Pringle on the crux of Wall of Glass (5.14a/b), Nevada.
PUT UP BY the British powerhouse Ben Moon, the boulder problem Eclipse, a bulgy arete in Little Cottonwood Canyon amid the talent pool of Salt Lake, has hardly lacked for suitors. Two years later, its coveted second ascent has only just fallen, to Ethan Pringle.
Quick to cite cool temps and big moves that suited him, Pringle sent Eclipse (V12/13) on April 7. He worked it with Isaac Caldiero, who fired it two weeks later.
For many years, Ethan’s name was practically synonymous with junior climbing. Now 21, following some years of teenage vacillation, he is on a tear, climbing his very best, balancing bouldering and route climbing in the mold of Chris Sharma and David Graham.
Two days before Eclipse, Pringle (with great beta from Steven Jeffery) flashed both the crimpy Bully (V11) and Triple Threat Arete (V10), a highball on good sidepulls and jugs; completed the second ascent of the intimidating Bird’s Nest (unrated but about V11 for the finishing dyno to a slopey lip); and sent the second ascent of the scarefest Red Letter Day (V10).
Then, May 7, he snagged the first ascent of Jumbo Glass (5.14c), an extension to Randy Leavitt’s Wall of Glass (5.14a/b) at the Monastery, Mount Clark, Nevada.
Another high point for Pringle was his win at last summer’s Sendfest in Salt Lake City, attended by Chris Sharma, Matt Bosley and Daniel Woods.
Ethan Pringle is an intense personality, one with, as he puts it, two faces: “One is nonchalant and mellow, take-life-as-it-goes. The other part is excited, scheming and staying up all night planning stuff in my head.” He laughs. “Delusions of grandeur!”
At age 10 he won his first comp: “I think I actually cheated and grabbed the arete!”—a feature that was off-limits. From ages 12 through 15 he won all his Junior Nationals and the North Americans (once tying for first with Sean McColl). At age 14 he was second at a World Championship in Amsterdam, the only climber to flash both the quarterfinal and the semi.
After 15 Ethan lost some interest and motivation. He surprised himself, though, at 16 when he visited Rifle and on his fourth try did Lung Fish, as well as the 7 P.M. Show and Zulu in the next two weeks, all 5.14a.
At 17, despite his talents, he was “lazy,” he says. “I started snowboarding, smoking tons of pot with my friends, thinking, ‘Climbing, whatever.’”
He fell in with a wealthy set that was into fancy cars and cocaine and hung out in a mansion the size of half a city block. “One day I said, ‘This isn’t a good scene, I’ve got to get out of here.’ I was turning into someone I didn’t want to be.”
He moved to Las Vegas, put up the seminal boulder problem Clockwork Orange (V12), unrepeated for two years, and Wet Dream (V12), still unrepeated, and did the 5.14s Horse Latitudes and Planet Earth, Virgin River Gorge, Arizona. Still, “I’d sit at home and eat and play video games.”
Finally his parents, who’d met as professional windsurfers, said, “If you’re not going to school, at least dedicate your life to climbing.”
He has. Pringle lives with his partner, the strong climber Natasha Barnes, in an apartment in his parents’ building, gratis (his brother lives in a second apartment) and spends his time on climbing trips chasing inspiring lines.
On June 5, he did a V11, Gobot, in Rocky Mountain National Park, first try (following an unremembered attempt three years ago), then Freshly Squeezed (V12) and Veritas (V11).
When asked where his recent peak psyche comes from, Pringle says, “I fell in love with climbing outside all over again.”