Career Highlights

Making the first ascent of Link Sar (7,041m) in Pakistan via the Southeast Face (VI WI4 M6+ 90°, 2300m) with Graham Zimmerman, Steve Swenson and Mark Richey and then winning a Piolet d'Or for it has to go at the top of the list. I was also pretty proud to become an IFMGA/UIAGM Mountain Guide, and to make the first ascents of Terror (VI WI6 M7 R/X A2 1500m) on The Mooses Tooth in Alaska with Scoy Adamson, as well as a few unclimbed 6,500m peaks in India and Nepal, to put up some really beautiful lines in Norway, and to solo the Matterhorn's North Face onsight in about four hours. More recently I also did a human-powered traverse of the Three Sisters at home in Bend which I'm pretty proud of. A couple of friends and I rode our bikes from home to the mountains in two teams going opposite directions, summitted all three peaks, then rode each other's bikes back for about 82 miles and 15,000' of elevation gain in a little under 20 hours. I was also pretty psyched to finally climb 5.13, though now I have to climb 13b so I can say I've done 8a when I'm in Europe.


  • Climbing

    Favorite type of climbing (bouldering, sports climbing, trad, etc.):

    Alpine climbing, sport climbing, mixed climbing, trad climbing, ice climbing, ski mountaineering, and bouldering - and just about in that order. In my opinion, sport and alpine climbing are perfect compliments as they're almost polar opposites in that in one you're trying your best to have fun and not fall off, and the other is actually fun and you can fall all you want.

    When and how did you get into climbing and what kept you interested / fascinated in the sport?

    I have a very clear memory of this, because I just went climbing once with my buddy Al when I was in college because he asked and it sounded like fun. I knew rock climbing existed, but that was it at that point. We were at school in Manhattan, and he took me to the Gunks to go top-roping. I wore gym shorts (against his advice), we rigged an anchor with some webbing and ovals on a tree, had a blast, and I was hooked immediately. I later went back to the same cliff with my brother after borrowing Al's webbing, and after we walked all the way back from our anchor to the base of the cliff we saw some folks come rappelling down and knew we needed to get a clue after that.

    Who was your childhood hero and do you consider yourself a role model now? Does it influence you at all that other people look up to you?

    I don't know that I had a childhood hero really, but if I did it definitely wasn't a climber. I idolized snowboarders like Terje Håkonsen and skaters like Eric Koston and Chad Muska, but I knew I was never good enough to be them when I grew up. Now I think those memories make it kinda strange to be someone people listen to, because in my head it hasn't been that long since I was a grom reading about big climbs in the magazines and dreaming about doing something cool one day. So sure it influences me, but less in the choices I make as a climber and more in the way I interact with younger climbers and guides when I meet them.

    What were the most important milestones in your life so far, both in climbing and in everyday life? Did you immediately recognize them as such or only later on?

    I think I'll always remember that climb we did on The Mooses Tooth (it's actually supposed to be spelled without the apostrophe btw) as the first Wme I really did a route like the ones I'd dreamt about. I knew it at the time too, because it felt like a breakthrough. I was coming off an injury that le\ me feeling really motivated, and it's a long story but the way things came together to make that climb happen was pretty unique, and I think Scott Adamson, my partner on that climb, felt the same way so that was really a big, big moment for me. The rest of life might be a little more subtle I suppose, since I know things like buying a house and the first time I got to work as a mountain guide in France were huge, they just don't happen quite the same way.

    What were your greatest failures / setbacks / injuries? How did you cope with them and how did you come back from them?

    Well, I think the big one for me has to be breaking my back in 2010 and returning to climbing after that. Looking at it now, it was a really pivotal moment in my life in general since it made me take stock of where I was at and where I was going. The actual injury wasn't dramatic at all, but the doctors weren't sure if I'd ever be able to climb seriously again and the process of surgery and recovery was a pretty dark time for me. The positive that came out of it was real though, as it made me realize that I didn't have all the time in the world to do the things I wanted to do, and that if they were important I'd better get off my ass and do them now. That motivation was real gift, and it helped me see that all the cliches are true and that nothing should be taken for granted.

    What is your favorite climbing related story / experience?

    Oh man, there are so many. Just that question calls up a lot of memories - the serious ones, the proud ones, the goofy ones, and they all end up mostly being about sharing something really special with someone. It's a bright little montage in my head, but picking one out is tough. I did have a really funny encounter with Edelrid's own Tommy Caldwell once though. A friend and I were in our early twenties and doing The Nose on El Cap as our first wall climb and we screwed up everything possible and ended up sleeping in our harnesses hanging from some bolts on our first night. The next morning a couple of lights came speeding up behind us and of course it was Tommy and Beth. We were feeling pretty haggard but they were so nice and so encouraging and obviously total heroes of ours that when they told us to keep going we did. Five or six days later (after planning on being on the wall for three) we're about to claw our way to the top and who comes rappelling in with a cheerful "Oh it's you guys - you're still here! Great work!" They freed the route a few days later and wrote about how running into gapers like us was an inspiration, and we got to tell our friends we got into Alpinist Magazine. It's even funnier now too since I'm on the Edelrid team with Tommy and the Outdoor Research team with Beth, so I guess I'll have to tell them that story someday.

  • Training

    Do you have a strict training schedule for when and how you train throughout the year?

    Yes, and the short answer is that I try to go on big expediWons every other year these days, which means basically I have a year to train like a madman before a trip, and then about the same time afterwards to try to rock climb, work as much as I can and relax a little before starting all over again.

    What advice can you give to somebody looking to improve their training routine?

    Find a goal that motivates you and somebody who knows how to help you get there, and don't be afraid to ask for advice. Nobody, from Michael Jordan to Chris Sharma or Killian Jornet woke up one day knowing how to be the best and just did it all by themselves. They all had coaches and mentors who
    helped shape their vision, hone their craft, and help them build towards their goals. Just wanting to climb hard doesn't really inform what you're gonna do today, tomorrow, next week or next year, and without some kind of plan most people will never really get off the ground. Of course once you do get the plan it becomes all about dedication and a lot of really hard work, but it starts with at least knowing what to do, in my opinion.

    What do you think of indoor climbing gyms in relation to climbing on actual rock?

    I think they're great for getting strong and doing it safely, and if you've got a good one they're perfect for building community as well. The one negative effect they've had for me though is making me wish I had a meter-thick mat and a dead flat landing with ten sporters for every boulder problem outside, but I don't lose a lot of sleep over bouldering anyway, so oh well.

    Are you able to do a one-arm pull-up? How about a single finger?

    I haven't tried any one-arms in a while and a hard 'no' to single-fingers, but luckily I don't think those are very important for the type of climbing I do for the most part.

    How much of the success as a pro climber is due to show and how much due to actual climbing skill?

    Can I just insert the blushing, innocent, looking-upward emoji here?

  • Psychology

    Is it possible for anybody to eventually perform a one-armed pull-up or get to the top of the Eiger/Matterhorn, or do you really have to be born for it?

    I think that's a great quesWon, but maybe a more complicated one than it might seem. My first answer is no - you don't need to be born for it. As a guide, I feel like I've had the pleasure of seeing people really start at the beginning and later be able to achieve amazing things that they never ever dreamed of. Similarly, if you'd asked the seventeen year-old me about what I'm doing now I wouldn't have believed you (or had any clue what you were talking about). But at the same Wme, I also grew up in a pretty financially stable family in a safe, boring liYle town in the Poconos in Pennsylvania where I enjoyed a whole host of privileges that made almost anything possible for me. So it's not a maYer of being born into a life in the mountains necessarily, and I don't think it's about genetics either, but I think it's important to recognize that it's a lot easier for me to say anyone can do it than it is for than it is for someone from a community where pursuing something as seemingly frivolous as a one-armed pull-up isn't a luxury that they have. So I think that my answer ultimately is that yes - it's fundamentally possible for anybody to achieve in climbing just as it is in anything, but that those of us who have the ability to do so also have a responsibility to call aYenWon to the opportunity gaps that exist between people and within the world of climbing, to try to be aware of the need for equity in that regard, and ideally to work towards building a climbing landscape that's accessible to a more diverse group of people than it has been historically.

    How important is it to set goals in professional sports? What are your goals / targets you are working towards in climbing and in life?

    I can only really speak to goal-setting for myself, but I don't think anybody gets to a really high level in anything, professional sports or otherwise, without having goals and the drive to achieve them. So in that sense I think they're quite important. On the other hand I don't see all that many great climbers, especially alpinists, who are busy chasing numbers or lists. For me, at least, I get inspired by something and go a\er it. I have a constantly evolving set of goals in my head at all Wmes, but they're mostly routes, mountains, possibiliWes, things like that. Which of course I'm not going to tell you about, because they're all like liYle secrets I hope to explore one day. This summer's is in Pakistan, fingers crossed, and hopefully in my downtime from alpine training I'll get to climb 8a soon, though I'm not sure trying a new route at 8,000m is the best prep for that sort of thing.

    How to you deal with extremely hard climbing problems? Do you ever get frustrated and give up on them or do they motivate you even more?

    Both. Sometimes I get frustrated and have to walk away, someWmes for good, someWmes knowing I'll come back another Wme when I'm stronger, or when the condiWons and timing are right. Others I realize may be beautiful but just not right for me. Ultimately I think any great route takes a huge investment of time, emotion and effort, and to put so much into it it has to be right for the individual, which not every project is of course. But if I think it is the right place to put my energies, then yes - a hard problem can be very motivating. I try to remind myself o\en that the point of doing something hard is because it's hard, which sounds obvious, but it helps me when I'm struggling and frustrated.

  • Future of climbing

    Is there anything you would like to change about the current developments in climbing?

    I think as any sport grows there are parts of the culture around it that change, some for the better and some for the worse, and climbing is no exception. More people coming to the sport poses obvious problems in terms of the degradaWon of natural areas, overcrowding, the need for stewardship and for steering new climbers to be responsible members of the community, but I think as long as we can manage those issues, not let the commercializaWon of climbing effect the core values that have always motivated climbers, and conWnue to diversify climbing and make it more accessible for a wider range of people that's ultimately going to be a good thing for the sport.

    Where do you think sport will go in the next few years? What will change? And what role will you play in it?

    I know I'm not the first person to say this, but I think the next really amazing thing that we're going to see in alpine climbing is when some kid who started climbing in a gym with a coach grows up into the alpinist that climbs 5.14, is as aerobically fit as an Olympic Nordic skier, and has twenty years of experience and technique under their belt by the time they're thirty. That's the climber that's going to really break barriers and do the climbs that have clearly been waiWng for the next generation. If I can have any part in helping to train, coach, guide or mentor those climbers I'm going to be really excited.