A Tale of Two Sessions || Road to V5

I’d like to talk about two bouldering sessions today: One, the other day when I went to Gold Bar and climbed basically nothing and then it rained; and two, when I went to the River Boulders in Index last weekend and it was glorious.

I’ll start with Gold Bar.

The Gold Bar sesh was actually SUPPOSED to be a Leavenworth sesh, but as sometimes happens when I got to Gold Bar on the way to Leavenworth it was still dry and I thought, Why not just climb here? I figured it would still be kinda wet, but that at least the blocs not under trees would be dry.

And I was mostly right.

My goals were to get 10 v-points, try the start of Metroid Prime V6, try the first move of Midnight Lichen V4 and send Stepping Razor V2. I accomplished none of these goals. I warmed up on a new V0 around the corner from The Shorstop V2 and then went over to Stepping Razor V2 and The Button V3 and got shut down by both. Except I couldn’t just get shut down and let it go. I had just sent The Button a week or so previous fairly easily and so became obsessed with re-sending it. Then I would mix in burns on Stepping Razor, berating myself for not being able to send V2. My psyche spiraled. After burns on The Button I would scream “fuck” into the forest, no one around to hear it. Eventually I felt myself getting weaker and, in retrospect somewhat thankfully, it started to rain.

So I went back down the mountain, stopping to try the first moves on Obesity V7.

My worst sesh in a long, long time. And yet there were still positives to take from it. It made me more humble? It made me realize the important of multiple rest days between sessions? It made me realize that bouldering strength ebbs and flows and not every day can be a try hard day?

Contrast that with the session last weekend at the Skykomish River. This time I went into the session with no goals, the only goal being to climb whatever I felt like and to have fun and hopefully learn something. I actually started the session at the Five-star Warm-up boulder in Gold Bar but it was mostly wet and so pivoted to Index. The river boulders were dry. I started at the first boulder you come to, with some high-ball, polished warm-ups. I tried sending the polished slab, a V0, in bare feet and then when I felt myself getting closer put shoes on for the send. This was a satisfying V0 because I hadn’t gotten it the session before, it’s extremely polished and basically you just have to trust your feet. A great exercise in friction climbing.

After the slab I went over to Finger Crack V3 and got absolutely owned. I don’t know what it is about this boulder, but I can’t decipher it. I watch people in videos do it and it looks so easy, and then I try it and can barely get off the ground. But since it wasn’t part of my goals and I was just trying to have fun, I didn’t stress and moved on. To the Jewel V3.

At The Jewel, a bloc I’ve wanted to try for a LONG time but never had the pads for, something mystical happened. I tried various forms of beta, never able to reach the lip and feeling a bit off-balance, until I finally figured out a sequence in which I brought my right foot up, kept my left hand out wide, and then did a sort of side toe hook with my left foot on the same hold my left hand was on, allowing me to stand up on the good right foot and reach the lip. The lip was slopey but I’d spotted it before hand and knew there was a great ridge to the right. After matching the lip I was able to bring a foot to the good pocket where my right hand had been and then get my right hand onto the ridge, which felt like grabbing a granular loaf of bread.

This figuring out of beta was one of the most satisfying things I’ve experienced to date as a boulderer. It make something that felt like V3 or V4 feel like V1. I also, in just that one little move, learned a great deal about technique and balance. After the send I sat on my pad a bit, looking out over the river in the sun, and then schlepped the two massive pads back up to the car, where I had a glorious Hop Tea waiting for me.

So yeah, the first session not so great, but the Index Session? Glorious.

Where Are The Sasquatch Boulders (and other pertinent life questions)?

Hello, friends. That was quite the deluge last night, wasn’t it? Anytime it rains that hard I find myself thinking: OK, I live on water, and now there’s water coming from the sky. I’m surrounded by water. I’m going to drown.

Actually, I didn’t think that. I gobbled down half a wedge of brie last night and proceeded to have nightmares. But at least I slept almost a full eight hours.

ANYWAY, we’re not here today to talk about rain or fine cheeses. We’re here today to talk about one thing and one thing only: The Sasquatch Boulders. Specifically: Where are they? How do you get to them? How hard is the river crossing? What should I climb when I get there? Is there any other pertinent information I should know?

Let’s start with a photo of the river crossing from last Thursday, September 16th, 2021, when the river was at about 250 cubic feet per second:

Adi braves the raging (tranquil?) waters of the North Fork Skykomish River.

Can we talk about these colors? The azure of the sky, the brown tannins of the river, the pink of the crash pad, the vermillion greens of the forest. So, this is where I personally recommend crossing the river (Disclaimer: crossing the river is inherently dangerous and could result in injury or death. If you have any doubts, don’t do it). Not that I recommend crossing the river, per se. The guidebook (Western Washington Bouldering by Pablo Zuleta) recommends only crossing at 900 cubic feet per second or less, and having crossed at about this level last year I can second (and possibly even third) this notion by saying you wouldn’t want to cross with the river any higher. Unless maybe you have a raft. Or a zip line. But anyway, just to give you an idea of where exactly this is in case you’re planning a future trip (for next year since after last night the river is raging), here it is:

Also, pro tip: The guidebook says to wear surf booties, and I fully second this notion. Luckily, I own supple seven millimeter O’neill booties. It’s cheating, basically. When we went on Thursday Adi kept talking about how cold it was in her Chocos, while I was as comfortable as a harbor seal. So yeah, wear surf booties if you got ’em, Tevas or Aquasocks if you don’t. But don’t go barefoot.

OK, but where are these boulders exactly? If you have the guidebook or just zoomed out on the map, you’ll know they’re near the town of Index, Washington, bouldering haven but much better know for its sport/trad climbing. The parking for the Sasquatch boulders is located 2.1 miles from the Index bridge down Index-Galena Road. At about 2 miles the road will run right alongside the river. The parking is located on the left side after the road stops going along the river and becomes separted from it by a thin stretch of forest. Once you’ve parked, look for a path down a short but steep bank with a huge cable running across it and a rope that sort of won’t help you down, as it’s tied on one end to saplings. Follow this trail onto the river bed, where it will soon turn right and and head along another embankment. Follow this for about a few hundred yards until you see a path running down to the left that makes its way down this embankment. There are many of these little paths, so if you have to jump, it’s too steep and you’ve chosen the wrong one. Keep going. Once you’ve found the one that’s not TOO steep and gotten onto the actual river bed, follow the trail until you come to the river, AKA the pin I marked on the map above. Here you can sort of pick your poison. You can cross in the rapids where the water is shallower but more quickly moving, or you can cross where it’s slower and deeper. I’ve always opted for slower and deeper. But I’m not your mother.

OK, SO NOW YOU’VE CROSSED THE RIVER AND YOU’RE STOKED OUT OF YOUR GOURD. But wait, where are all the boulders? They’re in the forest, my friend. You’re almost there, but not quite. Luckily, the hard part, aka the river crossing, is over. You’re just about to climb, I promise you that. In mere minutes your hands will be caressing the granodiorite fantasies that are the starting holds of The Network V5, Yin Yang V7, Where the Wild Things Go V2, or whatever it is you want to climb.

After you’ve crossed the river and gotten situated and maybe taken some Instagram pics making a duck face with the river in the background, look for a dry creek bed heading off to your left. Follow it for 200-300 yards until you see a trail heading up the bank to your right marked by either a cairn or a log with a piece of orange hunter’s tape tied to it or both. The trail is AFTER you’ve passed the gorgeous little natural pool polished rock thing, and should be quite obvious. If you find yourself saying, That could be a trail, it probably isn’t. Once you find the trail, follow it up for a steep minute or so until it flattens out. Two minutes after that you’ll be at the boulders.

To recount real quickly: 

To get to the boulders: 

  1. Take Highway 2 towards Index, WA.
  2. Turn left on Index-Galena Road (if you’re coming from Seattle).
  3. Once you pass the bridge leading to Index keep going for two miles till you see the river.
  4. At about 2.1 miles park on the left side of the road and look for a trail going down the parking with some rope on it.
  5. Follow the directions above to get to the river.
  6. Cross it.
  7. Follow the directions above to find the trail to the boulders.
  8. Send hard.

Got it? Good.

Things you might need:

  1. Surf booties
  2. A dry bag
  3. Board shorts or swimsuit bottom
  4. Snacks
  5. Stoke

Now, I know you’re all asking: BUT MARK, WHAT DO WE CLIMB WHEN WE GET THERE? 

And the answer is easy: Giraffe V1.

And then you go home (I’m only sort of kidding).

More to come on which blocs are best later. For now I hope this post on how to get to The Sasquatch Boulders was useful. Feel free to leave any pertinent question, bouldering or otherwise, in the comments.

Happy sending.

— W