Rock climbing is such an amazing sport, I feel truly blessed to have found such an activity to consume my time. Truth be told, I was a climber long before I was ever a climber. As kids, my brother and I would live in the trees surrounding our neighborhoods. We climbed absolutely every tree not only in our yard and neighborhood but probably in a 3 miles radius from our house. I was born to climb, I guess I just didn’t know it. And I still remember my first outdoor experience when I was a young teenager at Ralph Stover State Park in Eastern Pennsylvania. My dad at the time was a Project Adventure ropes course instructor at one of the largest high schools in the state, Washington Township. I vividly remember climbing a hard 5.10 in my running sneakers and some locals who were climbing a route near us couldn’t believe I was climbing in a pair of Nike’s. When I lowered down from sending my first route ever attempted( a stout 5.10 wearing my worn out running shoes), a couple yelled over, “You got to get that kid in some real rock shoes!”. Many years later I flew back to New Jersey for Thanksgiving Break. A close college friend of mine wanted to try indoor rock climbing. After one session, we drove to the closest REI and my dad bought me all my own gear; a brand new harness, new chalk bag and my very own pair of Evolve rock shoes! That purchase would forever change my life.
Many years and many sports later, climbing finally found me! I was absolutely hooked. After retiring from the professional ski scene in Jackson(call it major burnout), moving to Boulder to pursue climbing felt like the right thing to do. And so the story goes. Now nearly 6 years later, climbing has become my entire life. Every waking second of every day is spent doing what I love and despite picking up the sport at such a late age, I am glad that I found it. Or maybe it found me? Fast forward 6 years and several thousand routes later, here I was sitting at the base of Primo Wall, in Clear Creek Canyon yesterday reflecting on my experience from the beginning. I remember first laying eyes on Primo Wall from across the river and wondering how people could climb such hard routes, after all this was the hardest crag in Clear Creek Canyon. I was climbing 5.10 and 5.11 at that time and practically lived at High Wire Crag just east of Tunnel Two nearly 10 miles down canyon. High Wire Crag was a great beginner area and a level of difficulty I was comfortable with. I remember feeling baffled as to how someone could climb at a place like Primo Wall where virtually the easiest route was 5.12c. I remember thinking from the beginning that it would be cool to be on the other side of the river, just trying routes of that difficulty! Nearly 6 years later, here I am sitting on a rock at the base of the crag on a gorgeous February Day. The sun was shining and the air was brisk. It was perfect. I sat on that rock for a bit watching all the people at the crag climb these routes of very high difficulty. I thought back to my pre=Primo Wall days and how much I have progressed since the beginning. Man a lot has changed over the years! I went from once feeling like I didn’t even have the right to look across the river at these routes(they were just way out of my pay grade) to sitting here at the base nearly 6 years later having sent most routes at the crag. That same 5.12c which I didn’t think I could ever climb, has served as my warmup for the other 5.13’s in the area. Most of the test pieces on this wall I sent many years ago. Whether its doing the huge dyno on Flying Cowboy’s (5.12c/d) or holding on to the heinous slopers of Public Solitude(5.13c), I am intimately familiar with conquering routes at this crag and the nature and style of the climbing here.
Squeeze Play was one of a few routes left at Primo Wall that I hadn’t sent. I went to the crag yesterday with my friend Chris Taylor who has also conquered most of the routes and an awesome individual named Ruie, with the hopes of finishing Squeeze Play. I got close to sending Squeeze Play two years ago but for some reason or another never got a chance to get back to it. That is how climbing goes sometimes. Honestly, I think this is the first time I have been to Primo Wall in nearly 2 years. It felt good to be back. I did a warm-up/ beta burn on the route to relearn the moves and immediately went into redpoint mode. I dialed in the powerful move at the top but continued to fall on each attempt at the crux in the middle of the route. After 3 burns, some shredded skin and pretty fatigued forearms, I mustered up enough energy to give it one last burn. At this point I was probably too tired to send the route but if anything it would be a fitness lap in preparation for my upcoming trip to the Red River Gorge in Kentucky. I tied in, took a deep breath and jumped on. Before I knew it, I had cranked my way through the crux where I kept falling and made it to the marginal rest right before the powerful finishing moves. I rested for a few minutes, shaking each arm out, cycling back and forth, one after another. Problem was, this time my skin hurt, my fingers were getting cold(as the temps were dropping) and my arms were not recovering. It was time to go. I blasted off into the powerful top section with full on fatigue in my fingers and forearms. I inched my way higher and higher and before I knew it I was clipping chains on this thing with all my friends down below cheering me on. Im so excited to have finished Squeeze Play! What a great route with great movement!
As I was being lowered, I looked over to my right and you know what looked back at me?, the famous route Shine(5.14a). Shine was a route I always wanted to get on but never had the opportunity to try it, just because I was always working on the other routes at the wall. But now, nearly 6 years after first touching the stone on Primo Wall and sending all the classic routes that interested me, I guess it was time…. Shine!