WORDS BY: ANDREW BISHARAT | ANDREWBISHARAT.COM
PHOTOS BY: ANDY MANN | ANDYMANN.COM
When asked about his favourite routes in the Front Range of Colorado where he grew up and learned to climb, Jonathan Siegrist, clearly a history buff, had no trouble rattling off a dozen different routes at different crags—all with credit given to the first ascentionist.
“Colin Lantz’s Your Mother (5.12d) in Eldo comes to mind first,” said Jonathan. “And Verve (5.13c) in Boulder Canyon. Christian Griffith is a strange guy, but, man, I really like all of his routes. Hands down, Verve is the best route in Boulder Canyon.”
Other favourites: Brother From Another Planet (5.13b), New River Wall in Lyons, a Pat Adams route, and Anarchitecht (5.12d), Alan Nelson FA, in Clear Creek Canyon.
“Climbing history is really unique in that it’s something you can interact with,” says Jonathan. “Someone puts all this energy into first climbing some beautiful piece of rock, and then it’s something that you can go find and experience for yourself. I know very well that we stand on the shoulders of the previous generation.”
“I was obsessed with Jeff Achey’s book ‘Climb!'” a deep history of Colorado climbing. “I studied that and remember being like, ‘Oh, dude, it was ’95 when Tommy [Caldwell] first did Psychatomic [5.12d at the Monastary, Estes Park]. That’s so freakin’ rad!”
Virtually no baseball fans will ever get to experience what it actually feels like to be up at bat in the ninth inning of a World Series game. But for us climbers, all those great, fantastic moments in our sport’s history—the stuff that legends and myths are made of—stay alive in the routes we get to climb.
For Jonathan, experiencing the rich climbing history of Colorado first-hand has been perhaps the most important driving force in his own rather rapid climbing progression. Jonathan, for example, climbed his first 5.13—a 5.13c, nonetheless: The Quickening, Monastary, Estes Park—just two years after getting into the sport. Then, less than a year later, he did his first 5.14a with Sarcasm, Rocky Mountain National Park.
“There are two things that have always inspired me,” Jonathan says. “Climbing history, and obscure routes. Going to a place like Eldo or the Flatirons are rich in both those departments.”
Denver, Colorado is a gateway to the Rocky Mountains. This vast vertical playground has, for decades, attracted some of the most legendary climbers who have established hundreds of fearsome, awesome routes that continue to remain firmly entrenched in the minds of the Colorado climbing community.
“I always had this sense that if you were a full-time climber, it was your responsibility to make contributions,” says Jonathan. “But a huge part of it was that I grew up being inspired by all these climbers who had come before me. They were pioneers and they had left me all of these challenges to aspire to. They made a contribution and had a legacy. That is the kind of climber I want to be.”
While most professional climbers have made names for themselves traveling to famous destinations, often in Europe, to repeat well-known test pieces, Jonathan has taken a different path, staying closer to his home in Boulder, and pushing standards at his backyard crags.
“I see a lot of kids now who come up in fancy, new gyms, all with peers their same age,” Siegrist says. “They skip the whole backyard, old-school Colin-Lantz-route experience.”
Part of Siegrist’s deep appreciation of history, undoubtedly, is that his father is a longtime climber. Although Siegrist didn’t really dive into the sport until he was in college, he grew up traveling from Wisconsin to Colorado’s Estes Park and Eldorado Canyon with his family when he was as a kid. Eventually, he and his family moved to Boulder when Siegrist was in middle school.
“Seeking out old-school climbers and their routes has made me the climber I am.”
Over the last five years, Jonathan has lived frugally out of the back of his truck, and has either established or repeated quickly many 5.14+ routes across the U.S., a place that was relatively lacking in routes of that grade. His most recent contribution is the Flatirons’ current longest, hardest sport climb: I Am The Walrus (5.14b) at Seal Rock.