Climbing Partners: Past, Present and Future

My first climbing partner was my brother. He had met a coworker who had invited him to try out rock climbing and he thought it would be a good idea to invite me. Little did we know that this one chance at climbing would change my life forever.

My brother is physically a little shorter than I,  fit, laid back, positive, and knows how to try hard. Joel (the guy who took us our first time to top rope) was a wiry man, ( I suppose who was in his mid thirties) had long hair, a carefree attitude about life and knew how to move on the stone of the New River Gorge. Between that and my other first experiences, I was immediately hooked. Never any pressure to do anything other than try, I was shown that climbing was about hanging with your friends in the woods, at the cliff, along a river or at a lake and having a good time. I never saw a magazine or a guide book, knew what a gear shop was or even aware what climbing and its culture was going to do to my life.

Shortly after that I moved to Colorado for school and met my roommate, Kyle. He was a Colorado native, loved to snowboard, play soccer and be outside. What luck for me! I found a local gear shop, bought a used harness and pair of climbing shoes for Kyle and off we went. Although climbing did not have the impact on Kyle as it did on me. He was great to hang out with in Golden and begin my journey learning the craft.

Eventually I met some others at my school who were into climbing as much as me. Josh, Braden and Rolf. It was like we were fated to be together. All of us with the same major, same classes and same attitude (which was let’s climb a lot and let’s climb everywhere). Each of us would get the birthday present piece of climbing gear, ask for a rope for Christmas and watch the gear shops for sales religiously and eventually had small racks that took us to Indian Creek, Red Rocks and all over the western US during many road trips. It was great climbing with these guys because we loved camping and making the most out of everyday. Our passions shifted after a while and kayaking and climbing were the two things that kept us on the road. Where kayaking took Rolf and Braden, and graduation took Josh, I still longed to spend my outside time plugging in gear or clipping bolts.

I also spent a bunch of time in college climbing with Lee and Diana. The three of us would jam out after class and head to North Table Mountain and enjoy the sunsets and as many volcanic routes as we could in all kinds of weather. It was also Lee who taught me what a real road trip was and he was the partner who took me to Zion for the first time. Eventually he graduated and as he taught me the road and I taught him how to telemark ski our paths separated and he is just a memory.

At about the time that I was finishing school I met Gregg. He was from the Midwest like me and came from the Red River Gorge. He and his brother we great to hang with at the crag and way better than me so I latched on and tried to learn what I could from these two who knew how to climb the steep rock. Gregg and I ended up climbing together nonstop for a couple summers and really had a good time.

It was about then when I met this guy who recently moved to Colorado that I had seen a time or two at the New River Gorge. Ken was a wicked strong guy who ended up being from Ohio too! We chatted and eventually realized that we were from the same area and actually only one town apart. We hit it off and since he was such a better climber than I had was psyched to learn as much as I could. Ken and I had many adventures but mostly we climbed at Rifle. Ken lived in Longmont and happened to know many of the guys who were establishing sport climbs and bouldering areas at the time so I was introduced to some legendary climbers of Colorado. It was inspiring to see what a really good climber did to be successful. I was always like a kid in a candy store when we went climbing with those guys. It was when I decided that I wanted to really find out what my personal potential could be with climbing.

From those Rifle days with Ken, I ended up meeting and climbing with many others like me. Guys and gals who wanted to see what they could do if they just pushed themselves and focused on one sport. We lived in our vans and learned how to project and moved up through the grades. I couldn’t list all the people from Rifle that became some of my best friends but there are a ton and I am happy to have had my journey cross with theirs.

Eventually I wanted to move toward longer routes (even though I had been doing them all a long) and I met Mike B. Of all the partners that I had met he was the one. Not because he was the best or the most driven or had the best technique but because he was always dependable and positive. He and I have driven more miles than all of my partners combined and he and I have climbed more vertical feet of rock than all of my other partners combined and its been a blast the entire time (except maybe once and that was not a good time for him but that is another story). Even after I moved away to Europe to work, he was still my main partner and the most dependable. I still climb with him more than anyone on the planet.

At some point I during the Mike B era, I met Mike A (while I was climbing with Mike B. Anyway, Mike A and I met at a time where we were both willing and able to take on big challenges and not sweat at the work that was involved to accomplish them. We literally spent most of our time in Zion attempting what thought impossible or a waste of time. Our partnership that was linked by our passion for free ascents and our hard work ethics allowed us to do things that I still can’t believe. What times that I can look back on and cherish.

After that I moved to Austria with a broken back and had to try to establish myself as a science teacher during the week and a climber on the weekend. I was lucky to live with one of the greats, Hari Berger. He was so positive and talented that even though I was injured while living with him, that I stayed psyched while I was on the mend. Hari made his living being a pro climber and I learned first hand what it meant. I had been sponsored for a few years at the time and always wondered what it would be like and if that was something that I wanted to pursue. It was after living with Hari that I realized that it was a job like any other any that I didn’t want to make the thing that I loved the most, my source of income.

When I returned from Austria, Mike A and I met up for what would be become our last meeting (he had to move away due to work) and I was on the prowl for partners. I basically would climb with anyone that I thought wouldn’t kill me and or course Mike B.

Then I moved to Grand Junction where I didn’t know anyone or anything about the area. I met Jesse and he was kind enough to take me under his wing and share the fruits of what Grand Junction had to offer. At the time we both had lots of free time and we climbed and established routes nearly every time that we went out. There was always a drill in our pack! As marriage and babies came our time out on the scary Unaweep granite has come to stand still and that has been a bummer.

Most recently I spent a bunch of time with another local, Ben. Younger than me by ten years, Ben was always ready to climb and learn. We had lots of great days together climbing sandy cracks and too many routes in a day. As he progressed our time dwindled to getting out occasionally at random times.

So where does that leave me today? It leaves me right where I want to be, meeting new climbers and having a heck of a good time climbing with them. I am establishing routes with them, I am cragging with them and enjoying the beautiful Colorado and Utah sunshine with them. I can’t leave out Mike B, we are still getting it done as much as possible and I look forward to hopping on a plane with him or sitting in a car for an absurd amount of time to go slice our rock shoes on some obscure stone.

What was the point of sharing all this? I don’t know. I just thought that I would share. These are some of the people that shaped me as a climber and as a person. They are the people that I look up to and who probably have a funny story about me and a bowel movement.

Get outside with your partner and make some memories.

piz : )

One thought on “Climbing Partners: Past, Present and Future

  1. Pingback: This Week in Climbing #13 (January 10, 2016) - The Undercling

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