Disclaimer: The opinions and views stated in this blog are supported by no one and substantiated by even fewer. Those interviewed express their own stuff, too. Read on happily.
There is so much bullshit in this world that it gives both bulls and their steaming shit a bad reputation. Wait. That’s not the intro I wanted to write. That’s not the way a ClimbTalk representative comports himself, ordinarily. Allow me a mulligan.
With all of the gyrating dung peddlers ranging about this dipshit orb, the shyster politics, the brave kids fighting overseas, the money grubbing in professional athletics and expounding glorification of it all, the celebrity fawning and grocery store glossies which send the soul directly to jail-do-not ever-pass-go, the culture terrorists in the sensationalist media, the media itself (I am unaware of any irony here)…with all this, I am thankful this afternoon. Hard to believe? Let me tell you why I’m stoked for many things, but mostly the climbing lifestyle.
I have been fiddling and tinkering with the notion that climbing, as an activity engendering a fundamental shift in the way in which one pursues the ends for the radically altered means, is headed ass over tea kettle down the proverbial third Flatiron. Disturbing notion, even to me. Climbing is an insular sport, protected from the perturbations of the greater world by a void of whipping winds, a bracing whiff of mortal danger, and a paved (or not) road without end. Ask a dedicated climber on a road trip what’s happening in the, well, anywhere, and she’ll look at you as if you’re from another planet altogether. Which you will be, of course, because you are not at that particular moment encapsulated by the sport’s womb-like oblivion to all things not necessitating a tent, chalk bag, or morning cord inspections. You are from the real world, as it were, and not insulated, which is why you say to your friends that you’ve never seen “The Bachelorette” but you’ve really never missed an episode.
Even the most insular of activities fall prey to the more brutish machinations of the social and cultural overlords, however. Take a look back to the formative years of college football for a good example. 24 college ball players died – on the field or shortly thereafter from their injuries – from 1905 to 1910. The sport was seen as mind-numbingly brutal. It lay on the outskirts of the national consciousness, other than a sick disease occasionally sweeping the prairies and forests between Ohio and Michigan, until President Roosevelt started jabbering for reform. I can just hear him, “If we don’t ban the ‘flying wedge’ we won’t have any players left to play the game!” Yet, today, college football may as well be a professional sport. If it looks like it and smells like it and sounds like it…you know the rest. It fell victim to its own burgeoned popularity, for better or worse. Is it still a game for young men to play, a meat market for the pros to taste and speculate upon, or the only thing saving college tuitions from skyrocketing? Some would say it’s a shame we even have to ask these questions. I am told that others don’t care a speck for college football, but that seems painfully ridiculous…
Climbing, as a sport, is on a massive tear, popularly speaking, right now. Hordes of folks are flocking to the gyms, American Express commercials feature Yvon Chouinard, and Everest can now be found in Imax. I was once a climbing buyer at a little specialty shop in Denver and saw the sport shape-shifting before my very eyes. Hot shot youngin’s marched in looking for first generation 5.10 Dragon Velcros, but they also came in to blather on in that staccato rattle of over-excited youth about their V10 projects. I didn’t ask. They’d ejaculate that they were sponsored by a large company in the outdoor industry (why was it always Bison, when I probed deeper…you get free chalk, you monkey!). And if they weren’t sponsored, or they didn’t have a V10 project, that’s still all they could blabber about; the numbers and the mythical money/freedom. Sponsorship was the goal. I got the hell out of that shop and left the industry and moved straight overseas to a place where I couldn’t speak the language and rediscovered climbing on a much more personal, although sometimes lonely, level…the absolute insulation.
Sponsorship chasing (I allow this has probably always occurred, since the second wheel was chiseled out by a rival caveman). The rise of the gym (not to mention the concurrent dangers of a few clueless gym rats headed outside for the first time, with nary a notion of etiquette at the “real” crags). Climbing in the Olympics. Probably, in all three, nothing inherently out of whack. But, add them up and they equal a sport, period. Nothing more and nothing less. The sport will kill the lifestyle, was my thought. It will bludgeon it and murder it and bury it until we’re all wearing Chris Sharma jerseys and drinking Ed Viesturs sports drinks and wearing one white Jason Kehl signature contact lens. Pretty soon, all those climbing bums and dirt bags and lifers and freaks that no other sport will embrace will be forced to scare up something new or suffer the horror of dealing with a mainstream sports machine churning them into jaded specters of “normalcy.” But I’m one of those freaks, so I needed to think a bit longer on all this…it can’t go down like that, can it?
Resoundingly, and comfortingly, FUCK NO IT CAN’T. I’ll tell you why I think climbing is still a lifestyle and not solely a sport, from a slightly unique vantage. Climbing is so special because we have great access to the movers and shakers out there ripping it up. And they don’t schlep bottled answers and pre-packaged wares to a media hub hell-bent on exploitation and controversy (that’s for the climbing blogs to take care of, of course!) (I am still impervious to irony). Sure, there are gigantor egos and jerks rattling around in the bushes. For the most part, however, there is little drama and no hour long ESPN specials documenting a climber’s change of residence. There is no holding the industry or the lifestyle captive and no grotesque fawning over work completed on the rock. There is deep and sincere admiration for cutting-edge climbers, but we’re all out there doing the same things (sometimes shoulder to shoulder with the mutants), to a varying degree, after all.
There are no castes or tiers in the lifestyle, and for those of us who have given up something – anything – precious or material in order to pursue the granite lip and hopefully turn it, we’re all in the same dysfunctional, wildly entertaining, and mostly loving tribe. Us dirt bags and bums and addicts and chalked up Prana advertisements that can never quite get the white from underneath their fingernails long enough to have a civilized meal on the town…we’re all living the lifestyle.
All of this hot air pumped into and out of my addled coconut after our last ClimbTalk radio show. It was fun. Really fun. I mean, it’s basically a raucous event every time. This show was special for a different reason, however. We had four guys on the show that are all living the lifestyle in starkly contrasting ways.
Rob Pizem is sponsored by some of the most sought after companies known to late night climber wet-dreams, including Arc’teryx and Scarpa. You’d never know it if you didn’t ask. He has little attitude. Ego is something he learned about in psychology class, I reckon, and left it at that. Although he’s put up routes in the desert and routes in the alpine country and climbed 5.14 and is always doing something new and exciting, he’s also a dedicated husband and teacher. He works. And then he climbs. That is his climbing lifestyle, figuring the puzzle just so until the holes remaining sit perfectly spaced and allow him to jump in and explore the unknown.
In a car chugging back to Boulder from Mt. Evans late at night we got a phone call from Dave Graham, Chad Greedy, and Jon Cardwell (Luke Parady was also in the car, but he never jumped on the horn). They live the climbing lifestyle, too, but in an astoundingly divergent fashion from Rob. They are unburdened by life’s many entanglements, free to roam the planet in search of the hardest and most inspiring lines anywhere. Dave, in particular, is truly a climber so twisted by wanderlust that I find it difficult to think of him as anything other than a wire-tendoned, chalk dusted, fast talking vagabond wraith popping up here and there across the planet and dispensing with the improbable, leaving locals to whisper of the vision. If that isn’t the lifestyle, I’ve been wrong all along.
And so, finally (Jesus…long winded twit) I present this ClimbTalk radio show to you in Three Acts:
Act One: In which I forget to ask Piz why he fashions his hair after a ginger Dustin Diamond.
Act Two: In which we discuss wolverines, moderates, and other descending intangibles.
Act Three: In which Facebook friends are finally made.[Thanks to Travis Eiselstein for the photos.]
Act One: In which I forget to ask Piz why he fashions his hair after a ginger Dustin Diamond.
Mike Brooks: Hello, and welcome to ClimbTalk. I’m Mike Brooks and in the studio with me are the usual cohorts. We got Dave McAllister of pumpfactoryroad.com and Squirrel, aka Smokey. Now, have you guys been climbing? Smokey, you been climbing? Where’d you go today?
Smokey: Yes. I made it up to Lumpy Ridge today. We climbed the Pear Buttress, a route just to the left of the J Crack. It was a really nice route, burned my calves. Yarded on some gear…twice.
MB: How hard was that climb?
S: It was a good climb, pretty good climb. What about you, Dave?
Dave McAllister: I have. I have been climbing. Let’s see…Evans, Poudre, gym, Flagstaff…in the last week.
MB: So, you did some gym climbing? Where do you go when you climb inside, Dave?
DM: Rock’n and Jam’n.
MB: Why do you go there?
DM: Because it’s close. No, Rock’n and Jam’n is good, though. It’s a fantastic gym… in Thornton.
MB: And they have a facility in Centennial, as well.
DM: They do indeed. You know, when you can’t get outside, you work all day, you got to go inside.
MB: So, hey guys, who do we got in the studio tonight?
DM: We got climber extraordinaire Rob Pizem. He’s a sponsored climber, does a lot of work with kids – he’s a teacher – and an all around great guy.
MB: Rob, thanks for joining us. What does “sponsored climber” mean?
Rob Pizem: Yeah, thanks for having me. As a sponsored climber I see myself as self-employed by the Mesa County School District, and my sponsors Arc’teryx, Scarpa, CAMP, and Sterling Ropes, they all give me goodies when I need them, and that’s about where it’s at.
MB: So, how do you like working with Arc’teryx?
RP: I really do; they’re a great company. They’re really responsive about my feedback on their equipment, and I get it in my hands quickly.
MB: Do they give you everything that you want there at Arc’teryx?
RP: Pretty much. I’d like to get some Arc’teryx underwear, though.
MB: I understand they’re going to make suits, as well. Is that true? Suit coats?
RP: Yeah, they have a side company, and I can’t remember the name of it, but they do have them out right now.
MB: How interesting. And so, you’ve been climbing. Where you been climbing at, Rob?
RP: I’ve been hanging out at Mt. Evans this summer, on the Possibility Wall.
MB: You were at Mt. Evans today, weren’t you?
RP: Yes, I put up two new climbs. I didn’t get a chance to climb either of them, but I put the bolts in and cleaned out the cracks.
MB: For people who don’t understand, when you say “put the bolts in,” did you rap down or did you aid up…how’d you do it?
RP: If I was a full-time climber, I would go up from the bottom. But, since I got a life, I come in from the top and put the bolts in with a drill and a hammer.
MB: How many pitches are your new climbs going to be?
RP: They’re two first pitches for the wall. So, two new alternate starts to get up to the other pitches on the wall.
MB: And how hard do you think they’re going to be, Rob?
RP: I’m hoping one is around a .10+ or an .11, and the other one, I’m not sure how hard it might be…maybe an .11+, .12-.
MB: Dave, I know you got a bunch of questions to ask Rob. Let’s hear ‘em, dude.
DM: Let’s start from the beginning. How’d you start climbing? You’re a flatlander like me; good, wholesome Midwestern boy. So, how did you discover the sport?
RP: One of my brother’s buddies at work, at a sheet metal factory, took him out toproping and my brother invited me to go along. And I checked it out and was terrified out of my mind, but I kind of dug it at the same time.
DM: Right on. So, right now you’re into climbing at altitude. You’re into climbing crusty old desert towers. Describe the progression of climbing in your life. Was that always on the map for you, or did you start out sport climbing? How did you get to the place you are now?
RP: I started off outside once, and then I learned that there was a gym, and I went there once. That was my first year of climbing; one time outside and one time inside. Following that, I moved out to Colorado for my second year of college. I went to Bent Gate Mountaineering and actually asked Greg, the owner, “What does a guy need to go trad climbing?” He said, “You need some nuts and you need some cams.” I said, “What are your two most popular cams? What’s going to help me on every single route?” He sold me a one inch and a half inch cam, and I went from there…and then epic’d on the Flatiron the next day.[laughter]
MB: So you shoved off on some climbing with only two cams?
RP: And a set of nuts.
MB: So your first climb in Boulder was one of the Flatirons?
RP: Yeah, I think my brother and I did the third.
MB: That’s a good outing. Hey Squirrel, have you ever done the third Flatiron?
S: Third Flatiron, several times. The Folly, on the backside, has a real tricky maneuver. It’s easy to fall off that. But, I like the first and the third Flatirons, yeah. I’ve climbed the second, too.
MB: What about you, Dave? You ever do the third? Must have, right?
DM: No, I’ve never gotten around to it.
DM: I just haven’t gotten around to it. Too many things to do, too short of time.
MB: Yeah, like one thing you have to do is come up with some more questions for Rob. What else you got, Dave?
DM: So, one thing that I’ve noticed with your climbing is that you take training seriously. You’re strategic about it. You know your goals and you know how to get there through your training. Would you consider yourself an out-of-the-gate talent? When you started climbing were you like, “Wow, this feels really natural”? Or, did you start training – the way you do now – because you thought, “This is how I’m going to get to level B, C, D, and so on”?
RP: I would say that I’m not out-of-the-gate talented. I just work really hard. It kind of dawned on me in ’99, I went to Potrero Chico for Kurt Smith’s millennium party, and I had an opportunity to meet Tommy Caldwell. I talked to his dad and his dad said he trained really hard, and it never occurred to me that if I wanted to really excel and push myself for my personal limits I would have to do that. I took it to heart and as soon as I got back from Mexico I started getting after it, as far as integrating training into my program.
DM: What does your training look like now? Describe, in a nutshell, what training means to you.
RP: In general, I’m getting two days of general fitness, cardio, strength conditioning training. And usually two more days of climbing specific training where I’m either bouldering or doing routes. And then I try to get outside as much as I can.
DM: That’s the end goal. And then another thing, I don’t know if people know this or not, I certainly do…you don’t partake in drink, you don’t smoke…I’ve heard you swear…
MB: He’s not going to do that tonight, though.
DM: Not tonight! Was that a decision you made before you discovered climbing or was that spawned because you wanted to keep your body in top-notch form?
RP: I think more than anything when I was growing up I saw my buddies make total idiots – fools – out of themselves. I was like, “You know what, if I’m going to be a jerk to someone, it’s not because I’ve drank alcohol. I’m going to be a jerk to you because I mean it. If I’m nice to you, I’m going to be nice to you because I mean it.” So, you’re getting me. You’re not getting something that’s affecting my mood or anything like that. So, yeah, I’m who I am every single second.
MB: Wow…that’s cool, Rob. Do you drink coffee?
MB: You don’t drink coffee? You don’t take any type of supplements or anything?
RP: No, that’s cheating.
DM: So, there’s no Red Bull sponsorship coming your way anytime soon?
RP: I can’t stand the smell of that! I’ve never had one…
S: What about the diet? Is the diet really important to you? Food, I think, is really key to training well and having a strong body and mind. I’m curious, do you eat normal average foods or do you have a special regimen?
MB: That’s a good question, Squirrel.
RP: Yeah, nice question, Squirrel. You don’t look like a squirrel. [laughter] I try to eat pretty good, but chocolate is my major vice. My wife makes me eat veggies and I like to eat a lot of chocolate and then finish it off with some ice cream. No, but I try to eat pretty even. I try to keep the junk out of the system, but sometimes you just gotta go down and eat some garbage food to clean out your system.
MB: With such a clean lifestyle, what keeps you motivated to send?
RP: Once I find something beautiful I just want to climb it. And I’m going to go ahead and try it over and over and over until I get it.
DM: What does ‘beautiful’ mean to you, though? What is awe-inspiring and leads you into dementia until you climb it?
RP: Often times it’s a crack line; the bigger, the better. Or, the position, the exposure, the altitude…just trying to figure out and solve that puzzle and make it happen. That’s kind of the best part about it.
MB: So you bolted two new lines up in [the P-Wall]. What other projects do you have, Rob?
RP: Up on the P-Wall, I’ve got one that I’ve named ‘Hopeless’.[laughter]
MB: How hard do you think it’s going to be?
RP: Probably mid .14…mid to upper. It’s hard.
MB: Can you climb 5.14?
RP: I have, but this one is above and beyond whatever I’ve done.
MB: Is it going to be face climbing at altitude?
RP: It’s a thin, flared tips crack.
MB: So, no bolts.
RP: No, it’s all bolts because you can’t get any gear in it.
MB: Cool. So, when are you signing up for your next project…when are you going to get on it?
RP: I’ve been on it for three years now…[laughter]
Act Two: In which we discuss wolverines, moderates, and other descending intangibles.
MB: So, tonight on ClimbTalk we might have some call-ins from some other famous climbers like the legendary Dave Graham and Jon Cardwell and Chad Greedy. They might call in about ten minutes. But, until then, we’re talking to Rob Pizem, and you’re listening to ClimbTalk on KVCU, 1190 AM. Smokey, I’m curious about your climb today. Did you lose a pack? Is that what happened?
S: At the final move, I lost the pack… It was a 5.8 cave/roof, kind of easy but very awkward. The pack got pinned between me and the wall. I took it off and clipped it to a piece and then I made the move and I tried to go back and get the pack and dropped it 500 feet. My cell phone exploded. My other things fell out and flew around. But the camera actually made it down unscathed, and it wasn’t my camera so I’m glad I don’t have to replace that. It was a good climb. Before that it was a calf burner, 5. 7/5.8.
MB: Okay, Dave, help me out. What do you got for Rob?
DM: Yo, I got a lot more. So, the last two or three years you’ve been hitting it pretty hard. Routes like Gentleman’s Agreement and West Side Story…
MB: Where is that?
RP: Zion and Fisher Towers.
MB: How many pitches in Gentleman’s Agreement?
RP: I think it’s around seven or eight.
MB: Is this your line?
RP: No, it was an aid line that someone told me about and my friend Mike Anderson tried it a few years back and I just finally had time to get on it.
MB: So you freed it then, right?
MB: Excellent. How hard did it go?
RP: It was a tips crack with small, small fingers, and I rated it 5.13ish.
DM: And what about the crack that Jason Haas freed…it escapes me right now…in the South Platte? The roof, finger-tips crack that you were working? Hard! Tell us about that?
RP: It’s a short crack, dead horizontal for about 20 feet, and it really kind of sums up ‘one move wonder.’ It was, “Do I want to hurt my finger and not climb for awhile, or do I want to do the move?” And Jason worked it for like a year and a half…
MB: How can it be a one move wonder with a twenty foot horizontal?
RP: There were hand jams. The rest was pretty trivial.
DM: But then there’s one over-hanging…what?
RP: One index finger toss to a block from a horizontal position. So, you’re laid out all the way horizontal on your finger and then you have to toss all the way, 180 degrees, to another block.
MB: Rob, did you hand this off to him? How did that transpire?
RP: Originally, he showed me the route because he wanted to see if it could be done. I looked at it and said, “It definitely could go.” We worked it a little bit and then I stopped climbing on it for a year. I got on it once or twice more and he’s like, “I’ve been working it for the whole last year.” So, “You finish it then. I’m not going to go ahead and step in front of you.”
MB: Did anyone follow that when Jason led that or did they just pull the rope?
RP: I don’t believe anyone followed it.
DM: And nobody’s repeated it yet?
RP: I repeated it a couple weeks ago.
DM: You did! Congratulations, man!
RP: Thanks.[The round little orb on the console in front of Mike starts blinking, suggesting the radio show is fixin’ to get a lot more crowded…]
MB: Looks like we might have a call in. If you guys can help me out here, Dave and Squirrel; if you guys can talk and let me see what’s going on on the phones.
DM: Take it over, Smokes.
S: So, I guess we have Dave Graham on the line, hopefully. I was going to say about the climb I was on earlier…bit of a calf burner there, just the middle section. I think that’s groveling on the slopers there at Lumpy.
DM: That’s called ramp climbing, man. You were ramp climbing.
S: Alright, so I was ramp climbing.
DM: I used to do that in Iowa, on the side of the highways… [laughter] I got one more question for you, Rob. I want to hit this before those guys come on. Tell us about your teaching, because you’re a sponsored climber, but that doesn’t mean you pull up in a Rolls and hop out and climb and go back to your mansion. I mean, you’re a dedicated teacher.
RP: Yeah, I’ve been teaching for seven years, high school science. I just left my position in Castle Rock and I’m moving to Grand Junction to teach in Mesa County at an alternative high school. The last three years I’ve been at an alternative high school and I’m going to a new one right now.
DM: Awesome, man. We’re going to miss you.
MB: You’re listening to ClimbTalk on KVCU, 1190 AM, and we have a call in from Chad Greedy, Jon Cardwell, Dave Graham, and Luke Parady.
Chad Greedy: Yes, sir! What do you want to talk about this evening?
MB: Chad, where you guys been climbing?
CG: You know, we just went out to this new area out at Mt. Evans, called Wolverine Land. New hot spot in Colorado this year, 2010.
MB: Did you guys put in any new lines up there, Chad?
CG: We put up a few moderate lines this evening and tried some other things, some harder things that Daniel Woods established earlier last week.
MB: When you say “moderate,” how hard is moderate?
CG: Oh, we’re talking about V11/V12 boulder problems here, Mike.
DM: Who is that moderate for…?
CG: Comparative to some of the harder examples that are being put up every day at Wolverine Land…
MB: Who found Wolverine Land, Chad?
CG: Well, we can’t really take credit for finding it because those old school guys probably were the first people to climb down there, like Will LeMaire and all those guys. They’ve all been back there, a long time ago. But, new eyes and new exploration…it’s like a treasure chest down there.
MB: So, you’re traveling with Dave Graham and Jon Cardwell and Luke Parady. What did those guys climb tonight?
CG: Well, they both repeated Daniel Woods’s new V14 in the area, called Evil Backwards. Let’s have Dave break down the problem for us!
MB: Dave, thank you for joining us.
Dave Graham: No problem.
MB: Tell us about the climb.
DG: Well, Chad kind of has the date wrong. This evening we didn’t climb Evil Backwards. The other day…[phone completely breaks up]
MB: Sadly, I think we lost those guys. Chad, can you guys call us back? In the KVCU 1190 AM studios we have climber Rob Pizem. Rob, thank you for joining us. Dave, what else you got for Rob?
DM: We were talking about teaching. One thing that I think is important to talk about when we’re talking with you is you teach kids and you give back to your community. Talk a little bit about your trip to Potrero Chico for Big Brothers, Big Sisters of Colorado. What inspired that trip?
RP: I’ve just felt really lucky to get hooked up with all the sponsors that I have and I just see the need to go ahead and try to help folks. Basically, one of my buddies is a Big Brother and his wife is a Big Sister and I thought it was a great way to try to raise money to give back to the community.
DM: How did you guys raise money down there?
RP: We just tried to go and pitch it out; get as many pitches as we could every day for seven days.
DM: And each pitch you were donated money from people?
RP: Yeah, or just a lump sum for the whole trip.
DM: How many pitches did you do?
RP: Somewhere over a couple hundred.
MB: You’ve been listening to Rob Pizem on ClimbTalk, and on the phone we have a call in from Chad Greedy, Dave Graham, Luke Parady, and Jon Cardwell.
Jon Cardwell: All right, are we here, check, check?
MB: Now, who are we speaking with?
JC: This is Jon Cardwell.
MB: So John, you guys were at this new bouldering area called Wolverine Land? Did you do any new lines today?
JC: Today, not so much. We went and tried the Daniel Woods line, called Stuntin’ Season, and that went all right for a little while, but then the clouds kind of peeked in and it got really humid. So, we decided to go check out a few new lines of our own and just explore a little bit.
MB: Did you guys put up any new lines?
JC: Today, we just kind of worked on this new problem. Didn’t complete it. But, got all the holds brushed up and the top outs all nice, and stuff like that. Pretty much, just explored the options and looked around for other problems, too.
MB: For people who don’t know what you’re talking about, when you say “cleaned up the holds,” what does that entail?
JC: Well, in these new areas like Wolverine Land, there’s a lot of fresh granite, so there’s a lot of cleaning that has to be done to make the holds climbable because sometimes the rock isn’t of the best quality. You just walk up to the boulder, clean some lichen off and dirt or whatever it is, then it’s ready to go. That’s what we do when we clean the boulders; make them possible to climb.
DM: This is Dave. I got a question for you, Jon. A lot of people, a lot of climbers, most climbers never do a first ascent. They don’t ever get to enjoy that. So, tell all of those people – tell all of us – what the vibe is like down there right now with all you guys projecting these brand new lines and the stoke and the vibe. Talk about that.
JC: Well, it’s really interesting, actually, because it’s a completely different form of climbing. Because, when you’re trying certain lines that are challenging for you, you don’t even know if they’re possible yet. You haven’t seen anyone do them or the moves are not really explained already. You go to an established climbing area, you know people have climbed the lines and you know there’s a possibility on each problem. And when you’re looking for first ascents, it’s kind of more of a blank canvas. You have no idea how it’s going to work and you kind of have to search for yourself how everything’s going to pan out. So, it’s a different idea…you can just run around and you can put up any sort of thing that you see as possible. So, it’s cool.
DM: Is a competitive vibe down there?
JC: Not really, for us. We just kind of go around and have a good time and try to climb on stuff that looks cool. We’re usually with a group of people, so when we find a boulder there’s like five people trying it. Whoever climbs it first climbs it first. It’s pretty cool. I mean, we’re all psyched for each other. Kind of like a friendly vibe down there, I would say.
MB: Jon, when you’re sending first ascents, how do you train for something like that? What do you recommend?
JC: Good question. I guess for training we just kind of keep the motivation high. You just have to be motivated and psyched and that kind of helps with first ascents.[Massive looping feedback rings though the telephone line, making everyone in the studio cringe and laugh.]
MB: Okay, turn off your radio or turn it down. Sorry about the feedback.
JC: Sorry about that. We got some crazy people in the front seat…
MB: Not a problem. You’re listening to Jon Cardwell…in the ClimbTalk studio we have climber Rob Pizem, and on the phone tonight we have Dave Graham, Chad Greedy, Jon Cardwell, and Luke Parady, calling in from the road. They’re just coming back from Wolverine Land. So, tell us about your day, Jon. How was the climbing?
CG: Well, it’s back to me, Mike. This is Chad Greedy.
MB: Chad, how was day of climbing? Tell us about it.
CG: It was excellent. You know, this is an alpine area that’s roadside, in Colorado. It only costs $25 for a season pass. And you can go up there at 5 o’clock in the afternoon and go climbing until the evening. It’s amazing. There’s mountain lions, there’s two cubs down there. There’re wolverines everywhere. There’re marmots that they feed off of. And the goats just gave birth, and they’re at thirteen thousand feet up to fourteen thousand feet at the summit.
MB: Now dude, wolverines? Are you serious? I didn’t know there were wolverines in Colorado. Is that true Dave? [Mike is speaking to me right now and I silently shrug in the studio, but there is another Dave in the equation…this causes laughter after Chad’s following comment…]
CG: Ah, this is Chad. And it is true, Mike. [laughter] In 1980s the US government released 50 male wolverines and 60 female wolverines to Mt. Evans wildlife in hopes that they could introduce them back into the Colorado wilderness.
MB: So, did you guys see any wolverines?
CG: No. They just let them go to breed. It’s on the internet… But, the climbing up there is very good. There’re even cliffs…there’re cracks…there’re cliffs to bolt… A question that we had for the general public, coming from our little motley crew here, was: Can you bolt in somewhere like this and can you use a power drill?
MB: You know, I’m sure you can’t use power drills, but I think you potentially can bolt.
RP: You’re allowed to hand drill all you want.
CG: Did Rob Pizem use a power drill?
RP: I’ve been using a hand drill. It’s been awesome.
CG: On the wall above Area A, there?
RP: Mm-hmm. Yeah, you’ll see some poorly drilled bolts here and there. [laughter]
MB: So, Chad, are you guys out climbing tomorrow, as well?
CG: Yeah, I think we’re going to go back.
MB: Tell us how you get there, Chad.
CG: Well, you drive on over on I-70 up to Idaho Springs, you take that Mt. Evans exit and you just follow the signs right on up there. You’ll kind of see the boulders off the side of the road.
MB: Oh, I had no idea. So, how long is the approach, Chad?
CG: The approach is 15 minutes.
MB: Where do you park for Wolverine Land?
CG: Well, if you wanted to do your best you’d probably park at the visitor’s center, because there is a limited amount of space for people to park up at Wolverine Land…I think it’s probably about nine spots. So, probably after this broadcast, there’ll be a lot less spots up there.
MB: Maybe so. So, where can people find out more information about Wolverine Land?
CG: www.b3bouldering.com. That’s my website.
MB: Your website? I thought that was run by the inimitable Jamiel…[laughter] So, Chad, you were going to let us take to Dave Graham and he was going to tell us about some of the climbs that he did. Can you maybe…
CG: Yeah, I’ll hand the phone right off, man!
Act Three: In which Facebook friends are finally made.
DG: Hi there.
MB: Dave, how was your climbing today?
DG: The climbing was great today. It was a bit humid, there was a lot of rain…clouds around. And we got there kind of late and that was also my third day of climbing today, so that didn’t make me feel extra strong. But it was fun.
MB: Now that was your third day on, have you been spending those other days at Wolverine Land, or where have you been climbing?
DG: No, unfortunately, the last two days at Wolverine Land it’s been pouring rain and snowing and all kinds of terrible things and we’ve been rock climbing in the gym, actually. I went to Movement for the first time and I got really pumped and I fell off the route there, near the top of the wall. And I was climbing with Luke, and he burned me off again…
MB: So, Dave, tell us how you train to climb so hard. I mean, you’re a great climber…you’re inspirational to watch. How do you train, Dave?
DG: Well, it’s a complicated thing, I guess. Training for me consists of trying to stay in shape when I’m traveling and then also trying to get strong when I’m based somewhere. I’ll use an example. The last six months I’ve been climbing in Spain and there, there’s not so much climbing gyms, but there’s a lot of rock. And there’s so many hard routes that you kind of have to juggle in different areas, trying different lines. And the weather’s always very difficult to deal with. But, in this type of situation – in these types of circumstances – you kind of end up climbing a lot on specific things for specific reasons. So, if you want to climb a certain route, I think you need to climb in that area and then you need to work through the routes that exist there and get into the style of the rock. Then you can start to perform…
MB: That sounds like great advice…
S: What’s your favorite junk food!
DG: Junk food?
S: What’s your diet like?
DG: …junk food. I’m not so into it. All my friends eat chips, and I think that’s dumb. And they eat pizza a lot, and I’m not super-into that. And I’m fat for living in Europe for a year, and now I just eat hamburgers, ‘cause they didn’t have them there. I’ve eaten McDonalds a bunch in Spain because there wasn’t anything else, a lot of times.
MB: So, you don’t have a strict diet or anything like that?
DG: Well, I like to cook a lot. My mom taught me a lot of great recipes when I was younger and I’ve been kind of trying to pass those on to all my friends. I always take a lot of pleasure in cooking. I do actually try and eat well. I like to eat a lot of vegetables and nice things…not so much chips, like my friends. I don’t know…I actually take it pretty seriously even though I don’t know much about it.
MB: Dave, trivia question. Do you remember your very first climb? What was the name of it?
DG: I think the very first time I climbed on a rock, I fell off of it and got a concussion and my friend Luke didn’t spot me because we didn’t know what spotting was. I hit my head on the ground. I climbed up this 45 degree wall that was all wet and I didn’t really know what to do and then I fell off. But that was on the same day…maybe right around the time I did a 5.9 slab, on sight, with my Summit 5.10 shoes, and I was really psyched, in this quarry, in Portland.
MB: So Dave, you’ve had a really great career and [it’s] really inspirational to follow your accomplishments, et cetera. What can you tell our listeners on how to climb harder?
DG: I would say that if you’d like to climb harder I think that you need to make space in your life to let yourself concentrate on pursuing rock climbing in a way that lets you explore different places around the world and that also lets you explore different places around your community and explore the people. I that think rock climbing is a process of trying to understand yourself and understand the places you’re in and try to adapt to the different communities and situations that will arise. It always changes, each country you go to. You just need to rediscover how to climb. At the same time, with the motivation to improve your rock climbing, it’s kind of about trying to connect with yourself in each spot to kind of synchronize mind and body. You don’t want to be really disturbed, to put it that way. You need your focus on rock climbing; you can’t have it being around people and stuff and things… I find that that’s really hard to take yourself away from society and the world and kind of remove yourself from the whole civilization that exists, that’s all around the rock climbing world.
It’s one of the more interesting things to develop, the connection with yourself and the area and the people and stuff like that, so you can feel free to concentrate and try hard. I think that’s a really hard thing to actually do. And people, maybe…should do that sometimes. It’s about having a reason to try hard and doing it for yourself and kind of having that fit in with life. Trying to do it for the right reasons is the best way to improve, you know? The right reason is sometimes difficult to discover when we have our everyday lives.
MB: That’s a good answer. Rob, do you have anything you want to ask Dave?
RP: I got an open project for you, Dave.
DG: You do? Oh, really? What’s that all about?
MB: Where is it, Rob?
RP: It’s up on the P-Wall over at Area A.
DG: Ah! I was just talking about that today. Because I was wondering…I didn’t know which routes and where they were and what was going on, but that wall is absolutely amazing. I’ve looked at it for years. Is it out the overhang, or the arête, or…?
RP: Yeah, it’s an arête out in the overhang.
DG: Oh man, it’s the line, then. Like, the line; the arête line.
MB: So, it’s already bolted?
DG: Are you serious, it’s bolted!?
RP: It’s just a short pinch problem; two bolts.
DG: Really… Well, are you climbing up there these days?
RP: I’ll be up there next week, beginning of the week.
DG: And you don’t rap in, you hike in from the parking lot at the lake when you go there?
RP: No, I come in from the main road in the park itself.
DG: Okay…you rap in?
RP: Yup. There’s fixed lines up there already.
MB: So, Rob, if Dave wants to get a hold of you, how can he get a hold of you? Email address?
RP: Yeah, I’ll give him my email.
DG: I think we might be friends on Facebook…[laughter]
MB: So, we’re talking with Dave Graham and in the studio on ClimbTalk we have Rob Pizem. What else you got, Dave?
DM: Hey Dave, this is Dave. How’s it goin’?
DG: Hey, what’s up. I was confused…there’s another Dave?
DM: Yeah, there’s another Dave here, too. I got a question for you. You’re definitely always stoked to climb, and you’re known for it, for sure. You’re stoked here, and in Europe you’re definitely putting up projects and having fun, but what’s the difference in ethos, or mind-set, between the European climbing scene and the American climbing scene?
DG: Well, that’s a really interesting question…I could probably talk for a long time about that. The idea is that it’s a really old thing, rock climbing in Europe. Somehow, it feels a lot different. You know, here in the United States we have this whole new wave of bouldering and we have this new wave of lots of rock climbers. And even for me, I started rock climbing 12, 14 years ago, and I’ve noticed that there’s just so many more people climbing and so many more people at the gym and so many more people doing it. It’s kind of this big revelation, whereas in Europe it’s something that you’re like, “Wow, so many people are doing this all the time,” and you’re astonished at how many people are actually participating in climbing. It’s not this big revelation or this new thing.
It’s kind of like an activity that people are really used to. And then, on that level, it’s a lot more developed, so you’ve got World Cup climbing competitions that are really regular and there’re a lot of people that have heard of Patrick Edlinger, who is a very famous French climber, and have seen his movies and stuff on TV. Conceptually, for them, rock climbing is a little bit easier to grasp. So, I feel like, in Europe it’s a little bit more normal, so to speak. It’s not so strange to be like, “I’m a climber!” and people are like, “Okay, you’re rock climbing.” They know you’re not mountain climbing, that’s alpinism; they actually understand all that. And here, I feel like you could walk into the middle of Boulder and try and strike up a conversation about rock climbing, and about 50 percent of the people might be like, “Well, what do you do? Do you guys go up the mountain?” And you’ll be like, “No, its technical rock climbing.” You have to explain to them what rock climbing is.
So, it’s all independent on each country in Europe, compared to each other. You’ve got places like Sweden, where there’re a lot of rock climbers but there’s not so many people as there are in the United States climbing. I feel like they’d look to the United States and be like, “Oh man, I wish we had those guys here. We have a lot of rock.” But everybody here just, kind of, has kids and chills and goes to climbing gyms… Everybody kind of does what they can do, but they would like to see a team of international strong climbers gather there.
But then, when you start to talk about teams and where international teams are, that’s the cutting edge, that’s the happening thing. If you go to where I was just at, Lleida, they’ve got some of the best rock climbers in the world that also live there and they’re all climbing on really hard routes. And somebody like me goes there and I’m impressed by all the really strong climbers, like Dani Andrada and Chris Sharma and they all live there and they have houses there and you’re just trying to visit and climb with them and you’re like, “Wow, these guys are strong.” But, this is a community that has nothing to do with rock climbing, you know? Lleida, they have the best rock climbers in the world living there, and they don’t care about rock climbing, really. They seem pretty uninterested people.
DG: Yeah, I’m always very astonished by that. There’re places like Boulder, Colorado where it’s “cool” to rock climb, almost. Then, there’s places like Lleida where there’s so much amazing rock out there – it’s like one of the best places in the world – but the community and the people that live there are not connected with that, like…prosperous reality. They’re not like, “Oh man, we’ve got the best caves on Earth. We’ve got Chris Sharma living down the street…in the hood.” They don’t know anything about that! They have no clue. They actually wouldn’t really want to listen to it… So, it’s fascinating to see which communities in different parts of the world are more adept at being rock climber type places where people know about rock climbing and care about it. Because I think that makes a huge difference towards the details, what you’re asking about, how it feels to be in between two different places…it’s more about who is there and who lives in these places. If you’re in Switzerland and you’re talking about rock climbing, people are pretty keen on it. They know what you’re talking about.
But, in other places in Europe, people aren’t really interested in that. In Paris, when you climb in Fontainebleau, it’s horrendous, I think. There’s a lot of really lame, kind of bourgeois, like, really strange people who are very unhappy to see tourists. They’re not into rock climbing. They don’t care about rock climbing and they’ll blatantly tell you that. You wonder why some of the best places in the world have people that aren’t interested in them, living right next door. That’s why places like Boulder and maybe Innsbruck out there in Austria and a couple other hubs, like Yosemite I guess. I’ve never even been there, so… All these hubs are for a reason, not just one level – culturally – there are other reasons. “Is there a reason for its existence” is kind of complicated, let’s put it that way.
DM: Here’s another question for ya. Strong American climbers like yourself, you guys are constantly going over to Europe. But you guys put in some roots, and I’m not talking about the things you climb, I’m talking roots; you dig in to the lifestyle, you learn the language, you’ve bought houses… But I don’t see a lot of Europeans coming to America for, let’s say, a year or two years. Do you sense that difference, as well?
DG: Yeah, for sure, man. I really am aware of that. It’s fascinating that you mention it because it’s something I think about all the time. It’s a big question of mine. You know, I don’t know how to put it… I traveled to Europe at the age of eighteen from Maine because I needed to go see those places and go there and do that stuff. And I always heard when I was growing up that America was this dreamland. Everybody wants to come to America. America, America…there’s all this hype. People you’ll meet in Italy are like, “Oh, I want to go to America!” And you’re like, “Man. You guys should go! You buy a flight and you’re there!” They’re like, “Yes, but I don’t go…” And you’re like, “Well, you should go.” I’m just like, “Man, I came here and I got to speak Italian to you guys and I don’t even speak Italian very well! I’m tired of telling you guys to go to the United States.” “Why, why?” It’s like super hard, you’re trying to do your best and you’re just wondering why you’re there. You know, I’ve now been there ten years and I get this all the time. Like, why do these people…like…don’t – get – it, somehow?
I think it’s a very fascinating thing, because not every culture is forced to travel and learn other languages and deal with other things. Also, for me I land in a place like Switzerland, where normal people speak four languages. And I have been working now for years; I can speak French and I can speak Spanish, but I’m still pretty bad at German and my Italian’s off and it’s not that good. Man, think about it! These guys in Switzerland, they’ve never even been to the United States, they haven’t traveled anywhere necessarily, but they can speak four languages off the bat. They’re looking at you, and they’re like, “You come here, you come to our country.” And you’re like, “You know…I just want to hang out.” And they’re kind of like, it’s our country. And I’ve never felt that way about the United States. I’ve never been like, “This is our country. You come here you got to do something, you know, to have a right…” I don’t know; It’s a very different perspective. Maybe it’s pride oriented, or something like that…
It’s fascinating! I don’t even know how to describe it, but…Europeans don’t move to the United States to become famous rock climbers or anything like that. They can do everything from where they are, you know? Like, Europeans don’t come here to just climb and boulder and stuff like that and become all fixed in the scene. It’s like Americans go to Innsbruck to do that, from Boulder. Like Daniel Woods and Jon Cardwell and all those guys – they go to Innsbruck. It’s like a place to go, somehow. I’ve never even really been there, but it’s fascinating. I’m just like, “Why do people go there? What’s the deal?”
But on this level, you don’t see Adam Ondra moving here at the age of seventeen. I think that came up in the car today. We all have ultimate high respect for Adam Ondra. In my opinion he’s the best rock climber out there, which is an amazing thing. But we were mentioning, within our generational perspective, it kind of feels like, “Man, if he was a real baller, he’d move to the States and hang out here and be doing a bunch of stuff, like all really international, kind of like what almost we had to do when we were young.” It’s tough. I moved to Europe. I had to learn to speak French and Spanish. So did Chris. We had this passion to make an impact in our rock climbing for ourselves, first off. But then because it’s there; it’s an opportunity to be had. And I see somebody like Adam Ondra, who is such an amazing talent, and I’m like, “That guy should just say ‘Later mom and dad, I’m going away! I make money and I’m buying a flight and I’m going to go hang out with my friends!’” And just whatever…start to roll and do it. And that’s what I think is phenomenally brilliant about climbing…
MB: Well, Dave, I’m sorry. We’re running out of time here on the ClimbTalk radio show on KVCU. You’ve been listening to Dave Graham, Chad Greedy, and in the car with them are Luke Parady and Jon Cardwell. Gentlemen, thank you for joining us on ClimbTalk.
DG: Thanks a lot for having us.
MB: So, what did you guys think? That was a good show. What’d you think, Rob?
RP: I enjoyed being here. It was good listening to everybody.
DM: You’ve been listening to KVCU 1190 AM and ClimbTalk radio, the only climbing talk radio show in the nation. We want to [also] thank Rob Pizem, first ascensionist, hard-core climber, great teacher…thanks a lot for coming, Rob.
RP: Thanks for having me, guys.
MB: Okay, Smokey, say goodnight.
S: Goodnight, folks. Have a wonderful Friday evening!