Hometown: Fayetteville, West Virginia
Q: What is your proudest accomplishment in climbing, and outside of climbing?
A: My proudest climbing accomplishment is the sheer volume of features I have climbed and the experience I have gained from the mountains. I’m more proud of the hundreds of 5.10 routes I have climbed all over the world than I am of the few 5.13 climbs I have managed to pull off. Outside of climbing, I am proud of all the students’ lives I have affected in my career as a science teacher in Fayetteville, West Virginia. Nothing makes me more proud than knowing I helped prepare students that are currently in medical school.
Q: What advice would you give to your first year climbing self?
A: Never limit yourself by believing you can’t do something. I have accomplished so many things that I remembered as being impossible when I was a teenager. I would have accomplished these in a much more timely manner had I not had to struggle through years of doubt about my climbing abilities.
Q: Who do you take advice from and why?
A: Anyone who is willing to share it, because everyone has unique experiences and I believe we can all learn something from each other. I never want to stop learning and growing.
Q: How has your training for climbing changed in the last year?
A: My training hasn’t changed much, but my focus has. Currently, I’m trying to get on all the hard trad lines that have intimidated me since my childhood. I call it mental training, as I am exploring the boundaries of my confidence as a trad leader.
Q: How has climbing affected the people you choose to surround yourself with?
A: I live with the greatest community of climbers I have ever experienced, and they all happen to live where I grew up in West Virginia. My community consists of some of the most loving and positive supporting people, and they all happen to be really strong climbers, too.
Q: What have you done to give back to the climbing community?
A: As a member of the board of directors for the New River Alliance of Climbers, I have worked on numerous fundraising, access, and trail work projects. As a teacher in my community, I have initiated a program that gets my students out climbing in a safe and controlled environment. As a member of my community, I have opened my lovely home and bouldering gym to those who wish to participate.
Q: What have you learned from failure?
A: I’ve learned from my mistakes that you never really fail if you take the time to learn from missed opportunities.
Q: Who are the climbers that inspire you the most and why?
A: My mentor Matt Childers. He not only introduced me to rock climbing, he showed me the value of adventure and supported the development of my passion for climbing. I’m still at it 13 years later and I thank him for all the time he put into taking me climbing after school when I was a kid.
Q: What is your favorite climbing location and why?
A: There is no greater rock than the Nuttall Sandstone found at the New River Gorge, but when most people ask I tell them “the Red is better!” Coming in a close second, however, is the High Sierra.
Q: Why Butora Climbing?
A: Not only does Butora make the best shoes at affordable prices, they built a family and a community of awesome people that I am proud to be a part of.
Q: What are your favorite before and after climbing meals?
A: I like coffee, bacon, and eggs before climbing. After climbing, beer and pizza. Sometimes a ‘send pickle’.
Q: What is your spirit animal?
A: My dog/cat Barkley is my spirit animal. You wouldn’t understand unless you’ve met us both.
Questions from the Internet
Q: What differences have you found in climbing Narsha versus climbing in Acro?
A: The Narsha fits a bit tighter and has a stiffer feel to it. I find the Narsha works great for me on techy edges, while the Acro works best for me on the steep overhangs and roofs.
Q: What are some tips you would give to new outdoor climbers about crag etiquette?
A: Be mindful when setting up your staging areas. Keep in mind that other climbers will pass through and don’t want to navigate your yard-sale-hammock-ridden shantytown. Also, never be afraid to ask locals about local etiquette.
Q: Tips you would give to someone who is stuck on their project? How do you stay motivated when you are stuck?
A: My climbing career is not defined by projecting, like most “very serious climbers.” My advice is to have lots of ‘projects’ to be working on, such that if one starts getting frustrating you can go work on another. When you return, you just might be a better climber.
Q: How have you overcome fear in climbing (fear of falling, fear of failure, etc.)?
A: I’d be lying if I said I’ve overcome my fear of heights/falling. To me, that’s part of the fun. I derive satisfaction from facing my fears and overcoming them. Usually, the fears I’m referring to are ‘phantom fears’- fear of something not rational. My best ally in dealing with my fear is my experience. It allows me to assess situations ahead of time. I’ve gotten much better at weighing my climbing ability against potential gear placement, and that helps me make the judgment call as to whether I should trust my climbing skill or back off a challenge. A younger version of myself went by the motto “When in doubt run it out.” I think I’ve discovered some of my mortality as I near the end of my twenties.