soccer ball around a bit. I think I’m gonna eat some beets. And chug some whater. And maybe watch the rest of a 1998 Gwyneth Paltrow film I got into just before I came here. Sunday, lazy Sunday.

A Session at Egg Rock in Leavenworth

Yesterday I went to Leavenworth.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: Mark hasn’t been to Leavenworth in a long time. What’s wrong with him?

And it’s not that there’s anything wrong with me. It’s just that Leavenworth in summer is hot, and it’s also far away. If you boulder you know that hot temperatures are the enemy of sending. Your hands get sweaty, and there’s less friction. So THAT’S why I haven’t been going to Leavenworth lately. Also, when I go to Leavy I like to stay in a hotel in Wenatchee, and for whatever reason they’ve been REALLY expensive lately. Like, prohibitively expensive. So that’s another reason. And three hours each way is too far to drive in one day. I know the drive takes most people less time, but I drive like a grandma, so it takes me about three hours. I will not apologize.

But yesterday I DID go to Leavenworth and it was glorious. I went to Egg Rock aka I Heart Jerry Garcia aka Musashi aka the cluster of boulders just beyond The Sword boulders aka almost the furthest cluster of boulders down The Icicle in the guidebook. I went here for two reasons: 1) Usually it gets colder as you go up The Icicle, and 2) I figured it would be quiet. Because I don’t like climbing with people. Or rather, sometimes I like climbing with people, but yesterday I definitely didn’t feel like it. Which is why I STILL haven’t been to Mad Meadows. My biggest nightmare is going there on a hot day with six thousand people blasting speakers and talking loudly and stirring up a bunch of dust with their crash pads. Better to stay solitary.

I started off climbing Funiculi Funicula VB which was, as the guidebook stated, quite basic. The mantle was a TINY bit hard, mostly because when you mantle you have to support most of your body weight, and since I’ve started eating whatever I want I weigh as much as a small wildebeest. But it was still a good, easy, fun warm-up. In case you go there by yourself this is probably also the easiest downclimb. So keep that in mind.

After FF VB I went over to China Cat V2, a slab! God, how I love slab. I mean, I don’t love slab, I just love climbing something that requires mostly legs. My legs are strong. My arms and fingers not so much. Now, I know what you’re thinking: Uh, duh, Mark, everyone has strong legs compared to their arms. But having grown up playing soccer and generally just running all over the place, my legs might even be inordinately strong, whereas before climbing (and surfing) I basically never did anything with my arms. So maybe that’s why I like slab climbing. I think I also kind of like it because people love to talk about how they hate slab. It’s cool to say things like, “Man, I’m so bad at slab,” or “Man, I hate slab.” Just once I’d like to hear someone say, “I LOVE SLAB.” Until that person comes along I will simply say it myself.

China Cat is a V2 that has pretty terrible feet after the initial good dish. You’re basically smearing, or standing on very small edges. Which is great practice. It took me at least five tries to get to the top, and when I did it was anything graceful. I basically lunged for the lip, took all the weight off my feet, and thrutched over the top. So at some point I’d like to go back and do it over and do it more gracefully. But yesterday once was enough, because I really wanted to get to the next problem, which was….

Estimated Prophet V1.

This thing is a lowball with perfect staircase edges. It’s a sit start. I thought it might be kind of hard. It wasn’t. It was insanely easy. I mean, as a taller climber I did have to spider my legs off to the side a bit on the sit to get them out of the way, but all the holds are bomber and well, you basically just stand up and you’re at the top. So, maybe not the most fun I’ll ever have climbing something eight feet tall, like the guidebook says, but still fun, and still a great warm-up.

After Estimated Prophet I went back to the Jerry Garcia/China Cat boulders so I could try Weather Report V3. On this problem you start crouched with your left hand on a fin and your right hand on a good sidepull (the good sidepull is the higher of the two sidepulls). You then smear your feet and “lunge” to a good rounded hold above. I tried this with just smearing at first, but it seemed hard. Then I spotted a left heel hook, and got much closer. However, the rounded hold lay tantalizingly out of reach, and in retrospect I will either have to lunge a bit to get it even with the heel hook, or try different smear beta, or maybe even try a left foot smear (or on a small edge) with a right toehook. Either way, I was super stoked to find the left heel hook and make some progress, even though I didn’t send the boulder. I’m bummed if I don’t send a V2 first session, but not with a V3. However, I DID get bummed when I watched a bunch of people doing it on YouTube this morning, mostly because A) I know I’m as strong or stronger than some of the people in the videos, and B) it took the mystique of figuring out the beta on my own away from me. Lately I’ve been into figuring out the beta myself, instead of watching YouTube videos. There’s something IMMENSELY satisfying about “solving” a boulder problem yourself. And it’s still satisfying when you climb it after getting beta from videos, but you definitely feel a bit like you cheated. Or something.

Aka I bought barley milk this morning and it’s disgusting.

Aka I woke up at 6am and couldn’t get back to sleep.

ANYWAY, that was the session yesterday at Egg Rock in Leavenworth. Great bouldering area, lots of rad moderates, and already a project or two in the making. Can’t wait to get back.

 

The Journey || Road to V∞

I am continuing to recover from my hip injury, which was probably an injury in some capacity to my rectus femoris tendon. It’s very tender at the spot where it inserts into the anterior inferior iliac spine.

The injuries as of late have encouraged me to take a closer look at what I want out of bouldering. Not that you have to have an answer for this question, but in my case I think it will help me move forward in a way that minimizes injury and maximizes physical and spiritual enjoyment. Because that’s what bouldering is for me at its zenith: spiritual. My ascent a couple weeks ago of Dirty Dancing V4 certainly felt spiritual, being alone at the boulders, on a cold, windy Monday morning at 7:30am, warming up on a reachy V2, saying to myself, “I’m just going to see if I can pull on,” and then moving up, up, up on the thin edges of Dirty Dancing, finally grabbing the big jugs about halfway up, hauling myself into the scoop. It felt spiritual as I sat there on top of the boulder, in somewhat of a fetal position, listening to the wind. And of course it felt spiritual while climbing the boulder problem itself, as if with each raising of the foot the ground disappeared beneath me.

The injuries have pushed me to explore the spiritual side of bouldering and also to lessen my focus on grades. Read almost ANY article on “Bouldering for Beginners” or “How to Get Started in Bouldering” and you’ll find an author almost yelling at you to “not focus on grades.” I’d read this over and over but never really been convinced. If I want to focus on grades, I thought, I’m going to focus on grades. I’m not going to listen to some jackass who writes climbing articles for Gripped. It’s not like I climb for him, anyway. I climb for me.

But did I really climb for me?

This is where things get tricky with grades.

I’d argue that most of the time when you’re climbing for a certain grade, or at least a decent amount of the time, you’re not climbing for yourself. You’re climbing because of how you look in other people’s eyes, so you can tell people you climbed V5, so you can tell yourself you climbed V5, so you can look at other people who are only climbing V4 and think, Fuck yeah, I used to be one of them. Now I climb V5.

Just to be clear, I don’t see a huge problem with this. There are worse things in the world. There are greater injustices. But FOR ME PERSONALLY, this approach has led to dissatisfaction and, more importantly, injury.

You could climb V10 tomorrow, but it doesn’t necessarily mean your experience will be impactful. It doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll grow (spiritually, emotionally) because of the experience. And it certainly doesn’t mean that you climbed “well.” As I progress on my climbing journey, I’m becoming more interested in climbing “well.” This means having good technique, this means that it feels good to climb, like I’m moving efficiently, like I’m in harmony with the holds and the rock. It’s more of a yin approach to bouldering, instead of the yang approach that is sometimes adopted. You’re letting the rock and the conditions and everything else dictate how you climb, and you’re responding to that and using it to your best possible advantage (which might mean on a given day that you may touch the starting holds of a climb and not even pull on at all). This is in contrast to the yang approach, where you’re trying to dominate the rock, wrestle it into submission. It is possible to do this. It’s possible to even derive pleasure from this. But for me, it’s not a sustainable approach, since granite is generally harder than soft tissue, and after several attempts at trying to dominate a V5 dyno, when your body is whispering to stop, take it easy, we’re done, and the universe is telling you to stop, put it on hold, come back another time, you strain your rectus femorus.

And then you can’t really climb for a month, at which point: Why not focus on technique? Why not focus on moving well? Why not see if you can derive just as much satisfaction from a V1 as you can from a V3 or a V4? Or even climbing your first V5?

I know it’s cliche and I know it’s hard advice to follow, but if you focus on moving well, on process goals, on feeling good climbing, grades will probably come. I don’t want to say they WILL come, because they kind of promise can never be made, and also because if you’re only trying to move well or focus on process goals to get a certain grade then you’re kind of missing the point. The ultimate goal for bouldering for me is for it to be a sort of moving meditation. This is bouldering at its most wonderful for me. When I approach the rock and all else disappears. When I am suddenly seared into the present moment, and things slow down. I notice the way the sun hits a particular part of the rock, or the way a leaf quivers in the breeze, or the way a cloud looks in the sky. And then when I’m on the rock my body is moving in harmony with it. Yes, great physical exertion may occur, but only where necessary. There is an element of play involved. And in fact this is something I should’ve mentioned much earlier in this post. Play is so important in bouldering, and in life in general. It feels good to play with the movement, and that’s how you really learn. You tinker. What would happen if I put my right foot up really high? What would happen if I engaged my thumb more? What would happen if I took off my shirt and screamed during the crux?

And so I try to focus on these things, the things I can still focus on regardless of injury. And I find that by focusing on these things my experience of bouldering becomes enriched, and I become a better climber. I’ll probably climb harder grades, but that won’t be the point. Or at least I hope it won’t. These things are never completely cut and dry, and there’s always some wavering back and forth. Which is fine. All part of the journey.