Pete Ward is big—not only ’cause he towers at a top-out height, but because he’s one of the best setters in the country. Ward was around to see the bouldering boom hit the Gunks, and later, the entire Northeast. He is the brainchild behind this year’s biggest competition, the Mammut-EMS Bouldering Championships, a three-series event filled with cash prizes as big as the parties.
SOME PEOPLE SAY THAT CLIMBING HARD IS ALL ABOUT TRAINING HARD. DO YOU AGREE, OR IS IT ALL ABOUT YOUR GENES?
All of the above. My genes are good for basketball and drinking a lot, so I train hard.
TELL ME ABOUT THE FIRST TIME YOU WENT BOULDERING.
1994, Hueco Tanks. I went there to do routes, stayed a month and did four roped climbs. Then I forgot about sport climbing until last fall (turns out it’s quite fun). It’s amazing to me how Hueco has shaped the entire industry and our vision of what climbing is.
HOW DO YOU MEAN?
Prior to Hueco becoming the Camp 4 of the 1990s, climbing was never going to be as accessible to the mainstream as it is now. Who can be bothered with gear, and the need for knowledge of rope work, and the chance of killing yourself if you fuck up, when you can just grab some shoes and a chalkbag and head to the gym? In my opinion, for better and worse, Hueco brought us bouldering and bouldering brought us where we are today.
YOU WERE A RANGER IN THE GUNKS – DID YOU PICK UP MAD LADIES AND HOOK UP ON THE HIGH E LEDGE?
I was 19. What do you think?
WHAT WAS IT LIKE LIVING WITH IVAN GREENE BACK IN THE DAY?
It was a lot like Ivan’s life now: parties, models, living like rock stars. Except that there was none of that and we lived with his mom at her house. Seriously, though, Ivan takes a lot of shit for being who he is. And all I can say is that at a point in my life when I really needed help, he was there for me. Can you ask for more?
WHAT DID YOU NEED HELP WITH?
Bad relationships, no money and no place to live. Ivan, and his mom hooked me up over the course of two years.
DESCRIBE THE FUTURE OF COMPS IN THREE WORDS.
Deep Water Soloing. Three more words: We’re on it.
YOU HAVE PLANS FOR A DWS COMP? TELL ME MORE.
Getting a venue pimped out to do it justice takes time and money. Our vision for a DWS venue isn’t something that exists currently and with something as amazing as a DWS comp, we feel compelled to get it right on the first go. Don’t look for it tomorrow, but it’s gonna own.
What’s the worst thing to happen to American rock climbing?
I’m not the kind of guy who paints with that kind of broad black-and-white brush. As much as we all want easy answers to every question, fact is, life is made up of shades of gray. The challenge is figuring out what shades we’re willing to accept. There are plenty of things I hate about climbing in America: I hate climbers who lose perspective on the importance of what we’re doing. C’mon, it’s just rock climbing. I hate chipping, spraylords and everything that everyone else hates.
But I also understand that great climbers have chipped routes, and that the line between spray and legit news is a fine line. For me, the bottom line is that I’ve chosen to make my living in this industry because I find that there are more people of integrity in climbing than elsewhere, and that’s what matters.
What is your biggest fear?
Failing the people/sponsors/friends/family who count on me.
What is your biggest disappointment in life?
Don’t have a Gold record yet. You play the drums at all?
Why should everyone go to the Mammut-EMS Bouldering Championships, in five words?
Sorry, dude, it’s gotta be in Haiku:
Rock the house, baby
Who takes the coolest climbing photos?
Well, if you’re saying you’re not core anymore … Then, I guess Greg Epperson.