Wednesday, December 11, 2013



As Tyler and I drove up the snow-packed road in American Fork Canyon, I imagined how this trip was going to be filled with hair-raising events including frostbite, exhaustion, and pure psyche. Even with all the stress I was bound to face, I couldn’t get the massive smile off my face.

I finished up my figure eight, standing there in the snow, and glanced at the thermometer on my phone. It read three degrees, and the temperature was still dropping. The forecast predicted a high of nineteen degrees in the canyon, but I knew it would be colder where we were climbing—much colder…

 Fortunately for me, the bitter cold is where I feel my strongest. If you mix a high tolerance for pain with an even higher threshold for frigid temps, then you can get projects done in a flash. That is, if you can even open your hands first.

The heat is—without a doubt—my kryptonite. I’m done for after the temps peak over eighty-five degrees, and so is my climbing. The limestone in American Fork feels like glass when it’s hot out. Every crimp feels next-to-impossible to grasp and each foot is more slippery than the last.

But the cold? Well, the rock is dry and my skin sticks to it like Velcro. 

The “ideal” climbing season in the Wasatch Range is really short (lasting anytime between October and December), at least that’s what Utah climbers tell me. I just tell myself to suck it up and not let the snow or freezing winds stop me from doing what I love to do.

So here I am standing in the snow, feet numbing up in my climbing shoes, hands throbbing from the soon-to-be below zero temperatures, but I'm still psyched to send. Apart from the rush I get from climbing outside with my closest friends, I get taken away by the beautiful view. The crisp air seems to put life on hold and I bask with frigid delight, thinking about how there are many things I can still do in the winter as a climber.

A lot of people ask me how I stay warm and not shut down when I climb in such freezing temps. My best advice for cold-weather climbing is to better acclimate your body to the cold before you even go climbing. Wear a thinner coat and fewer layers when you roam around town instead of bundling up to the point where you feel like you’re under a hot sun in the desert. You’ll be amazed at how fast you can withstand colder temperatures when you do this.

I asked my good friend Jewell Lund, OR athlete, ice climber and all-around amazing woman, for more tips on how to better withstand the cold. She answered... “Climbing in cold temps, eh? Mostly I do it so I can be as gluttonous as I want. When I’m burning 4,000 calories a day by just standing outside, you better believe I’m going to eat bacon and donuts in seconds.” So there you go, if you play it hard in the cold like Jewell does, then you can always look forward to some tasty treats afterwards.

Jewell continues.."But really, I’m amazed at the human body for its ability to adapt in different conditions. I primarily think of two things when I’m outside and it’s super cold: down jackets are one of humanity’s best inventions and I need to be in constant motion. Move move move. Our movement is what allows us to spend time in places that are really unique, like frozen waterfalls. When I’m climbing a frozen waterfall, I often stop climbing just to appreciate how special climbing up frozen water truly is. It’s such an ephemeral experience to be in a place that most humans don’t see.

I climb in the cold because it’s beautiful, and it’s damn fun. I do my best to stay consistently warm, but there are shocking moments when I meet the cold. Sometimes a spindrift pummels me while I’m leading, and other times screaming barfies welcome my hands back to circulation on long belays. But those shocking moments are just reminders that I’m alive in a very special place. And, just like those frozen waterfalls, those moments are ephemeral and beautiful.


Stay psyched and don’t hibernate,

Nathan Williamson

Trango athlete. 


Thursday, November 21, 2013

Simian 5.13b/c

Do you have that ONE route that stands alone in your memory. I have climbed so many pitches that they blend together in my mind. Recently, I revisited a line which could never be characterized as forgettable.

Although most of my favorite lines reside in the Uinta Range, one cave in American Fork always captures my attention. Black Magic crag offers techie movement to burly boulder problems on 45 degree solid limestone. This tucked away place serves up an ample dose of humility. And a major contributer in crushing my climbing ego is the epic route, Simian. I feel it is one of the best 13b/c routes I have ever climbed. Its' first few bolts on the vertical face give you a serious case of false hope. By the fourth bolt I found myself looking up and trying for the life of me to find even a single crimp to clip off of. Never mind a crimp, there is a half a thumb pad undercling to delicalitly clip from. Then, all hell breaks loose. Throwing for a dime sized nub and a nightmare of a undercling. Switch gears from technical climbing to rugged under hanging boulder moves. The opening section on the bulge is a stout V9. Power over the bulge and cut your feet as you throw to a shallow pocket. Hope the best for your foremans and grunt to chains. Beautiful.

I look for inspiring routes to project. Like all of us, my time is very limited. So I want to choose wisely. At first glance, I thought Simian was going to be a mellow project to work on for a few weeks. After throwing for tiny crimps and missing burn after burn I realised this line was no laughing matter. I was pumped, bleeding, and very inspired. My friends and I sat dumbfounded looking up at it. I felt defeated. Once I get to that point on a climb my mind clicks over to a maniacal freak. An Einstein quote always comes to mind when I feel stumped "Imagination is more important than knowledge.". So throw away your beta and do what feels natural. For me, thuggish moves mixed with technical feet worked perfectly. Moral of the story, Simian is very hard but not impossible. The challenge and shutdown is half the fun. Go try it. Embrace the inspiration of obsession. It will go.

Stay psyched,
Nathan Williamson
Trango Athlete.

Photo by Jay Dash.

Monday, November 18, 2013


Having winter right at our heels fills me with a mixture of feelings. Fear, excitement, and adventure are all very prominent in my mind with each snow advisory. Yeah, I might be missing a few marbles in the old noggin... I truly love the cold, I love the sharp pain of being cold. The sound of crampons scratching on rock is Mozart to my ears. Mostly, I know I will be shut down and scared many times dry tooling this season and secretly I dig that idea. 


I told myself that if I was going to write a blog about climbing, it would be about the ebb and flow of my experiences – something other climbers can relate to. And as we all know, there is definitely a huge separation between good days and bad days.


But I try to approach every new climb with an open mind. I can typically look at a line and be able to tell if it's going to be something that stumps me the second I leave the ground, or if I'm I going to be able to on-site it. 

When I hear others talk about routes, I’m always listening closely for my favorite words: "It's impossible!" Within a few days I will be standing at said impossible route sussing it out. Playing the sequence out in my mind. Wondering, and feeling nervous that this just might be it. This could be the one that shuts me down. 

I have faced two routes in my career that one hundred percent took me down. I often wonder if it's at that point that others pack up and run for the hills. To me, being shut down is a huge smack in the face, and man do I love a good challenge.

My worst shutdown happened during a free solo. I accidently went off my predetermined line by a few feet into a section of unclean, extremely thin flakes of limestone. I stood on those tiny exfoliating pieces of rock for what seemed like a month. I was truly petrified and was unable to finish the solo. I cursed myself out the entire time I down-climbed. But, a few weeks later, hell bent on finishing, I went back and purposely climbed in the bad section just to prove to myself it could be done. I guess for me, I don't like the idea that fear can stop me from doing the things I love. So I work very hard at controlling it.

Back to those winter adventures. While some might be getting ready to hibernate for the season, or climb indoors, I’m excited for what nature has in store. I hope with the help of a few cameras I’ll be able to take you all on some amazing adventures to remote places and show you some breathtaking dry tooling lines, perhaps a solo or two in the desert – and who knows, maybe inspire you to join me!

Stay psyched,
Nathan Williamson.
Trango Athlete

The photo: Trango Raptor.

Monday, November 4, 2013


For over a week I've had both of my ring fingers taped up tightly so that I don't crimp down too hard. 

My right middle finger pad is split completely open and a chunk of the nail is missing. I have to sleep lying on my forearms to stop them from throbbing in pain all night. A simple task such as putting on my coat has now turned into an Olympic-sized event. 
Daily, I get asked what it takes to climb past the 5.13 level… I would have to say for myself it was learning how to move past what I thought was my max level of pain and discomfort.

These days, my whole back from the top of my neck to my lower back is one huge knot. Headaches, stiff knees, broken fingers, jammed wrists, black eyes, cramped feet and tons of scars on my face are the norm.
But still, after all this, I sit on a rock, strap on my Oasi and rope up to work on my projects. Masochistic? Possibly. 

I find myself being drawn to very thin, vertical limestone routes. I also now judge what I'm about to climb in levels of pain, and if I can handle the repercussions of what I'm about to do to my body. I've climbed over eighteen 5.13s and a handful of 5.14s. Each took me weeks to recover from. 

I didn't wake up one day able to jump on hard routes. I have trained hard and dragged myself on the ground for years to finally be at this level. I climb 4-6 days a week outside and the rest indoors to maintain my strength. I have nearly no time in my life to maintain friendships. My life is climbing. 

Some days I crawl, but hey, I figure even if I'm crawling to the route, at least I'm still doing what I love. And hopefully, I will be trying new rugged routes even when I'm an old man!!

Is this how climbing is for you? I’d love to hear about your experiences.

Stay psyched,
Nathan Williamson.
Trango Athlete

Friday, November 1, 2013


Inspire... I'm very lucky to know many strong climbers. But, there are few that totally inspire me to pull past my worst pain and send. Very few.
That strong climber, this crazy project, that boulder problem, this impossible move, that rugged beta, that secret cave... All very interesting to me but, what gets me psyched to climb the most is handing the rope over to my friend that give up their whole day to be right next to me. Bleeding, screaming, taking massive falls, dodging rock slides, fighting through mind blowing pain, and dripping more blood... Screw it, tie in and lets do it all over again kind of attitude. Driven to work the same crux with me over and over tell it's sent. Maniacal minds pouring everything into that moment of life. Headlamps.. so be it, whatever it takes... That my friends is "Psyched."
I owe so much to so many people. But, as far as climbing goes... My dear friend Dana, is my #1 inspiration. I have never known anyone who can onsight the way she can. One rugged line after another for hours. Strong, even when injured, and always laughing off the scary cruxs. Best of all.. never letting her amazing talents go to her head.
I'm lucky to have such a great mentor. And what I'm learning is... Be the climber that inspires others to finish their projects. Also, find friends that drive you to surpass your limits as a climber and as a human.
Stay Psyched,
Nathan Williamson

Sunday, October 27, 2013

First of Many

Time... amazing how it passes. Feels like so much has changed in the past few years. I truly  believe life is now just starting for me. 
I decided a few years ago that I was going to take a real run at climbing, and who knows, maybe if I'm lucky make a buck or two at it. It's been one wild adventure so far.
Moving back to Utah has been the best thing for me. I landed my dream job at a local climbing gym here in Salt Lake named The Front Climbing Club. I have met many great people working here, and sadly known a few that have passed away. 
A few months ago I answered a phone call that has forever changed my life... It was from Trango. All my dreams of climbing for a company that inspires me came true from that conversation. I signed  a sponsorship contract that allows me to be on the road doing what I love to do... climbing. After years of getting rugged on the hardest lines I could find, I decided to step it up and untie the rope from my harness to free solo the routes that I have worked on all summer. Frightening at first, but now soloing is all I think about. Finding that next perfect line is my new big addiction. Many factors have to be taken in when choosing my next solo... Can I walk off? How hard is it going to be 200 feet up when I'm pumped? Is the rock solid? Am I going to die? Thankfully, I have been very lucky with my choices. 

Thanks for all your support, and I cant wait to blog more about climbing, training, gear, and playing in the mountains..
Nathan Williamson