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Archived Interview
Chris Wall
mid January, 2004

Chris Chris Chris Chris Chris


FRB: How did you get into climbing Chris?

Chris: I got into climbing in high school when a friend of mine came home from college for spring break, and told me to skip school that day because he had bought a rope. So we drove across the border and went top roping at the Niagara Glen.

FRB: You've climbed a long time, what keeps you going?
          And how do you stay motivated when you yourself
          climb, as well as work with climbing as your job?

Chris: I think that I like climbing because I like feeling like I am getting better at smarter about it. I am probably not as strong for climbing as I have been in the past, but I can still do challenging things. It seems that I suffer less and gain more. And for me, training climbers and my own personal climbing are pretty independent of each other. Fortunately I don't feel that much pressure on myself when I climb. I don't need to climb well, or particularly hard. It's my job to help other people climb better. I just need to be a good coach.

FRB: Who were some of your early mentors?

Chris: When I moved to Boulder in 1991 I was fortunate enough to be picked on by the British climber Gary Ryan, and later the punching bag of Jimmy Redo. Later on it was Ian Powell who showed me what a drop knee looked like, and that it was more interesting to keep an open mind about movement than it was to grade chase.

FRB: What's the climbing like at Niagara Glenn?

Chris: Mosquitoes, poison ivy, and ignorant bliss about the stupid things that I was doing that should have gotten me killed. When I first started, there was no bouldering there. It was all routes. Now it is just the opposite. People tell me that it is bigger and better than Bishop, but I have to admit that I don't really get home all that often.

FRB: You must have had many interesting adventures.
          Can you share some of them with us?

Chris: Well, Chip Chase once said that I have hit the ground from high up more than any other climber he knew. That would be 4 times from between 25 and 40 feet. The forty footer was onto a set of stairs. Not exactly an adventure, but more like one of life's little exclamation points.

FRB: What else do you like to do besides climb?

Chris: A couple of years ago, my friend Pat Perrin got me into Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. This is easily as important to me as my climbing, and often times much more. It's as technical as bouldering will ever be, but much more interactive. In jiu-jitsu there is actually someone trying to work against you just as hard as you are against them. The competition is much more real to me because someone else's performance will actually directly affect your own.

FRB: What is your formal training background?

Chris: I went to school here in Boulder, and first did my B.A. in Environmental Science. But when I was 27 or so, I figured out what I actually wanted to do, and went back for my masters in exercise physiology. Since then, I have earned a couple of certifications, one as a personal trainer, and then as a certified strength and conditioning specialist. But to be honest, all that that book learnin' actually did was to teach me how to look at things more critically, and to really start learning. I would say that my eleven years teaching at the BRC taught me quite a bit as well. And the womens bouldering team has been an education in itself.

FRB: You're the head coach for the Colorado Womens
          Bouldering Team. Why a womens bouldering team?
          What do you concentrate on? Who's on the team?

Chris: I chose to start a team of women for a few reasons. First of all, most of my clients are women, and I feel pretty comfortable working with them. Secondly, I think that women, who make up the fastest growing group in the sport, are very underrepresented in bouldering, as well as other athletic endeavors. Lastly, I wanted to work with a group that would be social and network all by itself. Women seem to me to be very able to organize themselves collectively. Our focus changes throughout the season. At times, we are primarily trying to get into shape for hard training. Kind of a pre-season training camp. Later on we are trying to improve our bouldering skill and physical abilities. And pre-comp we are focused on competition fitness and strategy. Right now there are nine of the coolest women I've ever met on the team. Jen LeMaire, Ashley Woods, Heather Fedor, Mandy Lane, Anne-Worley Bauknight, Roxanne Sullivan, Caroline Treadway, Amy Carden, and Kathleen Staffa.

FRB: Why bouldering instead of other forms of climbing?

Chris: I like the simplicity of bouldering. It is just climbing, and very little else. I also like it because it doesn't scare me as much as trad climbing or soloing. Sport climbing to me is like long boulder problems, only that it takes longer and you can't do it with as many friends. Maybe I'm just lazy. I kid around a lot about the superiority of bouldering over other forms of climbing, but that is like arguing the superiority of stamp collecting over coins. It's still just a hobby. No matter how good you are.

FRB: What is Brazilian Jui-Jitsu?
          Does it help your climbing?

Chris: Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a style of grappling that developed from Japanese Ju-Jitsu and Judo. It deals primarily with dominance of position for uninterrupted striking, joint manipulations and chokes. It hasn't helped my climbing as much as my climbing has helped my jiu-jitsu. But it has made me a better negotiator. I'am pretty hard to upset or provoke now.

FRB: What are some of your favorite climbing gyms,
          besides the BRC?

Chris: Well, the Spot is definitely my favorite apart from the BRC. It is a perfect complement to what we already have here in Boulder, making this town an epicenter for the development of climbing as a sport. Outside of Boulder, the Stonegarden in Seattle is my favorite. There are great people who work there, and their bouldering area is one of the best that I have seen in this country.

FRB: Where do you think the best bouldering
          in the Front Range is?

Chris: I am somewhat partial to the Park, even though I get there less often than I do to Hueco.

FRB: Do you have any favorite problems or
          ones that you thought were incredible?

Chris: I think the Moonshine Roof problems in Hueco are some of the most unique problems that I have ever seen. And there are a few anonymous piece of magic in Font that I can't pronounce.

FRB: Climbing is constantly evolving,
          where do you think it is going?

Chris: To tell you the truth, I don't think that climbing is really evolving all that much. Some things are more or less popular than they once were, and other than some bigger numbers, what has really changed all that much in the past 10 years? Someday though I think that climbing will actually move past being a hobby and become a sport.

FRB: What do you suggest to people who are
          just starting in climbing/bouldering?

Chris: Climb outside every chance you get. If you want to train to climb, train hard and train smart. If not, then don't. Chances are that the path you believe in the most is the one that will work best for you.

FRB: What are your thoughts on Highballing?

Chris: I guess that depends on what you mean by highballing. I've always considered a highball the kind of problem that would most likely injure you if you if you fell at the crux. Problems like the John Gill's Thimble or John Cronin’s Injury Man. I don't quite think height alone gives a problem highball status. There are a lot of pretty high problems that are still relatively safe with a good spot and well placed pads. As for what I think about highballs, well, they have their place in bouldering for those who like to pursue that kind of thing, just like soloing has it's place in route climbing.

FRB: Well, not all of us can get out to climb when we want to.
          And we have to somewhat train. What do you got for
          secrets, tips? What do you recommend?

Chris: I don't really have any secrets. Pretty much everything that I do with my clients can be looked up somewhere, or is pretty simple if you know what you are trying to accomplish. The only advice that I really have is that people need to be very conscientious about their climbing, regardless of the level of difficulty. If you are truly a student of climbing, then you need to keep both your mind and your eyes open to different ways of approaching problems, and be able to ask yourself the tough questions about what it will take to make meaningful and lasting improvements. For the most part, the secret is a lot of effort and discipline, whether it be with training, rest, or injury.

FRB: Parting words of wisdom?

Chris: I think that more climbers need to concern themselves with what they are doing, right when it is happening, instead of focusing on “what might happen if”, or “what will they think if.” Every move that we make should consume all of our attention, whether it be a warm-up, project, weight-lift, whatever. It would be a real shame to have done something great and not have been paying attention.

FRB: Thanks for the interview Chris.

Chris: Thank You.

Christopher Wall M.S. C.S.C.S
Training Director - Boulder Rock Club
Coach - Colorado Womens Bouldering Team
303-447-2804 ext. 120
email: Climbinglab@aol.com

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