5 Things You Didn't Know: Colin Haley
From first ascents on massive alpine walls to the podium of the Freeskiing World Tour to the world's hardest onsights, Black Diamond athletes are no strangers to the spotlight. But oftentimes a newsworthy accomplishment, whether it be in the alpine, at a ski resort or at the sport crag, is only half the story behind our world-class team of climbers and skiers. In this ongoing series of posts, we'll chat with Black Diamond athletes to give you an inside glimpse at their lives behind the headlines. This month we talked with Washington-based alpine climber Colin Haley.
[All photos by Andrew Burr]
I'm an old fart.
I may be only 28 years old, but in many ways my climbing background and climbing philosophy are more similar to people in their sixties than many of my peers. My first ice axe came up to my waist, my first crampons used leather straps, I learned to climb in a swami belt with passive protection and hip belays, and I considered myself a climber for a few years before I ever owned a pair of rock shoes. I enjoy complicated glacier climbs as well as hard rock routes. Getting to the top of the mountain means something to me, and I'm not afraid to slog up the ice slopes or snow ridge above the rock wall to get there.
I'm a weanie.
I think a lot of people see photos from routes I climb, or note that I often climb solo, and assume that I'm a really bold climber, or that I'm cavalier about risk. This really isn't the case at all. I am very methodical, and my climbing successes are the result of a cautious, well-planned approach, combined with a huge volume of previous experience in the mountains. I'm not someone who just "goes for it" on hard, runout climbing. In over fifteen years of alpine climbing very often, I've only ever taken five or six lead falls in the mountains. I'm never too proud to back off of a pitch. I strive to climb some very difficult routes, but I like to make it safe.
I'm not cool and don't want to be.
When I started climbing I felt that it was a fringe activity. For me it was always about pushing myself physically and mentally in an alpine wilderness. I never thought that climbing was "cool," and I don't think it ought to be. When I hear or read posers talking about "climbing fashion," and whether or not it is cool to wear capris at the crag, I know that they have a completely different relationship to climbing than I do. I think that for a lot of days, climbing in fleece tights is perfect, and I don't give a crap if it looks dorky. Yes, I still use gaiters sometimes, and yes, my pants go inside my gaiters (what idiot came up with the idea of putting your pants outside of your gaiters?).
I'm trying to not suck so much at rock climbing.
Although I'm proud of my alpine roots, and although I think my vast wealth of experience on snowy, glaciated terrain is extremely useful for me, I know that my path now is to improve as a rock climber. The alpine routes I am most attracted to are extremely technical, and with all the alpine skills already in my bag of tricks, I need now to not suck so much at rock climbing. The best alpinists of the future are going to be very good at rock climbing. I have a lot of respect for people with all of these skills put together, like the Anthamatten brothers and Hayden Kennedy, among many others. So, for now, I try to resist the pull of the mountains sometimes, and log some more time improving on pure rock.
Skiing pow is more fun.
I've been climbing since I was eleven years old, but I've been skiing since before I can remember. Skiing is pure fun, and I don't have any goals in skiing other than to enjoy myself. Climbing is much more of an obsession for me, but skiing always has been just as much of a passion for me. If I ever had to choose only activity to practice for the rest of my life, it would probably be skiing, not climbing (but I hope to do both for a long time!).