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Hello Hello Hello

Nothing but…Good Vibes:
A closer look at Jamie Emerson

 by Mike Banuelos - early December, 2005  


     Calloused fingers wrap around the handle of an octagonal wrench, his forearms bulge as the bolt tightens with a click-click-click.

This tool isn't used to tighten foundational bolts of an important structure or even take apart an engine mount-he uses it to secure plastic holds to a wall and contrive a series of bright grainy shapes into a climbing experience for the rock hounds of The Spot Bouldering Gym.

Jamie Emerson has been the head route setter since The Spot's conception in 2001 and it is now one of the most progressive and popular climbing gyms in the country.

With eight years experience and a healthy thirst for adventure, Emerson lives the climbers dream: climbing constantly and taking road trips to "research" and gather inspiration for his monotonous task of, yes creating those magical routes that make The Spot a world renowned facility.

To some, such a reality may seem simple or even empty, but behind an intense icy-blue stare coupled with a distant thoughtful demeanor, this river runs much deeper.

"I've found a really great way to express who I am-as an adventurer, as a person who enjoys athletics and who loves to climb and be free" says Emerson, looking over The Spot Bouldering gym, as a king would his empire, from the balcony in the café above.

His personal climbing journey started while in college at Michigan State University.

"I saw a presentation by Todd Skinner, a pretty famous climber at the time, climbing the four biggest walls in the world-I was just blown away, [I thought] climbing is the coolest thing…the ultimate adventure."

With his newfound fascination of the vertical world, Emerson spent the next year climbing just outside of Michigan at a crumbly sandstone crag, which had only top ropes and some varied bouldering.

"A lot of people start in a gym, I learned to climb outside and its kind of rare, but it gave me the mind set that climbing outside is where it counts."

Climbing became his world, focal point and absorbed his being.

"Some people find meaning in church and god, some find meaning in StarTrek or whatever, but I feel that for me personally through climbing I can express myself fully and I find immeasurable meaning in that."

Meaning that had shaped the last eight years of his life and resulted in various accomplishments, whether they be professionally or in his personal climbing life.

He is a sponsored athlete receiving gear and support from companies such as 5.10 Climbing, Organic Crash Pads and E-Grips holds.

Emerson's skill and experience has even rendered him valuable commodity as a setter at gyms and competitions across the country.

" I've set for three, Professional Climbing Association (PCA) events, five American Bouldering Series (ABS) National Events, (the biggest of which was at EarthTrek's gym in Baltimore for over 800 people), the Teva Games in Vail, and Sendfest among others"

Even setting for the likes of Chris Sharma, Dave Graham, Luke Parody, Daniel Woods and some of the other strongest climbers in the country.

"I got to set for Chris Sharma twice-It' pretty much a setters dream to set the hardest problem for the strongest climber in the country and maybe the world."

Peers and colleagues affirm Emerson's setting ability.

"When you get someone who is a 'world class setter' who has set national competitions they have tendency not take feedback, but he is very humble and takes all constructive criticism… he's just a quality guy," said associate and setter of 12 years Chris Rogers.

"You come to The Spot to climb Jamie's routes, he has a way of creating amazing lines," said Spot patron Jon Russel.

But for Emerson these "things" he's acquired: recognition, sponsors, and a little fame are just subsidiary to his climbing and the ever-flowing constant of genuine experiences he creates. But, as with anything, this lifestyle comes with a certain amount of hardship and sacrifice.

"My climbing lifestyle opposes society, which is not intentional but as an American you are born into this world where you go to school, go to college and get a job, and are taught that you should be scared that you don't have health insurance, that your not saving for the future."

"There's always this battle in my head-what am I going to do with my life, is this okay, what if something bad happens and I don't have that much money."

But his riches are found in simple moments of friendship and the profound peace that manifests while climbing.

"Just being in that moment, the present, there's no thought of yesterday, no thought of what going to happen tomorrow, you forget your anxieties… when I climb I'm just in the moment having a true experience."

"To have three or four good friends, be outside, doing something that you enjoy-for me that's my dream, what more could you want?"

And this Zen mind-set he speaks of has only enlightened his climbing. Emerson recently climbed his long-standing project Nothing But Sunshine (V13), in Rocky Mountain National Park.

"It was compellation of three years of hard work, thousands of attempts, it's almost unreal…when it happened I said to myself "is this really happening," It felt so good to overcome, to achieve what I had worked so hard to do"

Yet through it all, he seems to concentrate more on the experience and journey to find pure unadulterated adventure.

"The longer I climb, the more I start to move away from this number game and start to realize that my climbing achievement is the fact that I have spent so much time in the woods, having amazing adventure and just spending time doing something that I love"

After building his climbing empire in Boulder: stimulating the community, making a name for himself, and reaching a climbing apex-Jamie will now hit the open road with his girlfriend and climbing partner Angie Payne.

"I feel like I'm at a point where, in trying to master the sport, I stepped up my skill to another level and I would like the opportunity to see what I can do"

Yet for the climbing community and The Spot Bouldering Gym, his presence will be missed said friend and owner of The Spot Bouldering Gym, Dan Howley.

"I'm super excited for him and his journey, but his daily contribution here will be missed, I'll miss him as a friend. It's sad to see the passing of him because he's been here since day one…but we should all look at this as a celebration of his accomplishments."

But for Jamie Emerson the open road calls, a distinct brand of freedom for which we all strive-but for him, his life and his path there's nothing but sunshine.



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