Interview with Professional Climber: Ian King

April 25, 2018

Recently, we spoke with PepPod athlete and professional climber, Ian King.  Ian shared some insights into his life, adventures, what it all means, and how rock climbing has shaped him.  Let’s dive in!

What’s your favorite thing about rock climbing? (i.e. adventure, challenge, confidence, outdoors, etc..)

“My favorite thing about rock climbing is the traveling!  I love to explore new areas and return to areas with atmospheres that resonate with me.  The history and ethics of areas are super interesting to me and it’s fun to follow in the footsteps of the pioneers who first developed an area. I find balance to be a key aspect of climbing.  Knowing when to go for it and when to back off and check out other options is a great learning experience. I appreciate the challenge of a difficult climb but most of the time I’m just having fun using whatever strengths I have to try and work with whatever the rock offers.  It’s not a conquering situation but more of how we can work together.”

When did you first start climbing and what got you into the sport?

“I first started top roping my senior year at UNC Chapel Hill in the campus rec gym.  About a year later I was shown how to set up anchors and top ropes outdoors and 4 months after that I ended up with a job in Yosemite spending all my free time doing all the 5.7s there.  I had liked the idea of climbing ever since watching the show American Gladiators as a child but never really got the opportunity to explore it on my own until my lower 20s.”

You lived in Yosemite for a while, what was that like?

“I moved to Yosemite after college because I fell in love with the place during a backpacking trip as an undergrad.  I knew there was climbing there but didn’t have much experience with trad climbing. Luckily I met a great friend and mentor, Taylor Sincich, and learned safe gear placements.  The first season I learned to lead trad, the second season I learned to big wall, and the third season I lived in the high country of Tuoulume and climbed more peaks.

All in all Yosemite was an amazing back yard.  The sheer magnitude of the place is breathtaking!  The access to routes, walls, and boulders is definitely the best in the country in my book.  After all, El Cap is the center of the universe right?”

Minimalist or technical gear lover (or both?)

“It’s interesting, when I started out I was geeking out on all the gear thinking the more I had the safer I would be.  Now I tend to climb with less gear because I believe it’s not necessarily the gear that keeps you safe, it’s the combination of the gear, your own skillset, and decisions.  I guess with aid climbing I’m still kind of a technical gear lover but that’s the nature of engineering your way up walls in ladders. And maybe I’m a little bit of a shoe nerd. But that comes with my profession…”

Tell us about the climb or adventure that was most pivotal (or that you are most proud of) so far?

“Oh my, there are so many!  I’ve been climbing for 8 years so I’ve learned and changed a lot as I’ve gotten older.  I think when Taylor passed me the rack for my first trad lead on the second pitch of Chouinard Crack was where all my dreams became a reality.  

Bailing off my first big wall, The Prow, and then going back to finish it was rewarding and then of course climbing the iconic Half Dome and El Cap were monumental.  Lately I’ve been excited to see how far I can push it with long simulclimbing days in eldo, or the 24 Hours of Horseshoe hell or multiple walls in a day in Zion. Things that require a lot of heart and PepPod you know.”

There’s probably a climb you’ve been dreaming of, your biggest goal.  If you don’t mind sharing this, what climb is it, and when do you plan on going on that adventure?

“I want to do 3 walls in a day in Zion.  Maybe in a few weeks, maybe this fall? I’m just waiting to find a partner who has the time off to do it and who can still hold a smile 23 hours into it.”

Who inspires you to live the lifestyle you love?  (Pro Athletes? Family? friends?)

“I think learning to climb in Yosemite is still one of the most influential things. I look up to to all of the pioneers there from the 40s through the present.  These climbers have always been pushing the limits of what is possible and a lot of them live money poor but experience rich life that I see as a life well lived.  Imagine the possibilities!”

What are your essentials that you take on every climb?

“My trusty Carolina made Misty Mountain harness, a Bluewater Lightning Pro or Icon rope, a sun hoody or Patagonia Houdini jacket, Edelrid Mega Jul,  a nylon double length runner and lockers, Joshua Tree Life scented flower power chalk (calms me when I’m runout) and of course a couple PepPods!”

What life lessons have you learned through climbing?

“Climbing’s not a direct mirror or metaphor for life but it’s pretty close.  I’ve learned confidence, humility, friendship, how well or poor I deal with stress, how to set intent without creating expectations, how to suffer, how to believe in myself and how to have fun!”

Real adventure is becoming less common in today’s entertainment (phone, tablet, and media) driven culture.  What advice do you have to help motivate others to add more adventure in their lives?

“Don’t read all the beta, take your time, build your skillset and remember the old school saying that you’re only as good as what you can onsight. And you only get one chance to onsight.  There’s nothing like climbing a climb for your first time and throwing all you have at it without knowing what lies ahead. Skip the project climbing if you want adventure and go straight for the adventure.”

Thank you for taking the time to meet with us Ian!  It’s great to learn more about you and we can’t wait to see what you take on next.


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