No Climbing Allowed

Let’s begin by illustrating the blatantly blaring disparity between my bouldering and sport climbing abilities. I’ve redpointed thirty-seven 5.13 sport routes, a couple of which boast cruxes that stand alone at V8. And I just bouldered my third V6. Ever. V7 has completely eluded me.

Truth be told, I actually kind of dread bouldering, in the way same way little kids dread brushing their teeth or washing their hands. It’s hard, it hurts, and I’m scared to death doing it. I know a lot of boulderers who are frightened out of their wits on a rope, and I’m their total antithesis. Moves that I wouldn’t give a second thought were I tied in are rendered near impossible by the fear voice in my head. Every fall is a deck. Even with a pad, it racks my joints and jars my spine if Charlie can’t get his hands around my ribcage and set me down gently. And spotting him is a nightmare. I’m a human bowling pin. I have constant visions of the day he came off the top of a problem in the St. Joe’s boulder field in Ogden and we both went tumbling down the trail behind us into the brush. And then, there’s also the expectation monster. When you’ve had a strong route season, it’s kind of a letdown to go bouldering and find yourself projecting “easy” problems.

But the reality is that, whether I like it or not, I need the benefits of bouldering. Without it my performance will peak, and then inevitably erode. I’m not ready to spend the rest of my life saying that I climbed my hardest route when I was 45. I’m not giving up yet. So, I’m bouldering.

On our walk into Moe’s the other day, I was whining that here we were in week two of bouldering and I didn’t feel like things were coming together, like nothing was starting to click, and I was getting weaker instead of stronger. I was stuck at V4, the bouldering kind of stuck where you either flash the grade or it’s utterly impossible. After (rather wisely) asking if he could give me some advice, Charlie said, “Stop climbing and start bouldering.” Go dynamic, slap and pop for holds, stop trying to make it perfect…the opposite of what my brain tells me to do. As soon as he said it, I already knew this. Really, I just needed the reminder. So simple, but then the answers usually are.

So I popped and slapped, halfway slipping off before hitting the next holds, feet cutting. Focus on the moves, not the falls. Two V5’s and my V6 later, I’m bouldering. I’m engaged enough to set some goals, but I’m mostly excited to find a few problems that aren’t my style and make them my thing, regardless of grade. The grades seem generally nonsensical, so it makes no sense to get hung up on them. As Heather Weidner said in a social media post about a day of falling on V6’s and then a V10 send, “Bouldering is so weird…” Amen to that. So simple, indeed.


Underwhelmed, V6, Moe's Valley.
Underwhelmed, V6, Moe’s Valley.


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