Crossing the Border to Canada // First Session in Squamish

I’m at my sister’s house in Ballard. I just got back from Canada yesterday. Crossing the border was actually easier going IN to Canada, because I crossed through Lynden and there was no line. The guy asked me almost no questions. He asked to see my negative COVID test and maybe what I was doing in Canada. He didn’t ask me what I did for work, which made me happy because I would’ve felt like I was lying when I said “interpreter.” When I DO work, I usually work as an interpreter or a teacher. This is what I “do” for work. The only thing is I’m not “doing” it right now. Because I’m a semi professional boulderer, minus the professional, minus the semi.

ANYWAY, FIRST SESSION IN SQUAMISH!!!!! WOOOOOOOOO!!!!! V0’s!!!!!! Failing on a crimpy V2!!!!!!!! Climbing a terrifying highball V1 that felt like V5!!!!!!

Even though this was sort of supposed to be a climbing trip, I only climbed once. This is because my body is disintegrating. I’m not resting enough. I’m not taking enough breaks. I’m due to take about a week off climbing (or more), and until I do that I’m probably not going to make any progress and possibly make backward progress. Yesterday I went to SBP Poplar with Barold Doug, the Crush from Down Under (down under being south Seattle), and DIDN’T CLIMB ANYTHING HARDER THAN A PURPLE. I REPEAT: I DIDN’T CLIMB ANYTHING HARDER THAN A PURPLE. I mean, I didn’t really attempt anything harder than a purple, and I still had a blast and became a better climber, but it just goes to show when you’re 38 (oh yes, I had a birthday recently) you need lots of rest, and your tendons need a TON of time to adjust to climbing. I’ve been climbing about a year and half now. My finger tendons are still adjusting to climbing. I assume this process will take at least another couple years (slash never end), at which point I’ll basically be geriatric. I’ll be the only senior citizen at Bishop super psyched on V2’s. Which is fine. I’m completely down with that. As long as you’re stoked, nothing else matters.

We climbed a V1 called Hot Tamale at the Clean Boulders in Squamish after warming up on a couple V0’s. Hot Tamale is a cool line that sort of traverses/climbs a rail from right to left. The start is slightly tricky. But after a couple tries the start became super easy, which is always a great feeling. All of us sent it, and then we moved on to Bear Trap V2, which (almost) shut us all down. The start to Bear Trap involves a sideways facing foot that allows you to cinch your body close to the wall and windmill (bear trap) your right hand over to a TERRIBLE crimp. Charlie skipped this crimp and went for the hella tall guy beta that involved going directly to the sidepull thing. I was SORT OF able to do this, but it made me really stretched out. After a couple goes Charlie got it, and I was stoked because one of us had sent it and I could now stop trying it and feel better about myself. Then we went back to the welcome area, which was crowded as balls, but one line had no people on it at all: Kung Fu Fighter V4 (a V5 on Sendage). This line is incredible. It involes starting in a nice little corner, working your way up to a slab, and then somehow traversing to an arete as footholds become fewer and further between. I tried it a few times, getting to the crux, and then a guy who lived in Squamish started trying it with me, and stoke levels were high. We had about five pads. His French Canadian friend started trying it too, and at this point stoke levels were basically in the stratosphere. The problem: My body felt gnarly. I needed to stop. So mostly I just watched/spotted/fist bumped. And then eventually I got out there, it was already almost 3pm, traffic was gnarly AF getting back to Vancouver, but I was also in a state of relative bliss. I hadn’t eaten anything all day. All I’d had was a coffee with honey, and I don’t drink coffee. So I stopped at the Whole Foods in West Van, possibly my favorite Whole Foods on the planet. I got a burrito bowl and a GT’S Adaptogenic Tea and a slice of banana bread and sat out in the courtyard eating it and reveling in the day and the fact that I was in Canada. And I then I went back into town.

I plan on going back to Squamish in September for subsequent sessions, but I’d like to give my body a good rest first (at least a week) so I can climb a little more aggressively and attempt harder problems. Having only climbed in one area, I’m still not sure exactly what Squamish is like. So far it felt a bit like Gold Bar, albeit with an even higher concentration of quality problems. Kung Fu Fighter frankly blew my mind. That is now on my lifetime tick list. I’d also really like to try Tyler’s Dihedral V3, Phat Slab V5, and at least LOOK at Black Slabbeth V7. I have no idea what a V7 slab looks like, but I’d like to find out.

That’s about all for today. There’s an annoying dog barking outside and I’m about to drink some tea and take my sister’s dog for her second walk. Tomorrow morning is essentially the last day I could climb outside for awhile, but I don’t know if I’ll do it. If I do, I’ll probably go back to the Index River Boulders. Maybe I’ll do Chinook V3 again, maybe I’ll try Finger Crack V3, The Jewel V3, and who knows what else. Or maybe I’ll finally get back on my old Project, Serenity Now V4+. The Sky (Valley)’s the limit.

A Terrifying V0 and A Trip to Canada???

Yesterday I woke up around 6am and got straight in my car and drove to the River Boulders in Index. The high temperature was supposed to be 95, so I knew early morning would be the only time to climb. I got to the boulders at about 8am after the obligatory stop at Safeway in Monroe where I bought two Bobo’s Otmeal Bars, a gallon of water, toilet paper and a venti earl grey with a little bit of heavy cream from Starbucks. This is exactly how I order it: a venti earl grey with a little bit of heavy cream. It’s key to say it in this manner so you don’t get a bucket of hot, steamed cream as happened to me in Starbucks in Vegas on the way to my first rope climbing experience in Red Rocks. It’s also imperative to say HEAVY cream instead of WHIPPING CREAM, even though they’re the same thing. If you say WHIPPING CREAM they might give you whipped cream, as has also happened to me. Mmmmmmmmm, bergamot with….whipped cream.

I warmed up on Unnamed V1, around the arete from Finger Crack V3. As the guidebook says, this does have fantastic movement for a relatively short, easy boulder problem. It’s got a lieback and a gaston and all sorts of ledges. The landing is semi-terrible so you don’t really wanna fall from the top even with a pad right under you. I warmed up by just hanging from the ledges a bit and climbing it twice, and then I tromped over to Unnamed Warmup V0, the one where you step off the adjacent boulder to start the climb.

This problem, Unnamed Warmup V0, is somewhat terrifying. You step off a boulder a few feet off the ground so that as soon as you start climbing you already feel pretty high. Also, you basically can’t fall till you get to the lip, since you might fall on the boulder you started on. I’d tried this on one, maybe two previous sessions. Last time I tried it it was just too scary. But this time I got my right foot up on a small edge and also used a high right crimp before going to the lip. I felt pretty insecure the whole time. Afterward I just kind of sat there, stoked that I’d done it, reflecting on how scary it was. I’m not exactly rushing back to do it again.

Then I made my way to the meat of the session, the Leggo boulder. Goal: send the two V2’s, hopefully send Chinook V3, and work Sigmund Freud V4, Gimme Back My ID V5, and Leggo My Ego V6. It sort of worked out. I sent the two V2’s easily. I sent Chinook V3, my first V3 in a long time, after much beta tweaking and puzzling and resting, which was really satisfying. What a cool problem. Slopers. A high right foot. Some weight distribution. Beautiful. How this problem escaped the guidebook’s creators is a bit mistifying. Maybe it just looked too easy.

As for the harder problems, I got completely shut down. I still couldn’t pull off the ground for either Sigmund Freud or Gimme Back My ID, and I made negative progress on Leggo My Ego. The techy section at the start is beyond me. I don’t think it’s cuz I’m not strong enough; I think my beta is screwed. At the same time I don’t really wanna watch videos to figure it out; I wanna figure it out on my own.

So that was the outdoor session. Then, in the EVENING, I went to SBP Fremont with the crew and fell in love with a problem. I think I fell in love on multiple levels, with multiple objects of affection, but the strongest feelings were for a heel-hooky black on the arete upstairs. Seriously, I’ve never seen a problem so good for practicing heel hooks. You could throw like four or five throughout the problem if you felt so inclined.

Tomorrow I’m going to CANADA. I repeat: CANADA. I just got my COVID test. I’m gonna  be catsitting from Saturday to Tuesday in Vancouver and hope to make two little trips up to Squamish. Dip my toes, as they say. See what Squamish is all about. Hopefully send a bunch of V0-V2’s and maybe even a V3 or V4. Maybe even a V14.

That’s all for now. Hope you all are having a wonderful day.

Top 5 Badwater Bouldering Videos

Hello! And welcome to Where’s Wetzler, everyone’s sixth favorite website for all things bouldering related in the Pacific Northwest of the United States of America. This used to be a travel blog. It sort of still IS a travel blog, but it’s also mostly about bouldering now (see: exclusively about bouldering.)

Today I’d like to present to you one of my favorite YouTube channels out there, definitely my favorite YouTube bouldering channel (Mellow and Bouldering Bobat and Emil Abrahamsson are in a close 2nd). The channel comes from two twin brothers, Jake and Kyle Love of the bouldering magnate Badwater Bouldering. They’ve been creating top notch pebble content for the past few years, and it’s been great to watch as the quality of their videos improves along with the size of their following. Today I will be commenting on my favorite five videos from them. So, with only a little further ado…….

THE TOP 5 BADWATER BOULDERING VIDEOS (according to your host and dictator for life, Mark Wetzler)

So, real quickly, how did I pick these videos? Well, the criteria was pretty simple. I simply sat down in the lotus position with a scalding cup of black tea, closed my eyelids, and let the five videos from Badwater Bouldering I’m most stoked on drift into my consciousness. And then I went to their channel and realized there were a bunch I wish I had picked, but too late! If they didn’t come to me during my meditation, they were axed. And so now with zero more ado….

5. Premium Coffee

Honestly I mostly picked this video for the wink at 0:37. Oh and because this is one of the sickest problems in Leavenworth (not that I’ve done it personally but I’ve been there a bunch and may have even fondled the slopers).

4. Camp Serene Boulder

I think I like this video mostly because I’m obsessed with the Camp Serene boulder. It lies right off the highway so you’re constantly subjected to the karmic fields of dozens of aggressive bubbas driving their Dodge Rams on their way to mask-burning parties, but it’s just such a beautiful granodiorite bloc. It’s got so many good problems and two of my favorite projects right now (or when I can climb outdoors again): Serenity Now and Climax Control. Hell, maybe one day I’ll even send Chemical Imbalance V8. Stranger things have happened, wrong????

3. Squamish Road Trip

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, Squamish.  Ahhhhhhhhhh, British Columbia. How I love you. I want to be in a relationship with you. I want to live in you. And one day I want to climb your scintillating granodorite rhinestones. When will we be able to go to BC again????? July???? Never????? Justin Trudeau, get your shit together and open your country for boulderers only. Make it accessible by aptitude test in which you display proper closed crimping technique and list at least one famous V16.

Anyway, this video: They’re in the Squamish A&W in this video reminiscing about their trip. What more do I need to say?

2. Fight Club

I have this listed as number two but it’s probably not my second favorite. I don’t know what my second favorite is. I’m confused. But I do like how hard they try in this video. I like what a struggle it is. Makes it so satisfying when they finally send it.

1. Projecting Midnite

Here we go: My favorite video from Badwater Bouldering. Why is it my favorite? Because when I got Pablo Zueleta’s Western Washington Bouldering this was one of the lines I was like: “I have to do that sometime in my lifetime.” Like, this boulder is a life goal. Like, I’ve sent the V3 next to it, so I’m pretty close, right? Like, that one should actually probably be a V2.

I love this video because it fully documents the struggle, because it’s one of the most classic lines in Washington State, because it’s NOT in Leavenworth, and because of the festive nature and the music when the send finally happens. Good going, guys.

So there you have it. Hope you enjoy these videos. All of their videos are good, these are just some that have stood out to me. If you want to sponsor these guys on Patreon here is a link to their Patreon account: https://www.patreon.com/m/Badwaterbouldering . I am not a Patreon subscriber quite yet; I’m waiting for a video of their send of the mega classic and elusive Built to Last V8 before I fully drop in.

Thank you Jake and Kyle for your wonderful content!

– WW

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Interview with my Dream Boulderer Self

Freshly 37 and with the physique of a malnourished puma, the author rests between attempts.

This interview was conducted on March 24th, 2021 with my future boulderer self and has been edited both for content and readability (winky face). 

How old are you? 

I just turned 39.

How long have you been bouldering? 

I started when I was 36. About halfway through being 36, so I’ve been bouldering about two and a half years.

And you just sent your first double digit boulder? How was that? 

Yes, I’m super stoked. It was actually a week ago today that I sent Chutzpah, which is a V10 near the town of Index here in Washington State. I was so stoked. I’d been working on it for about six months. It’s a cool boulder because it’s on super polished river granite and just a very aesthetically pleasing line with cool holds.

Amazing. How did you get to where you are now in bouldering? Did you ever imagine you’d be sending tasty double digit blocs? 

Actually, sort of yes. A couple of years ago at the age of 37 I was living in Seattle and just sort of decided to dedicate my life to bouldering. Like, put as much of myself into at as possible and just see where it took me. Kind of surrender to it, I guess you could say. When I discovered bouldering I had never felt that passionate about anything in my life, and I just had this feeling that if I completely gave myself over to it, even though it didn’t totally make sense and I wouldn’t necessarily make any money from it, it would still be a good idea. And around that time was when I also decided that it was kind of my life goal in bouldering to send V10, though I also have another life goal which we can talk about too.

What’s that?

Well, a while back I kind of decided that if I could ever send The Method in Squamish, then my bouldering life would be complete.

The Method?

Yeah, it’s a V12 in Squamish. I’m not sure who put it up but I first saw a video of Jason Kehl doing it.  Have you seen it?

I think I know it. Is that the one with kind of the slab start and then some pretty heinous slopers? 

Exactly. I’ve been to it to look at it a few times. I’ve sort of sussed out the beginning slab moves. Like, I know I can get to the slopers, but that’s where it gets pretty gnarly. Getting to the slopers does not mean you’re sending it. But yeah, that’s kind of the new life goal. Send The Method in Squamish.

Awesome. Let’s back it up a little though. You told me earlier that after a year you’d only bouldered V4 outdoors? Which is pretty good, I’d say. But how did you go from V4 to V10 just a year and a half later?

That’s a great question and I’m glad you asked it. You’re a good interviewer. Cute, too. OK, so, yeah you’re right after a year I’d only bouldered V4 outdoors. Actually, I’d only sent ONE V4 outdoors, this crazy lowball in Leavenworth called Toto. And then I got injured, which we haven’t really talked about. I partially tore my LCL and probably messed up my meniscus, too. But once I got healthy from that, or rather when I was recovering from that, is when I really decided to give my life over to bouldering. Like, everything revolved around bouldering. I think the main difference was before I was kind of like, “Well, I’m gonna boulder as much as I can, but like, I should probably be doing other stuff too.” And now it was just like, “OK, I’m going to live my entire life around bouldering, completely unabashedly, and just see what happens. Like, this is what feels natural, and I’m just going to give my body and soul to it.”

So then I started eating better, I started climbing more, I even sort of got a coach at one point, and I also move to Leavenworth for part of the year just so I could be closer to tasty granodiorite pearls. When I really let myself just get wrapped up in bouldering I started making pretty steady gains. V6 came pretty soon, and then all the sudden I was projecting some V7’s and sussing out some V8’s. Like, there were still plenty of V5’s that I couldn’t do, and I was by no means a V7 climber, but I was projecting a few. I knew they would go eventually. And eventually they did.

Nice. Did you train, too? Like fingerboarding or any kind of weight training? 

Not really. I mean, I’ve always done hangboarding for warm-up. But I’ve never done campus boards and the only thing I have around my apartment are those little Metolius holds that you can attach rope to so sometimes I’ll just walk around my apartment crimping like 10 or 20 pounds of weight. Nothing crazy, but so my body knows: “OK, we’re going to be crimping a lot now. So better get strong.”

But also diet! Diet has been huge. And watching bouldering videos and learning different techniques. Sometimes I’ll just go to the gym and do one boulder over and over and over and over until I’ve learned the absolute most efficient beta. Sometimes a heel hook will appear where there wasn’t one before. And then a couple days later I’ll do that again, just over and over and over. And watching videos was huge for absorbing some good technique. When you’re watching Jimmy Webb and Nalle Hukkataival all day, you’re going to start trying to imitate them.

What advice would you have for someone starting to boulder?

None, really. I mean, I’d have some advice for someone who’s been bouldering for a little while and already pretty into it. I’d say, “Whatever you love about bouldering, do that. People say stuff like, ‘Train your weaknesses.’ I say, ‘Fuck that.’ Do you want to train your weaknesses? Then sweet, do that all the time. But do you just want to have fun and climb on stuff that you like to climb or do dynos all day? Then do that. If you love bouldering enough, you might actually WANT to train your weaknesses. But don’t force yourself to do anything. That’s how you lose the love for it, and that’s how you get injured.”

At least that’s my take on it.

Awesome. Well, we wish you the best of luck on The Method and all the boulders to come. Thanks for sitting down with us. Any final words?

Yes. I’d like to thank my sponsors Patagonia, La Sportiva and Metolius. Their support has helped me get to where I am today. Thank you to you guys too. It’s been a pleasure.

-WW