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Bouldering Bub – Isaac Caldiero

Isaac Caldiero won this year's American Ninja Warrior. Read his 2007 interview with Tim Kemple and trace his Utah bouldering roots.

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Isaac Caldiero in his natural habitat. Photo: Tim Kemple.
Isaac Caldiero in his natural habitat. Photo: Tim Kemple.

This article appeared in Rock and Ice Issue 161 (July 2007).  

Having grown up in Utah, Isaac Caldiero has had plenty of differenttypes of rock to play on. However, this onetime Latter Day Saint who now calls himself a “Latter Day Sinner” prefers the sandstone boulders of his homestate. Caldiero has ticked such hard V13s as Ben Moon’s Black Lung at Joe’s Valley, and even put up his own Crusader For Justice at Moe’sValley.

Caldiero, a carpenter and a sponsored climber, has a smooth, quiet demeanor and a wry sense of humor. Also, he calls everyone “Bub.” Why? It’s just his thing.

Q&A with Isaac Caldiero

How have you seen the climbing community change in Salt Lake City?

It’s gone from being a bunch of badass dedicated climbers to a bunch of punters swarming in from all over the country. Like it’s the coolest thing to now say, “Yeah, I live in SLC.” It’s turning into Boulder… a bunch of yuppies! Why can’t they go somewhere else?

What differentiates a badass climber from a punter?

A badass climber is one who doesn’t give a shit about what other people think and is constantly motivated to further themselves in the sport and develop new rock. A punter would be someone who never climbs outside, always talks trash about others and is scared of topping out.

How did you get into saying “bub,” and what exactly does it mean?

It all started back when I was a wee lad working at a restaurant as a dishwasher in St. George, Utah. My fellow coworkers—bubs— and I got pretty tight with each other. From there it evolved into consistent usage defining someone that deserved the title, whether it be a Lady Bub, or just straight up Bub!

Do you feel that first ascensionists have a duty to secure access and camping to new areas they develop?

Absolutely! But sometimes there isn’t camping to develop, so what you gonna do, bub?

So, if a climbing area is closed because access wasn’t dialed before the spot blew up, are the first ascensionists responsible?

Not necessarily. Take New Joe’s, for instance. Some dumb-ass punter decided to deface the oil rigs in the parking lot with a spray paint can. This is something a first ascensionist has no control over and could potentially close the area for good.

Tell us about your “beeramid.”

It’s like a pyramid, but with beer. Ours was built over a four-week period during which my brothers, a group of friends and I managed to consume 3,000 Keystone Lights. We took some pics of the beeramid, which, by the way, were published in FHM magazine, and then knocked it down. That was sad, but we had a blast making beer angels in the cans, and crushing it down into about 80 pounds of aluminum, which actually ended up buying us one last “dirty thirty” of Keysters.

Who stands out among Utah’s strong female climbing contingent?

Right now, there are three chicas tearing apart V10s— Melissa Lipani, Amy Cockerham and JC Hunter. JC has by far the strongest fingers I’ve ever seen and also four kids! Melissa and Amy are super motivated and are out there traveling and climbing rock as much as possible. I think that’s badass.

Who has influenced you most?

My good friend Scott Adamson. I’ve known him forever and I’ve never once seen him give up. Also, Dave Graham has influenced me to be a wizard of the rock, and also shown me that I still have many years of learning.

What’s your scariest moment climbing?

When I decided to onsight solo the Lowe Route (5.9) up in the Lone Peak Cirque.

What happened?

The Lowe Route consists of four pitches— the first is the hardest, weighing in at a whopping 5.9. It’s thin hands, which I suck at, and has a very insecure move toward the top of the pitch. I couldn’t fit my feet in the crack and my hands were slipping, but luckily, there was a huge face hold for me to snag. If I had slipped, I would have fallen 60 feet, hit a ledge and tumbled another 300 feet through a rocky glacier field.

Finish this sentence: “The older I get…”

The less I care.

Watch Caldiero’s recent win of American Ninja Warrior