The Last Chapter (R2V2 #9)

Ahhhhh friends, where to start? This, this ninth installment, will be the last ever in the existence of “Road to V2.” Why? The answer is quite simple, but nonetheless compelling: I sent V2 outside. Yes! You read that right! This is not some kind of hoax, some kind of bedevilry your eyes are playing upon you: I sent the bouldering grade V2, on real rock, not in a gym. And it was glorious. It was glorious and over all too quickly. And as with sending anything that you’ve been working on for awhile, it kind of felt like, “Wait, that was it?”

The boulder in question: Eight Bit Slab V2, of the Road to Zion boulders, of the Clearcut Boulders, of the Reiter Foothills Boulders, near Gold Bar. When? Two days ago, Wednesday, May 27th, the year of Yaweh two thousand and twenty. What were the circumstances? Please read on…

First, a video of someone ELSE sending Eight Bit Slab:

Now, I know what you’re thinking: I should get a new car instead of a used car. Because they don’t cost THAT much more and you get a warranty and they break down less, right? Plus, I’ve never had a new car.

Actually, you’re probably not thinking that. But you probably HAVE thought that at some point. Now, you’re probably thinking, “Jesus, that’s a beautiful slab.” And you’re damn right. That is a beautiful slab. That’s one of the reasons Eight Bit Slab is rated three stars in the Western Washington Bouldering guide by Pablo Zuleta, the mythical pebble wrestler himself. But climbing slab is of course not like wrestling! No, climbing slab is a dance. It’s like hanging out with that guy from Game of Thrones who always used to call “Arya” boy. Be like water! He said. Or he might’ve not said that. I don’t really remember.

I don’t really remember much about this climb, either. All I was thinking was, “Don’t fall.” The great thing about this boulder is it has a pretty good landing, and a beautiful seam running right up the center of it. It’s also high enough to get your heart beating irregularly, but definitely not a high ball. It’s a “middle ball.” Or maybe a “middle to high ball.” If it were a human it’d be that guy named Ryan who’s 5’10”, drives a newish Subaru, has a good paying job, and has never done anything remotely original in his life. No, no, no. It would be nothing like that. It could never be human. If this slab were animate it would be a whale, rolling in the deep. A mythical beast with perfect handholds.

So now this blog will be called “Road to V3,” and you can bet I’ve already got my sights on some V3’s. There’s the V3 slab I was trying with Terri the other day, Rocksteadeasy V3. There’s Summer Solstic V3, a tantalizing delight of slopers and meathooks and overhanging posterity. There’s the Regatta de Blanc V0 version that traverses into BMOC V2, thus becoming V3. There are the V3’s on Hate Rock in Leavy. The cool sloper one and the two campus ones.

And this is getting a bit ahead of myself but of course I already have my sights set on V4’s and V5’s. You’d have to, right? Today I went and checked out the Beach Boulders in Leavenworth and stood humbled and fairly wetting myself at the base of Beached Whale V3, one of the most epic, horrifying slabs I’ve ever seen. And then there’s Dyno 101 V3, which I know I can send, but unfortunately it’s currently three eights underwater. And as for the the V4’s and V5’s I mentioned in the topic sentence of this paragraph before instantly changing gears, today I started off the day by going to Forestland for the first time, where I sent a V1 called XXXXX and checked the infamous One Summer V5, which looked impossible until I later realized I had been looking at a V6 variation. There was also The Real Thing V4, which doesn’t look completely impossible.

So yeah, I have reached the end of Road to V2, though of course the road doesn’t really end but rather bifurcates in countless directions as you continue to try and fail on other V2’s, project other ones, flash other ones, and generally become a “climber.” I never thought I’d say this after the past 2.5 months of lockdown, but I actually need a bit of a respite from climbing. I’m going to climb tomorrow, of course, weather permitting, in the illustrious East Miller River Valley, on the rainy side of the Cascades. And then on Sunday I might go pick up my hangboard from my parents’ house. Once that gets mounted on the boat I’ll be a crimping machine. And maybe I’ll even lose the belly I’ve been complaining about for the past two months.

R2V2P5: Beam Me Up (session 1)

I accidentally typed “R2V2,” which would stand for Road to V2, which is NOT the name of this series (it’s Road to V7), but considering the events of the past week much more fitting. Ladies and boys, I still haven’t sent V2 outdoors. But I’ve figured out which boulder it’s going to be: Beam Me Up, located in the Rubik’s Cube cluster of the Reiter foothills boulders.

Behold:

OK this isn’t a picture of the boulder. It’s just a sick picture Barold took on our first ever mission to the Reiter Foothills. Minutes after this picture was taken we spotted the elusive “Five Star Warm-Up Boulder,” where both of us got shut down by a slopey V3.

Here’s the actual boulder:

OK this isn’t really the boulder either. It’s me sitting next to it with my sock on my hand after getting shut down by it. I couldn’t do the second move. But now I think I’ve got it figured out: Move the legs to the side to get them out of the way, hug my body in closer to the wall, reach up blind to the first left handhold. Before I think I had my body too far away from the wall. Also, I need to just practice this second move till I get it, since it’s essentially the “crux” (can V2’s have cruxes?). Once you get your left hand up to the good crack you can bump it up further and then pull yourself up onto the ledge you had your hands on to start. And it’s pretty much smooth sailing from there. You’ve sent your first V2 and can move on to your first V3, aka Summer Solstice:

Look at this beautiful block. I never thought I’d have to project V3 but this is totally going to be a project for me. The first part is just moving from the fabulous first hold to the sloper. Then it’s traversing the sloper and getting to the fabulous jug on the right side of the photo. And then it’s just a couple more good holds to the top. Last time the problems were I was tired from failing on Beam Me Up, it was raining, and I didn’t put the crash pad right where it needed to be for me to just collapse onto it from the slopers. But I know I’ll make progress when I go back. Summer Solstice, I’m coming for you. How sick would it be to send Summer Solstice on or before the summer solstice? That would be a good step on the road to V7.

In other words I have TWO days off next week in addition to have Monday off for Memorial Day. So where am I going? I don’t actually know. I’ll probably try to go back to the Reiter Foothills to climb Beam Me up, and if it’s too wet keep going to Leavenworth, in which case my first V2 plans would have to radically change. Nothing highball please; I’m a huge wuss.

I’ve never been more excited to send V2. This is what I love about bouldering aka being 36 and starting bouldering. Sending V2 for me is going to be huge. I’m going to be so stoked. It’s going to be like sending V10 for most people. And then sending V3 aka Summer Solstice aka hopefully some boulder in Bend on my way down to Cali in June? Even better.

Progression is what’s so exciting. Progression. Getting stronger (even though before COVID I was way stronger but whatever).

Anyway, just wanted to give you an update on what’s going on in these down days. Dreaming of granodiorite and perfect holds.

The Road to V7, Part 4: Run for the (Foot)Hills

There is a little bouldering area just outside of Gold Bar, WA, called the “Reiter Foothills.” You probably haven’t heard of it unless you’re into riding dirt-bikes/being from Monroe. The thing about this area is the following: A few years back some people discovered that there were big-ass boulders there, and that “problems” could be found on these boulders, and that these “problems” could even be rated on the quote unquote “V scale,” and that using this scale people from all over the world (but mostly the Seattle area) could come to enjoy the grand outdoors and test their climbing mettle.

Which is exactly what my friend Barold and I did on Friday.

Some sources compare Beam Me Up to pitch 15 on the Dawn Wall.

Barold and I drove separate cars to the Reiter Foothills. We stopped at the Safeway in Monroe to stock up on provisions/people watch. I love people watching in places like Monroe because, though it’s just 40 minutes out of Seattle, the culture is completely different there. This is huntin’ culture, goddamnit. This is, “Hey baby, why don’t we go down to the that Mexican restaurant later and get a couple margaritas and some of those fajitas,” type culture. These people are real “salt of the earth” types, whatever that means. I think it mostly means they have less of a problem with eating multiple meals a week at McDonald’s and with xenophobia.

But I’m not here to judge, damnit! Who would I be to judge? I’m here to get my hands in some granodiorite holds. I’m here to get exercising while having the time of my life. I’m here to see some new blocks. I’m here to send V2, damnit.

If you read my last post you know that on this trip I fully expected to send V2. You might say I took it for granted. I even had the perfect V2 scoped out, “Beam Me Up,” located in the Rubik’s Cube cluster. I had even watched videos on how to do this boulder. I had beta. It was a (insert expletive) V2. That’s mostly the reason I fully expected to send it. I climbed V5 at the gym once, right? So V2 outdoors should be a walk in the dog park.

But I didn’t send it. In fact, I didn’t even really come all that close, in that I couldn’t even do the start.

The start of Beam Me Up is a table-sized jug that you could serve dinner for six on. The problem is it’s a sit start, and since I’m kind of tall I had to splay my feet out wide. The other problem is that the holds after the start are good but not that good. I mean, to Daniel Woods and Jimmy Webb these holds would be veritable craters that you could camp in, let alone fix your hands on. But to me they were the razorest-thin crimps. So I got my right hand up to the first little crimpy rail, and then..had no idea what to do with the left. I would just kind of collapse onto my pad like someone kicking a deflated soccer ball. I tried multiple times, and Barold even pulled up a video — SO I HAD THE BETA RIGHT THERE — and still couldn’t do it. Too weak, too slow. It was a rude awakening. It was how I might imagine it to be to fall off your bed into a Finnish lake in winter.

The only upside? I flashed the V1 next to it, “Scotty.” Woooooooooooooooooo….

L’Hotel du Chemin.

After this it started to rain, so Barold and I made our way to other boulders to check them out. I tried Summer Solstice (V3) and failed even harder. We went to climb a V0 crack and the only other people out at the boulders that day were already there. Then, after sort of bushwacking, we happened upon a beautiful V2 called “The Container.” This one was actually fun. We could actually do some of the moves. And it didn’t even matter that it was raining, because it was slightly overhanging and the holds were roughly the texture of Harrison Ford’s voice in “The Fugitive.” So at this boulder we felt a little better about ourselves. Granted, we couldn’t top out, because sending V2 just wasn’t in the cards for us, but we still had fun. Barold took some vids and pioneered the beta. I took my shirt off. The rain continued. And at some point it was time to call it quits, not so much because of the rain because both of us (or at least I) were completely wasted. Time to head back to the cars. The V2 Bombers would have to wait for their day in the sun.