Q & A with Jonathan Siegrist
On Monday, June 2, 2008 Jonathan Siegrist, 22, made the third ascent of Grand Ole Opry at the Monastery, Colorado. Originally rated 5.14a by its creator,Tommy Caldwell, the climb was uprated to 5.14c by Andy Raether after he did the second ascent, in 2007. UPDATE: On July 7, 2008 Siegrist made the third ascent of Country Boy (5.13d) at Lumpy Ridge, placing all of the gear on lead (perhaps the first ascent done in this style?) Stay tuned for more details. Climbing hard and under the radar, Siegrist, a full-time student at Naropa University and routesetter at the Boulder Rock Club, did the route in just around 10 days.
Siegrist has been climbing for about four years and is sponsored by Mad Rock, Sterling Rope, and Bumble Bar. Siegrist climbs often with his father, Bob, and his girlfriend, Marisa Ware, seeking routes closer to home rather than making the four-hour drive to Rifle, as do many Front Range sport climbers. Siegrist has also redpointed the technical arête Sarchasm (5.14a), at Chasm Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park, and made a quick ascent of a Flatirons’ semi-neglected testpiece, Rock Atrocity (5.13c), on Dinosaur Mountain.
After Siegrist’s ascent of Grand Ole Opry, Climbing caught up with the modest Boulder, Colorado, resident for a little Q & A about his life as a student, Front Range local, and rope partner to his dad, Bob.
Climbing: How long have you been climbing?
Siegrist: Around four years now.
Climbing: How many years did it take your father to convince you to start climbing? Did you get into the sport through your dad?
Siegrist: I think my dad probably tried to make me climb when I was still an infant, and through my youth he dragged me up a handful of Colorado alpine classics like the Petit Grapon, Spearhead and The Diamond, but I was not really too interested until I was about 18 and I had some patience…climbing is hard!
Climbing: What is it about climbing with your dad that makes the experience special to both of you?
Siegrist: I climb with my father all the time; he is like my number one climbing partner. We have 100% support for one another. He has hiked hours with a heavy pack to projects with me to give me a belay in crappy weather and even skipped work to do so. I have done the same for him (although surely not as much). Climbing together has made us into even better friends and also solid training partners that push one another.
Climbing: Your dad climbs hard, too – what have you learned from him and how long has he been around Boulder?
Siegrist: I've learned basically everything from him, but most notably how to balance climbing with real life and a strong safety ethic. He has been 'around' Boulder since you could camp at the base of the Bastille, but we have been living here for about 14 years.
Climbing: Why should more parents and their kids climb together?
Siegrist: Each generation no doubt has something different to offer the other. I think climbing with my dad and his buds has made me humble and well rounded, while him climbing with my friends and me has made him try harder and go outside his comfort zone. We each appreciate the other greatly for this.
Climbing: What type of climbing do you prefer?
Siegrist: I prefer long, beautiful routes and I tend to really enjoy super technical climbs with heinous crimps. I also really love old school climbs with interesting history.
Climbing: What appeals to you most about that type of climbing?
Siegrist: The longer the route, the more climbing! Beautiful lines inspire and technical routes take a certain dedication that I find really rewarding. Plus I am much more technical than I am purely strong. Old school lines are always the most aesthetic because the old school climbers had free reign on loads of untouched rock.
Climbing: How often do you go climbing? /Do you train?
Siegrist: I climb as much as I can between rest days, work, and school. I train 5-6 days a week in the winter, and while during the warmer months I climb less frequently, it is mostly outside.
Climbing: You and your girlfriend, Marisa, climb together a lot, too – how did you two meet, and what is the secret to being a happy couple that climbs well together?
Siegrist: We actually met in middle school originally and have been friends while growing up. We didn't start dating until early last year. I'm not sure that I know the secret to a climbing couple, but what seems to work for us is just remembering and respecting the fact that we each have our own goals and attitudes about climbing that are often not the same.
Climbing: Can you describe the climb (Grand Ole Opry) to me?
Siegrist: Grand Ole Opry is a striking line on an amazing orange wall at the Monastery here in Colorado. The route climbs the longest section of the slightly overhanging wall through an improbable series of ultra technical movement on poor holds. It has three distinct cruxes, each one harder than the last that are separated by okay rests and finishes with an enduring section of 5.12+. It is excellent.
Climbing: This is only the third ascent, and Andy Raether uprated it from 5.14a to 5.14c – why do you think it went unrepeated for so long? Do you think it is 5.14c?
Siegrist: Quite a few very capable climbers have attempted the route over the years. Not only is the route old school and super technical, but there is a 30+ min approach, it is at a high elevation, the weather is unpredictable up there and it is over an hour drive from Boulder. I think part of the reason Andy called it 14c is because it is a very different style than Andy's other really hard sends. I don't feel qualified to call it any specific letter because I am relatively new to the grade range. I thought it was a huge leap up from the other difficult routes on the wall, which are also hard and also incredible.
Climbing: What highlighted this climb for you?
Siegrist: absolutely love the area and I was always with really good friends climbing there. There were 4 old rotting elk legs scattered along the trail that were in a new location every day. We made hilarious and detailed jokes about the legs dancing at night to pass the time hiking in. Whenever we hiked in with dogs they would run ahead to fetch the elk legs and run up and down the trail carrying them, banging us in the calves with the rotting legs as they passed by. It was really funny at times.
Climbing: Did you train specifically for it? If so, what do you think helped you the most?
Siegrist: Not really, although I did ride my mountain bike a bunch more to help with the altitude.
Climbing: How many days/attempts did you spend working the project?
Siegrist: I think I worked on the route about 10 days.
Climbing: Do you trad climb as well right now, or is sport climbing your main focus?
Siegrist: I have done a number of long alpine and multipitch routes, but just recently I have become much more interested in hard one-pitch trad climbs. It is for sure the next frontier for me- there are so many amazing trad routes around here and most of my sport projects are getting cleaned up.
Climbing: What was the hardest part of Grand Ole Opry for you?
Siegrist: A few sections were very reachy as I am only 5'5. Plus I fell from the last move of the final crux on redpoint at least 7 times so that became a bit disheartening, but dedication prevailed.
Climbing: Tell me a bit about your studies at Naropa? Why is it important to you to get an education even while keeping climbing at a hard level? Have you considered just climbing full-time, or would that not be enough to keep you interested?
Siegrist: I am an Environmental Studies Major at Naropa here in Boulder. I don't really see rock climbing, as much more than a passion of mine, I want to eventually teach middle school science. I am thinking about lowering myself to full time climbing bum status after I finish at Naropa, but I definitely never thought I would climb as well as I am and I don't ever expect it to pay the bills- well maybe the internet bill, but not the rent.
Climbing: You climb at a very high level, yet you’ve never been to Rifle, four hours away – tell me a bit about keeping it close to home – being a “homeboy”!
Siegrist: I climbed my first 5.13 outside less than 2 years ago, so I still have plenty of high quality hard stuff to do right in my backyard. Plus the most compelling argument I have heard about driving on I-70 for hours to climb at rifle is 'Dude, there are like 100 5.13+'s!' - doesn't seem worth it yet, I like the Front Range.
Climbing: Have you traveled for climbing before? If so, where to? Tell me a little about that.
Siegrist: I have been fortunate to travel quite a bit and in the last few years I have also been climbing when abroad. I moved to Northern Thailand in the last half of 2006 and climbed a bunch in the Chiang Mai area with some really good friends of mine there. I also took a wild exploratory trip to Cambodia that Nov / Dec, we found some amazing boulders and also climbed a huge slab in the middle of nowhere- it was crazy. I have climbed a bit around the rest of South East Asia and a little in Europe also. My dad and I did a killer high altitude big wall in Peru a few years back in addition to some cool mountaineering there.
Climbing: Is there an area you’d like to travel to specifically for climbing in the future (short or long term)?
Siegrist: Wow, where do I begin... I returned to South East Asia with my girlfriend last winter (07) and I am planning another return trip for this upcoming December. Otherwise I would love to climb in China, South America, Australia, and Scandinavia. Aside from a bunch of climbing here in the states that I have yet to check out.
Climbing: Is there a certain climb you have your sights set on for the future?
Siegrist: For the mean time I am stoked on trying hard trad stuff and lots of climbing in Rocky Mountain National Park up high, but no specific projects until the fall. I have some unfinished business up at the Industrial Wall to take care of.
Climbing: Who’s a climber you respect and why?
Siegrist: I really like Tommy Caldwell. He and his dad Mike Caldwell did a lot of amazing development work around here all throughout the 90's. Tommy has an incredible eye for new routes as well as super human strength to establish them all. He's got a very respectable attitude about climbing and nearly always has a smile on his face.