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Archived Interview
Dan Levison
 late January, 2005

Dan Levison
Dan Levison Dan Levison Dan Levison Dan Levison


FRB: Age?

Dan: Just turned 38 a week ago.

FRB: Height?

Greg: 5'7".

FRB: Weight?

Dan: 144.

FRB: How long have you been climbing?

Dan: 19 years.

FRB: How did you get into climbing?

Dan: I went to the University of Vermont to peruse ski racing and an economics degree. I never made the World-class Division 1 UVM racing team, but I had top finishes in a few mogul competitions throughout the state. A fellow in the dorm, Noel Sagerman, who was a NOLS instructor and an avid climber, asked if I could belay him at the local crag, which was a total pile along the train tracks just outside of Burlington. When the train came by, you had to stop climbing and lower off because the train would come within a few feet of the rock. Anyway, Noel had me follow the pitch he led - he totally sandbagged me, not mentioning it was 5.11, it was my very first time on rock. It was a disaster. UVM did have a rudimentary vertical traverse climbing wall with real chunks of rock epoxyed to the cement, this was before modular climbing holds were popular. George Squibb, myself, and a few other climbers spent countless hours doing laps on that wall (and stealing chalk from the gymnastics facility next door). Weekends were spent going to the Gunks, North Conway, and the Adirondacks.

FRB: Do you do all types of climbing: Bouldering,
          Sport, Trad, Big Wall, Alpine, Ice, etc?

Dan: For the first 10 years of my climbing career, all I did was trad. I've climbed 100s of routes in the Gunks, Eldorado, RMNP; did a few routes on the Diamond and climbed The Nose (El Cap). Right now, all I do is sport routes and bouldering. I really enjoy the gymnastic movement and not worrying about if the RP below my feet will hold if I fall. Also, I do like the convenience factor, being able to get a couple burns on a project or a boulder problem with limited time. Ice climbing is flat out scary.

FRB: Where do you climb most of the time?

Dan: I love to climb in Boulder Canyon, because I have become accustomed to the clean granite and because it's close to home. The North/South orientation of the Canyon truly allows for year-round climbing potential. I also like RMNP/Lumpy for the sheer beauty. The small granite crags and domes between Lyons and Estes are also a favorite when I need to get away from the scene. Clear Creek is also fun despite being butt ugly. When I have time to road trip (which is a rarity); I'll go to Shelf or Rifle.

FRB: Boulder Canyon has received a lot of negative press
          over the years for the grid bolting and chipping & for
          areas like the Sport Park, what's your thoughts on that?

Dan: Well, it's way beyond the scope of this interview, I feel "Bo-Can" is an easy target. Because of a few over-graded, over-bolted routes - the entire Canyon has been stereotyped and pigeon holed in that regard. There are countless fantastic routes done in good style. The recent new route activist like Rolofson, Alber, D'Antonio, Vaino, Archer, myself, etc. have done, for the most part, a good job despite all the grief we have taken. No, I don't advocate chipping (if you were going to ask). Gluing is okay only to reinforce questionable holds.

FRB: How many FFA's do you have?

Dan: I have over 40 FFAs in the state in places like Gilman Canyon (outside of Minturn, CO), ButtonRock (above Pinewood Springs), Boulder Canyon, and Walcott, CO.

FRB: What do you do?

Dan: I'm a marketing manager for a Global Fortune 1000 Digital Storage Company.

FRB: When do you have time to climb?

Dan: I have a lot of flexibility with my job because so much is done remotely via email and phone. I can get out most days, and put in the extra hours and work late into the night. Most of my projects require some travel and are in California. It's a challenge, everyone I work with is very corporate and into golf and BMWs, arrrggh. One of the company VPs once told me I didn't fit the professional image they were trying to portray; he was canned a few months later because he got drunk and harassed a bunch of employees at a company-wide event.

FRB: Is it hard to balance work, family, and climbing?

Dan: My wife Susan and Son (James) are always first priority, followed by work and climbing. Balancing family, climbing, and a career has not been easy, especially if you want to climb at a decent level. I always feel that I'm juggling these three aspects of my life. My friends think I'm anal and Type A personality, but you have to be to pull it all off.

FRB: Favorite bouldering areas, problems, & projects?

Dan: Again, it's the local stuff because I need to be efficient and don't have the time to drive around. Flag is great. I love doing the classics: First Overhang, Monkey, Upper Y, Hagans; but also like working stuff as well. I sent Undercling Traverse (V9) a few months ago and plan to project Pebble (aka Over Yourself), Caddis, Right Graham Arete, and maybe Barrio Traverse.

FRB: Hardest redpoint?

Dan: I recently did a couple local 5.13bs. They took a lot of time. It's hard not to become obsessive with projects. After awhile they become drudgery - so motivation is key. A few of my friends give me a hard time about working routes when they would rather onsight climb (Bob R). I think Alpinist Bruce Miller said that the key to redpoint climbing is to keep going back and knocking your head against the wall and eventually you'll send. I do love the feeling of accomplishment and that feeling when you first know the climb is doable.

FRB: Do you train?

Dan: I campus a few months a year, trail run, and do a lot of circuit bouldering. The margaritas always sandbag my progress though.

FRB: Are you sponsored?

Dan: Somewhat, I have low-level arrangements/sponsorships with Black Diamond and Petzl; they help me with gear on occasion.

FRB: Do you compete?

Dan: Hell no, the 13 years-old are too light and strong, plus I 'm too old. I do enjoy going to the BRC and Spot after the comps to see how many Elite problems I can do (not many).

FRB: What famous climbers to you admire?

Dan: I had the opportunity to meet and talk with the European climbing ace, Ines Papert, a couple weeks ago at the Ouray Ice Festival. She is an incredible climber sans attitude. She won the mixed ice competition beating all the men (Will Gadd included) on the same mixed comp route. She also climbs 13d on rock, is in her mid thirties, and is raising a four-year old son. I admire people with balance who do it all despite having responsibility. Anyone can climb 5.14 without working and living in a tent full time. And of course, I have nothing but respect for Tommy Caldwell - he is a true great figure in American Climbing and commands respect and admiration.

FRB: What's the future of the Sport?

Dan: Hard to say, climbers are constantly getting younger and stronger while the training knowledge and access to indoor gyms and facilities improve. I am excited to see where things go. It looks like hard trad routes are coming back into style with the emergence of long hard free climbs e.g., the Huber and Caldwell climbs on El Cap. Also, it's amazing to see boulder problems like The Wheel of Life (V16) raising the bar. V12 was the top only a few years ago. Access, preservation, and environmental awareness are crucial to the well-being of the sport in addition to protecting the finite amount of rock.

FRB: What do you think about the danger and
          aspect of risk in climbing?

Dan: That's probably one of the reasons I prefer sport climbing and bouldering over something like alpine climbing. With a wife and son relying on you, you have to make an effort to be careful in an inherently dangerous sport. It really hit me one early morning this summer; I was up at Castle Rock in Boulder Canyon and found a dead body at the base of the cliff. Apparently the climber had soloed to the top and got off route or something. Nobody is really sure what happened. When I looked at this person, broken, bloody, and twisted on the ground, I really realized not to take things for granted. My friends Ted Lanzano, Greg Hill, and I devised an 11 point check system before we climb, taking into account harness, knots, rope, systems etc. It's not a panacea but it's a start, plus I usually wear a helmet.

FRB: How often do you climb?

Dan: Probably 4 times a week on average.

FRB: What about rest days?

Dan: That's my weakness, I think I would be a better climber if I rested more and climbed less. I really miss it after a few days. Most of our family trips and vacations are to destinations with absolutely no climbing potential, which is good - I always come back stronger and more invigorated.

FRB: Any parting words?

Dan: Be safe; have fun.

FRB: Thanks for the interview, Dan

Dan: Thank you.

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