interview by Remi Billeau | featured photo by Tyler Roemer
What brought you to Central Oregon?
I grew up in Eugene. I went to Oregon State University. I took a couple rock climbing classes. One was a weekend trip to Smith Rock in 1991. It was amazing, and I was hooked. I started traveling most weekends to Smith Rock. After college, I started working in the Tillamook State Forest managing trails. I was driving 30,000 miles a year commuting to Smith Rock every weekend. In 2003, I landed a job in Central Oregon, which was like winning the lottery. Even better, my office is at Smith Rock State Park. I worked with a couple of grant programs through which we provide funding to build trails throughout Oregon.
Tell us the route you climbed where you thought you had “made it.”
To Bolt or Not To Be (5.14a) was a major milestone. It was the first 5.14 in America. I worked on the route a bunch of times and gave up trying it a few times because it was impossible for me to do. I just kept coming back and finally succeeded in 2003. It is an impressive wall, which is more than 100-feet-long and dead vertical. The holds are really small. It takes a great amount of tenacity to climb the whole wall without falling off.
What drives you as a climber?
Trying routes that are really hard for me. When I first start a new route I usually cannot do all the moves. Unlocking the mystery of the moves is cool, but linking all the moves is so satisfying. I enjoy the process of working a hard route. Sometimes a hard route may take a couple of months or even a couple years, but I enjoy making a project of it and looking at the small improvements I make over time.
Why Smith Rock?
The place is amazing. You hike into the canyon and can’t see cars, houses or roads. You feel pretty remote. It has huge vertical rock faces, the Crooked River and tons of wildlife. There are so many good routes to climb at every level from beginner to expert. There is also a really good climbing scene at Smith. I meet climbers from all over the world at Smith Rock.
How did you earn the moniker, “mayor of Smith Rock”?
I have been climbing at Smith regularly and year-round for more than twenty years. Being at the cliff and climbing hard is only part of it. With a background in natural resource management, I am always looking to take care of the area. I do a lot of bolt maintenance on existing routes (replacing old bolts with new bolts). Taking care of the trails is also very important to me. I am always working on trails and lead a huge volunteer day every year in May.
What project are you working on now?
Currently I am working on a route called Shock and Awe, a 5.14c, which is likely the hardest route at Smith Rock. It was first climbed in 2004 and has not been repeated. I came very close to completing the route a few years ago. Sometimes I think the route is impossible and I will never complete it, but I keep getting sucked back into it. Just last weekend I gave up on the route, but today got back on it and felt really good.