Field Dispatch: KY, UT, ID and such



I’m behind on my episodes! Sending season has begun! I claimed my 16th and 17th 5.12 solos, and then onsight soloed a bunch in Idaho on a work trip! I’m covering my philosophy of media, and the rapid-fire travels I’ve done lately. sometimes I love my job, but at other times I LOOOVE my job! I’m honestly super grateful that they randomly send me to climbing places by accident sometimes. The best sponsorship ever!


Stepping Back from The Edge, Landing Under The Knife



The most terrifying moment I’ve ever had wasn’t while soloing, it was a long time ago on top of a building, while my mind fought to destroy me, as it had been doing since my earliest memories

Some people call me suicidal because I solo, claim I have a death-wish. Well excuse me, but *fuck you*. I know exactly what a death wish feels like, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to let it claim the things in life which bring me joy. This week’s episode on the podcast is the story of how I climbed out of a deep dark hole from which many never return

Freesoloing isn’t a death wish, it’s a life wish. It’s the single best therapy I’ve ever found for calming my tumultuous mind. The control that I’ve developed on the wall transfers into my daily life. This is important, because I’m not the guy who “beat depression.” I don’t get to be that guy. I’ve got to manage this for my entire life. And worse, it’s not “just depression,” its more complicated than that. I have Bipolar II, which is similar to classic bipolar, except that your “baseline” is shifted negative. So the up-swings bring you to a sort of mild-elevation and the down-swings take you much, much further into the darkness, while “normal” isn’t normal at all, but still contains all the markers of self-hatred and low self-esteem

So I’m not soloing for the other reason that many will toss either. A narcissistic craving for attention isn’t driving this show, because I don’t get a bump off of praise like most people. Instead, it feels foul, and false, because my mind tells me it “knows better.” Luckily The Process I’ve developed on the wall, has many transferable skills and helps me mitigate these risks off the wall too

I’m not going to die climbing. I’d be far too pissed off if my epitaph read “we told you so.” Plus, there’s this thing called “free-soloing,” and I really like it… so if I kark-it… I won’t get to do that anymore… so that don’t make any since atall!

Life is an inherently dangerous sport, and mine a bit more than others. If it wasn’t for soloing, I might have been dead already

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FAQ from the Trollercoaster!



Have you ever caught flak on the interwebs via the InstaGerm or the FaceTron? Well me to!!!! But at least it forces me to think, consider the process, and contemplate what horrible life choices have brought me to this point! So here’s answers to a few of the common and somewhat recent discussions

Some have come from trolls, others have come from well intended curiosity, enjoy!


A Simple Guide to Mental Training That Actually Works



Do you or someone you love suffer from Fear of Falling? Here’s a guide to mental practice that actually works!

Ever noticed that some folks tend to regress after practicing falling, or that the so-called “whipper therapy” of taking long falls traumatizes some folks to the point where they’re not willing to fall at all? And become reluctant to lead?

Those are the problems we’re addressing today. If you’re looking for simple drills and practices to improve your mental game, look no further! These are the exact same methods that I’ve used myself to develop and maintain a cool head on the rock, whether I’m roped up or not!

For more media and mojo, head over to www.TheFreesoloist.com/mojo to find all of my multimedia on the web! Don’t forget to explore the main site itself, there’s a lot more mojo coming down the pipeline and you don’t want to miss out!


That’s Dangerous!



How often do you think about danger? How in depth? Are you worried about copycats of the riskiest arts? Do you tell folks just how dangerous these things are, because you want to encourage them? Or have you failed to realize that this tactic truthfully has the opposite effect from what you want?

We’ve had people fall off of buildings and die for *Instagram Selfies*. C’mon, you scream danger, they hear “AWESOME!” And so they flock to do what you just told them was “cool.” Extreme poles are rarely effective. Vilification and Glorification of danger truthfully have the same effect: they encourage the foolhardy.

But what if there was another way? Listen on to today’s episode “That’s Dangerous!” As we explore this notion!

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14: The Only Blasphemy



Free soloing is sketchy as hell! At least it is if you do it wrong as hell… I figured it’s time to address that head-on, so this week is storytime about all the times I was sketchier than all get-out. I didn’t sit on a rock and meditate to generate the process, naw. I learned these ways through the school of hard-knocks.

Two things you need to solo well: Good judgment, and good experience. Unfortunately, it seems the only way to gain good experience is through poor judgment.

Is there any better way to learn than by making mistakes? Yeah. Mentorship. Learning from *other’s* mistakes. So that’s what I’m offering up here. All of my worst mistakes. Wanna convince someone to stop soloing? Send them this episode!

Maybe my mistakes can educate and inform to keep others from repeating them.


013 – 5.12a Onsight and Free Solo “Tangerine,” Little River Canyon



Onsight Free-Solo 5.12, does it get any more rowdy than that? This is the story of the single most intense experience of my entire life

I don’t like lowball solos, where the crux is straight off the deck, at least not when searching for a “personal best” performance. If a route is V4 off the ground with a 5.10 finish, that’s 12a on a rope, but without one… That’s a 5.10 solo with a V4 approach hike. Or maybe a V4 with a highball V0 X-rated finish. It feels like cheesing out, lying about your accomplishment, an affair born of vanity rather than some higher philosophy which deepens one’s understanding of the universe. Those hypothetical 5.12 moves would be nothing more advanced in style than an ordinary and everyday boulder problem. Bouldering is respectable, mind you, it’s just not a solo. When searching for a personal best, I avoid that grey area between the two. I want the difficulties to be high enough that there is no question. The difficulties of “Tangerine’s” ninety feet begin about halfway up, at the fifty-foot mark. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t want to swan-dive into the boulders from that height. You’re not limpin’ away from this one.

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012 – Mile of Mojo Mission Report!



This episode is the play-by-play recap of every route during the Mile of Mojo! How many minutes did they take? Did anything feel sketchy? This one is for the nerds. It’s technical and detailed down to a route-per-route basis

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011 – Mile of Mojo: Next Big Thing



I’d racked up 2500ft during a single afternoon, during an inspection mission, not even aiming for a goal, while hungover like Keith Richards after 1969’s Altamont Anarchy.

An El Cap day wasn’t ambitious enough. But what was the next milestone? There isn’t much in the way of more massive walls against which to measure oneself, so my mind harkened back to the legends of Mike Reardon: The Mile Day. That was the prize in mind.

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010 – The Progress



Today’s episode is about The Progress, because everybody starts somewhere, and chronicles my progress from bumbling-gumby to bumbling-idiot-soloist! As an experiment on this episode, I recorded a lot of my own guitar for segues and such! Feel free to inform me how much I suck by emailing Austin@TheFreesoloist.com

PS: I downloaded a metronome app for my computer after this episode, and I promise to practice with it before the next episode. By which I mean *during* the next episode!

Just remember, there’s nothing safer than not falling!


009 – The Process



While I’ve been covering the process in specificity, with a play-by-play on a week-to-week basis, I haven’t covered the process generally. What am I thinking about *before* I go to think about individual climbs? What preparation goes into these things? How does that enrich my life off the wall? That’s what today’s episode is all about!


08 – The Corporate Dirtbag



For 18 months I lived in my Nissan Frontier, but I had a roof over my head thanks to the company putting me in a hotel all the time. One major perk of a traveling job!

This is the story of that one time I had a one-way ticket to Vegas for Valentines day!

 


S1 E5 – Return To Balance Season Finale



I’m Building a new layer of technique, tactics, and ability on top of the fitness that Lattice’s training protocols had given me I had become a whole new machine. In the three years before this season I had only soloed seven 5.12’s, and then I turned around and soloed eight 5.12’s in two months. Two months to match what had happened in the previous three years. It’s absolutely bonkers, and totally mind-blowing, at least to me personally. I doubled my repertoire in the space between the start of October and the end of November. 


S1 E4 – The Dozenth Dozen



Gravity is heavy, and so is the responsibility we have to make sure that we come home, time and time again. Folks are alarmed when they see soloing because they think I could die. And the fact is that I could. But life is an inherently dangerous sport, the only safety any of us have lies within our ability to make competent decisions, but even so… sometimes your number comes up and there’s nothing you can do about it. The fact of the matter is that there’s nothing particularly safe about a human hanging from a rope 50ft off the ground. No matter your style of climbing, if you fuck up badly enough… You will die. 

While it’s obviously imperative that I think while practicing my lonesome dance with gravity, that doesn’t make me unique in any way. We all have to think. It’s our best form of life insurance. 

Rather than shirk the discomfort of these thoughts mid-route, I instead stayed with them and used them as a focus for meditation while exploring the inner recesses of my mind, and managing my heart rate. I allowed irrational anxieties to float across the sky of my mind like clouds drifting across the sun in an otherwise empty firmament. They did not carry my attention away, but rather they simply “were,” and I allowed them their own space to be, beside my attention rather than competing for it.  


S1 E3 – Sport Soloing



Walking out to the Deep End alone felt empowering. While initially, I’d balked at needing a rope to lower-off of routes, I realized that having the cord allowed me to rope-solo the route to practice the movements so I could dial the climb and send same-day.


S1 E2 – Results May Vary



When onsighting, often the most effecient beta isn’t as valuable as the first beta that works. You’ve gotta get outta there, so you don’t pump out.

After spending precious minutes of progressive fatigue faffing about, I chose my sequence and committed to the moves. Screaming, flailing, failing, I fell.


S1 E1 – So It Begins



Being from Texas, a complete idiot, and having practiced at the most intimidating crag I’ve ever visited in the worst conditions I could’ve chosen short of freezing… the end of September at The Red looked mighty fine in my mind.

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Member’s Night Glendale Heights



Recently I had the honor of giving a presentation for Member’s Night at my local climbing gym (Vertical Endeavors of Glendale Heights). It was a one hour presentation followed by a fun Q&A segment where the audience asked a good amount of questions which I really appreciated

To understand where you’re going, you first must understand where you’ve been


The Process – Introduction



Welcome to The Process! I am your host, Austin Howell! Why am I making a podcast? Why does it matter that we talk about risk, and more in my first podcast episode ever! My only regrets so far? that I didn’t say “so” or “um” any more than I already did