IN CLIMBING, MOST PEOPLE REDUCE THE SPORT TO WHETHER OR NOT you reach the top. Renan Ozturk, however, believes that style makes the experience worthwhile, even if it comes at the expense of reaching the summit. This happened last year when Ozturk, Nick Martino and Micah Dash, in order to move quickly, left their ice gear at base camp and blitzed Nameless Tower, Pakistan, to the last few pitches where they were stopped by, you guessed it, ice. Still, being light and moving quickly up remote alpine stone is what drives Renan Ozturk. In fact, style drives almost every lifestyle sport—whether it’s surfing, skiing, or skateboarding, it’s not just about riding it out, it’s about how refined execution gets you where you want to go.
From the big walls of the Ruth Gorge, Alaska, to Pakistani granite, Ozturk has styled objectives that are multi-day sieges for most parties. He’s also a bold climber, having onsight soloed the Lightning Bolt Cracks (5.11), Canyonlands.
Renan Ozturk is soft-spoken and in high spirits. He is also a badass artist whose trippy landscape paintings capture his vision of the stunning mountain landscapes he has visited.
You went to Colorado College, in Colorado Springs. Why does that school turn out so many good climbers?
Could be the Block program. You take one class for three and a half weeks. When it’s finished, you get a four-day “block break” to explore and build psyche.
Where does your style of art come from?
It’s the best way I can represent such inspiring landscapes.
Do you ever go sport climbing?
I try to sport climb a lot these days. I love the fitness you gain for big-wall free climbs and the places it can take you. Still, crowds or a crag with manky chains everywhere turn me off.
Which area has a better scene, Yosemite or Indian Creek?
They are totally different. Yosemite is like an international party confined between giant walls and Indian Creek is more of a peaceful getaway in a desert expanse.
Are there more people climbing alpine big walls these days?
I think big-wall routes in Yosemite are attracting more attention, but the number of Monkeys inspired to suffer in the mountains has not changed much.
What the heck is a Monkey?
The Monkeys are a species inspired to live in sick rockscapes and be part of the lifestyle full time.
Can anyone become a Monkey?
Being a Monkey is inherently inside any of us … but it’s not for everyone. Some climbers are Ninjas—they might live in the city and quickly show up to dispatch with The Gnar.
What do you think are the craziest projects in the world-—futuristic, but doable?
Yosemite-style wall pushes in Baffin and Pakistan complete with BASE jump descents.
How is it climbing full time?
I love waking up within the rocks and traveling constantly, but I know I’d recover better if I had a base of operations.
What type of climbing makes you the happiest?
A “just barely” free onsight of a new alpine route.
What is more important, style or objective?
The style means far more than the actual mountain you are climbing.
Do you think your light-and-fast ethic was the reason you were denied the summit of Nameless Tower?
Yeah, the wet running shoes and aluminum strap-ons during a snowstorm proved to be a bit light-duty for the final mixed terrain.
You say style is more important than the objective, but you also didn’t summit. If you could do it over again, is there anything you would change?
The style would remain the same—simple alpine style—but I would carry boots and steel crampons.
Do you regret not reaching the top?
Um, yes. But I’m psyched I still have my toes.