Ethan Pringle

posted by dpm on 11/23/2010

Ethan Pringle has been one of America’s top climbers for over a decade having ticked world class routes such as Realization (5.15a) and recently The Wheel of Life (V15/16).  A shoulder injury last year kept him off the rock for a while but he’s back in top form traveling the world and sending hard routes.  DPM caught up with Ethan where he’s currently posted up at Kentucky’s Red River Gorge.

Photo courtesy of Ethan Pringle

DPM:  What’s up Ethan?  It seems like you’ve been flying under the media radar recently.  Where have you been hiding out?
After I got back from OZ in late July, I posted up at home in San Francisco for a month, making some weekend trips to local spots in the Sierras, like the sport climbing area Colum of the Giants and the alpine sky-cragging on the Incredible Hulk, and climbing in the gym a little. I finally bought my own vehicle, a silver Honda Element (named Tungsten) and hit the road. I drove my car to Vegas first, and climbed at Robber’s Roost for a day before flying to New Hampshire for the Nor’easter event and comp. After all that madness I had a hurt leg (from bailing off the top of the second finals problem and landing wrong) that took about a week to heal. I was planning on going up to Clark to work on the Jumbo Love (5.15b), but my leg wasn’t in any state to handle the hike, so I ended up just climbing at Mt. Charleston and Red Rocks once my leg was ok with shorter hikes. I was trying the forgotten test-piece Hasta La Vista (5.14b/c) for a couple days, but I just didn’t have time to finish it before I left Vegas. That route is hard! I left Vegas on the 13th and drove to Salt Lake City, hung out and climbed there for a couple days, and then got really sick with this heinous sore throat/fever combo package, so I bailed to Boulder for a couple days to recover before starting the drive to Kentucky. Now I’m in the Red, leg is almost completely healed and I’m no longer sick! I’ve been here for about a week.
DPM:  Man, you are always on the move.  Back up and tell us about Australia.
The climbing in the Grampians is awesome. I don’t know of too many other places in the world where you can do five star sport climbs on one of the most beautiful walls in the world, and then go climb on five star boulders in the same day. The rock is really incredible, such good quality, especially on the Taipan wall. The rock in the Gramps looks really similar to pictures I’ve seen of the rock in the Rocklands, but maybe doesn’t have quite as condensed, high-quality boulders as the Rocklands. The Rocklands doesn’t have the Taipan wall though!

I spent five of my six weeks in OZ in the Gramps. It was a long time to be stuck in one small area, inside of such a vast and beautiful country, but in the end it was worth it after I completed both of my objectives— TheWheel of Life and the Groove Train— maybe the hardest boulder and the hardest route in the Gramps, maybe even in OZ? Even though the Wheel of Life had a grade of V16 and the Groove Train was only supposed to be 33 (5.14b) I thought the Groove Train was a little harder and took a little more work… Both of those pieces of rock are so amazing and I was lucky to be able to climb them in the time I had. I was also lucky to make so many good friends while I was there, and to visit the Blue Mountains and sample the climbing at Nowra before I left.
DPM:  It seems like you are back in top form.  How long has it been since your shoulder surgery?  How’s it feel?
I hurt my shoulder on February 14th (Valentines Day) 2009, and had the surgery on June 3rd, so it’s been about a year and a half since the surgery. It seems to be able to handle pretty much everything (climbing related), at least on real rock. It definitely gets pushed the most indoors, mainly in comps, but I guess it can still handle even those fairly well. Huge, footless compression moves are risky and all points off dynos when it’s not possible to get my right hand on are pretty much out of the question. I think my climbing will always be a little different than it was before, and my shoulder will always feel a little venerable but that’s ok, I’ll deal.
DPM:  So you’re at the Red right now.   How’s your trip going? 
So far climbing here has been a blast. How could you not have fun here?!?  I’ve been here for about a week, and have about three weeks left before I make the trek back to Cali… I’ve pretty much ticked every established route at Drive By, and haven’t fallen yet, but I haven’t tried the bottom of The Nothing yet… that’d be a hard one to onsight. There are cobwebs on it. Yesterday I did a link up of the start of Tika Monster into the second half of The Nothing that I think should be named Tika Masala. It may have been an FA, and I was able to make an onsight ascent of it. Thanks to Kevin from Ten Sleep, It has chain draws and a bolt to make the link safe and rope drag free. It’s sure to be a classic at around 13b!

I’ve gone up The Golden Ticket a couple times and I hope I can ticket (pun intended) before I take off (Ethan has since climbed the route. Watch video of some early attempts HERE).
It’s definitely a gem, but there are cruxes that involve really small bad holds, so I need cold temps to try to do it, which I’m keeping my fingers crossed for. It’s a sick route though! There’s quite a wide variety of movement on it, and it’s a super obvious, inspiring line, but the crimpy cruxes aren’t my style really, so it’ll be a challenge for me. I’m psyched! I went up Southern Smoke yesterday a few times, which is also a really awesome route, and seems really doable. It’s funny that Southern Smoke and the Golden Ticket get the same grade in the guide… The Golden Ticket feels about 14c or d to me, Southern Smoke about 14a or b, minus the boulder problem at the bottom. The boulder problem direct start hasn’t been linked into the route yet so I might try that if it cools down a lot. I also want to do Lucifer at Purgatory. Aghhh, too many projects, not enough time!
DPM:  After the Red are you going to chill for a bit or keep jet-setting around?  
Around the middle of November I’m going to Yangshuo for a month or so. I don’t have a ticket yet, but will be purchasing one in the next couple days. I’m really psyched for that trip. I’ve wanted to go out there since I first started seeing pics of it a few years ago. It sounds like there have been massive amounts of development in the past few years, and a handful of awesome projects still remain and are still getting bolted.

I was thinking about going out to Colorado and climbing some ice when I get back from China… never done that before. I still have to decide what I’m doing next year. Decisions, decisions…
DPM:  Thanks for chatting with us Ethan.  Any closing remarks?
Al Muerte!

Read about Ethan's ascent of The Golden Ticket HERE
See video of Ethan's early attempts on The Golden Ticket
Stay tuned for exclusvie footage of the ascent!