Category Archives: Interesting People


Log Entry 21 – Kathy Karlo

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I was only climbing with Kathy for two days, but that was enough to see that she is an amazing person. Only been climbing for 4 years, but she crushes 12s and isn’t afraid of 13s. At the end of the day, she was “cooling down” on a 12 and saw a 14 next door and was saying how she would want to try it. In short: a very strong climber.


But her strength is not limited to her muscles. Her determination and will is inspiring. She quit her job as a nanny and started to live on the road since November. And she runs a nanny placement business. Oh, and she runs a blog that has received notable attention from some big names.

At first I was a little worried about climbing with someone so high above my grade. She proved those fears to be unfounded. She was excited for me whether I sent a 9, or or just got part way up an 11. Climbing with her really contributed to my motto of “any time on the rock is a good time.”

The 11b I would never have tried if not gently pushed

The 11b I would never have tried if not gently pushed

While I didn’t feel out of place climbing with her, she did push me farther than I would have pushed myself. I wouldn’t have lead my first 10b, followed (with a take) an 11b through a roof, or have gotten 3/4 of the way up a 12a (that I will return to someday and send).

I am very grateful to spend a bit of time climbing with Kathy.



Log Entry 17 – Dave and Renee

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Saturday morning I rolled out of bed to find a couple unloading a truck in the parking lot of Wrinkled Rock. It was the bi-annual climber’s breakfast. Reaching out to the climbing community is the vision of Renee, “The Pancake Lady”.


When she was a young adult living in Virginia, she would watch climbers at Harper’s Ferry. As they ascended hundreds of feet into the air, she would tell herself that one day she would be up there. That “one day” started to become a reality only seven years ago when she got a membership at a climbing gym.

She did climb the multi-pitch route she had always dreamed about. She now lives in South Dakota where the rock is abundant and her husband says, “She lives to climb. She would climb everyday if she could.” But to Renee, climbing is just a small piece of something else.


“Climbing was a spiritual journey as much as it was physical one.” She would describe how climbing had changed her life in so many ways. And now, she wants to help others through the experience of climbing rocks. She has a vision of reaching out to women in particular. “Women that come from a troubled past often return to their old life because they don’t have something to fill that void.” A relationship with God is what Renee wants to direct these women to. And she wants to bring these women into the tight knit climber community so they can build relationships and support each other too. And women with a troubled past is only one part of her vision.

Her husband, Dave, climbs rocks but is not a rock climber. He is an all around adrenaline junkie. From the heights of skydiving to the depths of scuba, he does it all. Like Renee, Dave has a vision for ministry too, though not through his sports. He runs a real estate company and he describes that as his mission field. While I stayed with them, he told me numerous stories about watching people’s lives change. “Yes, we need to pay our bills, but those people are why we are in business.”


When I asked him what was the best thing he learned in business, he replied, “Give and serve. Remember that it is not about you. Your focus should be on helping other people, not on pushing yourself forward.”

While I was with Dave and Renee, it was obvious that they did not just talk about their beliefs, but they lived them out in their everyday life.



Log Entry 16 – Spearfish with Corry

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I climbed with Corry today. He had a day off from guiding at Devil’s Tower and wanted to get some climbing time in. Since it was a rest day for him, we didn’t get started till after one.

As we were roping up, he suddenly stopped and looked over at me. “You know how to clean anchors, right?” I said that I did. “Good. I wanted to make sure I wasn’t guiding today.”


Guiding and climbing is actually fairly new to Corry. He had been working in a coal mine for years and started to climb in his 40s. He quickly became good at it and one day asked Frank (yes, the Frank Sanders of Devil’s Tower fame) if guiding could be an option soon. Frank said that he was ready right then. After getting his certification, he quite the coal mine and is now guiding full time at Devil’s Tower.

When he wasn’t showing me how to set a third easy anchor point on bolts (or many other helpful tips), we talked a bit about this experience as a guide. “It is a hard job, but I wouldn’t want to do anything else.” He said that the hardest part is not the rock climbing, but the mental challenge. As a guide, you always need to be 10 steps ahead of the game. What are you going to do if your climber gets stuck at a point? What if the weather goes foul? Normally rock climbing requires all of your focus. To climb with someone who doesn’t know what to think about requires a whole other level of thought.


He also said that people from every walk of life want to climb and each want to get something different out of the experience. It is not just about the climbing and keeping them safe, but identifying their goals and helping them accomplish it.

Even though he wasn’t guiding me, I accomplished things I wouldn’t have thought of. I followed him clean on a 10b. Next he went over to an 11a. “This one is pumpy,” he said with a grin. I tried it on top rope and got up there, though I did need to rest a couple of times. Even though I didn’t not officially “send” it, I was glad to have followed Corry to the top.



Log Entry 11 – Chris and Nicole

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Chris was not here to climb rocks. He says that heights is one of the few things he is afraid of. What brought him to Wrinkled Rock, was camping with his daughter, Nicole. They were traveling across America to see the sights and hike in the mountains.


They were coming from Toronto area in Canada. Though Chris’s journey started in Poland. Born and raised there, he grew tired of living under the communist reign. “You would need to wait 20 years for them to get a phone line to your house, unless you were in the communist party. I said to myself, ‘Life is too short to wait.’ So I left as soon as I could.”

Getting a passport that would allow travel to western countries was not easy, but he eventually got it. The first place he visited was West Berlin. “The difference was amazing. Everything was grey. Then it burst into color as you crossed the line.” He settled down in Canada where he married and had three daughters. One of them was traveling with him.


Nicole was not a rock climber, but she wanted to be. Ontario really does not have much climbing opportunity. And unless you already know a climber, it can be fairly hard to get into the sport. When she found out that Matt and I were climbers, she became so excited. After a bit of consideration, Chris said it would be ok if she went climbing with us. “But if she is not safe, I will get up there to grab her and carry her down.”


At first she said would be content just to watch us climb, but on the second route we did, she roped up. Once on the solid ground again, she described the experience, “It was amazing. While you are up there, everything else just disappears. It is only you and the rock. And once you finish, you feel so relaxed.” I think she was hooked.


Through out our time together, Nicole proved to be an excellent student. She carried a notebook around to would write down terms, knots, and make little diagrams on how to sling rocks. I probably threw too much information at her, but she worked hard to keep up with everything. We went over everything from knots, to anchor building, rappelling, toprope belay, and even some climbing techniques.

One time when my gear was jingling, I joked about it sounding like Santa’s sleigh bells. Her reply was, “Well, this feels like Christmas to me.”


Log Entry 10 – Matt

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Wednesday evening I met Matt. In the parking lot at Wrinkled Rock, he approached me and asked if I wanted to climb. Well, it wasn’t that simple. His French accent was fairly thick. But after a couple of tries, I got the message and said I would love to climb.


First I needed to eat supper though. I found some eggs and was trying to light my stove, but it had been giving me some trouble lately and finally decided to quit. Clogged fuel line I think. Matt brought out his stove and then dinner was on its way.

Matt is an extremely generous person. Not only did he let me use his stove, but when it came time to climb he gave me a chalk bag. He said he brought two with him and he really didn’t need it. The gift was very much appreciated.


Not only was he generous with his possessions, but he gave freely of his time. Being from the French Alps, he was a very experienced climber having done 5.12-5.13 routes. But he was happy doing 5.7-8 routes with me. His perspective was any time spent climbing rocks was a good time. He also said that if you are not relaxed and having fun, you shouldn’t be climbing.


Matt also had some big goals. He was riding his bike from Montreal down to Argentina. When I asked him why, he said, “For the travel and adventure.” He was already two months in and had set aside two years for the journey.

As he pedaled away, I was sad wondering if I would ever see him again, but glad for him to live his own adventure.



Log Entry 2 – Nathan K.

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This is Nathan. He climbs rocks. But he is also working on his Ph.D in education. He says that most people are impressed when he says that, but then lose interest when they find out he is specifically doing into Art Education. But that doesn’t seem to bother him too much.


Nathan sees art as being crucial to the rectification of education in schools. “Art is a process, not a product,” he explained. The process of art has another name: Discovery. If one can learn the art of discovery, there is little they can not learn. “I teach my art students to first figure out themselves, what makes them unique. Next is understanding the envrionment or world they live in. And at the end of the semester, we combine that to create art based on a worldview.” Education is an art, so why not use art to teach education?

In the days we spent together, I learned that Nathan loved kids. There were a number of school groups that passed by us and he would always interact with kids in the group. Sometimes that would be whispering (with a wink) “It is still five miles to the top”, or singing a song with them. The kids loved him too.


Fear is always a factor when one is climbing. Nathan admitted that he sometimes has a little freak out when he realizes how high he is. I asked if he needed help when those happened. “Nope. That is part of the reason I climb. I want to overcome my fears.” Rather than shrinking back, Nathan was pushing the envelope. He wanted to climb the hardest routes he could or find new ways to connect routes together. Once that involved doing a traverse on a thin edge with nothing for his hands to grab. Not once did I see him overwhelmed by the heights.

It was a pleasure to climb with Nathan and I feel I learned much from the teacher of art.