December 6, 2016
I met Todd at a campground in Kings Canyon National Park. We spent the week with my uncle and some of his friends hiking the gorgeous trails, then Todd and I split off to climb Charlotte Dome. I can honestly say, being his climbing partner on such a massive wall, that Todd is inspiring. At points during the climb I felt tired, scared, cold, and hungry, but Todd kept me focused and eventually we got up the rock. Now it’s almost like I’m part of Todd’s family, I visit him in Joshua Tree (not as much as either of us would like), climb with him when I can, I get invited to his insane parties. But the really inspiring thing is that I’m not an anomaly. Once you’ve met Todd, you’re apart of Todd’s life… as long as you’re a climber.
How long have you been climbing and what made you start?
I have been climbing 44 years. First started climbing when my parents “sent” me on an outward bound course to Colorado to instill “leadership and responsibility”….I wasn’t too psyched to go, but went anyway and had a very awesome time. It laid the foundation and set the stage for lots of outside adventures!
What are some changes in climbing gear, attitude, and culture that you’ve seen over the years?
Sticky rubber, cams, climbing gyms, and internet have changed the ever-changing face of climbing. But still…not much has changed. You still go out with your homies, climb up the rock with your feet and fingers, embrace the hardships, challenges, and excitement, and then spray about it around the campfire!
How did you get named the Mayor of Joshua Tree?
The nickname Mayor of Joshua Tree came about by someone who thought it was fitting for someone who was accommodating to visiting climbers. I was one of the first climbers to move here full time and open my life and home up to visitors. It’s been a great life for me here in Joshua Tree!
Are there any places besides Joshua Tree that you are drawn to climb at?
I love to climb at Joshua tree, but I also love to travel and climb anywhere in the world. Some of my favorite places to climb would be the desert SW (Canyonlands, Arches, Navajolands, Sedona), Tahquitz, Kalymnos Greece, Cz. Republic, Pakistan.
Will you ever stop climbing?
I am sure I will stop climbing in the next decade or so. I have climbed a lot, and it’s been mega-awesome. But I like to do other activities too, like travelling, hiking, and biking. Those are probably more appropriate activities, for a gentleman of 70. Right now at 61 years old, and am still going pretty strong and still uber-psyched.
It seems like you know or have climbed with every big name out there, do you have any favorites?
I have climbed with a lot of “big named” climbers, I suppose. When they started, they weren’t “big shots”….but beginning climbers just like everyone. The real superstars are the ones out touching stone TODAY. The past is gone and the future ain’t here yet. Today is the day to hit the mark in your own superstardom; we are all heroes and superstars in our adventures and accomplishments and everyone is pretty damn amazing!
How has your climbing style changed over the years?
Climbing style and preference is an always evolving thing. You pick and climb routes by location, your fitness level, your available income, partners, risk factor, as well as lots of other reasons and situations. Also once you have kids, your outlook on life changes. Presently, I don’t like to be away from my family for too long, and I don’t want to take any huge risks. There are millions of great and grand adventures for me to be had which are relatively safe but still outrageously fun, challenging, and stimulating. Everything has its risks, but you have to be smart and stay in the game by not getting injured or snuffed out.
It’s safe to say that you are a trad climber, were you ever a boulderer?
I am a rock climber which, to me, means rock climbing, alpine climbing, big wall climbing, ice climbing , aid climbing, bouldering, high altitude climbing, etc. Bouldering is fun, but jumping and falling off boulders at 61 years old…not good on the back. I don’t often boulder. I have mostly been interested in roped crag climbing: trad, sport, or alpine.
You’re a guide now, right? How do you like doing that?
I am a part time guide and have been for most of my climbing career. I am not a certified guide, so I am basically and “officially” a guide’s helper or assistant. I am really not that interested in full time guiding and I am happy being a guide helper. I prefer climbing over guiding, but do enjoy sharing and climbing with almost anyone.
I’m sure you’ve had some epics on the rock, tell us about one of them.
I have had a few challenging mini-epics. Stuck out overnight three times (Titan in Utah, Dark Shadows in Red Rock, Charlotte Dome in Sierras). Stuck ropes, weather stuff, getting off route on climbs, weird partner stuff, equipment snafus, poor rock situations, run-outs, protection challenges. Pretty much just regular challenges that people who climb a lot experience. Stuff happens, and you have to be smart, crafty, strong, and experienced to deal with such challenges to survive.
How do you balance being a father, husband, and avid climber?
Balancing climbing and being a father is not that big of a deal. I am a rock climber so I go climbing. My family comes first and as I said before , I don’t like to be away from my family for more than a day or two. I want my children to see that it is important to do cool things with friends, challenge yourself, travel, be psyched and passionate about life, follow your dreams, set challenging and progressive goals and then go after them, stay fit, have fun in the outdoors, share your passion with others. In order to teach my children such things that I feel are important for humans, I need to show this through lifestyle and example. Climbing and fatherhood go hand in hand.
Do you know how many FAs you have?
I have done over 1000 first ascents. It’s sort of my “thing” in climbing. I am a curious individual and I love the unknown. Climbing new routes is a rich experience for me, full of creativity, excitement, surprises, challenges, ….I love it. It is an amazing process for me.
What are your 5 favorite climbs?
Five favorite. hmmmmmmm. This will be a guestimate. Totem Pole in Monument Valley, Dihedral Wall on El Cap, Vampire on Tahquitz, Naked Edge in El Dorado, Figures on a Landscape in Joshua Tree, Sundevil Chimney on the Titan in the Fisher Towers, Ancient Art in the Fisher Towers, Moses in Canyons, Spider Rock in Canyon de Chelly, Levitation 29 in Red Rocks, Insomnia at Suicide Rock (oopsie….was that more than 5?)…..
Any big plans ahead for you?
Big future plans?…..Yeah. I wish to travel and climb stuff anywhere in the world. I still am interested in desert sandstone adventures. I would like to climb Texas Tower in Natural Bridges, Cottontail in the Fishers, and Earth Angel in Sedona. I really, really enjoy climbing in Kalymnos Greece; I am planning a craggin trip to Cuba. I want to travel and and have adventures with my family. I like long bicycle touring adventures. I would live to climb Lotus Flower Tower in the Yukon. Anything in Red Rocks that I haven’t done before. I love climbing and visiting any place that I have not been before. Lots of fun adventures ahead!
How do you name a route?
With route names it’s often best to go with whatever come up first. Don’t give it much thought. Most all route names are cool and tell a story. Route names that hurt others feelings aren’t cool, so we try to stay away from those, but almost anything else is OK! Just come up with something. I don’t really like climbs with no names; that is lame and it’s like having a pet that you never named, it’s disrespectful.
If you could have a drink with any famous person, dead or alive, who would it be with and what would you drink?
Drink with a famous person. Gandhi would be a top choice. I don’t drink alcohol, so it would probably be a soda or something.
If you could have any superpower what would it be?
Superpower. I think we do have superpowers; we can make people laugh, inspire people, make people feel happy and proud, make people feel worthy and respected and loved. Doesn’t get much more super than that.
Would you rather be a giant mouse or a tiny elephant?
I would rather be a tiny elephant. Elephants seem pretty cool, smart, fun, and interesting/interested. Rodents are disgusting, dirty, carry diseases, and are rather sneaky.