Top 7 Bouldering Moments of 2020

1. First Time Bouldering Outside

Start holds = Gene’s retinas

I had never bouldered outside before lockdown hit. I had no desire to boulder outside. All I wanted to do was watch Bouldering Bobat videos and try to send a blue at Seattle Bouldering Project. That was pretty much my singular goal in life. But then the lockdown hit and I had to either A) not climb, B) climb outside, or C) move to Libya. I chose option B and never looked back. I started on an abandoned building on Bainbridge Island. I moved to a glacial erratic just north of Poulsbo, WA. And then I got the Western Washington Bouldering Guide, which changed everything. I’ll never forget my first session at the Morpheus Boulders. My first V0…

2. First of the Grade

It’s rare to find a boulder that speaks to you. It’s rarer to find a boulder that A) isn’t so easy that you can send it on the first session or first couple sessions, but B) not so hard that you just want to give up.

U2 (V3), in Leavenworth’s Beach Forest area, was the perfect boulder for me. I projected it over the course of a couple months, usually giving it a few burns on each of my bi-weekly Leavenworth trips. One day after I had started getting close I woke up at 430am near Skykomish, sent it straight to Leavy, got an americano from Starbucks, by 630am was at the boulder. That day it went down. I thought it was totally going to go, and then after the first few attempts I felt myself getting weaker, and then finally I went for the lip.

3. Highball (ish???) slab

Making the move from “beginner” climbing shoes to the La Sportiva Miura’s I now sport was huge (I might move to the Solutions one day). My confidence in my feet went from about a 4/10 to about a 7/10. Which is huge when you’re trying a semi-highball slab where the crux move is towards the top and you’re afraid you’re going to fall off to the side where there isn’t a pad or just go skittering down to the pad below you. On this climb I actually did skitter a few times, pretty much from the top, and that gave me confidence that it wasn’t that bad. And then I sent.

4. Pre-covid SBP sessions w/ Homies

Picture this: You project hard (see: easy) blocs with your best homies, and then afterwords you go to the basement cafe, shoot the shit, and drink beers (see: you drink kombucha). This is what gym bouldering pre-COVID was like. Then COVID hit. Now gym bouldering = wearing masks and using liquid chalk. And then gyms getting closed every two weeks because COVID numbers soar into the stratosphere. Which means we can’t soar into the stratosphere on techy purples or reachy blues. Damnit.

5. After work Upper Walls sessions

For awhile there I was working in U-Village for a non-profit, just really doing God’s work, and after work the bus would go right by Upper Walls in Fremont, and usually I would get off and climb for a bit. These after work sessions were my favorite: short, sweet, and most importantly: alone. I mean, not completely alone. I would sometimes talk to other people. Sometimes I would project stuff with random heroes. It was during this time that I sent my first blue, a stemmy thing in the corner that at Joshua tree would MAYBE be a V1. Probably a V0. But indoors it’s a V5. I love stemming.

6. Projecting

(Summer Solstice V3. Didn’t post to YouTube ‘cuz I filmed it so shitty.)

Projecting is my favorite aspect of bouldering. Going to a problem that feels impossible, leaving it alone, thinking about the moves and the micro beta as you lie in bed, trying it a couple weeks later, then a month later, and then finally sending it. This happened with a couple boulders for me: My first V3 slab, Rocksteadeasy, U2 V3, Summer Solstice V3, Briefs V3 (which went first try of the day a couple days ago!), Beam Me Up V2, and will HOPEFULLY be happening (any day now, seriously; gotta get this pulley thing figured out) with Dirty Dancing V4, Toto V4, Serenity Now V4+, Moss Bongo V3, the list goes on….

The most important thing I’ve learned about projecting: You don’t learn how to climb a boulder by trying it over and over again. You learn by trying over and over again and then leaving it, for a day or a week or a month, and coming back stronger and with a new plan.

7. Sorange V3

A Red Rock Canyon gem, and the first V3 I ever sent in one session. Basically I got there, a bunch of people were on it, I walked the loop through the canyon, came back, tried a problem near it, and as soon as the new people who were there left I swooped like a vulture descending upon a recently-deceased wildebeest. But NOT before asking one of the leaving dudes, “Bro, can you give me the beta. Like literally tell me every move.”

This problem is kinda crimpy and the last move is kinda reachy. It’s also kinda easy. Or maybe I was just really feeling it that day.