FRB: How did you get into climbing Richard?
became interested in climbing as a boy. I was fascinated by National
Geographic articles about climbing in the Alps and the Himalayas and
by climbing scenes in a variety of movies. I grew up (OK, grew up is
probably the wrong word) in the Pacific northwest. My parents took
me to Mount Rainier National Park and into the Olympic Mountains. They
were not climbers, nor even hikers, but they exposed me to the mountain
environment and unwittingly planted the seeds of obsession in my young
mind. Later, my last year of high school, two classmates and myself
assembled a ludicrous array of irrelevant paraphernalia, and on the
recommendation of an employee at Whittaker's Chalet (an outdoor specialty
shop owned by the famous Whittaker brothers of Everest and K2 fame),
we set out to climb Mount Gladys in the Olympic Mountains. We never
found Mount Gladys, but accidentally did a first ascent of a new route
on a peak called Castle Spires. We nearly died on the descent. We were
afraid to go down the way we had come up and so traversed the peak and
came down the other side. This of course was more difficult than the
way we had reached the summit. One of the guys fell 1500 feet down a
very steep snow coulouir. He lay motionless at the bottom. When we got
to him his pack and shirt were covered in gore. This turned out to be
a completely squashed Hostess berry pie, and he turned out to be intact,
FRB: How long have you climbed for?
Since June of 1964. I was 18 at the time.
FRB: You've climbed a long time,
what keeps you
Richard: That's difficult to
put in words. I can say that there is a deep satisfaction in the act
and art of climbing. I also get a significant kick out of doing (putting
up) new routes. In any case, after 38 years of rock and alpine climbing,
it feels like I'm still on the honeymoon.
FRB: Who were some of your
early mentors Richard?
Richard: Gaston Rebuffat. I
have one of his very old books, Mont Blanc to Everest. I was also deeply
influenced by John Harlin (senior), Fred Beckey, Jim Whittaker, and
Sir Edmond Hillary. I did not know any of these men personally, just
from books and films. They were mythical heroes to me.
FRB: Who were some of your early
Richard: I climbed mostly with
college buddies and unsuspecting girlfriends. Inexperience holds the
potential for wild adventure (and disaster). Fortunately, we all survived
those early outings, which included ascents of Rainier and more remote
peaks in the North Cascades. While I was in Special Forces (the Green
Berets, 1966 to 1969) I climbed in the Northern Andes with one of my
FRB: Do you climb anymore,
Who do you climb
Richard: I still climb frequently,
usually with close friends. Sometimes I climb with the posse, the 'old
guys' in Dream Canyon.
FRB: You must have had many interesting adventures,
can you share
some of them with us?
Richard: My very first climb
was fairly exciting (mentioned above). In 1984 my wife of the time,
Joyce, and I climbed the DC route on Mount Rainier in a day, came home
and took a shower, re-packed and hiked up to a high camp on the west
side of Rainier, then tandem soloed the Central Mowich Face route the
next day - 4500 feet of front pointing, up to 60 degrees near the top.
It got very warm that afternoon and a huge serac broke away above a
feature called the Sickle. The Sickle is a steep chute at the top of
the Tahoma Glacier and was our only option to descend to camp. The main
glacier was laced side-to-side with huge crevasses and could not be
descended. The falling serac gouged the old snow out of the chute exposing
hard, gray ice for about 1800 feet. We were almost to tired to stand...
hell... we were too tired to watch a movie. For psychological effect,
more seracs teetered nervously above us. We front pointed backwards
all the way to where the Sickle opens onto the lower glacier. We staggered
back to our tent at dusk. We had planned to be home, watching a movie.
FRB: What else do you like to do besides climb?
Richard: I love motorcycles.
I have a couple of Harleys and a Ducati 996s. Some of my friends have
sportbikes and we have a lot of fun tearing up the canyons. I went to
Freddy Spencer's road racing school last fall. That was really a blast.
Las Vegas Motor Speedway. You drop into one of the turns without even
hitting the brakes at 120 mph. That's exciting. The art of the turn.
Any fool can go fast in a straight line. I also love to run and I ride
road bikes (bicycles). Mogul skiing helps pass the long winters.
FRB: What made you decide to start
Richard: I must have fallen
on my head when I was a baby.
FRB: You are also an artist, where can we
find some of
have no work displayed in Boulder at this time. I used to do shows here...
until I started writing guide books. I have done illustrations for other
people's books such as Jim Erickson's Rocky Heights, Steve Ilg's The
Outdoor Athlete, and more recently, Jeff Lowe's Ice World. If you track
down any of these books you can see a little of my work, but I do not
consider illustrations to be fine art, nor topos for that matter. I
used to do large oil paintings and drawings. Most of that work was sold.
I just got so very hooked on climbing. I put a lot of other things on
the back burner.
FRB: Do you have any artwork for sale?
FRB: You've done many first ascents.
How did you get
into doing first ascents?
Richard: I used to have a book
by Royal Robbins called Basic Rockcraft where Robbins wrote, "The call
of the first is strong." To tell the truth, I have always looked at
crags and peaks this way. I always looked to see what had not been done;
what could be done. Perhaps it is fitting that the very first climb
I ever did was a first ascent, even though it was accidental. Even our
descent route had never been climbed before. Or maybe it was Star Trek,
you know, "Boldly go..."
FRB: What do you think of enhancing, chipping
and gluing holds?
Richard: I understand the temptation,
but I do not think it is a good practice. I once created a hold on a
climb. Now I wish I hadn't. I may still go back and fill it with cement
or something. You could just pull on a sling instead. Better to find
lines that can be climbed as they are. That is the nature of climbing
outdoors, yes? Otherwise it's just a big rock gym. That is my preference
for myself anyway. I don't tell others how to climb or how to put up
new routes. I have little patience for people who think they know what
is right for others.
FRB: What brought you to the Front Range?
Richard: Climbing, baby!
FRB: Climbing is constantly evolving, where
do you think
it is going?
Richard: My guess is that rock
climbing will go toward safety and predictability as more and more people
get involved. In other words, sport climbing is here to stay and will
only get bigger. Alpine climbing is another story. I think that risk
and adventure have a long way to go in that arena. In rock climbing,
more of the old 1970s ethics are likely to erode as the sport evolves
into the 21st century. Sport climbing is not so much about risk as it
is about fun. It is clearly what most people want to do these days.
The surprising popularity of the "sport park" and other sport crags,
such as, Avalon, Easter Rock and the elegant buttresses of Upper Dream
Canyon attest to this inevitable shift in the sport. Risking serious
injury or death to do a climb is not held in the same regard as it was
30 years ago. As the old fogies retire to board games and oxygen tubes,
the rules are going to change. I would predict that crack climbing will
remain crack climbing: that is, all about gear. However, most of the
old, scary face climbs that were done on the lead will likely be retrofitted
as sport climbs. Who owns the rock, after all? Does it belong to the
first ascent party, or to everyone? Things are going to change and the
geezers are going to loose control of the sport. Some of the older guys
are quite bitter about it. A few have taken to destroying bolts and
tyroleans, even cutting through hangers with hack saws. Eventually they'll
all be on heart meds and tranquilizers and too fucked up to get out
of bed. So what's the point? Personally, I'd rather go climbing with
my friends and have a good time while I'm still ambulatory.
FRB: Do you have any projects right now?
Since 1996 I have developed the crags known as Sleeping Beauty (across
from the west end of Animal World), Avalon, Wizard Rock, Solaris (AKA,
Japanese Garden) and put up about 40 routes in Upper Dream Canyon. Most
of these routes are sport climbs or mixed climbs (cracks with bolts
in blank sections), but some are pure crack climbs. I still love crack
climbing and the art of placing gear. Most recently, I have done two
new lines on Dream Dome in Upper Dream Canyon. One is a 130-foot, 5.10
line just left of Tales of Power. This is mostly a crack climb with
a few supporting bolts. The other is a very difficult face climb to
the right of Tales of Power. 8 bolts to a 2-bolt anchor, 70 feet. Currently
rated 12b A0. The first route I did with Sharon Vaughan and is called
Phantasmagoria. The latter I did with Jessica True and is called the
FRB: What do you suggest to people who are just
starting in climbing/bouldering?
Richard: Get some education
before you go charging off to the crags. Climbing is a very dangerous
sport for the uninformed. People die sport climbing because they do
not know basic techniques. Take some lessons at the Boulder
Rock Club or go out with a professional guide.
FRB: What are your thoughts on Highballing/soloing.
Richard: I have always enjoyed
free soloing. When I had only climbed for couple of years I soloed a
5.7 route on Mount Cruiser in the Olympics in mountain boots. I just
felt comfortable unroped and I liked the lack of encumberment. A few
years ago I on-sight free soloed an unclimbed line at Lumpy Ridge. It
turned out to be 5.10. That was scary. I was very close to my psychological
limit. The route is called Amazing Grace. I felt graced that I lived
to tell the story. I do not recommend free soloing. It is a deadly game.
It was just something personal I needed to do for awhile.
FRB: Well, not all of us can get out to climb when
we want to. And
we have to somewhat train.
What do you have
for secrets, tips? What do
Richard: I have the same problem
these days. For me, I run, cycle, lift weights and do Pilates. I am
especially fond of Pilates. It is just great cross-training. I climb
as often as I can. The best training for climbing, like any sport, is
the sport itself.
FRB: You've been a personal trainer for years.
you tell us about that.
Richard: I was a personal trainer
for many years. Now I own a Pilates studio in Boulder. The studio is
called Pilates of Boulder. Several
of my clients are good climbers.
FRB: Do you ever hit a plateau in
How do you overcome
Richard: Sure. It happens to
everyone. Breaking a plateau is very psychological. You have to get
out of your comfort zone and go where you have not been before. This
is true for all sports. It requires a supreme act of will and faith
in yourself. Otherwise nothing changes.
FRB: How do you deal with injuries?
Richard: For the most part,
I have learned to train through them. This does require consciousness
and concurrent healing work such as deep tissue massage, myofascial
release, and good cross-training. Cross-training cannot be underestimated.
FRB: What inspires you to train?
I love the pump, no matter what sport or activity. I just love to burn
it to the ground. What a great feeling. It's an end in itself.
FRB: Parting words of wisdom.
Richard: Be kind and generous.
Stay out of judgment. Have fun and don't trash the place.
PS: I am starting a website
named boulderclimbs.com where
I will, among other things, list new routes and crags. The site is now
FRB: Thanks for the interview Richard.
Richard: You’re welcome. Thank