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Hello Hello Hello

Richard Rossiter
late August, 2002


FRB: How did you get into climbing Richard?

Richard: I 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, but shaken.

FRB: How long have you climbed for?

Richard: Since June of 1964. I was 18 at the time.

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

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
          climbing partners?

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 teammates.

FRB: Do you climb anymore,
          Who do you climb with usually?

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
          doing climbing guides.

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 your artwork?

Richard: I 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?

Richard: None.

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?

Richard: 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 Red Limit.

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
          you recommend?

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.
           What can 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 your climbing?
          How do you overcome the plateau?

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?

Richard: 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 up.

FRB: Thanks for the interview Richard.

Richard: You’re welcome. Thank you.


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