• Mayan Smith-Gobat: What I've Learned
  • Josh Lowell: What I've Learned
  • Steve Hong: What I've Learned
  • Steve House: What I've Learned
  • Daniel Woods: What I've Learned
  • Steph Davis: What I've Learned
  • Nick Duttle: What I've Learned
  • Thomas Huber: What I've Learned
  • Art of Freedom: The Life and Climbs of Voytek Kurtyka
  • Alex Megos: The Hatchling
  • Ryan Vachon: Top Ice Climber and Climate Scientist
  • John Long: What I've Learned
  • Topropers Unite!
  • Steep Learning Curve: Alex Honnold On His Early Free-Soloing Days
  • Andy Kirkpatrick - Words Like Morphine
  • Margo Hayes and the Power of the Mind
  • Snapshot: Michaela Kiersch - The Chicago Hustle
  • Out of Nowhere - Nathaniel Coleman Jumps Onto the Podium
  • Jeff Lowe: What I've Learned
  • The Cheater - Learning to Climb for Myself, the Hard Way
  • John Bachar: What I've Learned
  • Art of the First Ascent: The Bold Climbs of Marcus Garcia
  • The Professional: Hilaree O'Neill
  • The Inventor: Alan Douglas
  • The Advocate: Nicholas Rothenbush
  • The Guide: Kris Erickson
  • The Craftsman: Jimmy Chin
  • Curious Case: Brette Harrington Breaks New Ground
  • Stefano Ghisolfi - One of The World's Best Makes Time For Fun
  • Kai Lightner Reflects on Competitions, Bouldering and the Future
  • The Locomotive: Roy McMurtrey – 87 and Still Climbing
  • No Expectations: Joe Kinder Sends 6 5.14c's in Spain
  • Spotlight: Megan Mascarenas - The Logician
  • Alpine Warriors - History of Alpinists in Yugoslavia
  • Q&A: The Willpower of Mar Álvarez
  • Q&A: Ethan Pringle on Thor's Hammer (5.15a)
  • A Youth Wasted Climbing
  • Bouldering Bub - Isaac Caldiero
  • Spotlight: Alexander Ruchkin - Russian Locomotive
  • Alex Johnson - The Pro Life and Growing Up as a Climber
  • Rock Climbing Saved My Life: A Veteran’s Struggle with PTSD
  • The Beatnik of the Alps: A tale of FA's, Rescues, Love, and Suicide
  • Kev Shields – High Solace: Demons, Depression and Solo Climbing
  • Dean Potter On Laws, Modern America and Soloing Delicate Arch
  • Climbers We Lost in 2014
  • Spotlight: The Double Life of Chris Webb Parsons
  • What I've Learned: Sonnie Trotter
  • What I've Learned: Mark Udall
  • Heinz Mariacher: What I've Learned
  • The Sasha DiGiulian Profile
  • Chris Sharma: What I've Learned
  • The Seeker: Said Belhaj
  • Tommy Caldwell: What I've Learned
  • Reinhold Messner: What I've Learned
  • Sonnie Trotter's Favorite 5.10: Exasperator (5.10c)
  • Unbroken: The Alex Johnson Profile
  • Listening for the Echo: The Klem Loskot Profile
  • Climbers We Lost in 2013
  • Kilian Jornet Breaks Speed Record on Mont Blanc
  • Layton Kor Dies
  • Climbers We Lost in 2012
  • Life on Hold: The Ian Powell Story
  • Rope Jumping with Dan Osman
  • The Centurian: Ricardo Cassin
  • Mike Foley: Never Enough
  • Naomi Guy: What I've Learned
  • Hayden Kennedy: Superballistic
  • Dave Macleod: What I've Learned
  • Q&A: V15 Maestro Nacho Sanchez Unleashed
  • Francesca Metcalf: Meant to Compete
  • Maurice Herzog Dies
  • Mason Earle: Crack Ropegun
  • Kurt Albert: Free Wheel
  • Mayan Smith-Gobat: Climber for all Seasons
  • Nik Berry: Obsessive Crusher
  • TNB: Tony Scott, Climber, Movie Maker, Lived and Died Large
  • Charlie Fowler - American Alpinist
  • Jimmie Dunn
  • The Upstart - Colin Haley
  • Who's Next?
  • Tom Patey: The Tiger of Yesterday
  • Todd Skinner: The Renegade
  • The Stonemasters Climb at Pirates Cove
  • Patxi Usobiaga: The Bionic Man
  • Michael Reardon
  • Max Turgeon and Louis-Philippe Ménard: Alpinists and Ice Climbers
  • Kurt Albert: The Climber Who Invented Redpointing
  • Josh Wharton: The Alpinist
  • John Rosholt: Climber and Gambler Disappears in Las Vegas
  • John Bachar's Last Interview
  • John Bachar Remembers Michael Reardon
  • John Bachar Remembered by Duane Raleigh
  • John Bachar by Henry Barber
  • John Bachar by Doug Robinson
  • John Bachar and the Bachar-Yerian First Ascent
  • Colin Kirkus: Climbing's Greatest Unknown
  • Alex Puccio
  • The Prophet
  • The Guy Whose Nuts Revolutionized Climbing: R.P.
  • Randy Leavitt
  • Galen Rowell: The Vertical World
  • Brian Kim Spotlight
  • Rob Raker
  • Ueli Steck - The Swiss Machine
  • Kemple and Lindner Almost Free El Nino
  • Crack Attack
  • Climbing World Mourns Todd Skinner
  • Ammon McKneely
  • A Tour of Magic and Mystery
  • Tanja Grmovsek
  • Rob Miller
  • Climber Hugh Herr Honored by Esquire Magazine
  • Climber Eric Brand Dies
  • Chuck Fryberger, Climber and Filmmaker
  • Chris Schulte Profile
  • Beth Rodden: What I've Learned
  • Joe Kinder
  • Hazel Findlay
  • To the BASE Layer
  • Pete Ward
  • Mad Max
  • Chris Boskoff
  • Bradford Washburn
  • Revenge of the Nerd
  • Chris Lindner
  • Tim Clifford: Escaping the Quantum Hole
  • Renan Ozturk
  • One-Track Mind
  • Traveling Light
  • Colette McInerney
  • The Banner Years
  • Pakistan: The Big and Free
  • Kris Hampton
  • Jules Cho
  • Extreme Eleven and Beyond
  • Bob Bates, 96, Takes His Final Journey
  • Jody Hansen
  • Home Girl
  • An Encounter with Fred
  • The Average Hero Sir Edmund Hillary, 88
  • More Than One Trick
  • Dave Graham
  • Red River Sugar Mama
  • Phillip Schaal
  • An Advanced Beginner
  • The Last Samurai:
  • Sonnie in Scotland
  • Offwidth Hombre
  • Moonlight Solo-Nata
  • Jasmin Caton
  • Crag Clown
  • Unlikely Candidate
  • Lone Star
  • The Calculator: Alex Kordick
  • Rise of the Machines
  • Dave Waggoner 1955-2009
  • Blood Spider
  • The Audacious Legacy of Tomaz Humar
  • The Original Desert Rat: Kyle Copeland | 51
  • J-Star
  • Italian Legend: Lino Lacedelli | 83
  • Committed: Matt McCormick
  • Cold Justice Paul Cormier
  • The Suffer King
  • The Need for Speed
  • Nick Martino Gives All
  • G-Money
  • Climbing Out of Academic Trouble
  • Charles Houston, 96
  • Bobby Model, 36
  • "Open Bivy" Willy
  • The Genius - Jeff Lowe
  • The Gamer
  • Shock Rock
  • Ryan Triplett | 31
  • John Bachar and the Cosmic Surfboard
  • Hand Crafted
  • Return of the Verm
  • Amped
  • Regime Change
  • Man vs. Snake
  • Living Legend
  • Layton Kor honored by AAC
  • Cold Justice
  • Cowboy Anguish
  • The Rock Jester
  • Mixed Rehab
  • Laura Fletcher
  • Bill Stall
  • Benjamin Strohmeier
  • Joe Six-Pack
  • Freedom Path
  • Manboy
  • Up and Down
  • The Duelist
  • A for Achiever
  • Paul A. Duval
  • Kelly S. Bell
  • Close But No Cigar
  • Video Spotlight
    Northern Soul - Ice climbing in Québec
    Northern Soul - Ice climbing in Québec
    Whipper of the Month
    Weekend Whipper: Chris Sharma's 100-foot Pont d’Arc Deep Water Solo
    Weekend Whipper: Chris Sharma's 100-foot Pont d’Arc Deep Water Solo

    An Advanced Beginner


    Sam Elias has lit up the probable third ascent of Red Bull (M11), Vail, Colorado, after only mixed climbing for roughly one season, and only climbing three years total.

    "I believe the route is rated M11 without heel spurs," says Elias, but I have no idea what this really means. He says, "If I had to rate it in rock grades, based strictly on physical exertion, it would probably be 5.13a."

    Elias begins the first crux of the second pitch of Red Bull (M11).

    Red Bull, in the Rigid Designator Amphitheater, is a two-pitch line that is done in a single 45-meter stretch. Eric Malmgren, of Grand Junction, Colorado, originally bolted it. The first pitch tackles a popular 60-foot M8. The second pitch adds another 50 feet of upside-down technical dry tooling, and then finishes on the area classic The Fang (WI 5). Malmgren sent the route through all the business, but fell off trying to gain the final 30 feet of ice, he never returned to redpoint the route. Hari Berger and Ines Papert are credited with the first and second ascents, the Europeans ticked the line during a two-day trip to Vail.

    The Red Bull redpoint took Elias, 25 and from Glenwood Springs, Colorado, fewer than 10 tries over about as many days. Elias, like Papert and Berger, climbed Red Bull spurless.

    Elias is one of only a few North American climbers to have sent both 5.14 and M11. In fact, the only other known North American to tick M11 (or harder) and climb 5.14 is Ryan Nelson. The M11/5.14 distinction may seem arbitrary, but it highlights how few North Americans are sport-mixed climbing, especially considering there are so many climbing 5.14. In fact, Elias says that during all his time at Vail, he rarely saw other people mixed climbing, and when he did, it was only on the area's moderate routes.

    "Ice and mixed climbing are really intimidating," Elias says. "You have to have so much gear. It's expensive to get into, and sways people away from it naturally. How do you even know if you're going to like it?"

    Sam Elias, originally from Michigan, first touched rock at a Colorado outdoor camp at about 12 years old. There, he cleanly toproped a 5.10a for his first route ever. Upon returning home, Sam was stoked about climbing, but spent his high school and college years competitive ski racing, training for the slopes 12 months a year.

    "When I graduated college, skiing was over," says Elias. "I got a job at the climbing gym, and pretty soon, found myself driving to the Red River Gorge every weekend. Then I quit my job and just moved there. By the end of his first season in the sport, he had redpointed 5.13c and I don't know how many 5.13a's."


    Toward the end of his second year of climbing, then living at Rifle, Elias sent his first 5.14a, Zulu. Elias is noticeably cool and composed when he climbs, often dispatching with routes quickly. Last fall, at the Virgin River Gorge, Arizona, Elias onsighted the 100-foot Joe Six Pack (5.13a), and then sent 130-foot Fall of Man (5.13b), second try, both routes are beta-intensive and extremely technical, while the latter is runout and heady. He credits his background in ski racing for this mental strength.

    From training for all those competitions, I feel pretty confident most of the time in my abilities. I feel like I can make things happen just because I will them to.

    Elias got into mixed and ice climbing this year through his friend and mentor Tony Angelis, a top-notch ice climber who had less practice in the sport-mixed arena. Angelis taught Elias how to swing the tools, while Elias taught Angelis about how to project and push himself on harder routes. The two trained at Vail every weekend this season, culminating in the Ouray Ice Comp, which Elias entered at the encouragement of his friend.

    Though Elias did not make the finals, he did come in 16th place out of 32 competitors (only 12 advanced).

    "The comp was really fun and unique," says Elias. "I felt I could've done a lot better than I did, but that's something to look forward to next year."

    "Asked what's next," he says, "I feel like I have a lot more to improve physically than mentally. I definitely don't feel anywhere near my potential."

    Reader's Commentary:

    Don't want to use Facebook, but still want to comment? We have you covered:

    Add Your Comments to this article: