Five gallon buckets and nine gallon buckets. Why are these routes named as such?
Nine gallon buckets (5.10c) is more difficult than it’s five gallon (5.8) cousin. But wouldn’t there be more buckets on an easier route? Does the name imply there are more huecos (buckets) on the 10c? Or are the huecos larger and could contain nine gallons of liquid rather than five?
Maybe the bigger number corresponds with a higher difficulty grade. But if so, why not call the first route “five-eight gallon buckets”, and the second, “five-ten gallon buckets”…
This pondering occupied much of our mid-April weekend in Smith Rock, Oregon. While I was only there for 3 days, two days of rain and one day of crowds allowed plenty of time to discuss the mysterious logic of route naming.
This trip was really about community, tender spirits and tender moments. Maximum support, and major goal crushing! Sari went from having only led a few routes to tripling that number in the first two days. Adrienne climbed her hardest route ever outdoors. I tried one of my dream projects…
To Bolt Or Not To Be was America’s first 5.14. Alan Watts’ guidebook to Smith Rock describes the route as follows:
The impossibly blank-looking left wall of Sunshine contains one of the world’s most historic sport climbs. While other routes slipped a notch, America’s first 5.14 still holds its original grade. More than two decades after the 1986 first ascent, the rare repeats still make news. The climbing is unusual for a hard route – an unrelenting, complex series of crimps, side pulls, and underclings on a wall that doesn’t overhang. Success requires excellent technical skills, endurance, and patience – you can fall off almost anywhere.
I have thought about this route a lot over the years. It seemed to beckon to my style and strengths, yet the very concept of it was too intimidating to focus much mental energy on. Over the past couple months, my good friend Cynthia had started asking me about the route and encouraging me to try it. I suppose her words eventually penetrated a deep part of me, and I couldn’t get it out of my mind.
I approached To Bolt on our first day in Smith to have a look.
The wall was even more tall and incredibly flat than I remembered. I was pleasantly surprised to find some folks at the base – one of them my friend Jasna! She has been commuting back and forth from Seattle to work the route, and was making substantial headway. She offered to “stick clip” my rope through her high point. She also gave me the TR set-up beta for next time.
We chatted for ages about the route that day. Watching her climb on it was mesmerizing. Strong women before us have called this route a dance (see sends by Nina Caprez and Paige Claassen) and that is definitely how it appeared. The intricacies are endless.
Jasna went on to send To Bolt the following weekend (amazing!!). She wrote a wonderful personal account of her journey with the route here.
I know I won’t be able to return to Smith before the fall season at the utmost earliest. Is it in the cards for me to work this route? Could I do it? It’s hard to say. I think that I believe that I could. But the efforts and logistics would be immense.
We thought more about the five and nine gallon buckets, and finally settled on an illogical explanation. Perhaps the numbers refer to how many gallons of water one must consume to send each route!