did you get into climbing Chris?
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?
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
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
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
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
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?
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
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
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 Cronins
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
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
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?
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.
Christopher Wall M.S. C.S.C.S
Training Director - Boulder Rock Club
Coach - Colorado Womens Bouldering Team
303-447-2804 ext. 120