In early May I set a goal for myself: Climb V7 outdoors by the end of the summer. To many this might seem like an absurd and impossible (and just dumb) goal since I only started climbing last Christmas. And indeed, it’s very possible I won’t reach this goal. To date the hardest thing I’ve climbed outdoors is V2 (Eight Bit Slab V2 near Gold Bar). But I haven’t given up on this goal, and indeed it’s more present in my mind than ever. I’ve also started taking some concrete steps to reaching it.
What am I doing to get to V7??????? (like, what concrete steps am I taking):
I’ve started transitioning to a ketogenic after being inspired by Dave Mccleod (and countless others) and his success with it. This isn’t something I decided on a whim. I’ve long battled inflammation problems and wondered if radically changing my diet would have a radical effect. So far, so good, but I’m only on like day three and I’ve still got carrots in my fridge. So not FULLY keto yet. But getting there. So far the little paunch I developed during lockdown is starting to disappear and I noticed a significant decrease in elbow pain after my last climbing session. And this is without even going fully keto! Today I’m going to count my carbs. I’m going to count the shit out of them.
2. Climbing as much as possible.
I’ve been climbing every weekend Leavenworth and have even made some mid-week missions to Gold Bar. Notable happenings from this include: Sending my first V2 outdoors (Eight Bit Slab), projecting Summer Solstice V3, still not sending Beam Me Up V2 because the sit start makes me want to hurt myself, projecting U2 (V3) at the Beach Forest Boulders, feeling the majestic slopers of Fountain Blues V0, and chilling in Leavenworth drinking iced coffees. Aka chilling in the municipal pool parking lot. Aka being a bit of a vagrant.
The biggest thing I need to work on by far is not strength. It’s technique. So what am I doing for that?
3. Watching tons of YouTube videos of good climbers
Watching good people do a task actually makes you better. You internalize it. Which is probably why I watch a shit ton of bouldering videos on YouTube. My favorites are: Anything with Daniel Woods or Jimmy Web, anything with Paul Robinson or Lizzy Ellison, the wonderful videos the Badwater dudes make, Bouldering Bobat, and Eric Karlsson and Emil Abrahamsson videos (from Sweden). Currently my favorite female climbers are Nina Williams, Alex Puccio, Lizzy Ellison, Janja Garnbret and my friend Anya. Watching Nina Williams do highballs is so sick.
Now, when I say “training” I mean this very lightly. Sometimes I hang from the roof of my boat and walk my feet up the mast to practice overhangs and strengthen my core. I do stretching. I walk a lot. I do a little bit of yoga. I do have a hangboard but I’m still trying to figure out how to install it on my boat. Anyway, I don’t do much training. But that’s OK because you don’t want to get really strong when your technique is still shitty.
5. Listening to my body
Yeah, the goal might be V7. But that’s not the real goal. The main goal is just to boulder as much as possible, have fun, and enjoy the movement. The other day I went to the UW crag and literally the only thing I wanted to do for the first 15 minutes was just stand on the ground and feel the holds. I didn’t do this because I was self conscious. But I should’ve. If I want to climb a V0 slab 15 times over and over because it makes me happy, I’m going to do it. If I want to drive to Leavenworth and project a V3 for 20 minutes and then give up because I’m over it, I’m going to do that, too. I’m not bouldering for anybody else. I’m doing it because it makes me feel good. And so what that means as far as listening to my body is that when I can feel my elbow starting to fail (my tendons and flexors are still adjusting), I stop. Or when I just see myself not making any more progress, I stop. I stop when I know it’s time to stop. I don’t make myself top out on a highball if I don’t feel comfortable. I just do whatever feels right.
6. Thinking about beta
I think about beta a lot. I write the beta down. I visualize the holds in my head. I love thinking about beta. It’s one of my favorite parts about bouldering — not being able to do something and then thinking about a way you might be able to do it. Beta is also closely tied to technique. Which, as I’ve said, I really need to work on.
So those are the concrete steps I’m taking. I’m not forcing myself to take these steps, they just seem like a natural part of becoming a better climber. A natural part of getting to V7. But for now, time to concentrate on those V3’s. Aka V2’s. Aka V0’s.