Recently we announced the ioMerino MicroAdventure Grantand went in search of two worthy recipients. Meet winner number one, Allison. Allison used to MircoAdventure Grant to head to Bishop, CA to go bouldering and conquer a V4 climb she had her eye on for 3 years.
By Allison Boyle
"I remember the first time I went bouldering with friends in Bishop, California, one of California’s most well know bouldering areas. It was January of 2016, and up to this point I had not been much of a “boulderer”, and instead had primarily climbed mostly sport or trad climbs [traditional climbs - a style of rock climbing].
At first, the climbing in Bishop felt unrelenting. The rock was sharp, the weather was very cold, and the climbing was hard. I would find myself unable to hold onto the rock after only short periods of time climbing due to the pain from the skin (or lack of) on my hands. Soon, however, I sort of come to appreciate this about Bishop. The fact that the climbing doesn’t come so easily, and that it challenged me to be a smarter, more efficient climber. I came to appreciate the cold temperatures because I realized I could better hold onto positions and features in the rock that felt nearly impossible when the weather was too warm. And eventually, the skin on my hands started to get used to the abuse of the sharp, granite Bishop rock.
That first trip to Bishop also marks the first time I ever stopped and laid eyes on what soon would become my nearly 3 year-long “project” climb, a climb called Solarium, rated V4 on the bouldering Vscale. I likely even touched the holds of that climb the first time I saw it, but mostly I was captivated by how unique the climb was, and I thought, “Maybe one day, I’ll be good enough to send Solarium.”
Since we live in California, Bishop quickly became a place that my partner and I frequented often, and each time we visited I always made a point to visit Solarium and give it try (or 20 tries). My first obstacle was becoming a stronger, more well-rounded boulderer, but that progressed quickly as we continued to do more and more bouldering on the weekends. My second obstacle was learning the “beta” for the climb (the movements that worked for me to keep connecting the climbing “line” to the top).
After a year or so visiting this climb repeatedly, I had finally dialled it all down. I knew exactly how I wanted to move up the rock, where my hands would go, where my feet would go, how I would pace myself, and when to breathe.I had it all dialled in except for one of the very last moves. I even had a video of my movements, so that every time I came back to this climb I would review it before ever getting on it so that I wouldn’t waste energy trying to re-learn what worked for me. But I still couldn’t get the last final, hard move... a dynamic throw to the top edge of the boulder where the rock changes angles.
I failed, and failed, and failed repeatedly over and over for the course of another year or so just trying to get this final move. This climb became a labour of love and dread.I would get excited to visit the climb every visit to Bishop, only to find myself dreading the fact that I might fail some more at it.
The Summer of 2018 I decided to get serious about my goal: to finally put Solarium to rest.I enlisted the help of one of our friends to create a climbing training plan that would help me pull off the final move, and for once I stuck to my commitment of training.
At the end of November in 2018, we made our first trip out to Bishop for the Winter season, and I was determined to finally climb Solarium. For the first time, I felt ready and prepared. I felt strong and I felt driven. The first day of our trip I visited the climb and got familiar with the movements again. I spent a lot of time working the problem with 5-6 other climbers and was really hoping to make it to the top. For the first time ever I was finally dialling in on the last move. I was hitting the upper edge, but failing to hold onto it long enough to move to the top of the boulder. It was too warm that afternoon. My partner and I called it quits on that climb for the day, and I took it easy the rest of the day. I knew I was close.
The next morning we decided to bear with the 37°F [2.5°c] cold and go to the climb early. I warmed up on some easier climbs, and then headed to Solarium. When we showed up we were the only 2 people at the boulder problem, and the temperature was perfect. I took some time to breathe but then got to work. The first few tries on the problem were very encouraging. I was hitting the edge consistently. Then one try, I finally held onto the edge.The next thing I knew, my legs and arms continued to pull me up and over the edge until I was at the top of the boulder and I let out a loud yell, “Freaking finally!”
My micro adventure was to finally send Solarium, and I did it!
I finally did it. My heart raced and I sat at the top for probably another 15 minutes just to soak it all in. It was a little bittersweet, but all of a sudden the future seemed limitless. If my persistence to climb a V4 problem that felt impossible 3 years earlier eventually led to my inevitable send of such problem, what else could I aim for? What seemingly impossible challenges can I now set my sights to?
I’ve had a lot of time to think about what my achievement meant to me. At first, I wanted bragging rights. Solarium felt like a solid V4 climb, at which point I could finally call myself a V4 climber (even though I’ve climbed other V4s in the past). However, when it came around to actually climbing Solarium, I realized it had taught me a whole lot about myself.
I'm so happy to be ending this year with this project ticked off my list, and thank you to ioMerino for supporting this MicroAdventure story of mine and supplying me with some wicked merino for the cold Bishop sending temps."
Allison was kitted out in:
Follow Allison on Instagram to find out what projects she has in store next!
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