"I don't think of myself as an adrenaline seeker; the rocks inspire me,” says Matt Wilder of his November 2009 first ascent of Cheating Reality (5.14a R) on the monolithic Devil’s Thumb formation near Boulder, Colorado. “It’s about taking this high thing that could be dangerous and making it conducive to my abilities.” Originally from Connecticut, Wilder, 31, today lives in Boulder, where he’s working toward his PhD in computer science.
When he’s not studying, you can find Wilder exploring, in search of new climbs. Known as an all-around strong climber, Wilder has many hard repeats to his name, including the first free onsight of Moonlight Buttress (5.12d) in Zion, Utah, and Evilution Direct (V11, 30 feet) in Bishop, California. Wilder’s also a climbing guidebook author — he penned the most recent Hueco Tanks bouldering guidebook and a guide to bouldering in Yosemite Valley. Wilder made several proud sends in 2009/10: in addition to Cheating Reality, he FA’d a new V12 in Hueco Tanks called Bandersnatch, sent three V14s, three V13s, redpointed The Fly (5.14d) in Rumney, New Hampshire, and sent The Path (5.14a/b R) in Canada.
What shoes do you dig for hard boulder problems like Bandersnatch? When I’m looking at a climb, I think of what I have to do with my feet. For example, for sloping toe hooks, I need rubber on the toe. There was a lot of heel-hooking on Bandersnatch, so I used my Muira VS’s. But a lot of times I’ll put one shoe on one foot and a different shoe on the other foot. My go-to shoe is the La Sportiva Testarossa.
What’s your favorite portable soft spot (aka bouldering pad)? The Metolius Fat Bastard, because it’s reliable, won’t bottom out, and is easy to carry. Gear Tip: don’t keep stuff stored in your pad when not in use, as it can take away from the foam lifetime. Store taco-fold pads open, so you also don’t crease the foam.
What motivates you to try difficult, possibly dangerous climbs like Cheating Reality? When I see something that’s inspiring, I’ve got to climb it. I see the aesthetics of the rock first — the feature and the line; the purity of the line and position of the rock.
What’s been your scariest fall? I’m pretty calculated on scary routes. One time when I was trying Iron Monkey [5.14, Eldorado Canyon, Colorado], I had placed a No. 8 Astro Nut at the crux. I must have taken like 20 whippers on it, and eventually the cable broke on one of my falls. Right below it was a blue TCU that ended up catching me. I was so close to hitting the slab below, and when I got down, I looked at the TCU and it was bent — I was only caught by two lobes on the cam. But in general, I’ve grown to trust small gear. I didn’t trust the supersmall nut I placed on Cheating Reality, but it helped me psychologically.
Apparel, sleeping equipment, and backpacks: The North Face
Hardware: Metolius Climbing
Rock and approach shoes: La Sportiva