Climbing is a process. It starts with getting into your car in the morning (for most of us it actually starts with the french press), driving to the crag, warming up, projecting, remembering to drink plenty of water, packing up, driving out, and finally sitting down for your victory beer (or sadness cake, depending on the day’s events).
There is no shortcut to success, no easy way of circumnavigating all the steps to standing on top of your chosen boulder or clipping the two little clippy things at the top of your route. All of these thoughts, plus a few others, swirled inside my usually focused brain as I sat under Wet Dream in Black Velvet Canyon, 25 minutes outside of Las Vegas, Nevada last Sunday. Why was I having trouble clearing my head and executing like I’ve so often done for the last 13 years?
To those who think bouldering is just a fad, or that it’s the ‘easiest’ of the major climbing disciplines, you are probably right; but every once in awhile I am reminded of why my tiny chosen athletic niche can stand up with just about any other. You see, I care more about bouldering than about any other person, place, thing, or idea in existence. It’s silly, right? You pull onto a rock the size of a house for anywhere between 5 seconds and a couple minutes, grab some sharp or slopey grips, and then stand on top for a minute before gingerly making your way back down. Yay!!
But what happens when this boulder you want to climb is the boulder that you most want to climb in the United States? Well, things seem to be at least a little more significant. I’ve wanted to climb Wet Dream since I first read Ethan Pringle’s description of it on 8a.nu…”If you psyched little boulderers only knew…” How good could it really be?? I am a self-professed rock snob, and Wet Dream is either the best or second best boulder problem I have ever climbed on (the other being The Shield near Chattanooga, TN). Urban Climber tragically scored Wet Dream all the way up at #44 on its list of America’s 100 Best Boulder Problems (The Shield was #1) in what was the greatest snub of 2010. Having climbed 49 of the problems on the list to date, I savvy myself a connoisseur of the country’s finest little climbs.
What makes Wet Dream so special? Well, it’s basically perfect in every way, so that helps. A while ago, I broke down the star scale for bouldering, which assigns between 0 and 6 stars to a problem to determine how classic it is. Amongst the measurable attributes were rock quality, aesthetics of the line, height, obvious start and finish, landing, and setting. In addition to checking each of those boxes, the moves on Wet Dream are some of the greatest moves on rock imaginable. Every hold on this climb is perfect and unique in its own way.
All of this is to say that sitting under Wet Dream, after driving 9 hours solo after work on Thursday, having fallen off the last move 5 times over the last 24 hours, I was definitely starting to have my doubts about my ability to climb the best problem in America. For someone who puts this much stock in my bouldering pursuits, this was a big deal. What if I didn’t do it? Would I drive back here next weekend? That’s a lot of gas money. What if it starts getting too hot by then? What if I couldn’t try it for another year?! And its not like you can just rapid fire this thing, I had just rested 45 minutes after my last go, and it was starting to get dark.
After all that mental build-up, the only thing I kept repeating to myself was “…flow, flow, flow….” And flow I did. Standing atop Wet Dream I felt a great sense of relief. Not only had I done the specific thing I had most wanted to climb on the West Coast, but I was finally able to flip that switch and quiet those nagging thoughts about success vs. failure, goals vs. the means of achieving them.
The next morning we went out to Gateway Canyon where my other project, Lethal Design, was located. I had put even more days into Lethal than Wet Dream, culminating in an epic near-send on Friday after being fresh out of the car. I had no spotters and had numbed out on the final V2 section, opting to down climb rather than risk an uncontrolled fall over a terrible landing (I fell anyway).
With a fresh head, I carefully and methodically climbed the epic crimp-fest; no more punting! With the weight of Wet Dream off my shoulders, this thing hadn’t stood a chance. With my two major Red Rocks goals accomplished, I hung out with my friends for another hour, then packed up and drove the 9 hours home, slept for five, and woke up bleary eyed for the setting day ahead of me.
You see, bouldering’s not like basketball, or ping pong (which we played a lot of last weekend), or chess, or break dancing; it’s its own little thing. That drive, the victory beer and high fives with your buds, the failure, the mental ups and downs, all of those things are part of the process, and they all culminate in that one moment when they all disappear, and all you have is FLOW.
Check out videos of Max crushing these projects HERE. **Foul language warning, please view at your discretion.
About the author: Max has been climbing and setting for half of his 26 years; when not debating the finer points of what makes a perfect boulder, he can be found training on the plexie at PGSF, playing basketball, or drinking micro brews in the Mission.