The Neverchanging Story

Familiar things comfort us. We like hearing music that sounds like Michael Jackson, we like eating food that reminds us of grandma’s meatloaf, and we like it when our climbing stories end in platonic man-love on a mountain.

But how many times do we need to hear the same story before our brains reject it like a bolting permit at Enchanted Rock?

Personally, I’m sick of reading about the Stonemasters, the bullshit romantic portrayal of alpine suffering, and how Boulder is the center of the universe.

But sometimes you have to return to the same, old story for a lack of a better new one. Maybe it really is true that the Stonemasters were the last people to do anything worthwhile in Californian climbing over 30 years ago. And maybe without suffering as a romantic concept, alpine climbing stories would be shittier than Mel Gibson movies. And maybe, with the dearth of a better TNB eBlast on this tardy Wednesday morning, I need to tell you about my trip to Boulder last weekend to watch the Bouldering National Championships at the Spot Gym.

I showed up at the gym—half-sauced after a dinner at a swanky Mexican restaurant (only in Boulder do “swanky” and “Mexican restaurant” go together) where I had already had two fresh limejuice margaritas. They handed me a cup of beer and a press badge.

It went right to my head—the badge (not the beer) that is. I walked right into the center of the bouldering arena in front of 500 people, put my cup onto a mat and got out the D200 with the 85 1.4, cranked the ISO up to 800 and started firing wildly without any regard to composition or spot metering.

“Excuse me, what are you doing here,” one of the comp volunteers asked me.

I waved my press badge at her. “Don’t you know who I am?” I snapped.

“No. I don’t,” she said.

“Here,” I said, giving her my empty beer cup and taking a picture of the disgusted look on her face. She ran off into the crowd while I held the shutter button down, like a machine-gun trigger, chasing her away the salvo of digi frames.

One of the first competitors up was this really sexy climber wearing a hot-magenta leotard. My lens was immediately drawn this bold, beautiful chick with supple, perfect breasts, and I rattled off about hundred frames capturing the slinky moves of the graceful, yet surprisingly powerful athlete.

“Who is this girl?” I said aloud, firing away. “She’s really strong!”

“Dude, that’s a dude,” said the same comp volunteer. I looked up at her, and she was holding a fresh bottle of Avery IPA for me. I looked back down at my camera’s LCD and zoomed in to see that, sure enough, there was a full male package where the vagina was supposed to be.

I threw up a little in my mouth.

“You have to leave here now!” the volunteer said. “You can’t be sitting in the middle of the comp like this. Take this, and get the fuck outta here. Now!”

I grabbed the beer and swilled it quickly to wash the vomit back down. For the rest of the event, I couldn’t really see what was going on, but I did find one cool angle to continue snapping pictures of Women’s Number 4. It just so happened that where I was standing was right next to about two-dozen more cases of Avery beer that were being passed out to the crowd recklessly and for free. Even Lynn Hill was double-fisting two beers at once.

Soon, the comp was over, and the announcer told everyone to go to “Cookie’s house” for the after party.

What the heck is a ‘cookie house’? I thought. I got hungry. Never mind. My head couldn’t handle any more of this.

Daniel Woods and Alex Johnson predictably won, though I am pretty sure I shared the feeling of everyone else in the room in not being certain exactly why.

The comp format had employed the nebulous “zone-hold system,” which is a little like an hour-long lesson in Chinese algebra. No one cared because the story had played out the same—Daniel Woods, the hometown hero, and Alex Johnson, ruler of everything, had won. And that fact alone was comforting enough for no one to need any further information.

For me, out with my entourage, the night ended with trying to keep up with the 100-pound wonder-sylph Emily Harrington, who was putting down glasses of Wild Turkey like it was Vitamin water, wondering where the days had gone when I could still wake up after nights like this and climb 5.13, and dancing stupidly to the same, shitty pop songs with crappy lyrics:

Just dance, gonna be OK.

Do-do-do-do-do-do-do-do. Just dance.