FA member Saul Boast shares the beta on his favorite climbing podcasts. Thanks for contributing, Saul!
I’ve been binging on podcasts lately and it’s really helped my motivation to climb and train. As a relative newcomer to podcasts, I was amazed to discover the growing variety of options to listen to, but to narrow things down a bit I’ve picked two climbing related podcasts to focus on that helped me find inspiration and education – and also raise my awareness of safety through the lessons others have faced. I hope this helps you get psyched and stay safe!
First, whether you are a beginning climber or have been at it for years, the mother of all climbing podcasts has to be The Enormocast. Hosted by Chris Kalous, as of 2019 there are a whopping 189 episodes. The podcast started in December of 2011 and Mr. Kalous has been steadily producing about two 75-minute interviews a month ever since. There is a lot to listen to here (several hundred hours of interviews) so if you’re not inclined to just start listening from the beginning, here is my thematic tour to get you going:
To start it off, in case you have been under a rock instead of on one for the last couple years, Alex Honnold free-soloed Freerider on El Capitan on June 3, 2017. The Enormocast has lots from Alex including interviews before and after this amazing feat. First Ascent Peoria set a boulder problem to match the crux move on Freerider (the Boulder Problem) a few months ago and I think it was the most popular route in the gym for 6 weeks. At V6, it was not within everyone’s reach, but that was sort of part of the fun, as it was easy to replay the movie as you plummet to the mat every time you try the karate kick! Honnold-related Enormocasts include:
- Episode 28: Alex Honnold – Calmer than you are (58min, Feb 2013)
- Episode 49: On Stage with Honnold and Kennedy (39min, Jan 2014)
- Episode 133: Alex Honnold – Kind of a Big Deal (1hr 21min, June 2017)
- Episode 179: Diedre Wolownick – Mother of Honnolds (1hr 27min, July 2019)
A note on Episode 133; this interview happened after the free solo but before the movie was released. The interview gets technical and may be difficult to follow, but it’s fascinating to hear about some of the techniques and back story behind this astounding accomplishment. Who would have guessed what Mr. Honnold did the afternoon of his aborted first attempt on Freerider? It’s not in the movie but this interview answered that and many other questions, and just floored me.
There is one episode recorded at Devil’s Lake so I included that for the local interest:
- Episode 128: Live from Devil’s Lake Craggin Classic (57 min)
Episodes that include famous climbers of all types (and one MIT professor) that should not be missed include:
- Episode 48 : Hazel Findlay – Being blonde, bold, and resolute! (1hr, Dec 2013)
- Episode 81: Peter Croft – Kid in a Candy Store (1hr 40min, May 2015)
- Episode 100: Tommy Caldwell – Adventure Addict (1hr 45min, May 2016)
- Episode 111: Brad Gobright – High Class Dirtbag (1hr 4min, Aug 25, 2016)
- Episode 118: Conrad Anker – You’ve Come Far, Pilgrim (1hr 9min, Dec 2016)
- Episode 122: Hans Florine – A need for Speed (Climbing) (1 hr 4 min, Feb 2017)
- Episode 148: Hugh Herr – Never Broken (53Min, April 2018)
- Episode 165: Adam Ondra – Getting Closer to the Luck (1hr 14min, Dec 2018)
- Episode 177: Allison Vest – Trashcans and Try-hards (1hr 3min, June 14, 2019)
If you are paying attention you might have noticed that one of the most famous and beloved climbers of all time was not in the above list. I’m listing the Lynn Hill episodes separately to make sure you don’t miss them.
I don’t claim to know Lynn Hill, but I’ve run into her a few times in the last 30 years. The first encounter was at Devil’s Lake in 1988. I had just taken over teaching climbing for the University of Wisconsin – Hoofers (handed off from Jan Tarr who was a well-known climber in the area at that time) and an event was put on at Devil’s Lake that Lynn Hill attended. I was lucky enough to belay her on a climb called “Acid Rock” and what Lynn did (and didn’t do) that day informed my climbing for decades to come. What she did was move up to the crux move on Acid Rock two or three times, down climbing it each time. Then she untied and moved on to the next top rope we had set. What she didn’t do is fall on Acid Rock.
She explained that even on top rope she tried to never commit to moves she couldn’t do, or couldn’t reverse. On this climb (rated 5.12 today but I believe 5.9 in the original guide book) there is a long reach across an empty face and she simply couldn’t reach the hold, so she backed off and moved on. Times have certainly changed. At that time sport climbing was largely unknown in the US and in many ways a ‘no fall’ ethic was critical. Having said that, certainly the lycra-wearing Europeans had figured out how to bolt and climb a sport route by then!
- Episodes 51 & 52: Lynn Hill – Ain’t no mountain high enough (1hr 53min, Feb 2014)
If you want to remind yourself that trad climbing on big walls is dangerous and has consequences then listen to this one. (If you don’t, then do not listen to this one.)
- Episode 169: Quinn Brett – Forward from the Fall (1hr 7min, Feb 2019)
If you have read Kiss or Kill, know about Mark Twight, or have never heard of Mark Twight, this one is worth listening to. These two episodes probably scared me the most of any Enormocast interview!
- Episode 171 & 172: Mark Twight – Still Coming Down (3hr 13min, March 2019)
To wrap up the Enormocast “hit parade,” take a listen to these just for fun! If you still use a daisy chain for anything but aid climbing, please do listen to Episode 143. It will either annoy the crap out of you or make you laugh. Either way, hopefully it will reduce the misuse of daisy chains!
- Episode 54: Lady’s Night at the Enormocast (1hr 15 min, Apr 1, 2014)
- Episode 143: The TAPS Edition AKA Kill Your Daisy Chain (1hr 25min, Jan 2018)
- Episode 167: TAPS part Deux AKA Climbing Humor is Dead (1hr 31min, Jan 2019)
The Sharp End
My second podcast recommendation is The Sharp End – Accidents in North American Climbing. This podcast is hosted by Ashley Saupe and is personal interviews with survivors of accidents that were reported in the American Alpine Club publication of the same name. Listen to them all if you climb outdoors so you can learn from others’ mistakes!
“Pull Down Hard” and see you at First Ascent.
Saul Boast is a member at First Ascent Peoria. Saul previously wrote Change for the Better: 30 Years of Climbing Evolution. Check it out!