Anson Whitmer

Anson

Stats

Height: Just shy of 6’. +1 Ape Index
Birthday: August 28th, 1979
Current Location: San Francisco, California
Day Job: Postdoctoral Fellow at Stanford
Years in the Game: 10

About Me

My main pursuits in life revolve around research, climbing and adventure traveling.

As for research, I am currently postdoctoral fellow in cognitive neuroscience at Stanford. I use MRI machines to measure blood flow in people’s brain and am currently trying to figure out the brain mechanisms driving people to experience repetitive thought. I think this line of work is absolutely fascinating and I hope to someday be a professor with tweed patches on my elbows and a pipe in my hand.

As for climbing, I’ve been in the game for about 10 years and I mostly boulder. My primary bouldering habitat is anywhere from the Front Range to Colorado’s high alpine to humidity beaches in NoCal. I love road tripping to any number of other areas, and someday I will finally hop on a plane and finally get a taste of some South African bouldering. I love shorter power-crimp problems (did I mention I mostly boulder?) but I also like to hop on occasional highballs and even more occasionally, crazyballs, like my perfect-looking 45 footer called Rumination (V7; Secret Garden, Colorado). From my smallest to largest forays, I am always psyched to have the ever innovative and high quality products of flashed supporting me.

I love climbing for more reasons than I can mention here, but one of its best aspects is that it functions like a mental reset button. All my worries and stresses get cancelled out in one sweet climbing session.

I also love adventure traveling. I have had the blessing to live in four countries and to backpack through more than 50. Although, climbing is currently my main means to adventure, I am often dreaming about some new backpacking adventure. In my last one, I hitchhiked by myself on canoes down 500 kilometers of roadless, public-transportation-free jungle river in Nicaragua. It was awesome. Upon recommendation from Nicas, I carried a large machete for protection from the lawless Indians but ended up needing it only to fight tarantula infestations.

Posts by Anson:

Park Life

Check out the new feature-video Park Life that is about bouldering in Yosemite Valley. The video is top-quality and it demonstrates why bouldering in the Valley is so d’ern good. I also make a brief cameo near the 17 minute mark flashing The Pride Dyno (V9)!
Park Life

Chinese Connection

After some hard work and some proper punting, I pulled off a local test-piece called Chinese Connection at Mortar Rock (near Berkeley, CA) on New Year’s Eve. The rock at Mortar is volcanic, sharp, and not so pretty to look at, but there are some really fantastic lines there, with Chinese Connection, in my opinion, being the best. The first half is the most difficult – it requires full-body squeezing, pinpoint toe moves, and difficult underclings. Adding to the difficulty, the lower footholds have crumbled substantially over the past year (the rest of the problem is solid). The starting left foothold, at least where tall people put their foot, is now just a smear and it crumbled on me continually while I worked on the problem. After the first half, you then need to pull through the V9 stand-start (Mission Impossible) to make it to the top.

Check out the video; it’s the first one that I have ever made (I just got a new video camera)! Sorry, the production quality will get better as I get to know my camera and imovie better.

Anson

Chinese Connection (V13)

The Pale King

A month ago, I saw a project that I am still day dreaming about. My friend Vitaly lead Josh Newman, Brad Perry and me to it. He had found it off of route 50 near the little town of Rainbow (South Lake Tahoe area) while rampaging through the Manzanita on a scouting mission the day before. It starts on an amazing juggy crimp rail and then follows up the arête perfectly. Unfortunately, just after we finished figuring out the beta, which we thought would make the problem a v12 or 13, I broke a critical crimp.

I was fully locked off on it, and I felt like I was about to do one of the two crux moves and it just exploded!! I have no clue why, but I am apparently excellent at breaking holds (mandala…hmmpph). I mean what the hell? I’m pretty fat and all, but really, come on! After I also broke another crimp over on the Bonsai project, Vitaly now freaks out whenever I yard on a key hold.

Anyway, the crimp broke but the problem still goes. Different beta is needed and the broken hold will probably just be skipped now. We think that the problem will be a solid v14 but it was hot that day and it is always hard to tell on new projects!

I did end up doing the stand. You have to stack a pad to reach a jug. From there you pull up to some more jugs then things get a bit more complicated. Not knowing how to do it at first, I took a pretty great fall. My heel hook popped loose and I flung wildly, flipping forwards, down into the pads below. But in the end, the beta is straight forward: switch your left hand to a sidepull, then heel-hand match, then a big left hand move up to a crimp, then bounce left hand again to the top. The top is flat, a bit sloping, and at 20 or so feet, making the mantle easy but a touch spicy.

I called it The Pale King (v6ish) after David Foster Wallace’s unfinished masterpiece.

Check out Brad Perry’s photos and come back up with us in the fall to try the sit!

Anson

random times

Things are good in the Bay area!  My research projects on the cognitive and neural mechanisms of depression have been going quite well recently.  I’m particularly stoked about some recent findings, but considering that this is a blog about my climbing, I won’t go into any details… suffice to say that my psych for work and climbing usually go hand in hand, and, accordingly, my climbing has really been on the up and up lately too! I’ve finally been back out to Bishop, and the climbing part has gone awesome.  I’ve made great progress on my projects for the season, and I flashed a bunch of classic moderates such as Checkerboard, Saigon Direct, Flyboy Sit, etc.  Super psyched.  Only downfall so far with Bishop this season has been my friend Ryan getting his gall bladder in a twist (literally) and needing emergency surgery at the Bishop hospital on Thanksgiving.  Fortunately, surgery went really well though and he was up walking around the Buttermilks the next day (modern medicine is freakin’ amazing!  Seriously, you can have an organ taken out of your body one day and be up walking around in the mountains the next?)!

Climbing in the bay area is also going well.  I put down a rarely repeated problem called Kraken at Mortar Rock.  It felt way too greasy when I tried it last summer, but the temps have finally cooled off enough for me to get ‘er done.  Hopefully, my friend Josh Newman and I will also get enough of these non-rainy, cold days to finish a couple beautiful, undone projects in the greater bay area soon.

Here’s some footage of me releasing the Kraken.

http:/http://vimeo.com/18630765

Bierstadt, Mount Evans, Colorado

From back in the days when I was a Coloradoan!
Bierstadt (V10) and the super classic warm-up, the Indian Ladder (V3).

A Sunday in SF

I sat in the sun for 30 minutes today in Dolores Park, San Francisco, watching dogs chase balls and a bum do a dance routine for a group of girls. After two solid weeks of rain and hiding out under umbrellas and hoods, it was a beautiful moment. I would like to say that I then followed it up with a long-over due trip to the local crags, but our little hiatus from the winter rains does not mean that the local crags are dry. Oh no, the local pieces are nothing but a dripping pile of mud and moss right now and farther off locales offer us no other salvation. Yosemite and Bishop are both stuffed under a fresh walloping of snow and the word from the frontline is that it will be another 2 or 3 weeks before it dries out again (if it doesn’t snow again).

So instead of doing some proper rock-wrasslin’, I took my gym-rat ass on up to Planet Granite, my local gym. It sits right on the bay looking out over Alcatraz and it has a pretty amazing set-up inside, with free-standing boulders and a 40 foot long roof. The gym also has a real laid back, friendly vibe, which is a real blessing after years of ridiculousness in Boulder gyms. Plus, I’ve developed a good crew of friends who keep me motivated with made up problems and challenges to attempt 1:5:9 moves on the campus board. Hopefully, it will keep me strong and ready for a quick weekend attack on Bishop whenever that happens!

Until then I will have to keep myself entertained with usual winter weekend antics in SF… like drinking copious amounts of coffee at Ritual or Philz while getting research done on my laptop. Or perusing my local pirate shop (that’s right, I just said I have a local pirate shop!). Or maybe out gandering for boulder problems within city walls. A couple weekends ago, my friend Josh Newman and I found a couple potential problems down on Ocean Beach. They looked like hardish, fun roof problems but they were soaking wet from the rain and the spray from a huge storm surge. When it dries off we are going to go back to put them up. There’s nothing like putting up a new problem (Speaking of which, I maybe FA’ed a fun V10ish two hand dyno out at Indian rock in Berkeley. I dubbed it “Cleatus” because it is a variation of the “hillbilly” variations – the variations right above the one-armed problems. Ha! Indian rock cracks me up! Ah well, it is close to home!).

Anyway, besides the sweet roof we found, ocean beach was awesome that day. There was huge surf coming in from a storm, and as far out as we could see there were whiteheads from giant waves. The waves were peaking at about 20 feet and 30-foot tall outcroppings just off shore were just getting demolished. It was an amazing demonstration of nature’s power. I really can’t believe people have the nerve to surf such big waves (although no one was daring that day)!

So that’s wintertime in San Francisco. My next month will primarily consist of me working like a bat out of hell on all of my many research projects, yarding on plastic in my downtime and dreaming of my next Bishop adventure.

My next blog update will be about my Christmas trip to Bishop!

slacklining

I was leaving my office on the University of Colorado’s Boulder campus, when I got a call from a couple friends. They were setting up a slackline (a kind of tightrope) on the University’s quad and wanted me to swing by to help. When I arrived, they were part way through the process of putting up a giant, 200-foot long line that stood about 10 feet off the ground. They hadn’t started to tighten up the slackline yet so I started helping them get the necessary pulley-system rigged. If you have never set up a slackline, one key to doing so is that you have to get it really tight, otherwise, as a person walks out onto it, it will sag way down. On such a long line, a person could even sag down all 10 feet back down to the ground (if they could even handle walking on such a loose line). To get such a long slackline sufficiently tight, you really have to yank on that pulley system, and we did so, over and over again. By time such a long line is tight, it will have created an enormous amount of pressure on the gear at the ends of the line holding it all together. I’ve heard the pressure amounts to something insane like a few thousand pounds or more.

So, when we finally could yank in no more free slack, we stood back and felt pretty proud of ourselves as we took in our handiwork. We were just about to start pulling our shoes off when we heard a strange creaking coming from the line. My friend Chuck and I instinctually took a couple slow steps back. My other friend Jake, however, whose gear it was, stepped forward, up to the line to release some of the pressure. As he raised his hand to the locking device, baam! Then line broke with a bang. Suddenly I saw the line on the other side, 200-feet away, snap up into the air and whip towards me, shooting a metal carabiner at me faster than I could see. I felt the woosh of the line and carabiner as they zoomed by my head before I could even dive backwards. As soon as Chuck and I hit the ground we were back up again looking towards Jake who on his knees shouting. I ran over asking him if he was alright. He yelled “No” back to me like I was stupid and then I saw the blood. He was holding his right hand with his left and his great big farmer fingers were soaking red and I could just make out a stump where his giant pinky had been 10 seconds ago. The force of the line breaking was so great that it didn’t even seem to pull his arm when it flipped back, instead it just swiped his pinky clean off!

I went sprinting for my car off-campus while Jake had threw his hand into a beer cooler. By time I got back his finger still hadn’t been found. It had just disappeared with the snap of the line. We zoomed off, bobbing and weaving, through traffic and even picked up a pair of cherries by time we made it into the ER. Ignoring the cop, we ran into the ER to get his finger addressed.

My other friend, Chuck, who also nearly dodged being killed by the flying carabiner, stayed behind at the scene to look for Jake’s finger. His first efforts being a wash, he called upon passerbyers to help him look. He organized 15 people into a solid line and combed the scene up and down like a rescue squad looking for a dead body. After an hour of looking, he gave up! He never found it! So he just came over to the ER to sit with me while Jack got his finger sown up. We wondered if someone sitting at an outdoor eatery a half mile away had suddenly had a finger fall out of the sky and plop into their soup. We were half bracing for the news report.

Anyway, Jake got out of the ER minus a pink and 3,000 dollars (like most climbers, he had no insurance) but at least he was full of painkillers and we all had been taught a new lesson:  double up your slackline. Jake remains the only person I have even know who has literally lost a finger.

Anson Whitmer Bio

Who has impressed you the most this last year? Climber or Non-climber…
A: Someone that has really impressed me this year (and this is rather generic) is Captain Sullenberg, the guy who landed the plane in the Hudson river. I listened to the audio tapes when they were released and it was amazing how calm and practical he was as he stated such things as “We are going to land in the Hudson.” His odds were 99 to 1 that he would kill himself and all his passengers and he just took it in stride. I think it is the mindset that any climber can appreciate and aspire to. Whether highballing, topping out over a jagged talus, high above a piece or soloing, climbers often find themselves in situations where they need to be able to keep in control and get it done. I just hope that if I’m ever faced with a much stiffer challenge, like that of Captain’s Sullenberg’s, that I will also be able to look death calmly in the face and get ‘er done. Who knows, maybe the mental challenges of climbing are even preparing me for such challenges.

Describe a time when someone helped your climbing?
A: It really is hard to find one time in particular because the help from friends is constant and widespread. My friends keep me laughing, relaxed and ever motivated to get stronger. My friend Ryan S. is always challenging me to do crimp-campus problems after an already brutally long gym session at CATS (and that is before he challenges me to do extra sets of rainbow curls on the pull-up bar). My friend EZ helps me keep climbing in perspective. We often head out to do the “back 9” (a group of easy/moderate highballs at Carter Lake ) just so we can appreciate movement over rock and some air below our feet instead of flipping out over harder problems. His perspective is all the more impressive because he’s 40 and crushing V12s. My friends, like Matt Kennedy, remind me that at its heart, climbing is adventure. Or other friends, like Chuck Z., and his never satiated love of off-widths, who remind me that even the negative aspects of climbing, like pain, are really just part of the fun.

What characteristic is most impressive to you in really strong climbers?
A: I would have to say that it is hard for me to respect hard climbers if they can’t keep their ninja skills in perspective. Climbing allows us moments of zen focus, pushes us to unexplored physical heights, constantly inspires us and in general, connects us to nature and our fellow climbers. But even if you are crushing, it doesn’t mean that you are curing cancer. When it comes down to it, climbing, like any other sport, is pretty ridiculous. So I really respect climbers who can turn on a legit A-game and still remain down to earth and friendly with everyone.

What developments would you like to see in the climbing community in the next 10 years?
A: I really, really, really think it would be awesome if someone builds a gym that would allow deep-water soloing contests. That would be wicked… to watch and participate in. I can imagine right now a 35-foot problem with the move to the last jug being a giant, two-hand dyno. I think that would even make climbing comps fun enough to televise.

What do you see as the biggest myth out there about being famous?
A: Disney World. Just because you are insanely famous from your grassroots sponsorship with Flashed, it doesn’t mean you get to go to Disney World whenever you want. Where’s the justice in that?