Nathan Williamson – Climbing 5.14
“I believe with my whole heart.. if you say it, and mean it by living it.. you can really have anything you want. All it takes is to set aside your ego and what you know, then jump into the scary unknown.” – Nathan Williamson
We’ll introduce Nathan Williamson in three parts: first, he’s a locally-loved employee at the indoor climbing gym ‘The Front’; second, he is sponsored by Trango Hardware and Kuhl Clothing [yes, he’s pretty damn good], and third – the icing on the cake – he’s simply a great guy to spend the day with. Nathan has been working on one of the toughest routes in Utah. It’s up Little Cottonwood Canyon, visible from the road as a massive granite boulder jutting up from the sea of evergreens. It’s in the 5.14’s, which makes this route “pro status”. Nathan, local professional that he is, brought with him a crew from The Front to take a stab at being the first climber to make it to the top.
Relating any other sport to Rock Climbing is difficult, as there’s not much that compares. Some say Yoga most closely encapsules the stamina, balance, and attentiveness of the mind that are vital while projecting routes, but that’s best practiced on a beach. The unique physical demands of climbing unforgiving cliff-faces are brutal on the body and the reality of pain is inseparable from the sport. Nathan tells us that it was about “…learning how to move past what I thought was my max level of pain and discomfort to reach where I am today…” – and he says it with a smile. He loves it, and that is easy to see.
We came along to capture some cool content and watch our bud Nathan try and tackle this thing. The hike up wasn’t bad, but hauling up our equipment was still a workout. Shit’s heavy. We were shooting on our two R3D epics, and throughout the day we switched between our 24mm, 50mm, and 85mm Cannon Cinema lenses. We kept one camera on the ground and sent the other R3D to the sky. It was a challenge to film our aerial content through the piny arms of the evergreens, and even more so landing the rig mere inches from a cliff, but in the end our precision training paid off. We shot our stills on two Cannon 5DIIIs, and we made sure to cover every angle. Aaron Bittner found his way to the top of the boulder and rappelled down over the route to get some awesome wides. The rest were taken from neighboring boulders or ground up. Nathan brough his own photo gal and she didn’t waste any time climbing a nearby tree to start firing right away. We were all set to watch Nathan make his attempts.
He spent the day exploring new techniques and working on different sequences. Progress was made, however the sharp granite crimps left Nathan’s hand chewed up and eventually sliced his finger to the muscle. Didn’t seem to concern him too much, and it was sure-as-shit not enough to stop him from climbing later that night [god bless tape]. Over the last few years Nathan has immersed himself in climbing and has become quite the tough cookie. With his backers Trango and Kuhl he found a career, but even better, as he explains, he found a new beginning. As we launch this article, we know he’s out in the desert somewhere, stoked on the great outdoors and pushing his own limits.
Before he left we asked a few questions on what it’s like to be a pro climber. Loved what he had to say.
Q. Who were you before climbing? What did your life look like?
A. I always find it amazing how with a blink of a eye your whole life can change. My life before climbing was very common.. stuck working a job I hated and living my life like I was half asleep. At the time I was deeply depressed and drinking a lot. Mostly out of boredom, and also because well that’s what all my friends were into. Monkey see monkey do.. Wasting away my life minute by minute.
I grew up with a very active family. We were always camping, exploring, and hiking. I felt like I was always deep in the trees playing with my brother and mom. It was a great childhood and I feel very fortunate to have the parents that I have. They always told me life is what you make it, so live it to the fullest!
Years ago I said that’s enough… I stopped drinking and started busting my ass in the gym everyday. I became hooked, but it wasn’t until a few months later I found my true addiction.. climbing.
When climbing came into my life it stuck to me like glue. I was hooked the moment I touched rock, and for whatever reason.. it came very natural to me. I was off and running. Traveling, exploring, trying everything I could to become better and stronger. I told myself work on the hardest climbs possible.. so I did. I set out to work on the hardest climbs I could find. After finishing a few “impossible routes” I was in it till the end. I truly feel like its my calling in life to be a climber.
I told myself I wanted to be a professional climber a few years ago. I knew it was going to be a ton of work but hell, why not try.. I believe with my whole heart.. if you say it, and mean it by living it.. you can really have anything you want. All it takes is to set aside your ego and what you know, then jump into the scary unknown.
Q. What draws you to climbing vs. other outdoor sports?
A. One of the biggest elements of climbing is fear and the need to overcome it. In this sport, the only person that can assist you in surmounting that fear is yourself. I also have a passion for nature that runs deep in my soul. Climbing, more than most sports, requires a love and understanding of nature.
Q. What aspects of you, both physical and mental, make you a good climber?
A. Physically, nothing gets in my way. If I need to become stronger, I can work at it constantly until I reach my goal. My challenges lie mostly on the mental side. It takes more effort to become mentally sound, but I love nothing more than pushing my fear and limits, so I train my mind as well.
Q. You are a professional climber for Trango. Give us an insight on their gear and what it’s like to work with their team:
A. The gear speaks for itself. I have to trust my life with it on a daily basis and I couldn’t imagine falling on or hanging from anything other than Trango gear. The team is so inspiring. I feel lucky to get to work with people just like me. People who desire to push fear and limits every day. They are a driving force behind my desire to accomplish things I never thought possible.
Q. This route looks pretty hard. Describe the balance of technique, strength and patience it takes to send a problem like this:
A. This problem is more challenging and different than anything I have projected before. It involves many different climbing elements including tension, balance, and strength. It’s interesting being able to use all these different techniques and new beta in one climb. It also requires patience – learning the moves and trying them over and over literally until my fingers bleed is extremely frustrating, but will make it that much sweeter when I finally get the send.
Q. Congratulations on becoming the newest Kuhl Clothing Athlete! Having a brand with such a passion for the outdoor experience behind you has got to be pretty exciting. Where do you see your future heading with this partnership in your pocket?
A. I am so honored to be part of such a unique and yet another inspiring team. With these folks behind me, the possibilities seem endless. Kuhl is an inspiring brand that radiates the same passion and adoration for the outdoors that I do. It’s a blessing to work with a company that’s truly “Mountain Grown” and has such a drive for accomplishing extreme things in the outdoors. I could not be more excited to continue on this journey with their support.
If you want to read more, he’s posting what it’s like to live rock climbing on his blog.
- Director Skylar Nielsen
- Cinematographer Josh Fletcher
- Cinematographer Ian Rigby
- Photographer Marcus MacDonald
- Photographer Aaron Bittner
- Author Marcus MacDonald
- Editor Stephen Lupsha
- Web Producer Marcus MacDonald