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.
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.
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.
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.
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….
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.
I had never bouldered outside before lockdown hit. I had no desire to boulder outside. All I wanted to do was watch Bouldering Bobat videos and try to send a blue at Seattle Bouldering Project. That was pretty much my singular goal in life. But then the lockdown hit and I had to either A) not climb, B) climb outside, or C) move to Libya. I chose option B and never looked back. I started on an abandoned building on Bainbridge Island. I moved to a glacial erratic just north of Poulsbo, WA. And then I got the Western Washington Bouldering Guide, which changed everything. I’ll never forget my first session at the Morpheus Boulders. My first V0…
2. First of the Grade
It’s rare to find a boulder that speaks to you. It’s rarer to find a boulder that A) isn’t so easy that you can send it on the first session or first couple sessions, but B) not so hard that you just want to give up.
U2 (V3), in Leavenworth’s Beach Forest area, was the perfect boulder for me. I projected it over the course of a couple months, usually giving it a few burns on each of my bi-weekly Leavenworth trips. One day after I had started getting close I woke up at 430am near Skykomish, sent it straight to Leavy, got an americano from Starbucks, by 630am was at the boulder. That day it went down. I thought it was totally going to go, and then after the first few attempts I felt myself getting weaker, and then finally I went for the lip.
3. Highball (ish???) slab
Making the move from “beginner” climbing shoes to the La Sportiva Miura’s I now sport was huge (I might move to the Solutions one day). My confidence in my feet went from about a 4/10 to about a 7/10. Which is huge when you’re trying a semi-highball slab where the crux move is towards the top and you’re afraid you’re going to fall off to the side where there isn’t a pad or just go skittering down to the pad below you. On this climb I actually did skitter a few times, pretty much from the top, and that gave me confidence that it wasn’t that bad. And then I sent.
4. Pre-covid SBP sessions w/ Homies
Picture this: You project hard (see: easy) blocs with your best homies, and then afterwords you go to the basement cafe, shoot the shit, and drink beers (see: you drink kombucha). This is what gym bouldering pre-COVID was like. Then COVID hit. Now gym bouldering = wearing masks and using liquid chalk. And then gyms getting closed every two weeks because COVID numbers soar into the stratosphere. Which means we can’t soar into the stratosphere on techy purples or reachy blues. Damnit.
5. After work Upper Walls sessions
For awhile there I was working in U-Village for a non-profit, just really doing God’s work, and after work the bus would go right by Upper Walls in Fremont, and usually I would get off and climb for a bit. These after work sessions were my favorite: short, sweet, and most importantly: alone. I mean, not completely alone. I would sometimes talk to other people. Sometimes I would project stuff with random heroes. It was during this time that I sent my first blue, a stemmy thing in the corner that at Joshua tree would MAYBE be a V1. Probably a V0. But indoors it’s a V5. I love stemming.
(Summer Solstice V3. Didn’t post to YouTube ‘cuz I filmed it so shitty.)
Projecting is my favorite aspect of bouldering. Going to a problem that feels impossible, leaving it alone, thinking about the moves and the micro beta as you lie in bed, trying it a couple weeks later, then a month later, and then finally sending it. This happened with a couple boulders for me: My first V3 slab, Rocksteadeasy, U2 V3, Summer Solstice V3, Briefs V3 (which went first try of the day a couple days ago!), Beam Me Up V2, and will HOPEFULLY be happening (any day now, seriously; gotta get this pulley thing figured out) with Dirty Dancing V4, Toto V4, Serenity Now V4+, Moss Bongo V3, the list goes on….
The most important thing I’ve learned about projecting: You don’t learn how to climb a boulder by trying it over and over again. You learn by trying over and over again and then leaving it, for a day or a week or a month, and coming back stronger and with a new plan.
7. Sorange V3
A Red Rock Canyon gem, and the first V3 I ever sent in one session. Basically I got there, a bunch of people were on it, I walked the loop through the canyon, came back, tried a problem near it, and as soon as the new people who were there left I swooped like a vulture descending upon a recently-deceased wildebeest. But NOT before asking one of the leaving dudes, “Bro, can you give me the beta. Like literally tell me every move.”
This problem is kinda crimpy and the last move is kinda reachy. It’s also kinda easy. Or maybe I was just really feeling it that day.
Yesterday I went to the Index River Boulders despite the fact that I was feeling under the weather, or maybe BECAUSE I was feeling under the weather and didn’t want to spend all day wallowing on my boat. I think yesterday was a perfect example of where the phrase “under the weather” probably comes from. The day before I’d gone swimming in the semi-frigid October Lake Washington water, and then promptly taken a hot shower, and then promptly walked around with my wet hair exposed to the elements. This is supposedly a recipe for catching a cold, and that appears to be exactly what I did. Yesterday I woke up, it was cloudy and shitty and generally depressing outside, and my voice sounded like I had a bullfrog living in my larynx, and I generally felt slightly fatigued. But there’s the keyword: slightly. This felt like a quintessentially common cold to me, and so I decided to press east towards the mountains, not least because I had a hotel reservation in Leavenworth for that night.
My first step on yesterday’s fall odyssey were the boulders on the Skykomish River near Index. These boulders are sometimes called the “Boulder Drop Boulders,” since they’re right next to some kayaking feature which is apparently called a “Boulder Drop” (or something. I have no idea. I’ve never river kayaked in my life. Is it fun? It looks kind of lame. But that was exactly what I said about bouldering until I tried it). My goal when going to these boulders yesterday was 16-fold: 1) Send Unnamed V3 (around the corner from Finger Crack V3), 2) Get some good burns in on Finger Crack V3, and 3) Maybe send the River Warm-Up V0 problem. If you remember from a previous post, I ate shit on Unnamed V3 one day when Carolyn and I were there, falling all the way from the lip, barely landing on the pad and in the process rolling my ankle, slightly spraining my wrist, and almost hitting my head. So another goal was just to not do that. Bouldering by yourself with one pad is significantly different from bouldering with a bunch of homies and a bunch of pads. I’ve never really experienced the latter. One time Barold, Carolyn and I went bouldering together and had THREE PADS. Can you imagine the decadence? We were punting off highballs just for fun. Carolyn did a swan dive off French Slab V2 just to take advantage of the multitude of protection we had placed at the base of the boulder.
Long story short: I sent Unnamed V3, and it glorious. Start on the side-pull and the undercling, move left grabbing the ledge above you. Get your hands on a good sloping ledge and then get your left foot up on the ledge on the left side of the boulder, and then reach up and grab the mini-jug just before the lip. The problem is the lip is slopey, and once you’ve grabbed the lip your work is not over, because everything about the boulder wants to push you off to the right and off balance. You must fight this feeling with not a little bit of cunning and cool-headedness. Yesterday I got to the lip very easily (the tenuous slopers you chill on just before reaching for the hold below the lip are so sick, you feel like you’re gonna fall off but they hold you perfectly), but then couldn’t top out because I felt off balance. Then the SECOND time I got to the lip I took my time, got my feet figured out, and the top out was actually pretty easy. I basically just vaulted my person onto the top, which was covered in moss and leaves, not unlike a bed. And then I rejoiced in what was only the fourth V3 I’ve ever sent!!!!! The fanfare!!!!! The glory!!!!! The sponsorship deals!!!!!!! The feeling of accomplishment!!!!!!
And then I peaced out and drove to Leavenworth.
Well actually before I peaced out and drove to Leavenworth I gave Finger Crack V3 a few burns and yes, despite getting shut down, made some progress. Do I feel like it will go next session? Maybe. Do I feel like it will go in the next couple sessions? Definitely.
Fall is upon us, and the drive to Leavenworth yesterday was nothing short of orange-tinged ecstasy. I passed most of the drive in a sort of reverie induced by black tea, the happiness of sending a project, and the uncertainty of what I was going to do that night. Carolyn and I were supposed to hang out but hanging out was probably not a good idea given the current state of my health. I figured if I DID go all the way to Leavenworth though I might as well climb, and so after chilling in the Swiftwater parking lot for a second and fondling some of the jugs on Hate Rock, I decided roll on down to The Labyrinth, an area I’d never climbed before and which MIGHT be the subject for another post, or might not since I only sent two problems (one of which was a V2 flash!!!!).
But anyway, for now it’s sunny and beautiful outside, and I’m going to get out of my sweatpants and off my boat. Though actually I might chill here just a little bit longer and read Pride and Prejudice, since I think Ms. Bennett is finally about to pull her head out of her ass and tell Mr. Darcy how she feels. God, I hope so.