Yesterday I got the book Western Washington Bouldering by Pablo Zuleta. It’s very possible that this book will change my life. In November of 2019 I tried bouldering for the first time at Seattle Bouldering Project. Then in December I became hooked. By February I had even taken a class, three sad guys on Valentine’s day with the teacher who had us trying an orange on a slab that I thought I wasn’t going to be able to do and both of the other guys did and then I finally sent it. Then we tried a purple and all of us failed miserably. My obsession with bouldering became such that before the lockdown I would go to the new SBP in Fremont, Upper Walls, and just sit in the upper viewing area with my notebook writing down beta. Left hand and left foot on sloper, right hand on pinch thing, right foot dangling below left hand. Slowly reach left hand up to pinch/sloper thing, match, reach up with left hand….etc. Back before the lockdown I had successfully done one V5 indoors, though the only reason I was able to do it is because it didn’t require much technique, only a lot of leg strength. I said back then that my goal before the summer was over was to do a V7, outdoors. That’s still my goal. I think I’ve found the problem. It’s called “Naughty Corner” and it’s located in the Index area. It looks gorgeous. A bit crimpy, and with a dyno to finish. Dynos are my specialty, since they require athleticism more than anything. My technique with bouldering is subpar. But I’m good at jumping and grabbing shit.
Western Washington Bouldering has also shown me my dream problem: “Midnite.” Midnite is a V9 also located in the Index area. It’s gorgeous. It’s a clean face that might be slightly overhanging, crimpy line up to another dyno. The dyno looks sick. Right hand up to a sloper, then top out. My goal this summer is not to do it, but maybe just to get some of the moves down. Maybe to just be able to do the first 2-3 moves. Then again, the whole problem is only like five moves. And the dyno, like I said, looks siiiiiick. But you want more than just one pad to do this problem. Which means I either need to get more pads or go with friends. Either way I’ve already got my hopes up, like I’m going to be able to send this problem by fall or something. Which is a bit unrealistic. You don’t go from barely climbing V5 indoors to suddenly sending V9 outdoors.
Lately I’ve been bouldering a bit on a boulder in Port Gamble Heritage Park in the middle of a clear cut field (could there be a more depressing place to boulder?), and this is officially the first place I’ve ever bouldered outside. The rock is not great. There are no defined problems. But it’s still good to feel the rock against your skin. There is one sloper hold that I’m a bit obsessed with. I think sloper holds will be my next love. I think one day I will grow to love crimps, but for now I despise them because I’m terrible at them. I find that bouldering somehow has a lot to do with playing the piano. You chop boulders up into doable segments, learning a couple moves at a time, and then stringing the whole thing together. Same with piano. You learn little bits of the song with the hopes of stringing it all together in the end. And ultimately the whole allure with both bouldering and piano is learning one relatively small thing but doing it so that you completely master it, so that you can make it look easy, graceful. Becoming obsessed with one tiny little thing. Memorizing the moves. Exactly where you place your fingers. How your body feels when you do it. In my opinion bouldering is like solving a Rubik’s cube, but with your entire being. The ultimate goal is to disappear into the moves.
There was a purple at Seattle Bouldering Project that I was obssesed with. It involved grabbing a slopey ledge and somehow not barn-dooring, matching on the ledge and then powering to the top. I tried it for like three weeks. I finally got some beta on how to do the “crux,” which involved a mini right heel hook that kept you from barn dooring. So then I could grab the ledge, and even match, but by that point I was too pumped to finish it. But then one day I showed up, walked up to it and just sent it. The heel hook felt incredible. A move that had stymied me so many times I now loved. I loved grabbing the ledge, matching, grabbing the next hold with my right hand, and then moving the right hand further to grab the next hold, repositioning the feet, and reaching for the top. It’s still the most satisfying boulder problem I’ve ever done. And it was probably V3.
So that’s the deal: send a V7 by the end of this summer. Why not? It’s going to require bouldering a lot, eating somewhat healthy to keep inflammation under control, and most of all, having fun. That’s one other reason I associate bouldering with playing the piano. I never force myself to play the piano. I only play when I want to. I never force myself to practice. In this way it remains pure for me. I don’t do it to get better, or impress people. I only do it because it feeds my soul and it’s fun. I’ve decided to do the same with bouldering. If I ever get sick of it, I’ll just stop. If I decide tomorrow that I’m over bouldering, I’ll just stop and never do it again. I’m not going to force myself to do it. I’m not going to do it for other people. I want to do a V7 because I want to do it. Because I like grades and pushing myself. Because I like having clearly-defined goals. But it’s just for me. It’s a way to rise above the shackles of everyday life, naked and free.