founder story: a grip geek
I'm probably just like you. A passionate climber. Perhaps even obsessive. Most setters and homewall owners are.
My first real homewall in 1996 in my attic had a lot of my own holds. Alongside the Franklin, Nicros and Metolius of the time, I drilled rocks and carved wood. Trying to make grips I used sand cavities as molds and wrapped clay creations with caulk. I poured the most noxious nasty resins. It wasn't until I discovered molding silicone and casting urethane that things started to improve.
In March 1997 I bought a drillpress, a belt sander, and by golly, I had myself a hold company. We even had a name! Crater Holds was born. No one bought any for a while.
Later that year I got a loan and bought Climb Time, a struggling local rock gym in Cincinnati, brought it back to profitability, and kept making grips. A team of us there refined our technique. We made hollow backs. We dripped and layered our colors. We made huge sweet screw-on rails that were unlike anything then or since. The Chancellor brothers visited and poured holds with us before So iLL was born. Louie Anderson reached out, liked the direction we were going, and sent us a bunch of sick shapes for the line. We were inspired by the cool brands of the time: Pusher, VooDoo, Climb-It, Stone Age. We collected every grip we could, we thought of our gym as a showroom, and we spent a ton of time setting and climbing boulder problems. We also loved finding and sending new problems at the Red and in Ohio.
During a road trip through Colorado I met Ian Powell. Like always I was looking for new grips and heard of a company called "e-grips". Happened to run into him at a local gym. He gave me directions to his north Boulder studio, complete with "use-the-tent-peg-to-break-in" beta, and spent a couple days inspired by his mastery of art and climbing. That strong mutha did a few moves at Morrison I doubt have ever been repeated. Saw stuff in his shop that would still be ground breaking today. The only grips he had to sell was a hunk of 50-some seconds, all stuck together in a single big ball of sticky plastic. I bought them, took them back home, and fixed and loved every one.
Somewhere in there I also started this monster called the American Bouldering Series, and quickly realized that I needed to move to Boulder to make my dreams come true. And they did. Shortly after relocating, Crater Holds earned the prestigious Climbing Magazine Editor's Choice award in 2001, and the ABS went on to be a comp climbing household name. Pretty cool to have been there since day one. They were busy days, making grips, running comps, delivering pizza at night and finishing my degree at CU. Spare hours were spent scouring the nearby hills for untraveled boulders. Wish I still had that kind of energy!
In and among all that, I also ran the climbing portion of the Vail Games for several years before it was a World Cup. It was there that the absolute need for at least a set screw hole become obvious. We had a year when it was pouring rain during speed finals. And another year we woke up to 2 inches of snow on the pads 2 hours before climbers were to start. Both times, and at gazillions of gyms and comps in between, the holds spun. Dammit! Whatever could we do? The sloppy screw wedge? Guess that's it, unless you want to take a minute to drill a nice set screw hole. My last year, I remember the setting team hating me when I asked them to set screw EVERY grip. I don't regret it. No holds spun.
Since then I've drilled screw holes into practically every grip I own. And folks love it. My homewalls always get packed with unique grip combinations, inside and outside corners are always converted into awesome features, and we have utmost flexibility to create grips and movement unrestricted by t-nuts. And we never have spinners, which is a safety concern to me as a father of young children.
See, I was always a setter. That was where it started - drilling rocks and carving wood for my attic homewall to create movement, to being one of the first staff setters at The Spot, to traveling across the US and setting at over 40 facilities for comps and clinics. The passion never left. It inspired me to teach others and write about the craft. I take some pride in having worked with Louie Anderson on his setting book. And no, I never sent a v10. I don't think you have to climb that hard to set great movement. I had fun, and people liked my setting.
Life has taken me away from commercial setting, but I still work in a climbing gym. Not turning a wrench anymore, but surrounded by climbers, setters, grips and movement.
These days any precious extra energy is directed towards my kids and being a good dad. I'm proud to work for the Boulder Climbing Community dealing with climber impacts and stewardship. I love my work at The Spot and Kilter, and am available for freelance projects. I still love wandering around boulderfields for fresh lines, and I'm often down for a quick circuit on Flag if you're in the area.
And I still fondle plastic climbing grips practically every day of my life.