Canada: Providing Quality Health Care, French Fries and Gravy, and Mutant Climbers-

posted by dpm on 02/27/2009

Sean McColl

An Interview by Anthony Lapomardo

DPM: So you and Sonnie Trotter are always singled out as "Canadian Climbers" is there something to this, deeper than national pride?

Sean: I've known Sonnie ever since I was a very young climber and he was always the person that I was striving to be like.  In 2002, he put up Canada's hardest route at the time
Superman 5.14c in Cheakamus canyon.  I wanted to climb as well as him so I knew I had
to do that route.  Sonnie is always psyched to climb with people and recently he's also really into photography.  I think it's special to be from Canada because we have a tenth of
the population of the US and yet we still can produce top level athletes.

DPM: You seem to really enjoy the comp scene how was the ABS Nationals this year? Do you enjoy comp climbing as much as outdoor?  The competition always seems to be stiff with the winner coming down to who is on there "A" game that day?

Sean: I enjoy competing just as much as I like climbing outdoors.  Usually during the summer, I'm training in a gym to prepare for upcoming World Cup competitions.  When I go outside for a day of climbing or bouldering, it's usually training just to try and get stronger for my comps.  Last year, I spend most of the year competing and I didn't spend more than a week at one outdoor spot. The only exception was the time that I went climbing in Gorges Du Loup where I stayed and climbed for a whole month.  One of my biggest goals in the World Cups is to just make finals.  In bouldering, 6 make finals and in lead, 8 make finals. Once you're in finals, you already know you're an extremely good climber. I find that in finals, I'm a lot more relaxed because the worse I can do is 6th place which is amazing for me!  I take that mentality and I think "what if" I win?  Last year, I made finals twice for bouldering and came 3rd and 4th respectively.  I also made finals in the last 3 lead World Cups I entered and came in 7th, 3rd, and then 6th respectively.  It does come down to who has their A game that day, but usually the people that have been seriously training for the comps and is mentally ready to climb do the best.

DPM: The comp scene in Europe is really shifting how we do things in America?  For the better?

Sean: I enjoy competing in Europe because they've been doing it so much longer than us. I find that some comps in North America are sometimes a bit scrambled to get off the ground and even during some of the comp days, there are slight delays.  Since they've been holding comps for many more years than us, they're already over that stage and they can usually run a comp exactly on schedule.  The IFSC rules are the official rules of World Cup climbing and I can only imagine that if climbing got into the Olympics one day, they've adopt those rules.  I figure I want to be the most prepared for my European experiences so I try to train and compete in as many comps as I can. 

DPM: This last summer you were in Magic Wood and got to climb with some hardcore boulderers what were you working on?

Sean: Unfortunately, I only got to climb in Magic Woods for 2 days.  I got there and met up with  Nalle Hukkataival and Chuck Fryberger who were in the process of filming for the film "Pure".  Since I've only climbed in Magic Wood for a day before that, I figured I'd get to climb with some strong climbers and also get a mini-tour around the forest.  It was great, Nalle knew all the problems and I tried whatever looked cool or whatever we were in front of. Nalle and Chuck had many ideas of what they wanted to film so we had a pretty good plan on where we wanted to be.  Since it was my first time really bouldering there I got to see most of the main forest and a lot of high profile boulders including "Practice of the Wild" and "New Base Line".  During my 2 day bouldering trip, I managed to red point a couple of problems around the V12 level.

DPM: Tell us about the problem Sunny Side Up?  Any tie to your fellow Canadian?

Sean: Sonnie Side Up was found by Canadian climber Sonnie Trotter, hence the name.  I
thought about naming it "Sonnie Side Up" but I thought many people wouldn't get the pun...  Sonnie found the problem as he was hiking around Hueco tanks and told me about it.  When I looked at the problem with Sonnie, he thought the whole thing would weigh in at 13 or 14.  I wasn't sure, but the day after he leave, we went out and tried it.  It took me a handful of tries to do the throw in the middle and it was getting dark so I figured I'd have to go for the red point the next day.  Although it was really hot the next day, I managed to complete the whole line in about another hour.  I graded the problem V12 but a few other people will have to climb the line before a real grade gets established.  Jamie Chong, also from Canada, filmed my second day of work on the problem and I put up a video on You Tube as well as my website

DPM: You seem to shift frequently from routes to bouldering.  Which style is more you? Where do you see your goals in the climbing game?

Sean: I can't live without climbing boulder and routes.  Sometimes I get sick of getting so pumped out of my mind so I start trying boulders.  Sometimes I get sick of not being able to pull a super hard move, so I go and find a nice long 14a with no move harder than V4.  I like the feeling of being able to climb both.  I love the feeling of climbing up 30m and clipping draws as I go up but then again, I love the feeling of trying 100% for only a minute before letting go.  For me, I actually don't know what I'm better at.  Over the years, I've managed to red point a few 14c's and a few V14 but in comparison to the numbers that other climbers are putting up, it's pretty small.  I consider myself more of a competition climber who loves to climb outdoors as well.  Also, I get very frustrated with moves that I can't do, if I can't do a route in 5 tries, I usually move on.  With bouldering, if I can't do the boulder in 1 or 2 days, I look for a new one.  Some of the exceptions to these rules are for very hard boulders and routes where I know it should take me longer than 2 days.

DPM: Lastly, how big is sponsorship and for the community to help climbers?  It seems there are few that can climb on sponsored money with out other income, where do you think with regards to pay/sponsorship the sport should head?

Sean: Sponsorship helps me enormously.  I love all the sponsors that I have and I feel that I have a good relationship with every one.  Obviously, if a company can offer me money, it's much better than if they can't because it means I'll have to spend less time trying to make money, and more time climbing outdoors and attending competitions.  Whenever I'm at home in Vancouver, Canada, I try to work 2-4 days a week so that I can save up my money for competitions in Europe, the States and even across Canada.  I know that there are many other climbers that make much more money than me but I tried not to get worried about it.  I'm already fortunate enough to be able to travel to Europe for 4 months out of every year and I'm very thankful for that.  I couldn't have the climbing life that I have right now without my sponsors, my family or my friends.  They all play important roles in my life.  It's hard to see where sponsorship should be heading, I think that it will head in the direction of any other sport; the more people that watch the sport, the more the companies will be able to offer their athletes. I'd like to thank all my sponsors: La Sportiva, Petzl, Blurr, Flashed, Ryders and Sequence.