A Year of Bouldering Progression

Chapter 1: Gym Climbing

I’m still trying to figure out when I went bouldering for the first time. Well, the VERY first time was sometime in maybe 2017 or 2018 when my friend’s friend Marc was visiting Bainbridge from Luxembourg and they took me to the gym on Bainbridge and I was literally fully pumped within 10 minutes (maybe less) and didn’t have a very pleasant experience. That was the FIRST time. But that didn’t start it. I wasn’t like, “Holy shit what is this new activity I must practice it all the time.”

Then at some point I took an Intro to Bouldering class at Vertical World in Seattle. This was (I think) sometime in late November of 2019. I think it was late November because with the intro class they gave you two weeks of free membership but I didn’t use it at all because I immediately went to Vietnam and also didn’t really….want to.

OMG ok here we go I found it. I’m looking through old emails and there it is:

So. I did this class. Was kind of intimidated. Not super stoked. And it’s unclear to me whether or not my friend Hunter took me BEFORE or after I’d done this class. Because that was the critical moment, when my friend Hunter took me to Seattle Bouldering Project. That’s when I might’ve done some reds and maybe even some greens and FOR WHATEVER REASON…became super stoked on bouldering. Because then after he took me I started going on my own. And it’s all history after that.

Chapter 2: Outdoor Climbing

VB-V3

From January to March (aka when the lockdown started) I climbed VERY REGULARLY at the gym. Just before lockdown I was basically climbing at the gym every day, mostly at Upper Walls in Fremont but also at SBP Poplar.

Then lockdown hit.

And I stopped climbing and moved to India.

Aka I took my climbing outdoors.

In March of 2020 I went climbing outdoors for the first time. In April I got Pablo Zuleta’s Western Washington Bouldering guidebook, and that also changed everything. I went to the Morpheus Boulders in the West Miller River Valley and sent my first “real” outdoor boulder problem: Car Door Traverse V0 on the famous Car Door Boulder.

(The first ever blog post I did about bouldering: https://whereswetzler.com/misadventures-of-a-novice-boulderer-part-1/)

The first thing bouldering outside taught me is that bouldering outside is WAYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY harder than bouldering in a gym. At least grade-wise. And landing-wise. And conditions-wise. And holds-wise. And pretty much everything else-wise. Bouldering outside you’re falling on a four-inch thick pad that’s (in my case) 4X6 feet and often times uneven. Bouldering inside you’re falling on a perfect pad that’s probably two feet thick and never uneven. Bouldering inside the holds are always dry and they never break and the holds are usually pretty damn good. Bouldering outside the holds are sometimes wet or slippery or covered in crap and usually much crimpier they are than indoors (depending on where you’re bouldering, of course).

Basically, they’re two different disciplines. And both rewarding, though let’s be honest, bouldering outside is the real deal, and bouldering inside is (albeit super super a;sldfjads;lkfjadl;k fun) training.

Or something.

In May of 2020 I sent my first V1 outdoors and got fully owned by a V2 (Beam Me Up) that I’d been looking at forever in the guidebook.

A couple weeks later I sent my first V2 outdoors (Eight Bit Slab, Gold Bar, WA).

And then in late June I sent my first V3 outdoors after projecting U2 in Leavenworth for a couple months.

The Road to V4

It would be a LONNNNNNNNNNG time before I sent V4 after sending V3. Like, many moons. Like, about six moons, to be exact. In the meantime I sent a bunch more V3’s, a bunch more V2’s, and I took my first every bouldering road trip, to Bishop, California!!!!!!!! Which was incredible. What an eye-opening experience. What amazing blocs. What amazing movement. What amazing, juggy holds (at the Happies). What cold camping!!!!!!! I almost froze to death!!! Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh but it was glorious and I can’t wait to get back. I didn’t send V4 there but whatever. I had a wonderful time. I got a bit stronger. Met some cool people.

Then, in December of 2020, I finally sent my first V4. I had been working on several V4’s: Serenity Now, Toto, Fridge Center, and Dirty Dancing. But Toto was the first to go, probably because it’s one of the easiest, and also since it’s slightly overhanging and under a tree it stays dry pretty much all winter. I climbed it just a couple days before Christmas, and I was ecstactic:

Injury

And then, on New Year’s Eve 2020, I got injured. I was bouldering at Goat Rock State Beach in Sonoma County, California with Carolyn and tore my LCL and probably damaged my meniscus due to a heel hook gone bad. I won’t go into details. I’m currently on the mend. In fact I’m getting better every day and I’m stoked and starting to feel really good again and I’m gym climbing and so I’ll just segue into the next segment…..

Chapter 3: Recovery and Beyond

As I said, I’m on the mend, and more stoked every day. I’ve found a lot of silver linings in this injury. For one thing it’s just made me more cognizant of the fact that you CAN get injured bouldering if you’re not paying attention, if you’re careless. Also, you can get injured even if you are these things. In fact, if you boulder for long enough, you’re likely to get injured. But what happens when you get injured? Do you bounce back? Do you learn from it? I hope to do both of these things and more. Recently I started climbing in the gym again, and I’m starting to feel good. My body is adjusting, but more importantly I’m becoming more mentally comfortable. I’m doing physical therapy, I’m trying to eat well, and I’m even injecting experimental peptides into my knee. All in the name of….bouldering? Progression? Purpose? V8?

I hope to continue to feel better, I hope to continue to heal, and I hope to keep climbing in the gym and at SOME point, maybe in April, maybe in May, start climbing outdoors again. I will only say this once, right here: My goal by the end of the fall season is to send V8 outdoors. I know it’s insane. But I also know I can do it. It would be incredible, and of course even if I don’t do it it will be incredible just to progress at bouldering and continue to have it be an integral part of my life. Because that’s what it is. Bouldering has now become an integral part of my life, and I’m thrilled about it. I’m thrilled to try new blocs, get stronger, have fun, and meet new people. And also to connect on some very fundamental level with movement, nature, and presence. Because that’s what it’s all about, right?

 

Looking at Apartments in Leavenworth || Road to Recovery

Morning, friends! I hope everyone is doing well today. I am doing well, aka decent, aka I just got a matcha latte from Woodland Coffee with almond milk and A LITTLE BIT OF HONEY. LITTLE BIT. This must be stressed: LITTLE BIT. Except I think it was actually quite a bit.

Because it was delicious. And matcha lattes with almond milk and no sweetener are usually disgusting, unless you get them from some place like Mr. West or Iconik, in Santa Fe.

Yesterday I went to Leavenworth. I took I-90 because Stevens Pass was closed — I HATE taking I-90 to get to Leavenworth even though it’s just as fast. This is probably because I hate I-90. I don’t like Issaquah. I don’t like North Bend. I don’t want to drive through these towns. Also, I don’t appreciate having to go over TWO passes, aka Snoqualmie and Blewett. I would much rather take Highway 2 through Monroe and Sultan and Startup and Gold Bar and Index and Baring and Skykomish. And indeed, that’s what I did on the way back, because by that time Stevens was open. But on the way there I was forced to take the dreaded I-90.

The point of going to Leavenworth yesterday WAS TO LOOK AT STUDIO APARTMENTS. No, thine eyes deceive thee not. I looked at apartments yesterday in Leavenworth. And you know what??????????????? I was actually kinda stoked on them.

Were they tiny AF?

Yes.

Were they somewhat tasteless and right next to a Safeway?

Also yes.

Could I see myself living there?

Absolutely.

The apartment I was most interested in was a ground floor corner apartment. Normally I don’t like ground floor apartments, but I think that’s changed since living on the boat, since on the boat I’m so closed to the ground (water). Now it feels weird to be up high. It’s like you’re….in an apartment building. But if you’re on the ground floor it’s kinda like you’re in a house. And this apartment, since it was corner, had three windows instead of one. These rooms are basically the size of small hotel rooms. They’re tiny. But. I don’t know. Like I said, I’m kinda stoked on them.

AFTER looking at the apartments I went to get a coffee at J5. I would’ve gone to Argonaut, cuz it’s much nicer, but they were closed. So I went to the J5 right on the main drag and even though they’re not on the menu they had matcha lattes. Bonus. Plus the girl working there was super nice. And then afterward I went to the bookstore and THEY were super nice. Maybe everyone in Leavenworth is super nice. It’s a weird place because it’s so small but at the same time so touristy.

After the matcha latte I just had to, you guess it, check out some boulders. So I coaxed the groaning Subi into the Icicle Canyon and we went to check out the Fridge Boulder. The Subi waited in the parking lot, since she doesn’t really care about bouldering. I went to check out this waking dream of a boulder. The line I most wanted to look at was Fridge Center V4, since it’s a line I’d tried before. But I also looked at Fridge Left V8, and it sort of seemed doable. Some heinous slopers, but I like slopers. There was quite a bit of snow on the ground, and Fridge Center was wet. Not that I would’ve gotten on it. I would’ve wanted to. But I’m not quite ready yet.

Then I drove over Stevens Pass.

Then I stopped at the Camp Serene Boulder.

The Camp Serene boulder is one of my favorite boulders of all time. The only line I’ve done on it so far is Insanity Later V2, but I’ve tried Serenity Now V4+ about a thousand times and I’ve even given Climax Control V6 some decent go’s. Here I kind of had to pee, but I also just wanted to commune with this hulking mass of granodiorite ecstasy. I sort of got on the starting hold of Serenity Now, but even turning my foot sideways for the starting foothold kind of hurt, and I was wearing hiking shoes, and I’m just so damn out of shape. It’s gonna take a while for me to get back in shape, but desire will not be the problem. Going to the gym on a regular basis will not be a problem. Just need this ligament to heal, first.

So that was my Leavenworth outing. Full success. Saw the apartments. Could move in as early as today if I wanted to, but I’m going to think about it a little more. Since I have the boat in Seattle, I don’t feel rushed. Also, since I can’t even climb right now, I don’t feel rushed. And when I can climb I want to start in the gym first, and there’s no gym in Leavenworth. So no rush. For now it’s off to physical therapy in a little bit to see what my wonderful physical therapist has in store for me. I’m excited.

– Wetzler

I Want My Knee to Heal So Bad | Road to Recovery

Since I know the majority of you come here for spanking new bouldering content, I thought I’d give you an update on my knee and my Road to V7, aka Road to V12, aka Road to V2, aka Road to Being Able to Use My Knee Again in Any Sort of Normal Capacity.

So.

I’m lying on the floor of my hotel room in Los Mochis, Sinaloa. I just iced my knee with a huge bag of ice the dude from the restaurant gave me. I debated about whether or not to tip him. Should I give him the 5 pesos in my pocket? Would that be insulting? Do you really have to tip in a hotel when anyone does anything for you? Should I just dip my knee in the pool?

Brought the ice back up to my room, lay on the floor, propped my knee up on the foam roller (I travel nowhere without my foam roller), and iced the shit out of it. Then rested it. Then iced it some more. Watched some Emma Chamberlain. Rested it. Iced the living fuck out of it. And now I’m elevating it.

This knee is so fucking frustrating. Is it just my LCL that’s partially torn? Is it getting better? If it’s getting better why doesn’t it feel like it’s getting better? Are my ACL and meniscus also kinda fucked? God I hope not.

I’ve stopped writing about bouldering because I’m not bouldering. I went to Bishop last week and just looked at boulders. I drove by some boulders leaving Hermosillo the other day and you know what? IT DIDN’T FEEL WEIRD NOT BEING ABLE TO CLIMB THEM. I’M GETTING USED TO NOT BEING ABLE TO CLIMB.

It’s terrible.

When I can climb, where do I want to go? Bishop, of course. Leavenworth. Gold Bar. Index. Joe’s Valley. Moe’s Valley. RMNP. Bishop again. Joshua Tree. Back to Bishop. Leavenworth. Bishop. Leavenworth. Bishop. Leavenworth.

Squamish.

Has anyone else partially torn their LCL in isolation? How long did it take to heal? Please leave several comments below.

I can hear the ice melting next to me.

I’m going to watch a movie on Hulu tonight and go to bed. Supposedly I’m fasting right now. We’ll see how that pans out. I think it will pan out fairly well. Tomorrow I’m driving to Mazatlan. Or maybe even beyond, to San Blas.

I want my knee to heal so bad.

Feel the Pinch | Road to V5

If you’ve stumbled upon this blog looking for info on the epic boulder problem Feel the Pinch V4 (feel it) I’m sorry to disappoint: This blog post isn’t really about feel the pinch even though I’m sitting in front of it in above picture. No, this post is mostly because I wanted to do my first post with the subtitle of “Road to V5” and even though Feel the Pinch isn’t V5 I had a good picture of it.

Yes, friends, you are correct: The Road to V4 is over and the Road to V5 has begun. Actually, the road to V5 began a long time ago. When I was on the Road to V4 I was also on the Road to V5, and the Road to V6, and V9, and whatever other roads leading me towards further bouldering destinations. I don’t know what v-grade I will eventually climb one day. I don’t really care. I have dreams — oh yes, I have dreams — and they involve problems like Obesity V7 in Gold Bar, Naughty Corner V7, The Method V12 in Squamish…. I don’t look at The Method and think, “One day I’m gonna climb that,” but I also sort of do. That’s one of my favorite things about bouldering: You go to a boulder that’s V8 and look at it and think, There’s no fucking way I could get up that. But then you go back six months later and suddenly you can see yourself doing it, or at least doing some of the moves. What has changed? Our bodies? Our brains? Our sternums?

I’m in a hotel room in Ashland, Oregon right now headed towards California. After this blog post I’ll check the oil in my car and then leave. I’m drinking a venti English Breakfast tea from Starbucks right now with just a LITTLE BIT of cream in it, mostly because I wanted the human interaction of talking to the girl working there since for the first part of today I won’t really talk to anyone. Unfortunately the most interesting part of our conversation was her informing me that she couldn’t sell me produce or booze, a fact I already knew. Now I’m sitting in the hotel room and it’s mostly dark. When I got here yesterday they asked me, Do you have a dog? And I said, “Do I?” Actually I said no and then they upgraded me to the King Suite, where I proceeded to watch Chelsea v. Arsenal and cook bacon in the microwave.

That reminds me: I should probably leave a tip for the cleaners.

I probably have about seven hours of driving today. Maybe less. I would like to climb today — and I could climb near Mt Shasta — but I’m not really inspired by any of the boulders near there. Maybe I could find a new one? Maybe I could climb something near Redding? Or the boulders near Vacaville? Yes, yes, I could totally climb near Vacaville. But I don’t know if I want to.

I think it’s time for me to hit the road. I have two massive bouldering pads in the back of my car. Ninety six square feet of bouldering pad. I haven’t mentioned ANYTHING about it in this post so far, but this is actually a bouldering road trip. I’m planning to go to Bishop. Maybe Joshua Tree. And maybe, just maybe, Cataviña….

But we’ll see.

For now I need to check my oil.

-Wetz

 

The Final Chapter | Road to V4

It is with great relief that I write the words “The Final Chapter” before Road to V4 today. This last jump, from V3 to V4, was by far the hardest yet. I had been projecting so many V4’s and gotten close on many of them before finally sending Toto V4, in Leavenworth’s Forestland area, a few days ago. And while I’m already starting to look at V5’s and have already started to project one boulder even harder than V5 (Climax Control V6), I realize from past experience that climbing one V4 in no way means you’re a V4 climber or ready to tackle all the V5’s. In fact, it usually means you need to do a lot more V4’s, and even more importantly a lot more V3’s, and a lot more V2’s, etc etc. I definitely need to do a lot more V3’s. And I’m not expecting the next V4 to be easy.

Without further ado, here it is:

At the risk of beta spray (see: stop reading if you don’t want any beta for this problem), I will say that moving my right foot up slightly before going for the lip changed everything. Before I was lunging for the lip with my foot all the way down on the good nub next to the ground. Foolish. But then moving my right foot up just six inches changed everything. It made getting to the lip much higher percentage. It made it less of a lunge. It allowed me to send this problem. And it also made me realize something very important about technique: get your feet high before you trying to make a big move.

My buddy Darren was filming, which was nice because it added some pressure to get it done and also made me not have to worry about setting up the camera.

Now what happens? Well, I’m supposed to start heading south toward California the day after Christmas, and there’s a very decent chance this trip to California will take me back to Bishop and also possibly Joshua Tree. There’s a less likely chance it’ll take me back to Red Rocks, but you never no. And there’s also a chance it’ll take me to Northern Baja, where about five hours south of the border there’s a little town that I like to think of as the Joshua Tree of northern Mexico. Will I actually go there? I’m not sure. There is no guidebook. There is very little on the bouldering around this town. But I’ve been there before, and I’m dying to go back.

As for now I’m going to enjoy Christmas Eve with my parents and a relaxing couple of days before heading south.

I’m also going to start thinking about my next post and The Road to V5.

– Wetz