[Photo] Giulio Malfer
Posted on: June 1, 2007
When you grow up in Northern England, it's hard to avoid bumping into rocks. The Peak District's gritstone crags, perched on the edge of the high moors, formed an irresistible backdrop. As a ten-year-old, light, curious and fearless, I had a natural aptitude for the pastime (it was no "sport" in the early 1970s), and I quickly reached a high performance level within the small climbing community.
Both climbers and youth are inclined to self-absorbed obsessions. I developed mine to the fullest. For over twenty years, until well into my thirties, all that mattered was the next crag, the next route, the sheer thrill of movement. It was a joyous ignorance, and I look back on that period with a shake of my head and a pang of envy.
Through prolonged exposure to some extraordinary two- and four-legged animals encountered in my climbing lifestyle, I belatedly developed into a worthwhile human being. It could have all been different in other company. Climbing is a potent formative experience for those who give themselves entirely to its power, forging changes within us of which we are barely in control and helping define our engagement with the world. In a time when 6.5 billion people share the same increasingly crowded planet, our individual responsibilities have become greater than ever. By itself, climbing means nothing. How it influences our lives beyond the crags means everything.
Jonny Woodward: Curriculum Vitae
1972: First climbs, Hen Cloud, The Roaches and Ramshaw Rocks, Peak District, England, with brother, Andrew.
1982: Beau Geste (E6 6c), Froggatt Edge, Peak District, first ascent (pre-sticky rubber)—briefly the hardest route on gritstone. Hangdog Flyer (5.12c), Yosemite, California, first onsight ascent. Meets Maria Cranor.
1983: Imports first sticky rubber shoes (Scarpa CragRatz) into the US to supplement "1,000 routes for $1,000" goal for the year.
1984: Deportation proceedings begin for (not) covertly (enough) importing shoes on a nonresident visa. Becomes a permanent US resident, Ventura, California.
1985: Heinous Cling (5.12c), Smith Rocks, Oregon, first onsight ascent, in original first-ascent condition protected by RPs only. The Shutdown (5.12c), open project, Granite Mountain, Arizona, first ascent, onsight.
1986: Ten Pins, The Needles, South Dakota, ascents, up to 5.11a.
1986-1991: Chouinard Equipment, Ventura, product tester and apprentice designer.
1987: Quickstone (5.12d), Joshua Tree, California, first ascent.
1988: The Big Juan (III 5.12c, 600'), Yosemite, first ascent, with Darrel Hensel. Supercrack (5.12c), Intruders (5.12c), Love Muscle (5.12d), The Gunks, New York, onsight ascents.
1991-Present: Black Diamond Equipment, full-time rock-climbing hardware designer, Salt Lake City, Utah.
1992: Moonlight Buttress (IV 5.12/5.13, 1,000'), Zion, Utah, first free ascent, in a day, with no falls, including establishment of new face- climbing pitches, with Peter Croft. Hall of Mirrors (IV 5.12d, 1,000'), Yosemite, second ascent, with John Bercaw. Trench Warfare (5.12d), Little Cottonwood, Utah, first ascent.
1993: Finds four abandoned puppies, near dead from hypothermia, in the Black Diamond parking lot. Adopts one: Brutus. Others adopted by Black Diamond employees.
1994: Winner Takes All (5.12/5.13), Indian Creek, Utah, first ascent.
1994-Present: Climbs at esoteric, pristine, little-known crags throughout the western US with a few good friends.
1995: Dog Eat Dog (5.13e [slab climbers can't climb 5.14 roofs]), Big Cottonwood, Utah, first ascent. American Society of Climbing Freaks (5.12c), Desert Test Site, Utah, first ascent. Cruel and Unusual (5.12d), Rhino Pass, Utah, first ascent.
1997: Mean Free Path (5.13b), Rhino Pass, first ascent. Dangerous Lesions (5.12/5.13), Indian Creek, first ascent.
1998: Belays Jose Pereyra on his redpoint first ascent of No Way Jose (5.13/5.14), without preplaced gear, most impressive performance ever personally witnessed.
1999: Choke on This (5.12c), Black Pudding Mesa, Nevada, first ascent.
2000-Present: Community Animal Welfare Society, volunteer foster parent for cats and dogs.
2001: Cher Albert (5.12c), Goat Gulch, Idaho, first ascent, with Martin Berzins. Becomes US citizen in order to vote against George W. Bush.