brings you to the Front Range Justin?
grew up with skiing as a huge part of my life and always wanted to go
to school in Boulder to join their mogul team. I had a major knee injury
just as I was applying for college and the doctor thought I would not
be able to ski with the same intensity ever again…I decided to choose
a smaller school that offered an academic system more in tune with my
learning style: Denison University in Ohio. The drive to live out west
never faded though so I decided to choose a Colorado school for my legal
studies. I now go to the University of Denver since my last-minute decision
to take, and lax attitude towards the LSAT made my chances of getting
into Boulder a joke at best. Regardless, rest assured I didn't come
to Colorado to study with extreme seriousness and they haven't kicked
me out yet.
FRB: How did you get into climbing Justin?
The idea of rock climbing always enthralled me. I remember scraping
around on evil death slab boulders in the Adirondacks at camp as a kid-Vans
and Etnies stuck the best. Really, I started seriously climbing when
on a semester abroad in New Zealand while in college. My roommate was
a trad monkey and was fairly complacent and soon set up a top rope at
the Auckland Quarry for me to cut my teeth. I had scurried up climbing
walls a few times before, but my first taste of real rock did me in,
immediately. Though I sucked, I felt like I had a lot of potential for
improvement. I used to get tossed around in high school lacrosse by
hairless apes and felt like I couldn't succeed without more mass…individual
sports seemed to transcend size issues, so I gravitated towards them.
I was really sick of coaches telling me I had the technical skill, but
couldn't expect to start because of my midget-ude. My first real climb
sparked this feeling of transcendence. It sounds stupid, but I felt
powerful for the first time since my best days of mogul competition-it
was intoxicating. I soon spent my meager life's savings on gear.
FRB: Who do you boulder with usually?
JJ: The regular crew is always
in flux with everyone's ridiculous schedule, (especially mine), but
I've really enjoyed hanging out with (in chronology) Chris Ticknor,
Chris Rogers, Brad Dean, Prairie Neeley, Steve (meanest dude in the
Front Range), Jeff Bates, Josh Finkelstein, Chip Phillips, Jonah, Mike
Capazzi, Dan Dunbar, etc. Also, punks like Jack Baum and Brent Ng have
been cool to hang out, even if they don't climb much anymore. My good
friends from the Buffalo area and Utah transplants cannot be left out
either-George, Lincoln, Jim, Rachel, Scott, Erik, Sarah, Andy, Ian,
Luke Cudney, etc.-you'll see them soon on a slide show, if I ever get
my film developed.
Point is: there are a bunch of folks out there who've let me tag along
and put up with my whining enough to make climbing such a source of
solace. Thank you everyone.
FRB: How often do you climb?
JJ: Last summer I was only limited
by my own motivation and finger skin regeneration, but I have had to
tone down my commando sessions to about 2 or 3 a week while the semesters
are rolling along. I'm hoping to climb at least 3 days a week this summer.
Maybe someone can help me get laid off so I can up that number.
FRB: Why bouldering instead of trad or sport or mixed?
JJ: When I really push myself,
I am almost completely inept at taking care of the little annoyances
of roped climbing: clipping, resting (including finding knee bars!),
placing gear, chalking up, not stepping on the rope, etc. I usually
back clip or try to clip at the worst possible position, get pumped,
and take a screamer. Also, I have a certain lack of climbing stamina
that doesn't jive with long climbs. I have begun to really enjoy easier
traditional climbs, however. I am not to the point where I would really
push myself in difficulty, since the easy climbs are terrifying enough.
I like the concept of long climbs that never really tax you and the
onsight-only format avoids the intense, nausea inducing boredom of working
out sport climbs. Maybe my aversion is due to our ADD culture that demands
instant gratification without real diligent work…but I'd rather walk
a two-mile uphill approach over and over to work a captivating problem
that work out the sequence to a long roadside sport climb. Remember
though: one may sometimes find fault with things and people they cannot
FRB: Where are some of your favorite places
a huge devotee of the Satellites and am willing to repeat problems up
there until the next ice age. Otherwise, I really like the atmosphere
at Arthur's Rock, Lumpy Ridge, RMNP, Camp Dick (minus the ATVs), Carter
Lake in winter, and the Millennium Block. Also, I always have an unexpectedly
good time at Flagstaff on every visit, and I cannot forget the personally-cliché
Niagara Glen. Perhaps due to home pride, but despite the mosquitoes
and humidity, the Glen has the greatest density of problems that really
interest me, save only for Hueco. That said, I've still a lot of areas
to visit-In the Front, I'm particularly interested in exploring Ute
Pass, more of the Poudre, and so on.
FRB: What hard problems have you sent
in the Front
JJ: 'Hard' is a bit too subjective,
especially here, but the following are among those I'm proudest of:
Just Right (Flag), Hollow's Way (Flag), Turning Point (Satellites),
Captain Hook (Satellites), Grundel City Boy (Satellites; before and
after breaking), Hunting Humans (Ghetto), Last Overhang (Flag), Ode
to Failure (Arthur's), Crime and Punishment (Big Elk; ugly but good),
Dynoman (Carter), Charger (keep posted for info!), Babyface (Hueco),
Life O'Rielly sds (Glen), Resident Evil (Joe's Valley), Blah, Blah,
Blah…You can check my scorecard if you actually care (don't mind the
blatant up-rating and overly positive spray!)
There's a bunch I consider hard, and I usually feel somewhat proud and
reverent of any send that really requires me to think and feel out the
moves-whether a festering pile of choss or seeping grease pile. Ugly
climbs need love too, I suppose.
FRB: Do you have any favorite problems or
ones that you
thought were incredible?
JJ: I'd pretty much repeat the
above list, but Kahuna Roof (Carter), the Extension Block's West Face
(Carter), Sloper Chief (Carter), Godzilla (Arthur's), Black Arête (Sacred
Cliffs), Original Grapple (Satellites), Elysium Arête (keep posted),
Mavericks (Clear Creek), Ghost Dance (Millennium), and Germ Free (Eldo)
should not be missed in the Front Range.
Note: I haven't sent Mavericks, but after having popped from the top
our to land literally flat on my back on a single pad, I have a certain
sense of connection to it.
FRB: Is it true that you often get scared
and fall off
JJ: Particularly slabs. My ability
to fall off problems is not limited by grade. I'm great at it throughout
FRB: Is it true that you tripped on a very small root after
sending one of
your hardest problems and
JJ: I also can hardly talk coherently
or see straight after exerting myself. Cool, huh?
FRB: Do you have any projects right now?
JJ: Every problem not listed
above is a project, almost literally. Those I would claim to be close
to with a straight face include Meatrope (Carter), Flesh Fest (Satellites),
Caddis (Boulder Canyon), the defamed Black Ice (Fern Canyon), Gang Bang
(Chaos), No Substance (Joe's), Two Finger (Joe's), Fingerhut (Joe's),
Here Comes Sickness (Eldo), Left Angry Man (Lumpy), the sit start to
Cannibal Dance (Millennium), etc.
There's a crazy number of other problems that I'm working on, but I
couldn't claim to be close to glory yet. Name one-I'm bound to be floundering
FRB: Do you compete?
JJ: Generally not due to the
entry fees and conflicting times, but I have a few times in the past
and would like to compete more to hang out more with old friends and
try to make new ones. The only Colorado comp I've been in was at Rockn
n Jamn in 2001…I was doing horrible and was awe-stuck when Adam Stack,
Emily Harrington, and Sarah (Paradise), as well as a few I don't now
recognize, walked thorough my comp project as a warm up in rapid succession.
Though I didn't know who anyone was at the time, I then decided that
as a general rule, I was more apt to enjoy being a spectator to others
prowess than demonstrate my own lack thereof.
FRB: What competitions have you won?
JJ: I've won many sweets-eating,
rock-throwing, bad-wipeout, and similar competitions. Call the magazines.
Also, I won a sporadically-held "Monkey Man" comp at the Niagara Climbing
Center in New York. I walked away with a bunch of bananas, an inscribed
hold I broke, and some chalk. The chalk was mainly to curtail my chalk-bandit/mooching
while I was home for that Christmas break. The win should have gone
to a badass climber named Ian Irving, but either my lack of ability
at simple addition on my scorecard or his own holding back (to make
me feel cool during my homecoming) allowed the win. (My suspicions were
recently confirmed by visiting a number of FAs he put up around that
time- I can't even smell the moves.)
FRB: What's it like developing as a boulderer
in the Front
JJ: It's a spoiled existence
in which humidity, snow, rain, and lack of rock are very minimal factors
relative to the rest of the country. Further, while the climbing scene
is a little less close-knit than other regions, it is also less isolated
since so many people climb; it seems like climbing is a great social
tool to meet new people-most of which are very positive and supportive.
It's pretty unusual in many areas to have a list of 50 million friends
to call if you get a break in your schedule and want to climb. I dig
it. Also, depending on one's personal tastes and willingness to climb
at certain areas, there are so many different options that you can pick
a place to fit your time budget or lack thereof. It's hell to not be
able to go climbing when your hour and a half of free time is insufficient
to drive out to some distant, only option, climbing area.
FRB: What are some things you don't like about
the Front Range
JJ: One downfall has been discussed
a million times before: the great number of climbers per capita and
their generally high level of ability creates a strange sense of elitism
in which it's not enough to be a climber-that's not special-so one must
be completely badass in some way. The efforts to attain this goal and
resentment of falling short, though almost entirely within one's own
mind, creates an underlying animosity between certain climbers. Most
are positive, but those bitter climbers tend to be more outspoken. Granted,
pushing oneself to climb harder does not necessarily or usually mean
one becomes a bad person-the problem is deeper and more complex than
that. The feeling can be found in the quick look of someone's eye or
the tone of their voice, but is clear regardless of the subtlety. Regardless,
most climbers are congenial and genuine; competitive negativity is the
exception, not the rule.
Otherwise, while the west seems particularly fond of the huge landing-strip
tick-mark, the sheer number of climbers in the Front Range doesn't impact
the rock as significantly as some non-climbers, in my mind. Spray paint
tagging seen in the east, for example, is far worse to me than residual
chalk, erosion, etc .
FRB: Who are you sponsored by?
I don't know what the technical stance of my 'sponsorship' really is,
but I do appreciate the help I receive through FRB to keep Sportiva
rubber on my feet. They're the only brand that, on the whole, works
well for me and their involvement in the local community is pretty impressive.
I'm also sponsored by the loan programs of the Federal Government, and
most recently by Integrity Title (which employs me despite gross under-qualification).
Oh yeah, I also get t-shirts from friends from Buffalo: Monkey Fist (East Coast Climbing Syndicate.)
FRB: What else do you do besides climb?
JJ: You sure ask a lot of questions.
Are you a cop?
FRB: Just answer the question pal?
JJ: I still can carve a ski on
water and snow. I fly fish a bit. I bike once every blue moon (despite
a past devotion to BMX and mountain biking). I surf once every million
years and progress in talent accordingly. I invent excuses for not sending.
I start to read intellectually pretentious books, quit, then move on
to Hunter Thompson, Vonnegut, or Abbey-like reads. I eat mint chocolate
cookies and ice cream in ridiculous amounts. I play with dogs. I annoyingly
write things with textual verbosity. I still love to play back-yard
style football. I make doctor and car maintenance appointments, then
break them. I contemplate the mysteries of the universe and women. I
FRB: Favorite bouldering websites?
JJ: I'd have to say that I'm
pretty incestuous with FRB-I check it most often to see what general
calamities are going down, etc. Otherwise, I check the message board
and new FAs at glenbouldering.com, and the FAs at climbingboulder.com.
Though I can never get Quicktime to properly install on my computer,
I really have enjoyed bouncing over to modump.com to check out their
galleries and such. Further, to slightly contradict myself, I've also
liked to read Lee's stories/articles on that site-though he's got way
more to spray about and self-glorify himself with than I ('cause he's
a wicked good climber), his writing is never egocentric and repetitive,
like mine. It's a good change of pace! Finally, I'd have to say that
weather.com is an essential climbing site and I've learned to be steadfast
to climbing plans when only 'isolated' or 'scattered' thunderstorms
are forecasted-take a jacket, but it's likely that you'll get some dry
climbing in…otherwise, find a cave and take the opportunity to catch
up with your friends.
FRB: How do you feel about chipping?
JJ: The classic FRB question!
First, I unequivocally do not condone chipping. That said, I find it
interesting that climbers self-impose stigma when living in a culture
that has carved entire mountainsides to the likenesses of historical
figures, visits large hydroelectric dams on vacation, considers motor
sports 'outdoor' activities (not that throttle-jockeying is not fun),
and so on. Obviously the natural ethics of climbers and the general
American culture are distinguishable, but I have not yet been entirely
disgusted with 'improvements' when I'm trying to stick to some desperate
move. When I'm off the climb, it's easy to admonish chipping or gluing,
but I've never complained when actually on the route-that's for sure!
I've punched myself in the face when holds have broken, and I'm keen
on avoiding it for now on. I find myself much more disgusted with trash
and spray paint on the rocks, though I never feel as satisfied with
finishing climbs that have been altered. I realize that trash is not
permanent and the natural order is for problems to break, but I'd like
to move away from the whole alteration debate concerning what has already
been done. Importantly, climbers should not ever chip or glue in the
future and new climbers should be instructed as such, but let's not
spend our time being condescending to another's climbing accomplishments
because of the lack of foresight of a route's developer years ago. Let
people have their happiness, on whatever they personally choose to climb-I
guess that's my only real point here.
FRB: Are you willing to stop blathering about yourself
and end this
FRB: Thanks for the interview, Justin?
JJ: Thank You.