Player Profile: Jonathan Siegrist
Photos and Interview by Andy Mann
Photo: Jonathan Siegrist onsighting another Smith Rock 5.13
Name, Age, Years Climbing, Hometown, Current residence:
Jonathan Siegrist, 25, nearly 7, Boulder, Las Vegas (currently)
We once had a conversation regarding the benefits of dirt bagging it, as opposed to having sponsor obligations, especially for product only:
There are certainly times when I've felt like I may be better off taking out a loan and living out of my car than trying to forcefully self promote and wrestle for a measly pay check (or more realistically just some free stuff), but it's the awesome people in the industry that make it worthwhile. I'm very passionate about rock climbing and hopefully as I continue to establish myself and build great relationships with great companies in the climbing industry, more support will become available to me, so one day I can actually feel like a professional.
At the end of the day what satisfies you the most about climbing?
The incredible, random, interesting and beautiful people and places it introduces me to. Without all that it would be just a sport and not a pursuit.
In areas with a really limited number of 5.14+ sport routes, how do you continue to challenge yourself? At what point is red-pointing 5.14 not enough to satisfy yourself, the media, and your sponsors?
Climbing comes in so many forms, that it's not always necessary to find that hardest grade in order to challenge myself. I've really made an effort to develop my weaknesses over the past year or two and emerge as more than just an endurance climber. I've climbed 14c in a day that suits my strength, but one that attacks a weakness could take me a week or more. As I develop my skill set I'll be more able to climb well anywhere and think more seriously about the next level, which is the goal.
Is USA sport climbing dead? Old bolts, chipped holds, lots of choss, short routes, finite number of crags, link-ups, etc. Seems doomed for the next generation to me. When will you move into a different discipline of climbing to stay motivated?
Sport climbing did enter something of recession in America somewhere around 2002 or so, and many of the cutting edge routes from that era still remain as the hardest, but the community of strong and ambitious first ascentionists is growing. I think it would only take a couple new discoveries to spark a resurrection. It's my mission to be involved, and find something worthy or at least give it an honorable effort. Eventually I'd love to climb cutting edge long routes like KJ and TC, but for the meantime I love sport climbing and I still have plenty of room to grow.
In an effort to contribute and develop more climbs, we talked about reaching out to the community for beta on new local undeveloped crags, and spending a year developing. Is this an effort to give back, stay motivated, or find a new project?
It's definitely one of the top things on my mind as of late. It would unquestionably satisfy all three of those objectives. I feel obligated to create new routes, and as my support from the industry grows and I have more resources and time, it'll be my top priority. Sport climbing in America will rise again!!!
Tell me about your new dog Zeke?
I found him on Thanksgiving Day in the middle of the highway in Kentucky. I've always loved dogs but I had no desire to have one yet. Obviously he convinced me otherwise. He's kind of a little bastard, but he's growing up already and everybody seems to love him so his mischief is quickly forgiven. I think he's about a year old and he's some kind of coon hound. He loves the climbing lifestyle.
You've mentioned Europe being the easy way out for American sport climbers? Why?
They're a good 15 years ahead of us, in part because their gyms have been around longer and they have exceptional climbing terrain. It's tempting to spend every year just ticking repeats at crags stacked with 9a overseas, but if every one of the best American climbers gets strong and then leaves, sport climbing in this country really is doomed. There is WAY too much stone in America to pretend like it's tapped out. I'll take a trip overseas here and there but I'd like to try and stick around and make a contribution here in the States.
If you had an 8a.nu scorecard, you would be probably be ranked #1 in the USA. Does it eek at you, just a bit, for the credit you deserve (as a potentially ranked #1 climber) for all the hard work you’ve put into hard sport routes? I mean there isn't even a public ticklist on display for one of this country's best current sport climbers...
I don't at all have a problem with people that use 8a, in-fact I even reference it from time to time, but it's just not for me. I've never benefited from competitive energy (I probably push myself too much as it is) and I hate to think of climbing in just numbers as no number can represent the meaning or value of success on a long-term project. As we all know, not all routes at a specific grade are equally difficult so the whole comparison thing is wacked anyways.
What keeps you motivated to keep doing this? Do you still love climbing as much as you did when you started?
Again, it's all these rad people and new places that keep me motivated. If I had to climb in one place my whole life I would probably quit. My relationship to climbing has changed so much, but I continue to love it. If nothing else, getting stronger and better just means that there is more and more terrain for you to enjoy out there.
Photo: Jonathan Siegrist opening the long standing RRG project at the Chocolate Factory - "Pure Imagination" 5.14d, unrepeated.