In 2010, after a classically over-emotional break up with a college sweetheart, rock climbing became my new number one. I swore the only knot I’d ever tie would be in a figure 8 at the end of a rope, and with it I would find infinite inspiration on the rock. I climbed every inch of my homes in North Dakota and Missouri making the best of what I had. I then moved to Colorado and began traveling the world to chase brightness on foreign formations.
Several years later I discovered that not only was I was wrong about never getting married, but I was wrong about the idyllic romance of my journeys on the rock. With this sense of inspiration fading, I decided to focus my rock craft on the ultimate test in the form of establishing first ascents. Below are just a few of my favorite first ascents and climbing achievements.
Vertical Mile of First Ascents
2019, Utah & Colorado
In 2019, along with the help of many fantastic partners, I established over 5,280ft of first ascents. It was the year I placed nearly as many bolts as I clipped. The year I spent more time cleaning rock than climbing it. The year I chased FAs instead of grades. Opportunity had vastly different flavors at 13,000ft above sea level in the granite laden Colorado Rockies and in the obscure sandstone canyons of Utah's endless desert. However, both environments proved absolutely ripe with adventure.
The routes are too many to list here. A full run down foot-by-foot, bolt by bolt of every single route can be found in my feature article in the Fall 2020 issue of Climbing Magazine. Alternatively, some of the more notable routes can be found here:
Big Game Hunter | Tandem Towers Happy Cycling | The Way of the Hueco
Zion National Park, UT
10 Pitches, 1,300ft
Angels Landing is a massive sandstone monolith settled in the inspiring landscape of Zion National Park. It’s known as home to one of the most famous and deadly hikes of all the national parks in America, as well as many famous rock climbs. In February of 2018 I recruited Collin Turbert to join me in making a ground up attempt at a lineup the south face of the mountain. We established three difficult pitches, but the sun ultimately gave up on us. We rapped and returned home with dreams of what could be.
I returned alone in April to establish a short bolt ladder to access a much higher quality first pitch. While drilling the second bolt my foot slipped and I fell. For reasons still not completely clear to me, I continued to fall an uninhibited 30ft into the talus and cactus below. Other than a couple hundred spines of various sizes buried in my lips and arms, my only true injury was a three-inch-long laceration on my lower right leg. Pulpy masses of oranges and reds spilled from flaps while an unmistakable white shaft was still tucked inside. I packaged the wound and hiked back out to the car again unsuccessful.
Finally, in November of 2018 Collin and I both returned to the route. We finished the second and third bolts together.
Tensions were high, but after a long battle I sent the 50m leaning fist crack onsight. We regained our high point only to have the sun setting again. We fixed to the ground and returned the next day. We took the route all the way to the summit using the last section of chain on the hiking trail as our final anchor.
Shortly after reaching the chains, a tourist appeared out of the dark. He was a lone old man on his way back down. He advised me not to wait around too long as the last shuttle out of the park was leaving soon. Before I could say anything back, he had disappeared into the dark. Not exactly the fanfare I expected to receive after topping out on one of the most popular hikes in the country!
Like most features in Zion, the name “Angels Landing” comes from biblical inspiration. Apollyon is a fallen angel whose name translates to the destroyer or the angel of death. This name seemed fitting as I was more than lucky to have walked away after my fall — let alone comeback and summit.
Technical route information lives here:
Fort Collins, CO
Single pitch, 90ft
Hiding humbly in the shadow of Horse tooth Rock above Fort Collins, CO is a steep wall of granite known as the Outer Space Wall.
An obvious waning crack splits the middle of the wall just begging to be climbed. In the early 90’ part of the route was aided and left to future free climbers. Almost three decades passed as a handful of climbers unsuccessfully attempted to free the route.
It was February of 2017, just a week after the sudden passing of my step father, that I was first introduced the route by a friend. We tried the route on top rope and I fell on every single move.
Through the Spring, Fall, and Winter my friends and I returned as often as we could to throw ourselves at the project. Every time we did, I kept thoughts of my step father’s passing quietly tucked away in my mind. Silently, he drove me to pull harder and harder in every painful jam.
After 10 months of focused effort, 22 top rope attempts, and 11 lead attempts I had successfully established the hardest single pitch route of my life. I gave it the named Survived By in memory of my step father, Thomas Greene.
Technical route information can be found here:
The Glissando Link-Up
Rocky Mountain National Park, CO
27 pitches, 3,800ft
Hidden behind Longs Peak, the crown jewel of Rocky Mountain National Park, is an often-overlooked line of striking towers. Clawing at the skyline above Glacier Gorge, these eight alpine spires are The Keyboard of the Winds. The summit of each “key” clocks in over 13,000 ft above sea level. The hike to reach the base of any one is no less than 5.75 miles away from the nearest parking lot.
I first took note of the formation while soloing a nearby feature in Glacier Gorge. It struck me as a shame that few ever climb these soaring granite spires, as there are great established climbs closer and lower in elevation. The whole hike out I couldn’t shake the idea of how rad it would be to climb every one of them in a single day link-up.
A month later I was back in Glacier Gorge staring at the silhouette of eight monsters backlit by unbridled star light.
I had about 5 hours to sleep before my partner Ryan Gawjewski and I had to wake up and attempt the link-up. Between the view and the altitude, it was a struggle to fall asleep.
We woke before the sun and made our way up the first key. Thirteen hours later we were completely exhausted soloing our way to the summit of the final key. At the end of it all we had climbed nearly 4k ft of rock, hiked 16.5 miles, and established three other first ascents on some of the towers.
To perform a glissando, one slides their fingers over the keys of a piano, striking every keyalong the way—or in our case, climbing every single one.
Technical route information lives here:
24hrs of Horseshoe Hell
Horseshoe Canyon Ranch, AR
2ndPlace Team Elite
185 pitches, 6,780ft
24hrs of Horseshoe Hell is a famous competition that gives teams one goal: Climb as many routes as they can within 24 nonstop hours of climbing endurance brutality. After winning the 12hr qualifying version of the competition in 2013, I returned in 2015 with partner Ryan Surface to take on the full value experience.
In the course of those 24 short hours I put up 185 pitches of rock climbs. That means I climbed over 7.7 pitches an hour over the course of an entire day. Plus, I had to belay Ryan as he climbed 8 in as much time. In total I ended up climbing 8 5.12s, 22 5.11s, 65 5.10s, 90 5.9-5.7s. Needless to say, the next morning after we turned in our score cards, our fingers were swollen and bruised!