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Archived Interview
Greg Hill

 mid January, 2005

Greg Hill
Greg Hill Greg Hill Greg Hill Greg Hill


FRB: Age?

Greg: 42.

FRB: Height?

Greg: 5'7".

FRB: Weight?

Greg: Haven't actually weighed myself in at least a couple of years, but I'd guess mid 150s.

FRB: Ape Index?

Greg: 1.07 (6' wingspan / 5' 7" height.)

FRB: So, does it make you feel weird to go into the
          climbing gym and see some kid 1/4 your age
          sending routes you only dream of doing?

Greg: Definitely!

FRB: How did you get into climbing Greg?

Greg: Like many kids, I was naturally attracted to various forms of climbing. I was a proud member of the Ann Arbor, Michigan tree climbing club at the age of 7 (with a total of 2 members). We had specific routes spanning multiple trees, fences, houses, and cars that included off-route holds. Even before that, I remember getting lost in the Pennines district of England between big tall stones in a climbing area, probably South Cumbrian Limestone, and feeling excited. Another childhood memory, I distinctly remember a sketchy slab move above my family's campsite in Dinosaur National Monument at the age of 7.

The first time I top-roped and rappelled was in 1978 during a high school trip to the Ouachita Mtns in W. Oklahoma. I remember walking over to the gold line above the 70' cliff that was on some friends parent's property myself with a figure eight, uncertain how to use it, and starting to back down to the edge of the cliff with a sense of great trepidation and no real clue what I was doing. A high school friend that knew more than I did came over and checked my connections out. The rope was so slick that I almost lost control, and had to extricate myself from the branches of a tall tree.

After that, I climbed sporadically, with breaks of up to 5 years, but when I went to the U. Michigan I joined the U. of M. climbing club. I think the moment I got hooked on the sport was when we drove all night to get to Seneca Rocks, WV and my first view of it was getting out of the tent in the morning, after a night of rain. It was all covered in fog and looked so huge that my stomach tied up in knots and I was terrified at the prospect of climbing it. After I'd been climbing in Colorado for awhile I went back there once and it looked like an ordinary crag. That was kind of sad!

FRB: What do you like best about climbing?

Greg: The combination of great movement, problem solving, developing confidence, beautiful locations, being lost in the moment (hard climbs) as well as nature appreciation (easy climbs). Partnership as well as the joy of solitude, the feeling of a great forearm burn (e.g. endorphins), the free form aspect of the sport, and, although I never want to have one again even epics can be good in retrospect. Really this list is endless.

FRB: What do you dislike most about the FR
          climbing/bouldering scene?

Greg: I've had my fair share of negative incidents, but they tend to be isolated ones involving some sort of inconsideration for others. One of the things I like about climbing and bouldering especially is that the scene is very cooperative and fun as a rule.

FRB: Which famous climbers do you admire the most?

Greg: I'm not really into hero-worship, but the fact is that famous climbers lead the way for the rest of us and to some extent they are the reason the rest of us get into the sport, both in terms of the things we do and in terms of our attitudes.

I'd start by saying that the climbers I admire the most are non-famous ones, i.e. past and present partners, because those are the ones I've watched do incredible things first hand.

But of climbers that everyone knows, three that stand out for me are Peter Croft, Ron Kauk, and Lynn Hill. Why? I really liked Ron Kauk's book "Spirit of the Rock". I'd like to think that Croft and Hill would like that book too, as an expression of things that make climbing so beloved to those of us who participate in it.

FRB: What motivates you in your climbing?

Greg: Sending is fantastic, but upon reflection, a lot of my favorite days have not been ones on which sending occurred. Thinking about it, one of my main motivations is discovery and the chance to be creative. I love figuring out a new link-up, and I love the moment when I realize a project is going to be doable, even if I have not yet succeeded at doing it.

FRB: What types of climbing do you
          enjoy the most and why?

Greg: It's changed over time, but right now it is definitely a combination of long easy free solos in the flatirons, difficult sport climbing, and bouldering.

FRB: What was your best day bouldering to date?

Greg: I'd have to say getting the Compound traverse (200' 5.12 endurance variation, not the documented 5.13) up on the 2nd flatiron last December was a great send for me.

FRB: What was your best day sport climbing to date?

Greg: I had two great sends last week - on Monday I redpointed Sneak Preview (11c) in the Flatirons. And on Thursday I redpointed Next To Nothing (12b) in Boulder Canyon. Those were both routes I really had to work for and it was a blast to send both of them. Now I'm psyched to get on Power Bulge (12c) in the Flatirons, a "dream route" for me.

FRB: What was your best day trad climbing?

Greg: It's funny, on reflection I think my favorite trad day must have been one day up on Lumpy Ridge doing a variation to Orange Julius. We'd gone up to climb Hallet but got off-route on the approach (I know, I know...) and at 7 a.m. found ourselves looking down on Hallet from an exquisite vantage point high on Flattop Mountain. We bagged our plan and cruised down to Lumpy. We didn't have a guidebook and neither of us knew the route, but somehow the climbing was fun and we pieced some blank pieces together in a really fun way.

FRB: What was your best day alpine climbing to date?

Greg: I think it must be doing Wolf's Tooth in the Cirque of the Towers in the Wind Rivers. Incredible route, the day was right, the only other party on the route was really cool.

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

Greg: I accept risk, but I don't seek it. I've lost 4 friends to this sport in 2 separate accidents both involving factor 2 falls and belay failure with no witnesses. I also had a partner get injured pretty badly in a leader fall in the Flatirons during the Fall of 2003.

Obviously if all we wanted to do was to minimize risk we wouldn't climb. I think if your motivation in climbing is to maximize the risks you take then you basically have a death wish.

Each person has to choose the risk level they are comfortable with and select their activities accordingly. That means that no one should ever encourage another person to do something they aren't comfortable with, and it also means that no one should ever alter an established climb without a consensus - you simply choose not to do that climb, safe in the knowledge that there is absolutely nothing to feel bad about in making that personal choice.

And of course you have to be in agreement with your partner before you climb if you are going to commit yourselves to something. My partners and I have started doing 11-point checks on each other each time before roping up and I find this a really great thing to do. It demonstrates concern for your partner's safety, and it also gives mental confidence when you are climbing that both you and your partner have verified your setup and take safety seriously.

FRB: How do you think the sport of climbing has
          changed during the 20 years you've been climbing?

Greg: For the better, actually. Gear is better, attitudes are mellower, the sense of being a climbing community is stronger. The advent of gym climbing has helped quite a bit with that. People can become introduced to the aspects of the sport that more athletically inclined people in this world can agree on - freedom of movement, natural joy of ascent, appreciation of the indoors world, camaraderie, etc. Then if they wish they can move on to other aspects of the sport in the whole spectrum from outdoor sport climbing, to bouldering, to trad, alpine, and mountaineering.

FRB: How do you think your perspective on climbing
          has changed during that same time?

Greg: I started as a trad and alpine climber and boulderer, and gradually got introduced to sport climbing, which was followed by gym climbing. Now I do all of the above, but my focus is sport, bouldering, and easy free-solos. One of the good things about being older for me is that I don't take failure as much to heart now - in fact I've learned that failing on a climb can be just as much fun as succeeding on it. It all depends on your attitude.

FRB: How do you think climbing as a sport differs
          from other sports?

Greg: In many ways, not so much. I think it's to our advantage to emphasize what we have in common with other sports rather than to try to differentiate ourselves. Sure, climbing is special and that's why we do it, but underneath there is something that all sports share and emphasizing those increases our level of understanding with others.

FRB: What are some of the favorite places you've
          climbed or bouldered?

Greg: Flatirons (including Flagstaff), Fontainebleau (I lived in Paris for 8 months and climbed there quite a bit on weekends), RMNP, Cirque of the Towers in the Winds, Dome Rock in Wyoming, Unaweep Canyon, Eldorado Canyon, and Boulder Canyon.

FRB: How does climbing enter into
          your philosophy of life?

Greg: One of the cornerstones of my philosophy is to strive for balance in life and obviously there is a climbing connection there.

FRB: Are you competitive?

Greg: Yes, but it's balanced by other considerations - winning isn't everything, in fact it isn't even majorly important to me. Some people might say that's really a no!

FRB: Do you compete indoors?

Greg: I've done it twice - once was indoor lead climbing several years ago and just this past Friday I competed in the Citizens Bouldering comp at the Spot thanks to this interview. I had a fantastic time in the bouldering comp last Friday and I'd love to do it again! I think what I liked was really an extension of what I like about Bouldering - you work on problems together with those around you and get beta from each other, so there's an aspect of cooperation that balances out the competitive aspect. I like that. When I tried the lead climbing competition it was less cooperative and more strictly competitive and I enjoyed that less. I do think that some people are genuinely attracted to true competition where you really want to defeat your opponents and I think that is also valid but it isn't me. Ideally there should be competitions that satisfy both personality types and I think this exists now so that's great!

FRB: What do you like about
          indoor climbing comps?

Greg: It's great to see lots of people have a fun time.

FRB: Are you a slacker?

Greg: Yeah Dude.

FRB: Thanks for the interview, Greg.

Greg: Thank you.

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