About The Roconista

My roots in life and climbing began in East Tennessee. The climbing culture of the Southeast in the early 90s, with its traditions of humble boldness and campfire community, was a rich context for my early days on the rock. While I still feel deeply connected to these beginnings, my most formative experiences – again, in climbing and in life – have happened in the Rocky Mountains; hence, I am a self-proclaimed roconista, a student of the techniques, tactics, and ethics of climbing in the Rockies.

I came to the Rockies – Colorado, specifically – in 2000 to attend Colorado College to earn a degree in literature and creative writing and to hone my climbing skills on bigger stones and mountains. I was happy to find that the climbing community of CC was also built upon the belief that what mattered in climbing were the experiences one shared with a partner in the mountains and, as an extension, shared with a larger community. What came out of this tight community was an intensity of experience, both academically and recreationally, that I had never been a part of before and rarely since. The CC climbers went hard in whatever they did, on the rock and off, and this inspired me. As I became one of the central, older members of the community, I did my best to inspire the younger generation of climbers to push themselves in similar ways. This group of people has gone on to be educators, doctors, lawyers, scientists, filmmakers, and countless other professions, but what their paths all have in common is the continued intensity and insistence that a life without climbing isn’t complete.

Since college, my pursuit of climbing has taken me around the world, from Alaska to Peru to Spain and many places in between. I’ve climbed some of the most classic routes on earth, yet what I remember most are not the summits or cruxes, but the belay ledge chats, the philosophies and stories around campfires, the cheers of support through an intimidating pitch, and the whoops of elation while wandering through a remote mountain valley. Alongside my exploration of the world through climbing, I’ve pursued a career in teaching, one that has offered equaled adventure and countless rewards.

A recent attempt on Air Sweden (5.13 R) in Indian Creek, Utah. Photo by Craig Muderlak.

The challenge of balancing my professional life with my pursuit of climbing has been a persistent thread in my adult life and one that continues to fuel me. Certainly, this struggle is often not an elegant one. I wish there were more hours in the day to work with my students, to have dinner with my wife, to keep connected to friends and family, to train, to work a project on a newly developed cliff, and to plan my summer vacation.

These contending forces often lead me to obsession. I scrutinize guidebooks to find the perfect destination for my breaks, the perfect order of routes to sample. I systematically plan a training regime months in advance. I flew to Spain – for my honeymoon – less than twelve hours after finishing a semester of teaching, only to return hours before having to teach again. Grading papers and lesson planning well into the night has been a regular ritual after an evening session at the climbing gym with good friends. I’ve bolted new routes over my lunch break.

I do all this because, at the risk of sounding spoiled, I want it all. I want to be an educator and role model for young people; I want to be a supportive husband, brother, cousin, son. I believe in being an engaged citizen and in the spirit of service to one’s community. And, I want to climb (and climb hard, on occasion) and explore the world through this pursuit.

Despite the stress these obsessions create, I get a lot of joy from all of them, and the conflicts that arise augment their individual values. When I take a deep breath and a step back, I have a lot of experiences and people to appreciate. Ultimately, this is how one lives as a roconista: One obsessive ambition just isn’t enough; we pursue all the different elements of life – career, relationships, service, adventure, spirituality, and everything else – with a potent zeal. This is what I hope to offer through the Roconista Blog, to share my experience – and hopefully some insight and a bit of inspiration – in the pursuit of, well, all of it.

Photo by Tim Gibson.


3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Steve
    Nov 21, 2012 @ 03:19:49

    Nice blog, I can especially relate to the injury post.


  2. Preston
    Jul 09, 2014 @ 22:11:16

    I have a distal bicep tendon injury that sounds similar to what you had. The tendon is weakened and does not repair itself properly after the stresses of climbing, but has not torn yet. I am unable to find a therapist or trainer to help with its recovery that understands climbing. I was wondering if you would be able to share any extra advice or details the therapist gave you to help your tendon heal. Thanks for any help! Great blog by the way, I’m from the south too and love the sandstone in Tennessee!


  3. Cameron Smith
    Nov 02, 2016 @ 04:59:57

    nice writing. thanks for sharing. I appreciated the sincerity and lack of cynicism in which you communicated your “about me” section. being a balanced adult isn’t just doing fun things all the time and I thank you for sharing your experiences with struggling to balance that. I can relate.


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