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Archived Interview
Paul Lembeck

August, 2002

Paul Paul Paul Paul Paul


FRB: How did you get into climbing Paulie?

Paul: I guess I'd have to say I was always a climber. Of trees, rocks, buildings, whatever.

FRB: How long have you climbed for?

Paul: Rock climbing? Depends on your definition of rock climbing. From 22 to 27 years. In my mind, 27 years of moving over rock.

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

Paul: Well, it is something I can do, so that is a plus right off the bat, and I really like the experience. I still feel a childlike wonder after a particularly good send. If you can adapt and find ways to keep things exciting, you can continue to climb for a long time.

FRB: Who were some of your
         early mentors?

Paul: I didn't really have any mentors per se. Just me messing around, in search of survivable epics. I bouldered from the get-go, and back then that meant you were completely on your own for the most part. I was influenced by the legacy of Henry Barber, as a lot of the bouldering I did back East as a kid was pioneered by him. Of course, the influence of Mr. John Gill in this region has not escaped my notice, either.

FRB: Who were some of your early
          climbing partners?

Paul: The first folks to clue me into real climbing gear, and get me into serious buildering, were friends at U.Mass. Don Deblieux, George Cody and Bruce Manning were the first folks to put me on a rope. Later on, some Marblehead buddies like Mark Jannell and Randy Sigler.

FRB: Whom do you climb with usually?

Paul: I've been known to hang with the FRB crew, and the usual suspects up at Flagstaff. The cool thing about bouldering is that you can climb with all kinds of different folks, so every session offers a new set of people and a different type of session. I really enjoy the social aspect of bouldering, and the energy generated by a good crew can be very useful.

FRB: You do a lot of highballing, or at least
          used to, how does someone learn to highball?

Paul: For me, at least, highballing was terrifying for the longest time. Sure, I did my share, but it was usually some angst-ridden affair. At one point about two years ago, though, a door opened in my mind, and suddenly I was able to send all kinds of highballs. For me it was the realization that the climbing was for the most part totally doable if you could allow yourself to climb as if you were close to the ground. Once I could muster that up, sometimes at will, it was easy. What is mentally necessary for highballing? I suppose that a disregard for prudent concern, coupled with a good dose of confidence, and a strong base of prior climbing will get you up most of them. For the really hairy ones, a quote from The Matrix seems most appropriate. "Fear, doubt, disbelief, you have to let it all go." Assuming a certain level of physical fitness as pertains to climbing, it really is mostly, if not completely, mental. For me, to do the wildest ones, it was somehow ceasing all thought, and letting my body take care of business. There's that Bruce Lee quote about how conscious thought interferes with the perfect execution of physical movement. I believe that. Look around at the potential landing zones, place pads accordingly, communicate with spotters, scope the route and then just do it!

FRB: You must have had many interesting
          highball adventures, can you share some
          of them with us?

Paul: Well, the multiple episodes of sending the scariest highballs at the end of a session, usually almost or completely dark out, comes to mind. I figure if you can't see the landing it helps a little to focus on the task at hand, which is to try to see anything at all. Actually, my most memorable session began at the end of a long session, as it was getting dark. I returned to my car at the upper-upper area at Flag to find a bus blocking the road. I sat with Charley Bentley for a while, and then he blurted out "Hey, if we're stuck here, we might as well boulder, the temperature is getting pretty nice." It was completely dark out, but we sent all kinds of highballs in the dark. It was wild! Very fun. There was also that highball in Hawaii that had the perfect glass-sharp basalt skewer pointing up at the base, that would certainly impale you if you were to blow the top dyno. Being the sole spotter for Paul Glover when he sent Double Clutch was particularly hair-raising. Any time I sent Loman's Highball was an adventure, as well.

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

Paul: I like hanging with the family, reading, hiking, etc. I also grow a nifty collection of rare orchids at home.

FRB: Have you done any first ascents?

Paul: Sure, anyone who has been around long enough will stumble onto some gems. I bring my shoes and chalkbag wherever I travel and always seek out new stone. The only local thing I'm psyched about was the first of Dare, in Eldo's Westworld. That was interesting, for sure.

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

Paul: Enhancing and chipping have no place outdoors on natural rock. Period. Gluing gets into the gray area for me. What about the CG artwork on Face V3, Flag.? That is a case where I can see the value in restoring a real classic, while at the same time still feel that it was not necessary in the strict sense of things. Seeing how it is at Flag, where holds are often in a state of change, I'm not too concerned. In a few years, it too will be yarded off by somebody.

FRB: What brings you to the Front Range?

Paul: That is like asking what brings a surfer to the North Shore. A lifetime's worth of climbing in a spectacular setting.

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

Paul: All the top brands have good shoes; the one that fits you best and allows you to feel most natural in your climbing is the best shoe. Having said that, La Sportiva makes a wide variety of high quality shoes and are local employers so they have that little extra going for them.

FRB: Do you compete?

Paul: Don't we all, at some level? I'm competitive, but do not formally compete anymore.

FRB: Seen the new Peter Mortimer video on
          buildering in Downtown Boulder?

Paul: No! Sounds cool, though. I have a big soft spot for buildering.

FRB: What makes for a good chiseled route?

Paul: Say What!?

FRB: What are some of your favorite climbing gyms?

Paul: Any place where you can cut loose and be yourself. BRC is cool, when not crowded. I have a lot of great memories of sessions at CATS. Used to go to Paradise Rock Gym a lot, liked that too.

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

Paul: I'm very partial to Flagstaff and love Eldorado. Carter Lake has great stuff, Horsetooth obviously is incredible. I like almost every place I've been, I'm not picky. It's all good.

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

Paul: Loman's will be always on my list, even though I wrecked on it. Germ Free, Pinch Overhang, anything on the Red Wall, Hagan's, Kahuna, Sloper Chief. It goes on and on. There is a buildering problem at Umass called Aerial Tramway that is as classic as it gets, and a few granite highballs in Gloucester that are 5 star.

FRB: Climbing is constantly evolving, where do
          you think it is going .

Paul: The thing I'm noticing now is the bouldering comps. The energy is so positive and high, there is no real in-your-face competitiveness. The music is blasting, everyone is going nuts, amazing things happen. This sort of cooperative and supporting, yet also competitive in a friendly way, environment seems to me to be the crucible for big advances in what is possible. That is because of the high importance I place on the mental aspect of what is possible. I do know that we ain't seen nothing yet!

FRB: Do you have any projects right now?

Paul: There are a few choice blocks only I know about. Shhhh….

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

Paul: Follow your own path, not your peers. I regret all the time I wasted belaying and basically not being 100% psyched when I was roped up. If I had just pursued what enchanted me the most, bouldering, I would have been a happier camper during the Eighties. Climb as much as possible, on as many types of stone and styles of climbing as you can experience. Realize that nobody is Superhuman, except maybe Matt Samet or Naomi Guy.

FRB: What are your thoughts now, after the injury,
          on Highballing?

Paul: I will still do it, I found myself on King Conquer and The Face on my second day out, approximately 7 months after the reconstructive surgery. Though I backed off, I will be back to send a lot of the old ones. The really dangerous ones like Loman's? Who knows, maybe I'll send them again as well some day. I learned a lesson, and a very, very painful one at that. That lesson is, it's OK to think you are invincible, but beware when you start to believe you are! It is dangerous, and what happened to me could happen to anyone. Of course, the fact that it is dangerous is part of the appeal.

FRB: Well, not all of us can get out to climb when
          we want to. And we have to somewhat train.
          What do you got for secrets, tips? What do
          you recommend?

Paul: I'd be the last person to know. I don't warm up, stretch, any of that. I guess I am blessed with a high off-the-couch quotient.

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

Paul: I'm very partial to Flagstaff and love Eldorado. Carter Lake has great stuff, Horsetooth obviously is incredible. I like almost every place I've been, I'm not picky. It's all good.

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

Paul: Sure, I frequently hit plateau barriers. Usually, time off, better nutrition and a change of pace has done the trick. Changes of pace can include a new area, climbing one-armed, climbing faster or slower than usual, etc.

FRB: What are your thoughts now,
          after the injury, on Highballing.

Paul: I will still do it, I found myself on King Conquer and The Face on my second day out, approximately 7 months after the reconstructive surgery.

FRB: How do you deal with injuries?

Paul: I'm a believer in the 'use it or lose it' school of injury recovery. When I used to pop finger tendon pulleys I'd tape them into a 'cast' and carry on. Sprained ankles and bruised heels were to be ignored. Now that I'm getting older, I allow more time to recover, a lot more time.

FRB: How do you train for hard bouldering?

Paul: I never really trained much, though I thought Bachar ladder climbing and campus board training were beneficial at various times. As far as peak performances go, I always climb my best on an empty stomach after a rough day at work!

FRB: What inspires you to train.

Paul: Getting burned off badly.

FRB: Parting words of wisdom?

Paul: Keep it fun. Save your bad behavior for the FRB Message Board.

FRB: Thanks for the interview Paulie.

Paul: You’re welcome. Thank you.

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