Ben, how did you get into climbing?
I was fourteen I took a two day climbing course from Exum guides. I
took a course from this old guy named Chuck Pratt, unfortunately at
the time I had no idea who this guy was. I'm glad I got to talk to him
for awhile before he was gone. I also took an Colorado Outward Bound
course when I was sixteen, after that I fell in love with the outdoor
lifestyle. I started climbing on my own while I was still in Cleveland,
there's not a lot of climbing in the Buckeye state.
FRB: How long have you been
Ben: I started bouldering a
lot after I began climbing full time. I have been climbing 3-4 days
a week for four years. I've been addicted ever since my last year in
FRB: Why bouldering instead
of trad or
I love trad sport mountains big walls whatever, as long as its technical
rock it's worthy to me. I have been bouldering a lot lately because
I like it more than the other realms. It fits my slacker style and I
also like the minimalist aspect of bouldering. I like the focus on movement
over rock as much as getting to the top.
FRB: Have you done any first
Ben: Lots of boulder problems
all over northern Colorado. Later on I want to do FA's of routes and
big wall free climbs. The Huber brothers are beating us to some of the
best free routes in the country right under our noses.
FRB: You've done a lot of problems
area. What can you tell us
about the new
stuff up there?
Ben: The Fort is a serious
untapped bouldering area. There's too many boulders to even explain;
FA's to do all day long. Plus tons of established problems that remain
unrepeated, or have had very few ascents. A couple problems stand out
Canopener and Gandolf, both were FA'd by this bald guy named Will. Gandolf
is a black and tan streaked 45 degree wall that climbs V6-ish moves
for twenty feet to a Germ Free style mantel. Canopener is quickly becoming
an area testpiece. It the obvious line in it's area climbing 14-15 moves
out an open dihedral on every kind of hold imaginable. I hope someone
repeats it soon because I can't climb that thing.
FRB: The Rangers at Lory State
want a guide
put on Frontrangebouldering.com
What do you think
I think it's a good idea but unfortunate. It's good because
Lory is a super fragile area that must be preserved. The little bit
of bouldering activity that has happened there has already caused erosion
damage. Its unfortunate because even though the climbing is sharp, classic
problems like Vice and Godzilla complement the endless amounts of highballs
and pure power problems scattered on huge granite blocks all over Lory.
FRB: Where can people find
beta about all the
in the Fort Collins area?
Ben: If you're talking about
written guides your going to be waiting a while longer. Locals like
myself are greedy and like things quiet. I know that's selfish but we've
spent countless days hiking and searching to find these areas and sorry,
but we like FA's and quiet bouldering as much as everyone else. The
best idea would be to move there, the locals are more than willing to
give tours, or you can just get off the couch and find your own secret
FRB: Who do you climb with
have been climbing with the same crew of rock addicts for about two
years now. We're real close and share the same feelings about climbing.
Pat Goodman and Will Lemaire seem to talk me into skipping school to
go climbing a lot, so I guess I climb with those two the most. Fat Badman
is one of those guys that does it all. Whether its big wall first ascents,
5.12 roof cracks, or V-hard boulder problems, Fatman sends, even though
he's handicapped with a bit of a weight problem. Will the sandbagging
midget from the south of France never ceases to amaze me. Will does
not appear special being old, bald, and short, then you see him fall
off a problem. You've never really seen a climbing tantrum until you
witness Will frothing at the mouth, spewing profanity uncontrollably,
and throwing his shoes and chalkbag over thirty foot boulders. Then
right when your scared he's gonna get violent he sends your project
using some drop knee toe hook heel scum highstep thing that leaves you
speechless. A lot of Fort Collins locals pull really, really hard, and
say very, very little.
FRB: Where do you think the
in the Front
Ben: Everywhere! The front
range itself is for sure one of the best bouldering meccas in the States.
Where else can you climb sick Dakota, drive 20 minutes and be at a Granite
paradise. Climbing really good problems that may have been done in the
60's or may have been done yesterday. There is no best, it's all the
best. I think people forget they live in Colorado.
FRB: Who do you think makes
shoes for bouldering?
Ben: I can't say. Climbing
is such a personal thing everyone has their favorite pair of shoes they
perform the best in. I have always climbed in LaSportiva because their
shoes fit my long narrow foot better than anyone else.
Who makes the best bouldering pads?
Ben: With out a doubt Misty
makes the best all around pad. Their pads are durable and never bottom
out on long sketchy falls. Next in line would have to be Metolius who
has been coming out with new innovations forever. Especially that handle
in the crease in their new pads, I love that handle!
FRB: Do you climb indoors?
Ben: Ha! I remember one time
last year, it was real shity out, Pat and I were planning on going to
the gym. We decided to go exploring instead and found a huge pile of
Granite eggs. So in other words I try not to. I hate the idea of paying
to climb, I will climb on home walls occasionally when its snowing.
Being outside in the mountains has always been better than being inside
FRB: What do you think of the
Pusher S7 Cordless
Ben: I have been talking to
someone associated with them a little bit and the impression I have
gotten is that they're very focused on monetary gains. I don't like
turning climbing into a money making scheme. It seems like their bringing
all the big trendy climbers together to make a ton of money, meanwhile
bringing climbing closer to the masses by creating teen idols or heroes
or whatever. On a positive note I like the stuff Lowell and Mike Call
are doing with video. I hope climbing films become more creative and
FRB: What direction do you
going? What direction
would you like
to see it go?
Ben: I think bouldering is
going to become climbing for the masses. All you need is shoes, chalkbag,
and an imagination. The dangerous side to bouldering is much less than
other realms of climbing, which also appeals to a greater majority.
Personally I hope bouldering keeps on going where it's going. I don't
agree with grades a lot of the time but I do think V19 will happen.
Guys like Dave, Klem and Fred have taken us to the limits of today.
But imagine when my kids are climbing, there will be millions of guys
cranking V13, what will be the limits then.
FRB: What do you think of enhancing,
Ben: I think it's simple arrogance.
The boulders we climb on have existed for such a long period of time
that the human mind can't even comprehend it. When someone drills a
pocket they take the arrogance to change that rock for the rest of time.
Admittingly climbing on the boulder period also changes the boulder
for the rest of time. But ripping off a loose flake that could hurt
another climber and drilling a three finger pocket to make a move easier
is two completely different things.
FRB: What about terraced landings?
Ben: Hard to say. Terraced
landings are ugly eyesores that break the leave no trace ethic but at
the same time they stop erosion and lessen impact on the environment.
I don't build terraced landings but I have built structures to stop
erosion around problems.
FRB: Do you train for bouldering?
Ben: Upon meeting me for the
first time most people have the same impression: "Holy crap, that guy
definitely has a eating disorder. Will I break his arm if I try to shake
his hand?" I don't train for climbing really unless, you count tree
boulder problems, stupid human tricks and falling off the slackline
FRB: What else do you like
to do besides climb?
Ben: I go to school full time
and spend a lot of time in my car driving. Other than that I spend my
time eating a lot because I'm trying to get fat (it's not working),
keep searching for that gorgeous little blond who's single and flashes
V8, and inhabiting as many fine pubs as I can find in the greater Denver
FRB: Do you have any projects
Ben: Pat and I have been trying
these couple of finger crack problems in the Poudre. Both are nearly
horizontal and world class. One is just linkage and the other has two
hateful moves on tips jams. Other than that there's a couple highballs
I have been trying. One's at Lory, it will be the best highball I've
ever done if it doesn't break me first. Then there's this tall arete
thing at DamNation, Will and I have been trying. Terrible slaps up a
blank arete with a lot of air at your feet. So many problems so little
What are some of your goals in
Ben: I used to want to be the
strongest man on the earth. Then I met guys like Dave who climb harder
than I can imagine for fun. After that I stopped trying to climb the
hardest stuff on the planet. Now I'm really into doing FA's and developing
new areas. I just want to push my own limits in body and mind. I like
tall hard problems because you have to be strong and keep your head
focused. That focus or zone you get in on really tall highballs appeals
to me the most.
FRB: What are some of your
in your climbing
Ben: One that stands out was
watching Lisa do the first female ground up ascent of Midnight Lightning.
She was so strong and committing on the rock giving 130 percent. She
would have cut off her left toe to send that problem. But at the same
time she wasn't all testosteroned out either, she still wanted a big
hug from Will every time she fell and got scared. Bouldering is for
everyone! Personally my favorite moment was sending a problem called
Childbirth at Lory. I had worked the problem for a few months and new
I was close. My friend Doug had been working another hard problem right
near Childbirth. We decided it was time to have one project in the bag.
We both made the 45 minute hike, got right on our projects, sent both
our projects first try, packed up and left fully satisfied. We each
climbed one problem but it was all worth it. The focus we had that day
was amazing, I wish I could have held on to it and put it in a bottle.
It was a great day.
FRB: What are some things you
about the Front
Range bouldering scene?
Ben: I hate all the grading
stuff, which is a real trendy way to feel nowadays, but I think it's
good to talk about. I like grades because I can track my progress but
I hate obsessing over them. Can anyone honestly sit down and pick every
move of a problem apart into each individual grade? I sure hope not
but if someone could then I think grading would be easier. But right
now dyno's have the same rating system as every other boulder problem.
And there's no way a problem done by 7 foot tall Mike Mandingus would
be the same difficulty if short ass Will Lemaire tried it. There are
so many other aspects to bouldering besides who's climbed the hardest
thing. I think we should start obsessing about quality, instead of V8
versus V9 what about a four star problem versus a five star problem.
FRB: Thanks for the interview
Ben: You're welcome.