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Hello Hello Hello

Scott Blunk
Climber, boulderer and formerly a cattle rancher.
Now an Acupuncturist in Fort Collins
June, 2001

scott1 scott2 scott3 scott4 scott5

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FRB: You are very well known in the climbing community,but some people might not have heard of you, who is Scott Blunk?

Scott: Probably 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 climbing for?

Scott: 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 is going?

Scott: 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 within it.

FRB: Where do you boulder at these days?

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 Rock?

Scott: I've 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 the lines.

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.

FRB: 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 John Sherman?

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 depressing.

FRB: 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 gym.

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 crimp.

FRB: Thanks for the interview Scott.
visit Scott Blunks' Acupuncturist website

Scott: Thank you!

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