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Hello Hello Hello

Archived Interview
Michael A. Haag

 late May, 2005

Michael  Haag
Michael  Haag Michael  Haags' alter ego Michael  Haag Michael  Haag

FRB: Name?

Michael: Michael Anakin Haag.

FRB: Age:?

Michael: 32 going on 23; at least that's what my roommates Bridget and Dana say.

FRB: Weight:?

Michael: 130 - 140 depending on travel, my general mood, climbing style focus, etc.

FRB: Height?

Michael: 5'4".

FRB: Ape Index:?

Michael: My ape index is a lucky +4.

FRB: How'd you get into Climbing, Michael?

Michael: I started going to school in Philadelphia; my sophomore year a few of my friends opened The Philadelphia Rock Gym. I helped them out a little and immediately became hooked. Looking back makes me chuckle; the first PRG bouldering cave was literally a plywood box plastered with holds. One trip to the Gunks made me drop out of school and move to Boulder. One day I picked up a Rock and Ice and noticed that it was published in Boulder. I called my parents and told them, "I'm dropping out of school and moving to Boulder," and the rest is history. I eventually did transfer to CU and finished my degree in Mechanical Engineering.

FRB: Who do you normally climb with?

Michael: Whoever is available; whoever can belay safely. I do, however, try to steer clear of anyone with the slightest ego and all of the ridiculous people whose main concern is their status quo in the climbing community. You know who you are…or do you?

FRB: What do you Onsight?

Michael: Bouldering: as long as there is nothing seriously height dependent I can usually onsight V5-V7 Sport: I have onsighted a few 5.13's in various areas. I can't really do a hard move to save my life but I have a lot of endurance. If the route is long and sustained, my onsight chances are extraordinarily better. Traditional: this depends on the area / grading. If it's a long Indian Creek or Yosemite crack, I can usually muster through a 5.12. In a place like Eldorado Canyon, I have much less consistency. Sometimes a 5.9 feels like 5.11 and vice versa.

FRB: What are some of your Hardest sends?

Michael: By far, my favorite boulder problem send is Fleshfest up in the Satellites. It's really the only problem I've ever felt like I HAD to climb. It's such a beautiful problem; it's also a little highball with a less than adequate landing. I've been going up to the Satellites for about 8 years and until 3 years ago, I would walk by that face and just drool but I was too intimidated to try it. In the fall of 2002 I was in really great shape after spending a summer in the Valley and I figured the time was right.

On the opposite extreme, soloing the Pacific Ocean Wall on El Cap was a magical time. In 2001 I tried to solo it in the fall and ended up taking a 30-40 foot fall after the flake I was hooking detached. I zippered a bunch of gear, surfed the flake into a corner, and damaged my patella tendon on my right knee. I ended up back at the belay so I set up the ledge, opened an O.E.(Old English), and proceeded to rescue myself the next day. I went back in 2002 and 'cleaned out my skeletons'.

FRB: Do you solo?

Michael: Yes. Lately, with everything chaotic in my life, I've been soloing a lot more. It's the only thing that seems to bring me any peace. A few days ago, I felt like I was going insane so I went and soloed Super Slab (I've done it a lot) to the upper pitches of Ruper. I finally felt so relaxed when I got to the top that I fell asleep until the sun was down and ended up walking out of Eldo in the dark and riding my bike home.

I also have this masochistic penchant for soloing big walls and desert towers; I suppose I love doing it because it REALLY gives me a chance to be introspective. I've soloed El Cap 3 times (Lurking Fear, Zodiac, and the Pacific Ocean Wall) and I've soloed most of the classic walls in Zion like Moonlight, Prodigal Son, and Space Shot. At the end of June I'm going back to the Valley to solo Mescalito. I CAN'T WAIT!!!

FRB: Do you consider yourself a 'well-rounded' climber?
          What does that mean?

Michael: Ummm…'well rounded' would imply that I'm proficient in all different kinds of climbing. I will say that I enjoy and aspire to be as good as I can be in all different types of climbing. I love it ALL: ice, mixed, alpine, trad, bouldering, sport, big wall, buildering, indoor, whatever…

FRB: Have you done much traveling?

Michael: I've spent a lot of time in Europe. I lived in France almost all of 2003 and spent a lot of time traveling and climbing around Europe. I also briefly hit Morocco. When I was in high school, before I knew climbing existed, I would travel around Europe with a soccer team during my summers.

I've spent a considerable amount of time in all of the major climbing areas of the U.S. and have hit Mexico (El Potrero) a few times. I've also spent some time up in Squamish / B.C. area.

Also, when I was a freshman / sophomore in college (in Philadelphia), I fell completely in love with a girl from India. I spent part of a summer with her at her family's house in Gujarat, India. Unfortunately we parted ways when I got interested in climbing and moved out to Colorado. That was 12 years ago and sometimes I still wonder…

FRB: What else do you do?
          Heard that you were co-inventor of Splitter Gear?

Michael: I would call myself more the co-creator. Seth Murray, who now works designing gear for Trango, came up with the initial idea after doing The Shield on El Cap. We received a grant from the Smithsonian Institute to develop the idea and pursue the patent rights. It was pretty exciting but it's so hard to start your own company with little to no funding. We managed to run the company for 3 years before selling one of our patents to Petzl and licensing our 4Cam idea to Trango. Trango, with Seth's help, has vastly improved upon the idea and incorporated the design in their 4 smallest size Flex Cams.

FRB: What's this we hear about you designing
          a 'Better rock gym floor'?

Michael: I was dabbling with design ideas over this past semester with some of C.U's senior Mechanical Engineering students. I spent some time in the Instron lab in the M.E. department trying to come up with a more durable alternative to the floor that is currently in The Spot Gym in Boulder.

FRB: What other sports do you do?

Michael: I LOVE surfing. Surfing is definitely a source. Relative to climbing, I like it because it is so simple. There's not a bunch of metal crap, elastic cords, and specialized shoes to depend on. It's just you, a board, and the primordial soup we came from.

I also run quite a bit. I wouldn't say I love running but I feel it's a necessary evil if you want to be in the best shape possible. This past year I also tried to get out snowboarding quite a bit.

FRB: We heard you won some poetry writing contests?

Michael: I've won a few over the past five years ranging from the Mainichi Haiku Society to the National Library of Poetry to the Longmont Dairy Milk Poem contest. Over the past three years I've really stepped up my writing and cut down on 'going out.' I've also been working on a fictional story; I think it'll end up being about 250 pages long. Lately though, I feel like I've gotten into the characters too much and lost touch with reality. I've thought about "talking to someone" but thus far I've held back. After all, what would have Picasso painted if he were on Prozac? I'm working on myself, though…

FRB: What is Haiku?

Michael: Haiku has Japanese origins. It's generally an unrhymed verse having 3 lines containing 5 - 7 - 5 syllables. I love to write them because it's a challenge to say as much as possible within small constraints. There are other rules, especially when writing them in English, but that's the general concept. Here are a couple examples I've written recently, one is political, one concerns nature, and one is personal:

Faceless men steer fate
Beautiful flowers bloom
From freshly stolen souls
Celestially white
Unassembled snowmen fall
Disguised as bright snow
Partly suspicious
With chances of betrayal:
My weather forecast

FRB: Heard you got some 'Book Deals' pending?

Michael: I've been in touch with Bantam Books out of New York. They were impressed with my recent Haiku entries and we are negotiating a deal concerning a short book of my Haiku. It's flattering and exciting.

FRB: What's this about LucasFilms wanting your email address?

Michael: Oh, this is pretty funny. I have an aunt that lives near Skywalker Ranch in Marin County who I usually visit when I'm climbing in the Yosemite. The year after I graduated from CU, I was handing out resumes to everyone and my aunt suggested I drop one off at Industrial Light and Magic. My email address, which includes the word 'jediclimber,' caught the attention of an ILM exec so he sent me an email and gave me a call asking if he could possible purchase my email address. I couldn't bring myself to sell it; I love it too much and I feel it defines me as a climber. I'm also a Star Wars fan, hence the picture of 'me' above.

FRB: Some folks say you could be described as
          a 'promiscuous clubber'.
          Is that an accurate assessment?

Michael: I wouldn't say I'm a 'promiscuous clubber,' I would just say that I'm promiscuous. Honestly, I prefer to think that I'm putting forth a monumental amount of effort to find that one special girl who I will love for the rest of my life and have that love reciprocated.

FRB: Why aren't you at the Spot Gym anymore?

Michael: Uhhh…I decided to give up climbing and be a professional extreme roofer, instead. Seriously, I'll address the issue but more in principle instead of specifics out of respect for the privacy of people involved. Basically, completely juvenile communication breakdowns lead to a series of spiteful juvenile pranks which, in the pressure cooker of time, resulted in a catastrophic explosion of juvenile emotions. All of us are guilty but I accept the major portion of the blame. I regret what happened and I truly and deeply apologize to everyone involved. Of course, everything was left in an elementary school state of affair because no one involved is willing to talk. It's like all we did was run and tattle tale to our teacher when something happened, myself included. At this point, the facts have been so distorted that the status quo driven of the Boulder climbing community will be festering in their own gossip for awhile to come.

FRB: Sounds like you have a 'rebellious-side'.
          Would you consider yourself 'rebellious'?

Michael: Well, if you define a 'rebellious person' as being fiery, passionate, strong headed, and romantic with a regrettable temper that can be provoked (I'm working on it…) then, yes, I have a rebellious side. I think it's totally ironic that Episode III of Star Wars just came out. The context of what I'm about to say is entirely theatrical but lately I feel like Anakin Skywalker being antagonized into the dark side of the force. So…don't be surprised if you see a person climbing in Eldorado with a dark cape and a shiny black helmet hissing with mechanized breath.

FRB: What else do you do for fun?

Michael: I'm a complete nerd; I'm really into Origami. It's amazing what you can do with tiny pieces of paper. I also love cook.

FRB: Tell us something about you most people don't know.

Michael: Although I love the climbing lifestyle and climbing as a mind / body exercise, I actually have very few close friends that are 'climbers.' Most of my friends that know me and love me are musicians, writers, people affiliated with academia, or people pursuing acting careers. There are really only one or two people in the climbing community that I feel I can truly confide in.

FRB: Are you saying you don't like the 'climbing community?

Michael: No, not at all. I think it's a great fun community to be a part of. HOWEVER, I feel that MY mental growth would be severely stunted if I were to be totally immersed in the community, as so many people are in Boulder. The climbing community is just so small and incestuous. For example, I feel like going to a 'climber party' in Boulder is like going to a family reunion in the backwoods of West Virginia and watching everyone make out with their sisters / brothers / mothers / fathers / cousins. I think it's really hard to be 'open minded' if you constantly surround yourself with just one subculture, especially one as small as the climbing community.

FRB: What do you think of the competition climbing scene?

Michael: I actually like the aspect of competitive indoor climbing but I'm a little disappointed in the attitude it inspires and most of the people who embrace that 'elitist' attitude. I think Angela Payne, both as a person and a climber, stands out so far…so, so far from everyone. If someone were to tell me to close my eyes and think about the 20 - 25 age range of competitive climbers, I see Angela as a golden haired goddess towering above a bunch of mentally disfigured mongers who are waddling around her feet like a scene right out of Dante's Inferno. Uhhh, did I just say that? Where does my brain pull this stuff from? Verbal Taoism… I better go now…

FRB: thanks for the interview Michael.

Michael: You're welcome.


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