The Future of Climbing

The first rule of rock climbing is, you do not talk about rock climbing. The second rule of rock climbing is, you DO NOT talk about rock climbing! Each and every one of you is guilty of breaking these two rules, and it’s killing this sport. Climbers from around the world follow a common progression from gumby to crackerjack that starts with the climbing gym and ends with shitting in a tube next to your best friend on a portaledge 1500′ off the Valley floor. It’s beautiful evolution from a single-celled boulderer, to the intelligent organism known as “rock climber.” Now, I’m not saying big-wall climbing is the only path leading to nirvana, I’m just saying in order to be called a climber, you have to venture above the 12 foot mark. The problem lies in this current crop of gym rats who find it extremely difficult to contain their excitement. Their stoke is like pressure in a trains steam whistle and they just can’t keep themselves from yanking on that chain and screaming out, “TSSSAAAAAAAAA!” You tell everyone how amazing rock climbing is! You plaster it on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. You tag your friends on climbing gym GroupOns. In those first few years you can actually stomach watching hour after hour of Chuck Fryberger bouldering films, and still yell out “siiiiiiiiiick” when Nalle finally sticks that dyno after watching him fall off for 30 minutes. What you don’t realize is that when you finally snap out of it, and actually want to get out and do some real climbing, the crag will be so crowded with your Facebook friends, that the line-up for the one warmup route at the cliff will be as long as a McDonalds drive-thru window at 3am on a Saturday night. Climbing cannot support more climbers. It’s simple math. I already feel crowded when I go to places like the Red River Gorge, so if every climbers gets two friends into the sport, and so on, and so on…. by the year 2050, there will be over 2.3 billion climbers in the world. This is what our future looks like:


McDonalds by 2050.

Climbing gyms will be a part of every day life. The Google corporate offices already have a climbing wall, how long until every office in the world has one?? In just the last few years, we’ve seen climbing surge in popularity in the media and pop-culture. Almost weekly, I post a video, be it a commercial or television clip, where climbing is bastardized in some new and perverse way. What will the future hold? How will climbing companies sell out by 2050? Celebrity endorsements, for one… Oh the humanity…. brad pitt no5Third, and least important is preserving the rock. Choss is abundant, but good quality rock is finite. Every single time you grab a hold, you degrade it. With bullet hard granite, this might be only on the planck scale, but with soft desert sandstone, it’s not long until we see routes disappear entirely. This is an artists rendition of Super Crack at Indian Creek by the year 2050:

Super Crack by 2050.

Super Crack by 2050.

The once splitter hand/fist crack, is now an unprotectable chimney. All this because you wanted to impress your friends by taking them to the climbing gym and laughing as they fall off V0’s, only to watch their jaws drop as you cut your feet and campus up a V1. Then, as you match on the finishing jug you turn your head and give them a wink. At that point, nobody could resist buying a membership. Thank you for killing climbing. So please, keep the climbing talk within the climbing community. Change your Facebook settings to only allow fellow climbers access to those sweet pics from that one time you went to Rifle. Next time someone asks you what your hobbies are, just say hiking. And if anybody suspects that you’re a climber and says to you, “oh, how’s that? Must be fun, huh? I should really try something like….” – – –  “NO!!! It’s awful actually…. A lot of carrying heavy back packs…. Getting the rope up there is dangerous… I lost 3 parters just last month when the rope snapped… I’m thinking of getting out of it.” Refer to rules 1 and 2. Wes

Fame! …and rock climbing…..

In the future, everybody will be world famous for fifteen minutes.

Presently, I scramble to find deeper meaning in my new found notoriety.  It began with the most noble of intentions, this humble blog, and quickly ballooned into a nebulous cloud of love, hate, climbing, and everything in between. I suppose I realized something bigger than myself was growing when a climber friend of mine told me Matt Segal was frantically trying to track me down; sending emails and texts out to his entire contact list. He was most likely wanting to thank me for sending views to his article. You’re welcome, Matt.

Before I knew it, gear started overwhelming my mail box. Like Santa’s sack, a seemingly never ending flow of letters and packages awaited me each week. I would like to thank Don McGrath, Ph. D., who was the first to believe in me by sending me a copy of his new book for climbers, The Vertical Mind.

Buy it on Amazon or wherever books are sold.

I’ll be honest, I didn’t read it because if you knew me you’d know I’ve been blessed with an almost unnatural talent for controlling my mind. When I climb, I don’t worry about falling because I trust my abilities, I trust the rock, and I trust the top rope to hold my fall.

Before I knew it, ropes, back packs, jackets, shirts, quickdraws, helmets, and water bottles all kept coming. I wasn’t too sure what was happening at first. I knew becoming sponsored meant a lot of free gear, but I hadn’t received any contracts faxed over or anything. What are these companies expecting me to do with all this free gear? I literally have enough to start my own gear store now…

All the climbing magazines wanted a piece of me. Dead Point Magazine put me in their December issue.  Download/get it now!

Check out the latest issue of DPM, pages 8-9

Chris Kalous at the Enormocast has since told me that our recording may have become lost or damaged, so we’ll definitely have to schedule another show together.

Climbing, Rock and Ice, Climberism, Gripped, The Climbing ZineGóryAplinist, Outside, and somehow I even had an editor from the now dead Urban Climber (Dave Graham Magazine) contact me!

Brendan Leonard was overheard calling me total-rad.

So what do you do when fame and opportunity come knocking at your door? How do I step back and make sense of this spotlight that’s been cast upon me? We are continually faced by great opportunities brilliantly disguised as insoluble problems. I remember a few years ago the biggest name being thrown around in the climbing scene (before Adam Ondra) was David Lama. The young Austrian climber did amazing things in the sport climbing world. He had everything… youth, talent, girls. He had incredible strength in his arms and fingers, but not much strength where it mattered most (see: The Vertical Mind). Then he went out to lunch, and I don’t mean the Gluten-Free kind. Bonkers, batty, berserk… he went “Full-Ueli”.

He became an alpinist?

Is this what happens with fame? Am I destined to drink Red Bull, scratch my way up a frozen Patagonian tooth, while helicopters and Red cameras shoot me in slow motion? Will my crew leave their garbage and ropes and cans of shit behind on some pristine bivy ledge, ultimately forcing me to take the blame? It wasn’t my shit!!

Renan Ozturk, how the hell am I supposed to say no to you?!

For now… I will fight the urge to walk up any mountain. I will keep hitting the ‘junk’ button on those Linked-In requests from Hayden Kennedy and Kelly Cordes. I will stay true to you, my fans, and to the thing we all love: Climbing.

I won’t forget about you guys, even if my view from the top makes you look small.



My Interview on ‘The Enormocast’!

I had spent the last 4 weeks bolting new sport routes in Indian Creek, Utah, where I was fortunate enough to run into climber and podcasteur, Chris Kalous. Chris has been the voice of climbing on the interwebz for over two years now. His rich and sultry voice has been many climbers only break from NPR and This American Life podcasts on those long road trips to wherever the temps are good for sending. The Enormocast spawned out of the old ‘Off Belay’ podcast, which I had been following from the beginning. After the dissolution of ‘Off Belay’, Chris ventured on his own, and has been spewing out an hour of content twice a month, for 67 episodes now, with no end in sight.

Chris Kalous - So you know what he looks like if you see him at the crag.

Chris Kalous – So you know what he looks like if you see him at the crag.

So there I was, drill in hand, rapping down from a potential off-width sport route, when I spotted the mobile studio and home on the road that we’ve all heard mentioned on countless episodes.

The 'Del Fuego'

The ‘Del Fuego’

Chris and I had been trying for a while to connect for an episode of The Enormocast, though strangely, I was never able to reach him, nor find out where he was, so setting up an interview was a scheduling nightmare. It was mere happenstance that I was able to get to him in time before he was able to change a flat tire on the Del Fuego.

At first, Chris didn’t recognize who I was, until I mentioned to him that I was a fellow guide and internet personality, known for helpful tech tips, and training advice, movie reviews, opinion pieces, etc.. I spent a few minutes listing off some of my more popular posts.

“Wesley? Wesley Summers??” Chris asked,

“YES!” I shouted! It was great being ‘recognized’ out in the real world. This is how pro climbers must feel, I thought. Chris went into the front of the camper to grab a tire iron, as I began grilling him on why it’s taken so long for us to get together. I told him I had tried getting in touch with him before, but he explained his inbox is so full, my email must have been lost in the ether. Makes sense, I literally have almost a hundred emails from clients and sponsors clogging up my inbox on the daily.

Chris was struggling with lug nuts as I asked him when he thought we could record an episode together, as I was in town for a few more days and would be available any time. He told me he was getting out of the Creek as soon as possible, and he didn’t have his recording equipment. That’s when I had a brilliant idea! An impromptu, outdoor recording session with me and Chris Kalous, recorded entirely on his iPhone! No scripts, no rehearsal, no editing!

Chris’ skirmish with the spare tire was far from over, so after a few moments of hesitation, he whipped out his phone, hit record, and we started.

I wont get into details about the interview, since I don’t want to ruin the future epsisode, but let’s just say, the world better be ready for Wesley Summers!

It took Chris a little over an hour to change the flat, and in that time, I feel I was able to express my best ideas about climbing, about life, about love, loss, failure and success. Chris agreed it was one of his favourite interviews. If he wasn’t in such a hurry to get out of there, I would have wanted to play it back and listen to the whole thing, but I guess I have to wait with you guys! Will keep you posted when I hear from Chris!


Make sure to check out:

And download the show if you haven’t already!




Reel Rock Tour 9 – An honest review of ‘Valley Uprising’.

I have talked extensively about the great “Stone Masters” from Yosemite’s past on here before; often not favourably. However, when Josh Lowell and Peter Mortimer invited me to the Reel Rock 9: Valley Uprising premier in Boulder, CO, of course I said yes. I, like most climbers, look forward to crisp fall temperatures, and sending conditions, almost as much as I do the screening of the annual Reel Rock Tour. We are climbers, outcasts, dirtbags, and general dredges of society. Most of us will watch the same clip of Adam Ondra climbing Illusionist 5 or 6 times before knowing which film won ‘Best in show’ at Cannes.

The Reel Rock Tour is our film festival. This is what we look forward to each year. Oh I hear you, “what about the Banff Mountain Film Festival, Wes?” Are you kidding me? The Banff Mountain Film Festival has more to do with getting naked, beating a caribou drum, and giving thanks to our earth mother, than climbing. Sure, each year there’s a small cross section of Will Gadd ‘best of’ clips and whatever corporate beasts Jimmy Chin is serving will hobble together a slideshow or poster signing with Chin himself walking around signing you up for National Geographic subscriptions.  We get it NatGeo, you’re cool now.



But dammit, this is the Reel Rock Tour! This is where the cutting edge of climbing meets 1080p! Past Reel Rock Tours have given us films like, Progression, The Swiss Machine, On Sight, The Sharp End, and King Lines. These are giants: films that have inspired us, got us off the couch, and showed us the kind of climbing we as weekend warriors have only dreamed of. Just look at this trailer for Reel Rock 2010:

Bad ass or what? Now… this gets me back to Valley Uprising. I suspect, that after 8 forays into adrenaline pumping movie mastery, the team behind the Reel Rock Tour thought they could pull the wool over our eyes and release a SINGLE film for this years tour, and somehow we wouldn’t notice. Valley Uprising is a passion piece – an art film made by film-makers who think we need more Shindlers List when all we really want is Cliffhanger. Sure, Yosemite has a rich history of climbing, cool stories, blah blah blah… We’ve all heard about the aid climbing, the drugs, freeing of the nose, speed records, naked solos, the plane crash filled with weed… These stories are tired, and I’m tired of hearing them. Google ‘John Long + Climbing + Yosemite’ and you’ll get the same old sound bites talking about the glory days. I can’t even read an anchor book without John Long mentioning to me how bad ass the stone masters were before the invention of the equallette. Railroad iron slung with webbing as protection? You don’t say…. that’s news to me!

Even though we’ve all heard the stories before, I could forgive a little rehashing of old classics, if not for the blatant use of film footage literally poached from dozens of movies we’ve seen a hundred times. They say that Valley Uprising is 10 years in the making… and I believe it, because apart from a few new interviews, and some old Yosemite photographs that have been made 3D through some fancy CG wizardry, all this movie has done is spliced together footage from old Reel Rock films, stock footage from the National Park service, and an overlay of some sick beats. This is what we’ve been waiting for all year? All decade?!

To be honest…. this movie could’ve been made by the same guys who make ‘fan-made’ trailers on YouTube. Or by whoever made this trailer, it is fucking brilliant:

That all being said…. Who am I kidding? You’re all still going to see this movie. I’m going to see it a few more times myself. Why? Because fuck the Banff Mountain Film Festival, that’s why!



Do ‘First Ascentionists’ have any rights?

Look at this photo carefully….stonemastersSee anything special? Is there anything ‘mythical’ about it? Did the men in this photo have super natural powers that allowed them to effortlessly float up sketchy routes with only a handful of home-made gear, or worse, a rack filled with failed inventions like this:

lowe camYup… Think of those next time you’re Elvis leg kicks in as you try to place that bomber X4 on some 5.5 at the Gunks. The truth is, climbers in the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s weren’t the fearless bad asses that our generation is lead to believe. They just didn’t know any better, and ignorance doesn’t make you a hero.

We’ve all seen that silver haired, cantankerous, ‘vintage’ climber at the base of some classic route at the crag spewing outrageous comments that somehow the new-school climbers have ruined the honourable pursuit of rock climbing. Like we have no respect for what climbing used to be.

What climbing used to be?? This is what climbing used to be:old climbersClimbers from ‘back-in-the-day’ would pound in pitons, yard on gear, pull on branches, and at the end of the day, name and grade their ascent. Today, many of these routes exist as ‘classics’ with 1 or 2 bolts, (1/4 inchers), rusted out to shit, a few corroded pitons, and holds that have either broken off, or become polished from over-use. So logically, someone should upgrade the route to the 21st century, right? Remove the crap gear, retro bolt it with stainless steel, and put up a fun, safe route, right?

This is where people go nuts… Ask this question on Mountain Project, and you’ll get the typical response..

“If you can’t climb the route as the FA did, either get stronger, or find another route to do and leave the 5.6 R/X routes for the big boys!”

This is climbing’s most egregious obstacle. We think we owe it to the first ascentionists somehow, as if they deserve respect for their gorilla tactics on the rock. Routes with runouts should be protected safely. Routes with pitons should see them removed, and replaced by bolts. 5.6 routes should exist for 5.6 climbers, not 5.13 climbers who work up enough courage to get on an R/X route that’s well below their free solo level, and then spray about it to their other 5.13 climber buddys.

Unless the FA owns the cliff where he/she put up their first ascent, they should have no say in what style someone can or cannot climb a route. The great thing about a bolt is, you can choose to not clip it. If you want to climb a route in the style of an FA, find out what shoes they were wearing, if they used chalk or not. Were they drunk? Did they used a hemp or nylon rope? Try to match the conditions exactly. If it was raining, wait for a rainy day. If they clipped only 1 bolt, 60 feet off the deck, feel free to skip the first 8 bolts that I put in, and relive the glory days. Sit around the camp fire at night, and bask in your awesomeness. I however, warmed up on the route, clipped all 16 bolts, and lowered off the Fixe Draco sport anchors, because it’s my goddamn right to do so.








How to tell your Mom you rock climb.

If you’re like me, you’ve more often than not had to explain to “non-climbers” what rock climbing really is. People frequently have an image in their minds, and it roughly looks like this:



We call this, “scrambling.”

Scrambling does not rock climbing make. Trying to explain the idea of climbing a vertical rock wall under your own power, using the rope only as a way to not die should you fall is rocket science to your average office worker. Though we have fantastic resources for the layperson out there (think Vertical Limit, Cliffhanger), most folks in the real world have no concept of what we do. A family member once asked me about why I go out to a local ‘crag’ almost every weekend, asking “how many times can you climb the same mountain, don’t you get bored?” I mentioned that there were over 200 routes at that “mountain”, and I haven’t even done half yet. I said: some are too easy so I skip them. Some are too hard, so I’m trying to get strong enough to do them. Some are low quality, zero star routes that aren’t worth doing. Some are “R” rated and I’m working up the courage and beta to get through them. And some, are yet to be discovered.

This is the look I got:

For the love of God, don’t ever, under any circumstances, try to explain what bouldering is. Hell, even I don’t understand it…. Find a rock, sometimes less than 10 feet tall… try to get to the top. No, not the easy way up: find the most difficult way up. No, don’t start trying to climb standing up, get as low as possible with your ass hovering inches off the ground. Good. Now fall 50 times, shred your skin, bleed, curse.. and if the temperature and humidity are just right, you’ll get to the top. Down? Take the easy way down..

So what is rock climbing… How do you explain what working a route is? How do you explain how the human body can stay glued to a rock wall with only a toe and a few fingertips crimped on edges the width of a book cover? How do you explain to your Mom how gnarly your fall was on that 5.11 splitter because you ripped half your pro, flipped upside down, and cracked your helmet, only to try again 30 minutes later?

You don’t.

Don’t tell your Mom anything! In fact, don’t try to explain climbing to anyone who doesn’t climb. There are only two possibilities: Either they’ll think you scramble around on 3rd class terrain with Vibram FiveFingers on your feet. Or worse, they’ll think you’re planning to one day climb Mt. Everest. There is no middle ground, and in both those scenerios, you’re a giant pussy.

The next time you’re at a family dinner, and everyone starts asking about your “rock climbing” hobby, just whip out a few photos like this and say, “it really helps me become ‘one’ with nature”:



How to project a route.

There’s one question that many of my clients keep asking me: How did you climb that route so well? The answer is simple… I’ve climbed it about a hundred times! When we watch videos of Adam Ondra onsighting some ridiculous grade, like 5.14d, we’re not getting the whole story. It makes great video seeing a professional climber float up the wall, but the reality is, it may have taken Adam 20 times to finally learn the moves before he flashed the route. Sometimes this is done on top rope, on rappel, or even studying photographs of the route. This is called “projecting.”

Just last week, I was out at the cliff on one of my “projects.”

DSC_1092As you can see, I am top roping the route. This is because lead climbing can be dangerous. Taking an unexpected fall can result in flipping upside down, or worse, getting the rope twisted around an ankle and snapping it. This is why most climbers will rehearse a route before taking to the sharp end, to minimize the risk of a fall. I have been working on this route for over a month. The first time I tried it, I was able to stick clip my way up to the anchors, and have left my rope on it ever since. This is so that when I get to the crag, my rope will always be on the route to save time. My first few times on the route, I would ascend the rope, working the moves out in my head. I made tick marks to help me remember and visually see where the small, yet crucial holds are. Each time I’m on the route, I try to perfect my movements, try different beta, move around my tick marks, and make mental notes. Practice makes perfect, and climbing is no exception.

I have probably top roped this route 40 times, and have got it down to only 2 falls. I know the areas I need to work on now, so it makes projecting so much easier. This is how I will send the route!

So what kind of climber are you? Do you try a route once, and if you fall, move on to another? Or do you invest the time to project, and one day go for the send? I challenge all of you to head to your local crags, and find a route that is out of your league. Next, throw a top rope on it, and just work out the moves. Take photos, make tick marks, and rehearse, rehearse, rehearse! It’s not glamorous, but this is climbing folks! If you want to get better, you have to put in the time.