Born in Ohio, Rob Pizem started climbing 15 years ago on the sandstone of Cleveland’s Hinkley Reservation. He later moved west to attend the Colorado School of Mines, in Golden, for geological engineering — and as the saying goes, he never looked back. Today, at age 33, Pizem regularly dominates desert towers and conquers cracks when he’s not working as a high school science teacher. (He’s also found time to write for Climbing on more than one occasion.) With a rock résumé that includes gnarly lines like Army of Dark- ness, a 5.13d roof crack near Moab, Utah, and Arcturus, a Half Dome aid route he freed in June 2007 (after recovering from a fractured vertebrae earned in a 2006 attempt on the same), Pizem knows a thing or two about gear and how it should (or shouldn’t) be used.
What type of climbing do you love most, and what type of gear does it require? I love any climbing that draws me in and makes me think of nothing else. Lately, that’s been obscure, traditional first-free ascents on big walls and roof cracks . . . although I can easily fall for a sport route or boulder problem, too.
Do you have any tweaked or modified pieces of gear? I’ve had to make a pair a crack shoes for extremely thin roof cracks. I cut the toe boxes off a pair of SCARPA Visions, and then taped my toes so I could jam and still heel hook without foot pain.
What’s your favorite piece of gear? It has to be the Arc’teryx Gamma LT Pant. I want an article of clothing that is perfect for every outdoor situation, and the Gamma LT is the piece. Cold, windy, sharp rock, kneebars, hiking, caving, chimneys….It’s what you’ll always see me wearing.
Any tips for newcomers to the sport? Carry only what you need while climbing, and leave your other toys on the ground. The simplest improvement folks can make is taking the correct gear instead of the kitchen sink. Ideally, you should end up with nothing but what you need to make an anchor when you arrive at the top of a pitch. The other thing is to make sure you are “loving every minute of it” while you are on the rock because that’s what it’s all about!
Apparel, outerwear, backpacks: Arc’teryx
Rock and approach shoes: SCARPA
Ropes: Sterling Ropes