Thoughts from the boulders

My country is the land of contradictions.

We may come late in many aspects of modern life, but for sure we are the first to follow every new trend that someone, somewhere, sets. In the last years, for some reason, bouldering became cool and trendy, and every one bought baggy pants, funny beanies and maybe a crashpad, and headed to the boulders. Whether it was a sad, single boulder in the middle of a parking lot, or the much coveted Bas Cuvier, people started firing double dynos in every gym where, until the day before, wearing lycra pants and the chalkbag, they used to throw laps on the 30 moves circuit.

But when the bubble exploded, and the last ultra-beefy crashpad had been sold, everyone had to face the reality: bouldering is hard, difficult, and requires a lot of dedication, just as every other serious discipline. Definitely it’s not something to impress the girls or smoke a lot.

Now, for those of us fool enough to still take bouldering seriously, the word to always say, everywhere you are, is “la methode”. You can’t just say “the sequence”, you have to say it the French way, “la methode”. Perhaps it’s to show that you’ve been to Font, or maybe ‘cos you’re friend with some French puller, I don’t know. I only know what lays behind that: everyone you meet at the boulders, everytime, tells you “la methode”, the exact sequence, of the problem you’re trying, or tying your laces under, or taking a pee behind, or simply thinking about.

I have recently been for a few days in a new area, to taste some sandstone, and never in three days we’ve been left free to chose our method, or just screw the moves. We’ve always been told “you know how it’s done, don’t you? You go left hand here, right hand here, left foot out…” no matter that we didn’t ask for it and no matter that those who were telling us everything couldn’t do the problem.

The real problem that, in my opinion, lies behind what could be considered plain stupidity or ignorance, is that for the modern boulderer, the only thing that counts is the send, that must be obtained with as less effort as possible, both physical and psychic. The use of the brain, to unlock a problem, the subtle but deep pleasure that you have when you have a small change that makes the difference, has no more sense: the only thing is to walk there, with every move clearly printed in mind, execute like robots, and walk away, ticking the problem on the guide.

Moreover, nobody seems to want to take the personal responsibility of choosing to use a personal beta, with the risk of making the problem more difficult, or just not easy enough to be sent. The small grey area of unknown that opens up in front of you the exact moment you leave the ground, seems to have no longer importance; the feeling of being completely on your own, both in deciding what to do and doing it, clearly is something that nobody is interested in.

So what is left besides going around with crashpad and earplugs? I don’t know, perhaps walking around one boulder and asking the beta, and then suddenly running away screaming and trying to steal a “la methode-free” ascent of a far away problem, or maybe politely answering “did I ask you something? You f****ing stupid?” the second part being only in your thoughts.

It’s incredible but, I hope bouldering stops being cool. I hope it stops being popular. I hope people realize it’s far better to stay in the warm comfort of gyms, where your ego can be pleased by the presence of girls doing joga in the room aside, and your brain can be pleased by doing nothing while you follow the taped and numbered holds, than driving hours to discover that friction is awful, or breaking the crucial hold of your favourite project, or freezing and struggling to still your fingers and toes after one hour outside. Because, let’s say it, it IS better. Like it’s better to lie in bed all day long, for the fear of having a bad day.

Lore signing in from Italy