People ask me all the time how I got into free soloing. But I don’t think they quite believe me when I give an honest answer. The truth is that when I started climbing outdoors, I was too shy to go up to strangers at a crag and ask if they’d like to rope up with me. I first started climbing at age ten at an indoor gym in my home- town of Sacramento, California, but I did very little outdoors before the age of nineteen. I was so antisocial and tweaky that
I was actually afraid to talk to strangers. Though
I was already climbing 5.13, I would never have gotten up the nerve to approach other guys at a crag like Lover’s Leap near Lake Tahoe and ask if I could rope up with them. So I just started soloing. The first route I did was a low-angle 5.5 slab called Knapsack Crack at Lover’s Leap. Then I tackled a much steeper three-pitch route called Corrugation Corner, rated 5.7. I overgripped the shit out of it, because I was really scared and climbing badly. But I quickly got better. I’ve always been a compulsive ticker. From the very start, I kept a bound notebook in which I recorded every climb I did, each one with a brief note. My “climbing bible,” as I called it, was my most precious possession. In 2005 and 2006, I did tons of routes at Joshua Tree, on the granite boulders and pinnacles in the desert east of Los Angeles. I developed a voracious appetite for soloing. I’d do as many as fifty pitches in a day, mostly on short routes up to 5.10. A sample entry from my bible: 10/7/05 18 pitches—kind of a low-day 5.7 to .10b I couldn’t start the left Peyote Crack. Weird.