posted by dpm on 07/05/2012
Matt Fultz lives in Nampa, Idaho, just outside of Boise near the western edge of the state. Not too many folks have been to southern Idaho and usually associate it with the hometown of Napoleon Dynamite. You know: Rex Kwando, feeding Tina, getting pulled to town on rollerblades... Instead, Boise is a nice, clean, modern city with a hip, urban feel to it. They have a solid climbing gym called the Front where Matt teaches workout classes.
21-year-old Fultz is enrolled at the College of Idaho where he's studying to become a physical therapist. It's a fitting career path for a guy that looks like a fitness instructor or alternately, like he stepped straight out of a GI Joe comic book. His broad shoulders and jacked biceps fill out a sturdy frame that looks equally suited for chopping firewood, cage-fighting, or climbing V14. Matt looks strong; the antithesis of the Dave Graham featherweight climber type.
When he finds the time off from work and school, he can be found at the local boulders putting up hard new problems or exploring in search of more. Recently, Matt repeatedly took the 4 hour drive across the endlessly rolling, sagebrush plains of southern Idaho to Castle Rock, Idaho; home of James Litz's famous problem Warpath (V14). Just last week, Matt claimed the third ascent of the problem. I love it when local, relatively unknown, climbers send the world's hardest rock climbs so I sent Matt a few questions.
City of Rocks (pictured here) and Castle Rocks, sit side-by-side in the sagebrush plains of southern Idaho. Odd blobs of granite jut up from the ground, forming a bizarre landscape of wind-sculpted rock features. For perspective, the formations seen here are not boulders. Some are over 100 feet high. Photo: Utahhikes.net
DPM: Warpath is one of those mythical boulder problems. After Litz did it, it took another four years to see a second by Daniel Woods. The media tagged the V15 grade on it back then and it still maintains its reputation as one of the hardest in the country. No offense, but the name Matt Fultz, isn't as recognizable to most as James Litz or Daniel Woods. How's it feel to be in such an exclusive crew to have sent it?
Matt: It feels awesome! I’ve met both Daniel and James, and they’re both great guys who are much, much stronger than me. They’re definitely the type of athletes I look up to as a climber.
DPM: Matt, tell me a little bit about Warpath. What's the climb like?
Matt: Warpath is the best boulder problem I’ve ever tried, and the hardest. It is 25 moves long on continuous V10 mini-problems out a near horizontal roof. You escape the roof via perfectly sculpted crimps and pinches to get to the crux, which happens to be one of the very last moves.
DPM: What was the process like for you? This was your first V14, and a hard one! How long did it take you to do it? Did you train for it?
Matt: It took me about a year and a half, or 3 seasons to complete it. The first season, I sent all the other problems on the same roof. The second season, I worked on Warpath exclusively and made quite a bit of progress and some very good links. I made it to the last move from the start a few times, and sent it from after the first mini-problem a few times. It was frustrating to leave it at that point. This season, it seemed like I took enough time off from it and was able to throw out any mental blocks and send it. I made the trip out to Warpath no less than 10 times.
Crimps and pinches? Check!
DPM: Were you around before the problem had been sent? Had you climbed at Castle Rock back then?
Matt: I had heard that Castle Rock had hard bouldering, but I had never been there. When I heard about James getting the FA of Warpath and saw the video, I knew I had to go out there. I went to the cave once mid-summer when I was 15 to check it out, and got totally spanked on everything!
DPM: What do you think about the potential for bouldering in the Castle Rock/City of Rocks area? Is there a ton of undeveloped rock?
Matt: There is plenty of rock at Castle Rock, but unfortunately the quality is really hit or miss. Besides the Warpath roof and one other boulder, there isn’t too much out there. There are probably a bunch of potential problems scattered all over, but nothing to really get excited about. City of Rocks is the same way.
DPM: How long have you been bouldering/living in the Idaho area?
Matt: I started climbing in 2002 in Indiana. I moved with my family to Idaho in 2003, and this is where I started bouldering. In 2005, I quit climbing and focused on football and track in high school. I got to be about 190 pounds and very interested in taking athletic scholarships. In the beginning of 2010, high school sports ended and I climbed for a little bit, and forgot how much I loved it. I’ve been climbing and training hard since.
DPM: You've been a driving force in the development of the hard bouldering in Idaho. What are some of the areas that you've had a hand in developing?
Matt: I really like developing new problems, but I wouldn’t say that I’m the driving force. There are a few people around here that put in much more effort than me to find new problems. Mike McClure and Old Man Bockino are developing new boulders every weekend in different alpine spots around Idaho. As for me, I stay around the Boise area developing problems in areas like Swan Falls and Reynolds Creek. These are great areas if you’re a local or just passing through, but are not exactly destination points.
DPM: Why not?
Matt: There are great boulders at both areas, but in general the boulders at Swan Falls are really small and the boulders at Reynolds Creek are really chossy. Don’t get me wrong, they’re certainly worth a visit, but I wouldn’t buy a plane ticket.
DPM: What are some of the hard problems you've put up? What are some of your favorite or most classic of all grades?
Matt: The hardest problems I’ve developed are Legend (V12), El Matador Direct (V13) in Swan Falls and Breaking Vows (V13) in Reynolds Creek. I brushed up a problem in Castle Rock called Lichen It (V6) and I think it gets four stars for sure. I also got a couple FAs at Braxon in the Sawtooths that I’m pretty psyched about.
DPM: What is one of your most memorable ascents in Idaho?
Matt: The one that sticks out in my mind besides Warpath is Breaking Vows. I tried so hard on it, and had such a history with it. It took me many days to unlock the sequence, I ran into some bad weather when I got really close, and it finally came together on a last go effort.
More crimpin' and pinchin'
DPM: Talk about the website you run climbidaho.com. You are one of a few moderators. What are the goals of the site?
Matt: Climbidaho is a collection of blogs from climbers in Idaho. There are many goals of the site: getting the word out about the great climbing opportunities in Idaho, communication about access issues or events, and just general spray about sending cool climbs.
DPM: It seems like you guys have a very small and tight knit community in Idaho. Who are some of the others that you climb with frequently?
Matt: It really is a cool situation here, everyone seems to know everyone, and we’re all supporting and rooting for each other. Mike McClure, Mike Bockino, Russell Long, Adam Bradley…I could go on and on.
DPM: Do you guys find new areas together and work hard to put up problems? It doesn't seem like there is any intention of secrecy. Would you guys be psyched to see visitors in Idaho or do you like it quiet the way it is?
Matt: Finding new areas and new problems actually happens all the time, and everyone knows about it. We would love to see visitors; there is enough quality rock here to keep anyone happy for a while, especially up in the Sawtooths.
DPM: What is the best season to visit the boulders of Idaho? I imagine it is almost year round... Which areas are best in which time of year?
Matt: Reynolds Creek, Swan Falls and Castle Rock are good in the Winter, Spring and Fall. Braxon, The 88 Boulders and Riggins are best in Summer. All of these areas are located within a 3 hour drive from Boise.
DPM: You've mentioned the Sawtooths a few times. I always thought that wild mountain range north of Boise is holding all kinds of secrets. Big walls, steep granite, boulders... What's it like up there?
Matt: I took a trip to The Sawtooths last summer to climb at Braxon. To get to Braxon, you have to take a boat ride across Redfish Lake, hike 7 miles uphill, and then hike down a talus field. There is some pretty serious elevation gain. However, it is the best bouldering spot I’ve ever been to. Well worth the effort to get out there.
DPM: That sounds incredible. It sounds like you're not afraid to work for it! You also travel a good bit to get to more popular and well-known bouldering areas. What are some of your favorite areas to travel to?
Matt: I like to travel and explore almost as much as I like to boulder. I really enjoy Joe’s Valley, UT, Wild Iris, WY and Black Mountain, CA. When I graduate college, I’ll be heading out to Rocklands in South Africa for a couple of months. Really psyched about that!
Steeper than horizontal?
DPM: How does your work life play into your schedule? How do you find the time to travel?
Matt: It is tough sometimes. I am a full time student, I work part time, and try to stay in shape year round. Sometimes I have to go a week or so without climbing due to finals or papers. Luckily, I have friends and family that support my climbing, and they know that often times I have to make sacrifices to go climbing.
DPM: What are some of your other interests in life? Do you participate in other sports?
Matt: I haven’t done any sports since high school. I stay busy studying, watching movies, hanging with friends, playing ultimate Frisbee, and anything else that’s fun.
DPM: What about training? I guess what I'm asking is, "How'd you get so swole?"
Matt: Training is a very important part of climbing for me. Aside from having fun, feeling fit is paramount. Luckily, I train at The Boise Front which has all the equipment I need. Usually in the winter months I really focus on power, and when it gets warmer I’ll focus on power-endurance. Sometimes, training can get pretty brutal. I’ll start a typical day by stretching and warming up. Then, I’ll climb on a few boulder problems in my tennis shoes to make sure my fingers are warmed up. I do an hour or so of Moonboard with campus board work between sets. Then I climb boulder problems on the steep wall for a couple hours, with problems ranging from V8-V12, and try to complete them in quick succession. I usually like to finish with a small gymnastic ring workout. After a warm-down and protein shake, I’m pretty toast.
DPM: I'd be toast for a month after that! Anything you'd like to add?
Matt: Thanks a lot to everyone who has supported me and spotted me on Warpath, especially my Dad. Solid Rock Climbers for Christ has also been a huge supporter of mine, and thanks DPM for consistently getting me psyched!
DPM: Matt, we couldn't do it without core climbers like you putting together videos like this for us to watch. Let's check it out...(click the image for video).
All photos courtesy of Matt Fultz.