The Wheel of Life 3rd Ascent - <font color="red">Updated</font> with Pringle Interview

Ethan Pringle on The Wheel of Life. Photo by Mark Heal

Ethan Pringle on The Wheel of Life. Photo by Mark Heal

6/24/10 - After recovering from a serious shoulder injury sustained in February 2009 at ABS Nationals, California native Ethan Pringle has bagged the third ascent of The Wheel of Life at the Hollow Mountain Cave in the Grampians, Australia. Japanese climber Dai Koyamada established The Wheel of Life on a sending rampage in Australia in May 2004. Chris Webb Parsons of Australia made the second ascent in October 2007.

Koyamada graded the problem V16 originally, but Pringle, 24, feels the 60-plus moves of V9 through V12 on the line warrants closer to 5.14d.

During ABS Nationals last year in Boulder, Colorado, Pringle dynoed on Men's Finals Problem #4 and blew out his shoulder. He endured surgery three months later.

Date of Ascent: June 24, 2010

Source:,, Ethan Pringle

Climbing caught up with Pringle (still in Australia) and talked about his send, injury rehab, and goal to send Jumbo Love.

I know you injured your shoulder badly last year and started rehab about a year ago. How has that progressed?The injury was devastating. I thought I'd never be able to climb hard again after the surgery, but after some rehab and physical therapy, I started climbing really easy routes in the gym very carefully at about four months post-op. I eased back into it and worked my way back up, almost to where I was before I got hurt. A lot of my hesitation about trusting the strength of my shoulder once I started climbing again was psychological. I didn't want to further injure myself or undo the work the surgeon had done, so sometimes after hearing or feeling things adjust in my shoulder, I'd get really freaked. Those episodes didn't usually amount to anything, though. All in all, I'm pretty happy, well, and relieved with where I'm at now and how much of a comeback I've been able to make. I probably should have been better about my PT and rehab regimen in the beginning, but my shoulder seems to be strong enough to handle almost any move now, and I know I can always strengthen it more.

How long were you out for the count? There were about seven to eight months of no climbing. And if felt like a lot longer than that. I was still able to do things like ride a bike and climb really easy slabs and stuff, but it was pretty depressing.

What did you do in your spare time since you couldn't climb? I started school at City College of San Francisco about two weeks after my surgery and did three semesters there before climbing took over again. I read a few books and tried to enjoy being stuck in the city.

How did that injury affect your climbing overall? It felt so good to climb once I was able to again after my surgery. I spent a weekend in Tuolumne with my girlfriend last October when I started back up. The park was totally deserted. After doing a few fun routes on the South Flank of DAFF Dome, we hiked over to East Cottage Dome and, against my better judgment, I got on this 5.10c. I actually had to push myself and my shoulder outside my comfort zone, and it ended up being one of the most satisfying climbs I've ever done. The whole experience was so fulfilling. It was great to know I could still get that feeling from easy climbing. Also, I definitely use more restraint when doing moves where my shoulder isn't engaged, like huge compression moves.

So you're currently in Australia. What inspired you to go to there? Australia is a place I've always wanted to check out, ever since seeing the famous Simon Carter photos of the Taipan wall in the mags 10 or so years ago. I was supposed to spend three weeks in New Zealand and three weeks in OZ with my friend Mark last April. We had our tickets and everything, but when I injured my shoulder, we cancelled the trip. Then after talking to Chris Webb Parsons about the Grampians a bunch (his bouldering guide to the place had just been published), we just decided to go this year. New Zealand will have to be another time.

Pringle on The Wheel of Life. Photo by Mark Heal

Pringle on The Wheel of Life. Photo by Mark Heal

Congrats on your third ascent of The Wheel of Life.Why did you decide to get on it? Besides a vacation here with my parents when I was five, which I barely remember, this is my first time here… And actually to the southern hemisphere of the globe. The Wheel of Life – or as we've been affectionately referring to it, The Lip of Life (joking that it's just a lip traverse) – has about 60 moves out a cave with big moves and big holds, some good rests, and is a mostly powerful endurance problem, as the hardest section is V11. It suited my climbing style perfectly, and it just looked like a really fun climb. Where else can you find 60 difficult moves out a roof that are relatively continuous on perfectly textured, sculpted holds and lips in such a beautiful setting?

How many tries did it take to send? I thought it'd take me the whole trip to send, or at least many more days of effort, but it ended up coming together pretty fast [in four days]. I did the last problem in the route, Dead Can't Dance, on the first day of the trip. The next day, I did Sleepy Rave, which is the WOL minus a V8 at the start. That's when I knew I could do it. All I needed after that was a day of good conditions. I had one more humid day on it where I actually made reverse progress. The day I sent, it was cold and windy in the morning. I did Sleepy Rave second go, and wasn't even going to try it from the WOL start, but then my friends convinced me to, and I did it first try from there! The Dead Can't Dance crux at the end actually felt easier when I started on WOL.

Was this your style of climbing? Well, I like anything but micro crimps or vertical splitter cracks in Indian Creek. No, I like big moves on big holds. The more overhung, the better. I like highball bouldering and heady trad routes as well.

Did you use the Beta that Dai Koyamada or Chris Webb Parsons used? I think people are going to want to talk about me using a kneepad, and whether or not it's a valid ascent, blah blah blah. That's my prediction. I found three right kneebars on the route the first day I worked it, but all of them were pretty painful, so it was more just for comfort that I used the kneepad. I almost did Sleepy Rave without the pad the first day I tried it, and I think I could do the whole WOL without a pad if I had more time here or I lived close by. But for the sake of saving time, I opted to use the kneepad, which, fortunately, I brought to OZ with me. Also, at the notorious Dead Can't Dance crux at the end of The Wheel of Life, I was able to do this ninja kick out right with my foot that made the crux a whole hell of a lot easier. I actually never tried it the normal way because this Beta worked so well for me, and I have a right hamstring injury that prevents me from doing right heel hooks like the one on that problem...

That's another funny thing about the WOL. All the really shouldery moves are with the right arm [my left was injured]. And all the hard heel hooks are wit the left leg, fortunately for me!

Any other specific goals while you're in Australia? There are a few other boulder problems I'd like to do, as well as a few routes on the Taipan wall. My draws are on this route called the Groove Train, which is a extension to a classic 28 [5.12d] called Groovy. It's the hardest established route on the Taipan wall and has only had one ascent. It's amazing! After the anchors of Groovy, it's just spaced-out, incut crimps on this otherwise blank overhang. It's pretty runout, too, like two 20-foot runouts in a row. I really want to complete this route before I leave, but the conditions on the Taipan wall have been really humid. I have another three weeks here, so hopefully, I'll get some dry conditions. It's just not the prime season for the routes here.

Any other climbing goals in general? I want to climb Jumbo Love, free El Cap and Half Dome, and win at a World Cup. Oh, and finish college. And stay healthy and climb hard.

Where's your favorite place to climb? Probably Psicobloc in Mallorca or any sport clinbing in Ceuse.