You are very well known in the climbing community,but some people
might not have heard of you, who is Scott Blunk?
the biggest climber you will ever see! 6 foot 7 inches tall, 245 lbs,
43 years old. Now an acupuncturist in Fort Collins, formerly a cattle
rancher in Wyoming, and I vehemently deny any stories of sheep molestation
that Sherman may have spread.
FRB: How did you get into climbing?
Scott: A junior high school
teacher taught us the basics. Mark Wilford and I went to the same school
and we started bugging our science teacher to take us climbing. He finally
gave in after we got some other kids to form a climbing club to help
justify our demands. Somehow we survived the next few years on our own.
Our stupidest stunt was on Long's Peak. Too impatient to wait for people
in the North Chimney, Mark started up a slab to the left. He led up
about 100 feet with no gear, and I was belaying him without an anchor,
standing on a ledge 30 feet above the snowfield. He said something about
it being freaky, then just pitched off. I saw that we were going to
die. I remember dodging frantically back and forth on the ledge and
sobbing in fear. After a few seconds I couldn't hear the gear jangling
as he fell, and I timidly looked up. His rope had slipped behind an
exfoliated flake, and he was hanging there unhurt.
FRB: How long have you been
I started in 1972, so this is my 29th year. October of 2002 marks 30
years, definitely an occasion for a big party!
FRB: You've climbed a long
time, what keeps you going?
Scott: I think a better question
would be what could possibly stop me? I've only been bummed about climbing
once, when I was fighting injuries and had no new rock to explore. That
lasted about 2 months.
FRB: You've seen a lot of changes
in the climbing/bouldering world, what do you think of it?
Scott: I actually have more
fun now than in the old days when everything was so much scarier. I've
always liked hard moves, which were pretty rare on routes before bolts.
Sport climbing is a ton of fun compared to trad for me. The biggest
changes in bouldering have been pads and the incredible energy generated
by the pressure of so many talented young climbers. It's a great time
to be bouldering, new areas all over, lots of enthusiastic people and
so many inspiring lines.
FRB: Where do you think it
I keep wondering if we're going to see a big breakthrough
in difficulty, especially in sport climbing. Things have been stuck
at .14d/.15a for a while now. Dave Graham might be the guy to do it.
The highball bouldering scene is pretty amazing. I can see it evolving
into the American version of gritstone. People will have to sit down
and figure out some rules, like no toproping or previewing. It could
actually wind up being more pure than grit, which would be cool. Access
will continue to be a problem, as well as chipping. We will always have
to protect our sport from agencies and people outside it and idiots
FRB: Where do you boulder at
Scott: Poudre canyon is my
main summer spot now. I also want to check out some of the summer areas
in Benningfield's guide, and more of southern Wyoming. I lived up there
for 15 years, and looked all around Vedauwoo, but the lads have been
active up there lately, so there must be a lot I missed. The quartzite
of the Snowy Range is exceptional rock, very solid. It's definitely
worth some determined exploration. Also the Red Feather Lakes area,
north of Fort Collins. There's miles of granite up there, and I don't
think many people have checked it out.
FRB: Have you been to Arthurs
been to Arthur's a few times, but didn't really like it. The rock is
really sharp, the terrain is very easily eroded, and I didn't care for
FRB: How about Poudre Canyon?
Scott: Poudre is awesome.
FRB: Independence Pass? What
FA's have done there?
Scott: I've been to Independence
a few times, mostly with John Sherman. He recruited me to spot him on
some highballs up there, so I didn't really look for any new stuff.
His falls off the Ineditable were amazing, he was in the air forever.
Horsetooth Reservoir has new bouldering trails, what
do you think of them?
Scott: I definitely prefer
established trails, especially at Horsetooth. There is so much traffic
up there from boulderers and people walking down to the lake that real
trails are necessary.
FRB: How did you hook up with
Scott: I met Verm when he was
a student at CU ages ago. We never climbed together back then that I
remember, but years later a friend and I ran into him at Hueco. We didn't
know there was any bouldering there, and we were getting bouted on the
roped routes. Verm showed us some of the stuff he was working on. I
think he took us up to the Aircraft Carrier. The next season I went
down there primarily to boulder. Over the next few years we had some
great winter sessions, we were really excited to be putting up new problems
and explored endlessly. Of course I couldn't keep up with him, but it
made absolutely no difference. Other people active at the time were
Chris Hill, Jim Karn, and Wallace Stasick. They were super motivating
to be around.
FRB: Did you climb with him
when he was figuring out the V-Scale?
Scott: Yeah, we had long talks
about which route was the benchmark for V-6, stuff like that. I thought
the system was a great idea. At the time I was thinking about grades
a lot, and was frustrated with the B-system. I still think the V-scale
is the best bouldering scale out there. The French scale makes absolutely
no sense to me, probably because I can't stick my toe in my ear, and
stand on poffed holds.
FRB: Together you and John
did a bunch of first ascents, what can you tell us about that?
Scott: Mainly it was me spotting
him! There's something about having a football player sized guy ready
to save your ass that does a lot for one's confidence. Not that John
ever lacked balls, I was more scared than he was on most of his highballs.
One problem that stands out is High Ideals at Hueco. It's got a bad,
bad landing, and you have to pull on a shitty little flake way up high.
Just before his final attempt it felt like a rocket launch. Everybody
was tense, a little scared, but able and willing to do their part. He
climbed up to the crux, kicked in the afterburners and pulled through
some real scary shit. Team efforts like that are inspiring. We did new
problems in Hueco, Independence pass, and on my ranch in Wyoming. Oddly
enough, I never did any real hard problems with John. For some reason
I have always done my hardest problems by myself. I tend to be inwardly
directed, and have those perfect moments when the moves are easy and
I feel weightless only when I'm alone. Interestingly, many people have
told me that they do some of their hardest climbs when they are with
me. Maybe that's why I'm a good acupuncturist. There was one summer
John and I climbed early mornings at Horsetooth and got super strong.
We would spend hours doing the problems on the Mental Block statically,
or else we'd go work on Meathook. I think this was after I did the FA
of Cheathook, and we got the beta for Meathook from Jim Holloway. We
threw ourselves at it for days, but never really got anywhere. Ever
since then I've encouraged the strongest people I know to try Meathook.
I mean here's this incredible problem, probably V-11 or harder, done
in the early 1970's that no one has the gumption to really work on.
Maybe they are afraid of failing on it and losing face? That's silly.
No one else can do it either. It's a terrific line, and really deserves
to be repeated. If no one in Colorado is up for it maybe someone like
Graham or Ben Moon will come along and snag it. Can you tell I'm throwing
down the gauntlet here.
FRB: You've bouldered with
Mark Wilford? What is he like?
Scott: I have never seen anyone
go for it like Mark. Most of us calculate risks, look at the landing,
figure out where we can jump down from, things like that. I rarely saw
Mark show even the slightest concern about impending doom. Once we were
working on a lunge with a terrible landing. I checked it out a few times,
but felt it was too dangerous. Mark got up on the thing, pulled around
a bit, then came down. It was obvious he couldn't do the thing, but
he just chalked, got back up there and fucking jumped. Of course he
never got anywhere near the hold, and I had a hell of a time catching
him. He seemed to simply dismiss the possibility of anything bad happening,
and went for it heart and soul. That's an extremely rare quality, and
most people who have it die young. But he's done tremendous alpine routes,
soloed the Eiger, stuff like that. He's an amazing guy to climb with.
FRB: How about Skip Guerin?
Whatever happened to him? Is he still climbing?
Scott: I really didn't know
Skip. He sure did some impressive problems though, all over the place.
I saw one of his problems in SoCal, near Idylwild. It's an incredible
arete that almost no one can do even now.
FRB: What are some of your
favorite bouldering areas?
Scott: Font is my all time
favorite. Been there 4 times, and wish I could move there!! The movement
is so, so good, the rock is super sticky when it's cold, and the climbing
is hugely varied. After that I'd choose any overhanging granite area
like the Valley, the Tramway outside of Palm Springs, and of course
Poudre. It feels like a privilege to climb that stuff, especially when
you get those lines with just barely enough holds on a sweeping face.
Usually granite is high up in the mountains too, so it's good in the
summer, or it has views like the Buttermilks. I'll never forget the
first afternoon I bouldered in the Buttermilks, it was like dying and
going to heaven.
FRB: Some of the bouldering
areas are showing evidence of overuse, what do you think should be done
to mitigate or minimize the impact?
Scott: This is a huge problem,
which will only get worse. I am in favor of constructing good obvious
trails between boulders that won't erode badly. I've seen that work
at Horsetooth, they channel traffic, which cuts down on social trails
that wander all over the place. Landings also need to be watched and
maintained to avoid erosion. Whatever is done has to be arranged in
cooperation with land managers. We absolutely have to work with the
rangers and not be dicks.
FRB: Bouldering is getting
very popular, where do you think it is going?
Scott: I'm curious to see how
much harder people will be able to climb. V-14 is amazing to me, it
scarcely seems believable. What would a V-16 move look like? I'd love
to watch someone climb that hard. I think bouldering will be a healthy
sport as long as there's new stuff to do either in terms of difficulty
or in finding new rock. There's lots of talented new climbers and new
rock out there, so things will be exciting for at least 10-20 years.
Eventually it will get to the level of sports like track, where only
the most talented people who work incredibly hard can make the sport
move forward. I actually don't want to see that, I think it would be
Do you train for climbing?
Scott: Hell, I don't have enough
self discipline to lay off ice cream, let alone do pull-ups. All my
training cycles last about two sessions, then I get bored. Also, I'm
pathetically weak, most girl scouts can campus better than me. I've
actually had people laugh at me when I campus. I get up problems by
using reach, experience, and inspiration. I'm amazed how well I can
climb on a beautiful line on a boulder, but I can barely do V-3 in the
FRB: how do you deal with injuries?
Scott: Injuries aren't half
as bad as getting old!! You can at least recover from injuries. It depends
on what I've hurt. Most simple joint problems like tendon sprains or
inflammations simply need rest and patience when you start climbing
again. There's a point when you just know it's okay to pull hard again
even if it hurts somewhat. The most bothersome injury I have is a knee
that pops out when I rock over on it a particular way. When it dislocates
I can't straighten it, so I have to jump down on one leg, which gets
exciting at times. Things like massage, physical therapy and acupuncture
can all speed healing, but you still have to be smart and patient coming
back from injuries.
FRB: What do you suggest to
people who are just starting in climbing/bouldering?
Scott: Develop your own sense
for climbing. What is it that you get out of it? For me it's always
been the most satisfying and exciting thing in my life. Nothing else
even comes close. For others it may be pursuit of difficulty, or being
outdoors in outrageous situations. Hold true to that and you'll have
a successful career.
FRB: Any words of wisdom on
how to climb hard?
Scott: When I succeed on hard
problems they always feel easy, but the attempts before that feel hard.
Busting through the difficulty barrier requires letting go of your energy,
feeling it come ripping out in a scream as you catch and HOLD that fucking
FRB: Thanks for the interview
visit Scott Blunks' Acupuncturist website
Scott: Thank you!