The Best Wobbler I Ever Saw

All that climbers have are our stories. All that climbers are are stories. In fact, before one can even be called a climber, he must be absorbed into our great mandalic narrative, like a molecule into an amoebic vacuole, or a spilt puddle into the inconceivably osmotic fibers of a ShamWow! He must be subsumed by the written stories and oral recitations of where our sport came from and what it is, mind-numbing incantations all interwoven and endlessly repetitive, invariably invoking John Bachar and Ron Kauk, the super-ripped icons whose internecine alliance gave rise to the Stonemasters, the pot-addled Titans who subsequently did everything significant in climbing before you were born, super-ripped, bold dirtbags, bandana-clad heads, Umbro-clad balls, ropes, racks and shirts on their backs, All Things fundamentally descending from Yet Another Golden Age (YAGA) among all the other mechanized myths, told again and again and AGAIN in a way that is almost exhaustively repetitive. And we love it because we are It.

Pot addled titans. Photo: Dean Fidelman
Pot addled titans. Photo: Dean Fidelman

This same theme spins off in a million little sub-universes, with all these little fragments spinning, breaking down into their most fundamental atomic strings before, again, being subsumed into climbing’s great mandalic narrative, like a puddle of spilt Olde English beer on the Mountain Room Bar floor getting sucked up into the inconceivably osmotic fibers of a ShamWow! For an editor at Rock and Ice, the year revolves and chimes like a spinning Tibetan prayer wheel or perhaps a giant wind turbine. Facts:

A new issue is born every six weeks.

Every Tuesday, you receive (“You’ve Got Mail!”) a free super-sweet, super-entertaining TNB eBlast (aka TNB-Blast, or sometimes The B-Blast, and always TNB-Bizzle), the weekly recitation that has been always written, every Tuesday, for as long as humans have been climbing, first penned by the pot-addled Titans known as the Stonemasters, and now by the Editors of Rock and Ice.

At least one issue every year will contain the word “Stonemaster” on the cover.

Not a month has ever gone by without an editor at Rock and Ice receiving an e-mail containing the words “Yosemite-esque” and “severe case of writer’s block.”

Every two years someone will query about an article on Cuba.

Every four years Rock and Ice will run an article on Cuba.

At any point on the space-time continuum, either Alex Johnson, Alex Puccio, or Daniel Woods is winning a bouldering comp.

No matter what it is, your hardest, proudest project will one day be onsighted.

Twice a year, all Rock and Ice editors pile into a car and sit cataleptic for six hours en route to the bi-annual Trade Show, aka El Lugar Donde Nada Cambia (The Place Where Nothing Changes) reciting the same stories again and again and AGAIN in a way that is almost exhaustively repetitive. The editor known as “AO,” aka Ojo de Halcón (Hawk Eye), often leads the recitations. The time a tornado struck the Trade Show floor. The time a truck carrying explosives tipped over and blew a whale-sized hole into Rt. 6. Times when we ran out of gas. Times we got a flat tire. When the Rock and Ice editor known as “El Jefe” (The Boss) got arrested for swimming in holy Mormon waters. How whenever the Rock and Ice editor known as “DR” aka No Se Mató  (He Who Cannot Be Killed) drives past the giant wind turbines just outside of Price, Utah, he emerges from his cataleptic state and explains how the sight of the turbines makes him think about strapping prisoners to the spinning blades—the worse your crime, the farther out on the blade you go. The faster you spin. Around and around and around.

Once a month, the Rock and Ice editor known as “AB,” aka El Débil Gordo (The Fat Weak One), will write about Rifle, a place amid Yet Another Golden Age, and he will write about practicing the same moves on the same route, over and over and over again in a way that is literally exhaustively repetitive, the route subsuming him like molecule into an amoebic vacuole, like spilt Avery IPA being absorbed by the super-absorbent, unbelievably low-priced ShamWow! with its inconceivably osmotic fibers.

Now at Rifle, “AB” recites stories about “wobblers” (angry, childish fits), that echo in the canyon each spring like bird chirps. The time from “Route to Root”: when one friend was so mad over his sweat-soaked “vag hands,” which kept slipping off the slippery, greasy grips that he uprooted a young sapling—a fit that lasted a fat five minutes. The time another friend threw his shoes into the river and drove back to Boulder, vowing to never climb again. The time a friend could be seen in the distance, alone amid a talus field, angrily circling the gray limestone erratics, picking one stone up above his head and tossing it to the ground, then lifting another stone and tossing it mightily, over and over and over.

The best wobbler “AB” ever saw, though, came in the Red, which has been called the “Camp 4 of the East,” and some have even called it “Yosemite-esque.” There, the climber known as “Jonathan Thesenga” or JT was climbing in the Madness Cave, a name apropos to what transpired next, on a route with repetitive holds that appeared, one after the other, finger bucket after finger bucket, again and again and again until you either clip the chains or fall.

JT fell and produced a string a F-Bombs that continued unabated, f—k, f—k, f—k, f—k, f—k, which at first was extremely embarrassing because everyone who was in the Madness Cave stopped, shirking their necks into their shirts (or hip skateboarding tank-tops if they were climbers who could “do routes” harder than the Yosemite-esqe grade known as “5.13”). But then the cadence of the F-bombs took on a rhythm, and soon all the climbers bobbed and swayed to its tempo and flow. It was so over the top that it became funny. But then it kept going and it went back to being annoying and embarrassing again. But then it continued, f—k, f—k, f—k, f—k, f—k, until it was again funny, even funnier than before, each F-Bomb dropping and fading, their timing brilliant works of art. Each utterance ultimately absorbing into climbing’s great mandalic narrative, like Kentucky bourbon into a ShamWow!

Until finally the climber known as JT was lowered, his head lowered and, like a puppy (with its head lowered, too, if you can picture it), he retreated to his rope bag and curled up into a ball and looked up at his belayer, his wife, the climber who is known as Brittany Anne Griffith, aka “the BAG,” who seemed in need of some explanation for the apocalyptic fit that had left everyone in the Madness Cave (which is an appropriate place for this story to have transpired, don’t you think?) swaying in a cataleptic state. And then JT ended this week’s TNB Bizzle with these famous words, words that AB himself has repeated over and over in recitation of this wobbler, the best AB ever saw:

“I just wanted to impress you. I just wanted you to think I’m a good climber.”