19 June 2024

Ethan Pringle answers a few of our questions

Ethan Pringle signed up to 8a as one of the very first members back in 2000, just after he had won a silver medal at the Youth World Championships. Fast forward to today and the now 38-year-old remains a very solid all around climber having completed Realization (9a+) in 2007, Iron man (8c) onsight in 2007, Jumbo Love (9b) in 2015, Blackbeard's Tears (8c+) trad in 2016 and Empath (9a+). (c) Catarina Monteiro

What are the lessons you've learned over the last 25 years of high-level climbing?
1) NOBODY truly knows what they’re physically capable of, and almost everybody is physically capable of so much more than they think. One of the biggest differences between elite-level climbers and everyone else is that, elite-level climbers are way more familiar with their strengths and way better at suspending their disbelief in themselves and trying hard anyway, whereas most other people are more encumbered by their limiting self-beliefs.

2) Strength will never be a substitute for experience. You can have Alex Megos strength, but if you don’t have good tactics, technique and a deep practice of being able to find good beta quickly and execute when it counts, you’ll never climb even close to your physical limit. Once you have that experience, then strength training will help.

3) Even elite-level climbers have fear and insecurity, but what separates them from the rest is a practised ability to try really hard in a calm and deliberate way, despite those fears and insecurities.

4) Grades are extremely limiting!

What has been your driving force and how has this affected your climbing?
I think I’ve been incredibly lucky to travel a lot throughout my climbing career and climb outside a ton, but I know my physical strength has plateaued for many years because of a lack of motivation to trade trips to destinations or outdoor projects for serious training cycles. I think at the end of the day, my passion for exploring new rock and styles of climbing has held back my physical ability because that usually takes president over wanting to stay in a gym and get stronger. I’m always too psyched to go explore a new project or check out a new area…

I’ve switched disciplines a lot over the years from sport to bouldering to trad and even a few expeditions and I think not sticking to one thing doesn’t really allow you to fully excel in any one discipline or any one style.

Also, I’ve always come back to the San Francisco Bay Area as a home base, to be close to my dad after his stroke and now to be near my mom who’s getting older… and while the bay has amazing gyms and a strong community, everyone is kind of psyched on different things, and the community is kind of dispersed. Plus the good rocks are pretty far away and I find it pretty hard to be inspired in this environment. Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if I’d moved to Boulder of Salt Lake 15 years ago.

What are your next plans?
I’m heading to South Africa in a few weeks. I’ll check out some sport climbing and do a little bouldering around Cape Town before heading to Rocklands again for July and August. I would love to finish up Monkey Wedding (8C)(I was close-ish last year after just a few sessions). I’m hoping to put some sessions into Livin' Large (8C), which is my ultimate dream boulder. I’m not sure if it’s really possible for me but I need to find out. And, I want to work on a few other obscure things and undone lines.

How do you train to get stronger and to have better endurance?
I don’t really train haha. I “should”!!! If I wanted to climb 9a+ or 9b sport again I would have to do some endurance training. Fortunately sport-climbing outside is good endurance training. If I wanted to climb harder than an 8C boulder I would probably also have to do some specific training. I don’t know which one I’d like to invest in though, besides Living Large.
I’m not the best person to talk to about training. Classically, I haven’t done much.

What advice would you give to up and coming teenagers?
Try to have fun with it and try not to take it too seriously. Be silly. It doesn’t really matter that much if you send or not, or if you win that comp or not. It doesn’t dictate your worth as a person. A lot of the strongest, most psyched climbers I know, seem to have kind of a detached attitude about sending or winning. They get less upset if they don’t meet their expectations, they climb more relaxed and they seem to just have more fun. Also, climbing on rock and having outdoor psyche and goals will relieve some of the importance of comp results. Comps are fun and thrilling, but outdoor climbing is good for the soul. I’ve seen a lot of strong competitors just quit climbing after their comp careers ended or they got burned out because, without a love for the pursuit of climbing rocks, which I think can be lifelong, there’s no reason to stay in it.

Also, forget about the grades and just allow yourself to be inspired by beautiful lines. You can label a climb whatever you want, but it doesn’t change the difficulty of the climb. Also, mix it up! Try some crack[climbing]! You might like it. It’s oddly satisfying, in a masochistic, magic-trick kind of way.
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