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Archived Interview
Dan Russell

boulderer from Colorado Springs Jan., 2002

Dan Dan Dan Dan Dan


FRB: How did you get into climbing Dan?

Dan: Ever since I was little, my dad took me into the mountains. I got my first ice ax when I was 9 years old. With time I eventually found rock. During high school, I took a trip to Hueco over a spring break and absolutely loved the place. It really psyched me up for bouldering and I've never gotten away from it for too long.

FRB: You've climbed a long time, what keeps you going?

Dan: Different types of climbing. The great thing about our sport is that you can never get sick of it because there is so much variety. Just recently I didn't touch a boulder for almost two months while I went through an aid climbing phase, culminating in a trip to the Fisher Towers in November. Last week we went to the Ghetto and decided to solo the Third Flatiron on the approach to mix things up. I got alot of strange looks as I passed people with a crashpad on my back, but it was a tremendous day, combining a long, easy route with steep bouldering.

FRB: Who were some of your early mentors?

Dan: My dad, who taught me to love being in the mountains. And when I started wanting to climb rock, Than Hansen and especially Ryan Sayers were invaluable partners, teaching me how not to kill myself as well as how to push both my limits and my mind to get stronger.

FRB: Who do you climb with usually?

Dan: My main climbing partner is my brother, Jeff. He's gotten so strong, climbing like V9 at age 17, and it's really motivating to climb with him. I also do alot of stuff with Ryan "Hoagie" Sayers, and with Than Hansen when he can get out.

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

Dan: I mess around with my web site, and I do a lot of reading and writing. I've also gotten into photography a bit. Of course, my web site is about climbing, I usually read and write about climbing, and most of my photos are of climbing, so I don't know if that really answers your question.

FRB: Have you done any first ascents?

Dan: Only one good one I can think of, this rad pocket line on the Potato Boulder at Skyland. I've done dozens of first ascents on choss piles, but those don't really stand out obviously.

FRB: Do you have any 'heroes' in climbing?

Dan: David Roberts is an incredible writer, and the king of Alaskan FA's back in the day. And as much as it's been said by others, Chris Sharma is a really motivating climber. I wouldn't say he's my 'hero', but if everybody was as relaxed as he is and just climbed for the sake of climbing, there would be much less spraying and arguing. I don't know about anybody else, but I get sick of reading all the, 'you're a moron' and, 'stay away from my secret area' crap on the FRB message board.

FRB: Why bouldering instead of trad or Sport climbing?

Dan: Bouldering offers the best chance to climb the coolest features, on the most improbable holds, in the most dynamic way. No two problems are the same, and I have yet to get over the novelty of looking at a boulder -no matter how many times I've seen it, and saying: 'I wonder if there would be a line over here.'

FRB: What do you think of enhancing, chipping
          and gluing holds?

Dan: There's absolutely no place for them. That's what gyms are for, making the routes you want to climb. Altering a hold outside is nothing short of selfish and there's no place for it. Period.

FRB: Who do you think makes the best shoes
          for bouldering?

Dan: For me personally, the UFO's were the best shoes ever made. Since they aren't made anymore, I keep hoping I can get one more resole out of them. 5.10 is my choice in general though. I've had better luck with them and they don't seem to fall apart as quickly.

FRB: Who makes the best bouldering pads?

Dan: Anything that keeps my tailbone away from a protruding block is fine with me. I happen to climb with a Cordless.

FRB: Is one chalk better than another?

Dan: I try to always use Metolius Super Chalk, but I'm sure that's more of a mental thing, being used to the feel of it or something.

FRB: What are some of your favorite climbing gyms?

Dan: The best gym I've ever been to is Vertical Dreams in Manchester, New Hampshire. I've never felt as motivated as I did training with the guys in New England.

FRB: Do you compete?

Dan: Maybe once or twice a year. I try to climb outside as often as possible. The best competition I ever competed in was actually put on at Western State College in Gunnison, CO. Every single route was fun, and the guys out there are so motivated. It was by far the most fun I've ever had on plastic. I just recently set routes for a comp that raised over $1,500 for charity and I had a blast. We're going to try and start organizing bouldering comps in Colorado Springs every couple months or so at the 8th Street gym.

FRB: What makes for a good competition route
          in your opinion?

Dan: One that challenges the competitors and uses a variety of techniques. And when it finally gets sent by someone their feet swing out and the crowd goes nuts. The atmosphere surrounding a good comp is really cool to be a part of. Another important thing about route-setting is making high-quality beginner and intermediate level routes. At many of the comps I've been to it seems as though they just slapped up holds wherever with no thought about the movement. Most competitors aren't climbing V12, and it's important to make fun moves on every route.

FRB: How many competitions have you set?

Dan: Just the one recent one. I'd set routes for a gym before, but never for a competition. It will be fun to be involved in setting for upcoming comps in the Springs though, I'm looking forward to it.

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

Dan: I'm kind of partial to stuff in the Colorado Springs area, since I'm always trying to convince people that not all the rock down here is as bad as Garden of the Gods. I really like the Garden of Eden, more for the isolation you can have up there than anything else. Sheep's Nose has so much potential it's unreal. That place has barely been tapped. Castlewood Canyon has gobs of unclimbed rock. The place gets a bad reputation for being overgrown and infested, but I just don't think that's the case. It's ready right now for some extremely hard stuff to go up for whoever wants to find it. Farther north, I was really impressed with the Ghetto, and the little that I've seen of Vedauwoo was very high quality.

FRB: What hard problems have you sent
          in the Front Range?

Dan: Hard for me... I flashed Underdog (V5) at the Ghetto, and at Ute Valley here in the Springs I finally did the Center Route. And Jeff and I repeated Heinous Gayness after the crux hold broke at Ute Valley. I've been stuck at the V5 plateau for a long time and am finally starting to pull out of it.

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

Dan: Electric Hoe-down at Skyland has rad holds and really cool movement. And every problem on the Tank Boulder in Tuolumne Meadows stands out.

FRB: What are some things you don't like about the
          Front Range bouldering scene?

Dan: Too many punks who scream and yell and throw tantrums, but that's not just the Front Range.

FRB: Bouldering is popular right now. What prompted it?
          Why is it Bouldering? How long is it gonna stay?
          Where are we gonna go after this?

Dan: Chris Sharma and Hueco Tanks. Before the restrictions, everybody was finding Hueco Tanks and realizing that bouldering is a tremendous sport in itself. That, combined with all the video of Chris doing these crazy routes inspired alot of people to get a crashpad and get strong. Now bouldering fills so much of the magazines, so people who are just learning to climb are bouldering right from the start. The number of boulderers will probably keep increasing until there are access problems to every area (possibly) or aid climbing becomes popular (probably).

FRB: What are some of your goals in bouldering?

Dan: I've spent most of the past year and a half dealing with finger injuries and distractions. My goal is simply to climb more and more and more. Also, to get as strong as my punk little brother.

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

Dan: Climb every minute you possibly can. As somebody once said: 'Never miss the opportunity for a good pump.' And build a bouldering wall in your basement or garage.

FRB: Do you ever hit a plateau in your climbing?
          How do you overcome the plateau?

Dan: When I've plateaued in the past, it's usually because I'm trying so hard to get stronger that I stop having fun. Take time off. Go do a 700-foot 5.6 or go hiking. Realize that the best part of climbing is being outside and enjoying the people around you. The best thing for your climbing is having fun.

FRB: Parting words of wisdom?

Dan: Come to Colorado Springs, there's better stuff than Garden of the Gods and it's never crowded, ever. Also, if you're getting frustrated, listen to Bob Marley. If that doesn't work, go get yourself really scared aid climbing. After you've contemplated your mortality while watching the tied-off pin at your waist slowly crumble while you fumble to place an RP in that flare that's just two inches out of reach, bouldering is immensely more fun and enjoyable than it ever was before.

FRB: .Thanks for the interview Dan.

Dan: No problem.

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