This article appeared in Rock and Ice issue 201 (April 2012).
Climbing 5.15 is harder than climbing V15. But that might just be
because I’m a boulderer.
The hardest movement I’ve done on rock is a V12, maybe V13 move. My hardest boulder ascents involve linking four or five low-percentage
V11 moves in a row. There’s nothing wrong with that.
For my generation, it’s hard to perceive of what a single V14 or V15 move would be. It could happen, but to be able to stick to the rock
for that one special move would be rare.
Climbing had this power that consumed me right away. When I was 5 years old, living in Texas, I went toproping at Mineral Wells State
Park with my Boy Scouts group, the “Royal Rangers.” My dad was one of the leaders and he taught me to tie knots and put on a harness. I went up one
line and got this feeling of being very happy. It felt unnatural, but at the same time, it was so natural. I’ve now been climbing for 17 years.
Moving to Boulder was a transition for my parents in terms of their religion. In Texas my parents were fanatical Christians—spoke
in tongues and believed things like Santa Claus is the devil.
It’s funny that just this past Christmas, I realized that Santa is an anagram for Satan. That made me trip out.
I guess if you asked me when I was younger what it was like growing up in an extremely religious family, I would’ve said I hated it. But
now that I’m older, I realize how religion taught us things like how to treat people well and be a good role model. I like that these things rubbed
off on me.
Dad was my main partner until I was 16 or 17. He’s very calm and easy to talk to. He taught me how to treat others equally, learn from
people and not put myself on a pedestal, like I’m some big pro climber or something.
On the youth climbing team in Boulder, I was smaller than the other climbers. A couple of guys picked on me. I guess it affected me, but
really it made me into the climber I am today. I was talented, but I wasn’t the best. I think that if I was the best immediately, and didn’t have to
work for it, I probably would’ve lost interest.
In 2010, I was on a high. First American to win a Bouldering World Cup and establish a proposed V16 boulder problem. Got engaged to Courtney.
I won every single competition I entered that year.
By comparison, 2011 was hard. I went to Nationals, didn’t make finals. I went to the World Cup, didn’t make finals. I not only felt pathetic,
but felt like the media, my sponsors and the public were thinking these things about me. Really, I was just putting all of these thoughts in my own
head. But I kept putting pressure on myself to go and do things—like go to Switzerland and repeat Story of Two Worlds (V15) and From Dirt Grows Flowers (V15). I thought that I needed to do these things to be able to show something for myself.
Toward the end of my Swiss trip, I hadn’t accomplished any of my goals. But then I did something unexpected and flashed Entlinge (V14/15). That put it in perspective.
This is why 2011 ended up being a good year for me. It was a reality check. I had to tell myself, Daniel, you’re acting conceited. Take a step back. There’s no such thing as the best climber.
It’s hard to be yourself and be a professional athlete. Who are you and why do you do the things you do? Daniel, what do you like to do for fun?
I’m going to start sport climbing more. I’m getting kind of bored with “practice climbing.” I’m psyched to take my bouldering power to
a rope, get some endurance and see what I can do.