Matt Segal made climbing history with his first free ascent of Iron Monkey, Eldo's hardest traditional route to date. Lately, Matt's been climbing up a storm, bringing fresh ambition to the trad world, plus a little attitude. We met up for a morning interview at the Trident, Boulder's favorite Buddhist-owned cafe/office. The next day he sent his project up at Independence Pass near Aspen. What's next? Only at P&C, this Miami compkid turned stonemonkey tradster comes clean about ethics, the Czech and his love life.
C-note: Congrats on sending your project. What's it like?
Matt: It's pretty rad. It's a really varied roof crack that's got slopers, finger locks, fist jams, underclings, toe jams. And it's hard, which I like. The crux is the endurance factor and placing gear. I'd say it's 14 minus.
C-note: What are you gonna call it?
Matt: It was an old aid line, The Orangutang Roof, so for now, Orangutang...aka ADOO-ZEE.
C-note: What's next?
Matt: I'm leaving in a couple days to meet up with Ethan Pringle, teachin' homey how to trad climb! Eric Decaria taugh me how to trad climb, in his own unique way of teaching and not teaching. Now Ethan and I are gonna try The Path.
C-note: The Path?
Matt: Sonnie Trotter's route. He's like the Canadian poster boy for climbing.
C-note: Do you guys get along?
Matt: Yeah, we do for sure. We were wasted at like one in the afternoon the other day—me, him and Will Stanhope were bouldering and shit, soloing the buildings. It was like a reunion. Sonnie and I climb a bunch together.
C-note: I like Canadians.
Matt: I like Canada. Then I'm going to England with Kevin Jorgeson and Alex Honold. It's like Team America goes to England. Those two kids are really talented climbers. Alex freesoloes 5.12 plus big walls and Kevin boulders V14. It's like, who, those guys are bitchin'.
C-note: You've recently returned from the Czech Republic—it's pretty rugged there, no?
Matt: The Czech was one of the more different cragging experiences I've ever had. The most humbling but also odd. We just jumped into a climbing culture that entailed a lot of drinking and not a lot of climbing. We all wondered what came first, the drinking or the scary climbing.
C-note: Why so scary?
Matt: No metal cams or nuts are allowed, so you tie knots in ropes and put them in cracks.
Matt: We didn't use chalk either. You're not allowed to use chalk on the rock.
Matt: The no chalk thing is an aesthetic thing. People think it's abrasive to the eye. The no metal gear thing, I'm calling bullshit, they say the rock is too soft. I'm sure it has something to do with that, maybe Communism, too.
C-note: How's that mesh with your sense of ethics?
Matt: It kinda flipped 'em all around. I mean the way old school ethic is to climb barefoot.
C-note: Damn hippies...
Matt: I look at climbing ethics more on a spectrum now. On one side you have barefoot, solo, ropeless and chalkless. On the other you have over-bolted, stealth rubber knee pad wearin', you know, the full on ordeal.
C-note: Is it boring to talk about ethics?
Matt: It's hard to talk about 'cuz it's a gray area. The bottom line is how you walk up to a wall and climb it. I'm obviously not gonna manufacture any holds. But I still wanna climb hard. There are certain golden rules I follow. Every route deserves its own stylistic, ethical approach.
C-note: If you could chop the bolts on any climb, which would it be?
Matt: A lot of climbs in Boulder deserve chopping: China Doll, Deadline. I don't think there should be bolts on either of those routes.
C-note: Do you ever just climb and forget about the ethics of it all?
Matt: Yeah, it's called bouldering. Seriously, bouldering is really pure. You can just go climbing.
C-note: I LIIIIIIKE! What's it like to be a professional climber—you're living the dream!
Matt: Ever since I started climbing when I was 14, I wanted to be a pro climber. Now that I've been given the opportunity to do it, it's pretty sick. Obviously, my sponsors make it happen and friends hook it up along the way. But it has its ups and downs. The ups are exceptional but the downs are like 'don't know if I can make it to tomorrow' kinda downs.
C-note: I thought it was normal to feel like that...
Matt: For me, it's the ungroundedness of the lifestyle. I've always had something grounding me, whether it was school, a girlfriend, and not having that can be really hard. But being a pro climber doesn't mean I have to be on the road constantly. It's doing what inspires me and I can do that anywhere there's good climbing! I've just been keeping myself busy on the road. Sometimes that's the easiest way to deal—see ya I'm out!
C-note: Do you think climbing is selfish?
Matt: Climbing can be extremely selfish, being that it's purely motivated by your own ego in a lot of ways. We're selfish as climbers. We were just talking to a woman here who dated a climber and, you know, all climbers just wanna go climbing. I was in a relationship with a climber and it was like you go to your climbing area and I go to mine.
C-note: Do you think it works with climbers and non-climbers?
Matt: I don't know, it's a catch-22. It doesn't really work with non-climbers. It's not like, oh, she doesn't climb, she's not cool. It's more like, I'm gonna travel to go climbing and you're not. If you're a non-climber, what are gonna do at climbing areas? Fuck bitches, climb rocks. I don't think you can quote that, that's bad.
C-note: No, we can definitely quote you.
Matt: A lot of climbing couples make it work, like Tommy and Beth.
Matt: I love those guys but they are like Team America at its finest. They own a house in Estes, a house in Yosemite, they're always happy and smiley. They're not in the dark clouds like the rest of us. I'd like to believe I could find a climbing girl and have a healthy relationship. Yeah. Positive thoughts. Not getting sucked into the dark hole again.
C-note: I'm all about the dark hole right now.
Matt: Yeah, I've been good about staying out of it the past few days. Climbing helps me stay out of the dark hole. Doing nothing, seeing ex girlfriends, this sort of stuff is very black hole-esque.
C-note: This interview?
Matt: No, this is pretty playful. No black holes in the interview. Have you seen Weeds?
C-note: A couple episodes of season 1. Why?
Matt: There's a line I really like in it, "thugs don't have to say sorry." I'm over tiptoeing around people at the moment. Like right now, I'm gonna go in the Trident and not tiptoe, I'm gonna
stomp and shit, make a point.