Kicking off our new Athlete Profiles series is one of our earliest supporters - Grayson Allen (@thatallenlife on Instagram). We connected with Grayson originally through Instagram (@aurausa) and have since followed him improving his climbing skills alongside being a family man. Somehow we were able to pick his brain a bit despite his busy schedule of introductory setting at MetroRock Boston, adventuring outdoors with his family, rock climbing, and paddle boarding. Read on for insight to route setting, how to become a better climber, and who Grayson's favorite current climber is.
How long have you been climbing and what sort of climb is your favorite? How has climbing changed you as a person?
My name is Grayson Allen, but at the rock gym I am known as Toadie. I was born and raised in Sanger Texas which was where I first got introduced to climbing. At first it was off and on, once or twice a year, but once I moved out here to Massachusetts I have begun climbing and training several times a week for about nine months now. My favorite kind of climbing is definitely bouldering, indoor or outdoor. I find gyms fun because you can force yourself to do some pretty insane stuff, but I love any chance I can to get outside. Climbing has become a central part of my life because it is one of the few places where I can always find a harder challenge. It is so easy to do enough to get by in life, but to truly be pushed beyond into something incredible is a passion of mine, and no matter how good I get at climbing there will always be harder rocks out there to send.
What gets you excited about climbing? What projects have you been dreaming about? Any future travel plans?
This is probably what excites me most about climbing. The challenge to push above and beyond anything I have ever accomplished before. I would love to get into trad climbing more, especially out at Joshua Tree. A friend of mine went recently and showed me pictures and it looked absolutely incredible. A trip I am super excited about is this summer I will be heading out to Landers Wyoming to begin a 90 day trip of Wilderness EMT training, white water rescue, backpacking, and climbing in Utah.
Who is your favorite climber right now? Are you interested in competition?
My favorite climber right now is probably Megan Mascarenas. She is living proof that stronger is not the only way to climb better. While she is incredibly strong, that is only part of what makes her an excellent climber. And I am absolutely interested in competition, this year I competed in a couple of the competitions that my gym hosted, and my goal is to compete at boulder nationals within two years of training.
What sort of training do you do? What skills/moves do you see lacking in beginning climbers and what can they do to get better?
When I train I spend most of my time on the wall learning movement. While pull ups and finger exercises are great they lack the ability to train all your muscles simultaneously. Those forms of exercise isolate muscles and strengthen them, but to be a good climber you have to re-integrate the muscles before the strength you have gained becomes helpful. Becoming stronger is an excellent way to grow and become a better climber. But often it becomes the only focus, and technique gets lost in the process. For climbers who are just starting out that would be my number one recommendation, is focus on good technique, learn from those who have it, and the strength will come shortly thereafter. I would argue that almost any climber can pretty easily up the grade they are sending by at least one if not two by merely learning the proper technique. Learning to climb smart, not just strong. There is a local climber here in New England who has become a friend and helped me so much in understanding the process of body movement. Dave Wetmore. Not only is he an incredible climber and legend, but also possibly the kindest human I have ever met.
What sort of objectives do you have when route setting?
While I do not set routes in any sort of official capacity I have been observing and learning from those who do every chance I get. I often get teased that when I set routes I will have to make a special effort to make it reachable by normal sized humans. Something Mike Veazey taught me is that reach and difficulty should be a mute point. In that the move is just as hard if you are five feet two inches or six foot three. I think an important process is setting easy grades that help climbers form the fundamentals of climbs, not just ladder climbing so to speak. And as grades increase, so does the level of technique involved in accomplishing that climb. For example setting basic flagging and stem routes on easy grades, so that new climbers can learn the benefit of it, and setting more difficult options such as a figure four or toe hook on a more difficult climb. I get super amped about setting routes because of the artwork it becomes. Setting something that is just hard enough that you fall off on the first try, but just doable enough that you come back again and again until you send it.
Any other advice to help new climbers?
All that said, if you are new to this, or have been at it for a while and feel stuck, stick with it. Find people to climb with who challenge you and whatever you do, don’t quite. The crazy guy in the gym flashing V8’s is flashing them because he kept on trying V2’s, and then V3’s, and so on. And most of all, ask questions! Climbers love to help each other out and learn beta together. Never be afraid to go and ask someone better than you for help.
Feel free to contact me if you have questions or are in the North Boston area and want to get a session in sometime! Easiest way would probably be to direct message me through Instagram. You can find me @thatallenlife.
Also recently I have been accepted to be an ambassador for Friction Labs, feel free to DM me for a code to receive 15% off your first purchase online.
We can't begin to thank Grayson enough for his advice and taking the time to help climbers like you.
Athlete Profiles is a new series at Aura, so stay tuned for more content like this from experienced athletes of all sports.