A Sesh at the Camp Serene Boulder | R2V4

OK I’ve held off on doing this for awhile, but I’m going to vent for a second about how this blog has no readers and it’s really frustrating to be churning out top-level omg on a daily basis only to get like two views. So. Frustrating. But in the past when this has happened I’ve given up, or I’ve decided everything I’ve written is shit and then I delete it all or let the domain expire or do SOMETHING that essentially makes me have to start at 0 again. So no matter what I just need to fucking stick with it. And now that no one reads this blog AT ALL it’s actually kind of freeing. I can just kind of vomit all over the keyboad and post whatever comes up. I can say fuck this and fuck that and motherfucker and not really worry about swearing because NO ONE FUCKING READS THIS BLOG, so like, it doesn’t matter right???????

EXHALE. 

Ok. I feel better now. Just give me a second, though. 

Two days ago Barold, Carolyn and I went on a mission to the Gold Bar area and as you know from a PREVIOUS post we hit up the Morpheus Boulders aka the 420 Boulders and then afterward stopped at the Camp Serene Boulder on the way back and I didn’t blog about it cuz, well, a lot went down at that boulder, and it’s an epic boulder, and it garners its own post.

But FIRST a quick history of the Camp Serene Boulder aka Zeke’s Boulder according to Pablo Zuleta’s Western Washington Bouldering (aka the guidebook):

camp serene boulder aka zeke's boulder
The Camp Serene Boulder aka Zeke’s Boulder aka tall as fuck.

In 1985, Bob Buckley cleaned the highway side of the boulder and sent Highway Crack V1 and The Arete V0. Then, in the 90’s, Bob and friends established more difficult problems like Serenity Now (a V5 in the guidebook but now widely considered a hard V4) and Climax Control V6. In 2002 the boulder appeared in an “elusive” guidebook, then was later rediscovered by Kelly Sheridan (author of Leavenworth guidebook) and friends and has (presumably) seen regular traffic since.

It’s called the Camp Serene Boulder because it has Camp Serene graffitied in big letters on the west side. It’s also called Zeke’s Boulder because it’s just down the street from Zeke’s Drive-in and across the valley from Zeke’s Wall, the huge cliff above the Clearcut Boulders in the Reiter Foothills. Also, it’s worth noting that (at least in my limited experience), this is one of the best single boulders in Washington. It’s got at least five quality lines on it, and Serenity Now V4 is one of the most iconic boulder problems in Washington. It’s also kinda highball, and epic/terrible because it lies right off highway 2, a main thoroughfare connecting Eastern and Western Washington. Anytime you go to Index or Leavenworth or Steven’s Pass, you drive by this boulder. It used to be surrounded by luscious trees, but was clearcut sometime in the last few years and now stands there bald for all to see. What a shame. But still a sick boulder.

(for a great video of the Camp Serene Boulder showcasing most of its lines, watch this beaut by Jake and Kyle Love of Badwater Bouldering)

ANYWAY, on to our session. As we were driving out to Morpheus I prepped B and C by asking, “Do you guys mind if I take a few burns on Serenity Now on the way back?”

They said that was fine.

So, we went to Morpheus and sessioned, and it was wonderful, and a good warm-up, and bla bla bla. Then, AFTER our Morpheus sesh we headed BACK to Camp Serene, where I thought I might warm up on Insanity Later V2 (even though I’d never sent it) and then go for broke on Serenity now. But, Barold and Carolyn turned out to be really psyched on all the lines on the boulder, so we started out with a few burns on Insanity Later (Barold sent it second try!!!! with only a tiny pad at the bottom. he was a man possessed) and then moved on to Highway Crack V1, which shut all of us down. It’s a gorgeous line, a sloping crack that ascends some 20 feet into the air. We all found it dastardly hard and eventually gave up, feeling a bit bad but not that bad when I later found out on Sendage Jake Love called it “the hardest V1 I’ve ever done” and rates it a V2. After this went to Serenity Now so I could give it my burns, but I was feeling weak, had trouble even GETTING to the crux, and just did the same old shit I’ve done every time when trying it, i.e. not knowing how to get my feet higher when getting to the dihedral. I’ve since re-watched the Badwater Bouldering video I linked to earlier in this post, and now I think I might be able to crack it. But that’s what always happens. The eternal optimism. Probably the reason we keep bouldering. We always think we’re going to be able to send it next sesh even though half the time we get there and get absolutely shut down.

Lastly, Carolyn and I wanted to give Insanity Later a few more tries, since we’d both made good progress at the beginning of the sesh. I hadn’t gotten to the lip yet, but I’d slipped from the crux a couple times, which is pretty high and terrifying, but the falls had been fine so I was pretty much ready to go for broke. And go for broke I did. On one of the attempts (Barold was sitting there totally ready to leave and complaining about how hungry he was) I actually TOUCHED THE LIP but bailed because I felt unstable. So I asked if I could give it one last burn even though that’s exactly what I’d said about the previous burn. I’d found a bit of micro beta for the high right foot to make it a bit more secure, and also realized that I needed to get my left hand higher after getting the feet on the crux holds. And that’s what I did. I also went faster. I chalked up and just sent it. I didn’t dilly dally before going for the crux hold. I got my right foot high, trusted it, slapped my hand up the arete, got my left foot up, slapped my left hand up once more, and then could easily grab the lip with my right hand. Wonderful.

And so that was the session. Barold and I were super hyped to get Insanity Later, and I’m sure Carolyn will send next time she’s there, but being shorter she wasn’t able to do the high right foot and will have to smear in between, which makes it much harder. But I’m sure she’ll still get it. And I’ll be back for Serenity Now V4, and someday get that, too. Someday. Like, maybe, today?

– Wetz

Serenity Now V4 | First Sesh | R2V3 #11

Morning, y’all.

I would normally never write a blog this early but I want to talk a little about yesterday’s sesh and if I don’t do it now I feel like I won’t do it at all. Or I’ll do it later tonight when I’m not as into it and when I’d rather just sit down and watch the latest episode of “Border Town.”

I knew it was a little bit dumb, but I did it anyway. Yesterday immediately after getting off work at 12pm I drove out to Gold Bar, where, guess what? It was raining. And then I drove to Index where, guess what? It wasn’t raining, but everything was wet. And then it started raining. And then I drove to the East Miller River Valley where, guess what? It was kinda sunny. But everything was still wet. And then it started raining briefly. And then it stopped and the sun came out but it didn’t feel like the stone was drying out anytime soon.

Now, keep in mind, folks, that I wasn’t trying to force anything. I wanted to climb but I was also content to wait until it was the right moment. And of course I COULD have driven all the way to Leavenworth, but I didn’t feel like it. Too much driving. Too many mountain passes. Too much Eastern Washington. So after the East Miller River Valley I got back in my car and started driving back towards Seattle, guided by my intuition like a moth to flame but in this case instead of flame we’re talking about moderate blocs. My intention was to check out the Camp Serene Boulder aka Zeke’s Boulder aka one of the most beautiful blocs in the great state of WA, and indeed, when I got there, it was….dry.

This was witchcraft.

The Camp Serene boulder lies just on the south side of Highway 2, a mere couple hundred feet from the highway, and is home to one of the most beautiful lines I’ve yet to lay eyes on, aka Serenity Now V4, which in the Western Washington Bouldering guidebook is graded a V5 but over the years seems to have been downgraded. Not that it really matters. I just wanted to check out this line. I actually checked it out last time I was out there, when it was completely wet, and was fascinated by it. It starts on some pretty juggy holds and then moves right into a sort of dihedral thing and is just a hot mess of sidepulls, open-palmed smears and smooth granite (or whatever its composition is). I was a bit mesmerized by it. And yesterday evening I was actually able to get on it.

My approach to starting this V4 was very different than how I’ve approached difficult (for me) boulders in the past. I didn’t try to flash it. Instead, the only thing I tried to do was THE FIRST MOVE. Aka go from being matched on a low ledge to getting my left hand up. That was it! And I could do that pretty easily. Then I got a bit stuck and “cheated,” aka sat down and looked for beta on YouTube. Of which there is an abundance. Using that beta I was able to get to the first crux, Which consists of having both hands on fairly juggy crimps and pulling your body weight up so you can get your right foot on the ledge you started on. Or your left foot. I’ve watched a ton of people do this problem, and some people go left foot, some people go right. Left foot makes a lot more sense to me, but then the hard part is releasing your left hand, bringing it across your body, and inserting it into one of the fairly tiny sidepulls in the dihedral. And then you either just stand up, or you smear your right hand on some knobby features and stand up. It LOOKS like it’s not too hard after that. But it could also be really hard. The people who I watched doing my “crux” cruised it as if it was nothing, so many the real crux is actually further up. And this is no lowball. I think you can do it with one big pad, but you gotta have some mustard once you get to the top. It would be nice to practice the topout, but without a rope that’s not an option.

So, I made some pretty good progress, and am fascinated by this line. After the sesh I just stood there looking at it for a bit. I can’t wait to go back. I have so many projects now! Fridge Center V4, Briefs V3, Rocksteadeasy V3, Serenity Now V4, and I’m sure there will be more to come.

But for now I must “go to work,” aka go to work. It’s almost that time. And tomorrow, back to the mountains. Hopefully straight to Gold Bar.