Breaking the Mold - Pat Goodman

posted by dpm on 09/28/2008

In climbing media, numbers are the big seller. Fifteen has been the magic number ever since Sharma’s groundbreaking ascent of Realization. Unless the climber is 15 years old or climbing 5.15 or V15, media passes on the event. Yet, cloaked under the blanket of inflated grades and hyped up ascents is a collective of first ascensionist. Their accomplishments go largely unrecorded, but often their ascents have a larger impact on our climbing community than the number 15.

Enter Pat Goodman, a resident of North Carolina, who has quietly been establishing bold new trad and mixed lines from North Carolina to Canada. His resume includes first ascents of multi-pitch adventures such as YEM and the Darkside, both 5.12 multi-pitch trade lines in the Vampire Spires, the first ascent of the 1,200 foot tall South Face on the Orange Tower in India’s Miyer Valley, and Ishmael 13c R/X at Moon Rocks, NC, among others. Most recently, Pat established the bold futuristic line Fitzcaraldo 5.13b R, at the New River Gorge, which begins with a sideways body length dyno into a V9 boulder problem on marginal gear. He has been criticized by “the old guard,” who believe his tactics of head pointing are the equivalent of cheating.

Head pointing is the rehearsal of a route on top-rope prior to the actual redpoint attempt. This methodology is a violation of the unwritten code of ethics in much of the southeastern states. The old guards believe all ascents should be from the ground up, preferable onsight, on traditional gear. The North Carolina ethics police have gone as far as to say head pointing is “the dumbing down a trad line into a sport route.”

In spite of this outspoken group, Pat has pushed to move climbing forward, finding futuristic lines with dynamic moves more reminiscent of a gym climb. In any other area of the country, these lines would be bolted, but Pat has chosen to embrace some of North Carolina’s traditions by keeping his routes bold, and avoids placing bolts whenever possible. He does not pre-place gear on his redpoint attempts and routinely falls on gear marginal enough to scare any seasoned grit stone climber. If you ask Pat about his most recent project, he will likely respond, “Which one.” He is in a constant search for the next plum. When he describes the moves, his eyes light up like a child’s at the circus. Rampant move-by-move beta ensues, and afterwards, Pat’s eyes start searching again, trailing off into the distance. You can already tell he is on the next project.

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