Monday, March 23, 2015

Weakened State

I woke up early Saturday morning from a dream.  In the dream I was attempting an overhanging highball boulder problem.  I easily swung through big holds moving up the rock until I confronted the heady lip moves to top out.
In the dream I remember conceding the problem until I could come back with a couple of good spotters.  I looked down and realized I was too high to jump off, and the face was too steep to downclimb.  I woke up not knowing how I was going to get out of the pickle I had climbed myself into.
I was slow getting east Saturday morning.  I had a time limit.  There was a big reading celebration to do at the school and both of my kids were involved.  Despite my dragged pace from home to woods I detoured to the new Miguel's Climb Shop to get some chalk.  I've been out for nine years.
Aw, what the heck, I bought a new chalkbag too!  And then I was on my way up Middle Fork to Emerald City.  It felt odd to be dragging a crashpad out of Gump's hatch in the pulloff below the Whiteout buttress.  So many times I did that in a previous life--I even rode my bike to Emerald City once with my crashpad on my bike when I Iived at Slade--it still felt alien but familiar.  Long dormant synapses were jerked into service and spit and sputtered to life.
I was sad to see The Fictitious Egg was grown over with moss and lichens.  I spent a good bit of time scrubbing only to see damp rock exposed to the air and sun for the first time in thirteen or fourteen years.  I couldn't yard on the tiny starting crimps.  So I moved on to the Wookie Boulder having climbed nothing at the Egg Boulder.
Shockingly, the traverse problem Let the Wookie Win was completely dry.  Well, maybe it was damp, but there was no condensation and it wasn't wet to the touch.  The start holds to the V3 beginning extension Sweat of the Wookie was gushing water though.  Not that I had a chance of climbing V3.
I cleaned what needed to be cleaned and hung on the start holds.  Synapses continued to smoke and sputter.  Inspiration failed to fire.  With a mighty heave I managed less than an Eric Forman pullup.
After my disappointing flail I began packing up my things to move on to the next boulder.  Then I stopped cold.  That's not the first time I've almost walked away from a problem without really exerting myself.  The day I prepped Dreams was like that.  I cleaned up the base, felt out the holds, scoped the top out, and then started packing up my stuff.  I caught myself.  Almost sent it first go that day after all.
Anyway, I unfolded my pad underneath Wookie and sat back down.  I decided I wasn't leaving until I did at least the first move.  I grabbed on, throttled up, and in a blaze of synaptic combustion blew my manifold clean out in a burst of power.  I latched on to the second hold, flailed in surprise for a few seconds and stepped off.
My neural pathways were purring like glasspacks; idling menacingly.
I gave Wookie another go.  I managed to solidly, but sloppily make the first three moves before being stumped by the long crux move.  I was giddy on my own exhaust fumes at that point.  And I finally did move on up the hill to the Wolverine Boulder.
Wolverine is kind of where it all started—ground zero for my bouldering career.  Dustin and I had been shut down on yet another sport route—the incredible Yellow Brick Road—when I heard him hollering from over the hill.  Finally I wandered down and saw what he had been going on about.  In the center of a pointed boulder was an overhanging offset prow.  Dustin was way more jazzed about it than I was.
The problem was really his vision.  He worked out the moves.  Eventually I was sucked in.  We worked it relentlessly until we finally got it.  There was no crashpad, we didn't know much about spotting, and while we had been shut down on a 5.11b we were determined not to let a V1 be our downfall. 
Dustin got it first, but in the process we became boulderers.  From there we developed Emerald City to the fullest extent possible for mediocre climbers.
I discovered this past weekend that Wolverine needed a lot of cleaning after fourteen years.  Saturday I dropped my stuff under the striking line and started brushing.  I spent enough time that I was able to ponder my impending effort on the line.   I vaguely remembered the moves and became interested in sussing out the holds that were not apparent.
The first move is deceptively easy getting established on the face, but the second move is a weird layback off of the edge of the offset, with a move up onto the face for a tiny crimp with a thumb catch.  I shocked myself by sticking it, but then dropped off.  I was stoked to have gotten so far and almost walked away.  A glance up at the boulder and I saw a small shallow pocket in the shadow of the prow.  I remembered it.  So I got on one more time.  In complete surprise I found myself moving solidly on the crimp and snagging the pocket.  The next move didn't come to me after two more tries, but I left feeling really good about my progress.
With a spotter I’ll send Wolverine next time for sure.  But unlike in my dream, the movement over stone didn't feel effortless and ethereal.  I labored for each incremental movement.  My mind began humming in tune with my environment, but my body is still far behind.
I had decided after my last visit to Emerald City not so long ago that I would get it cleaned up again so I could run the circuit I used to.  The Emerald City and Global Village trails need some serious rehab too.  Maybe they could become mountain bikeable.  It’s a slow process to reclean all of those problems.  Especially since I can’t climb all of the problems right now.  I’ve resolved the thirty pound anchor around my flabdomen is coming off.  I can feel the extra weight as the coarse rock shreds my tender fingertips.  It’s time to reclaim myself.


  1. Congratulations for getting out there and doing it! I love the video! Keep it up. Love the writing as well.

    1. Thank you Daniel! I appreciate the feedback.

      It's a slow process getting back, but every day I put it off is one less day of life to enjoy it all.