Monday, October 25, 2010

Headstrong Into It

I asked Ryan if he would talk with me about climbing; he agreed.

‘Drea: How long have you been rock climbing?

Ryan: I’ve been rock climbing for about eight years now.

‘Drea: How’d you get into it?

Ryan: Through the Girl Scouts.

‘Drea: Really? How so?

Ryan: I came with a group adventure -- like a little group with the Girl Scouts; my cousin is a part of it and she invited me to come along and that’s pretty much how I got into rock climbing.

‘Drea: Did you like it when you first started?

Ryan: I did. I loved it.

‘Drea: Have you taken any classes?

Ryan: I’ve taken all the classes that we offer here at the gym. I’ve taken the six week class – all the basic stuff but the real gist of climbing comes with experience. You have to experience things to really get better at it.

‘Drea: Did you learn anything valuable from the classes?

Ryan: Yeah, but you can’t really teach someone how to lead climb in a class; it’s more of your personal style…

‘Drea: So, what are you climbing nowadays?

Ryan: Right now, I climb about a 5.11… Before I joined the military, I was climbing 5.12’s and V.7’s

‘Drea: What do you like more bouldering or climbing?

Ryan: I will always be a boulderer but because my knees are bad, I can’t really take the landings anymore. So, I’ve just kinda of given up on it and gone back to climbing.

‘Drea: Well, I can’t do the bouldering; I don’t like the falling part of it. (laughing) What kind of technique do you rely on when you’re climbing?

Ryan: Since I’m a boulderer at heart, I use more of my upper body which kind of sucks when you’re climbing routes because you get tired with using your upper body. I’ve been trying to teach myself to use my lower body…

‘Drea: How does that work? Because I know that I use my upper body more…

Ryan: You’re supposed to use your toes and your footwork more and climb more with your frame instead of your muscles but I tend to over grip on things and really pull with them instead of pushing with my legs.

‘Drea: Yeah, that’s why my hands look all jacked up now.

Ryan: Mine look pretty.

‘Drea: (laughing) …Are you involved in any other sports activities?

Ryan: No.

‘Drea: So, rock climbing is it? How often do you get to climb?

Ryan: When I’m not so busy with school, like in the summertime, I’ll be in here five days a week.

‘Drea: And you’ve done outdoor climbing, right?

Ryan: I’ve been all over the country -- from New York to California.

‘Drea: What’s your favorite place outdoors?

Ryan: It’s actually in New York City in Central Park.

‘Drea: Really?

Ryan: There’s a boulder problem that I worked on for the entire time the first time that I was visiting New York City. It was a V.10 in Central Park and the name of the problem was Sweat of the Rapist...

‘Drea: :o….

Ryan: It was really hard and it was a really cool route… Then, out in California, we went to Yosemite and I did some bouldering out there. Wyoming. Colorado. New Mexico -- all over the place.

‘Drea: Is there a certain way that you approach a route or do you pretty much figure it out as you go along?

Ryan: The best way to do it is to look at it and get a feel for the moves first or, usually, I just go headstrong into it as hard as I can -- make my mistakes up the wall then I learn from my mistakes.

‘Drea: How long have you been lead climbing?

Ryan: I'd say about six years.

‘Drea: What are some of your rock climbing goals?

Ryan: Goals? I don’t really have many. I do it because I love the sport not because I want to be the best at it. I do it for me. I just want to be able to get in here more often because it does make me happy when I climb -- kinda like that runner’s high.

‘Drea: Yeah, I miss it too. Like now, my calves are hurting but I really want to get in here tomorrow to climb… What was your most memorable route?

Ryan: My most memorable route was actually a boulder problem. I can’t remember the name of it. I think it ended up being a V.13 and I just worked on it all day in Laramie, Wyoming (by the state college). If you’ve ever been to Elephant Rocks, it’s probably the same texture....but on a grand scale and this boulder problem was right next to this like 1,000 foot wall and it was really over hung with a beautiful line and a dyno right in the middle and nasty crimps and nasty slopers. I worked on that for a good six hours.

‘Drea: What part of the military where you in?

Ryan: I was in the army.

‘Drea: Do you mind telling me about your accident again?

Ryan: I fell done a flight of steps and broke both patella, tore my ACL (anterior cruciate ligament), MCL ( medial collateral ligament) and meniscus and fractured both tibia.

‘Drea: How did you get back to climbing condition?

Ryan: Lots of physical therapy.

‘Drea: Was it painful? (Possibly the craziest question that I’ve asked so far…)

Ryan: ...Like, right now, I’m still doing my physical therapy. I’m about a year and a half into it and it still hurts every day. Like walking from my bedroom to my kitchen to get a glass of milk hurts.

‘Drea: What kind of exercises do they have you doing?

Ryan: It’s more of like strengthening the muscles around my knees to compensate for the joint damage to my knees. It’s a lot of stuff to strengthen my quads and my calves and they said that part of it is that I have overdeveloped calves and it’s kind of pulling on my kneecap… and that‘s why it still hurts so bad. The guy said my quads are underdeveloped and my calves are overdeveloped and he said that it could be from the way that I rode my bike -- all my life.

‘Drea: Do you still bicycle?

Ryan: I try to. I have a little BMX bike. So, I tend to do stupid stuff on it.

‘Drea: Do you go on any trails around here?

Ryan: It’s usually just city riding…

‘Drea: You said that climbing doesn’t bother your knees?

Ryan: Climbing routes doesn’t bother my knees. It’s very low impact and I’m usually climbing in the overhang and it‘s a soft fall.

‘Drea: Did I ask you if you liked rock climbing the first time that you tried it?

Ryan: Yes.

'Drea: What did you like about it?

Ryan: Everything…

‘Drea: If you were to tell someone about rock climbing and they didn’t know anything about it, what would you tell them?

Ryan: It’s a lot of fun and you get out of it what you put into it.

‘Drea: All right. Thank you.

Ryan: No problem.

For my final pictures, I asked Ryan if I could get shots of his Where The Wild Things Are tattoo.

Whenever I see Ryan in the gym this refrain, of course, pops into my head:

The wild things roared their terrible roars and gnashed their terrible teeth and rolled their terrible eyes...


  1. cool tats! I always read these climbing posts and all of the lingo seems so foreign but I enjoy them! :) Sounds like lots of fun!

  2. What is bouldering vs climbing?

  3. Oh how I miss climbing! I loved how strong I felt while I was doing it!

  4. Bouldering vs. Climbing.. Bouldering is defined as longer harder traversed moves and uses very little protection so when you fall you are going to hit the ground... Climbing (rope) is a much safer form of climbing because you have placed protection keeping the ground at bay..

  5. @TJ,

    Thanks for taking a look. I know what you mean about the lingo. When I first started climbing, I felt like the other climbers were speaking another language.


    Check out Ryan's response.


    I hope that you'll get to go climbing sometime in the near future. I did two burly routes on Sunday that I wanted to avoid but it felt so good when I tackled them.


    Thanks for answering Angela's question. You did a much better job than I would have done...