After many expeditions and adventures, Matt began to understand that climbing helped him to not only appreciate the great outdoors but also the fragile lives we lead. It has allowed him to learn and accept his fears, and challenge them, taking his life quite literally into his own hands. It’s now Segal’s goal not to continue to push his personal limits but to share these life lessons with the next generation of explorers.
Waylon sits down with fellow Boulderite Matt Segal, a leading climber, and talks adventure, environmental-responsibility, meditation and sticking your hands in cracks.
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Matthew Segal was born and raised in the concrete jungle of Miami, Florida… which is maybe the flattest place in the United States. At the young age of 14, he discovered an indoor climbing facility and immediately fell in love with climbing. Although youth team sports never truly fulfilled Segal, he realized he was attracted to the contrast in movement climbing provided; this was powerful, dynamic, controlled, and graceful.
In 2002 he left the beaches of Miami, Florida for the mountains of Colorado. It was almost as if being born in Florida had been some cosmic joke, as Segal found the mountains to feel much more like home. Having been confined only to indoor climbing facilities in the past, competition climbing seemed like the natural direction to head in. In 2004, Segal reached the zenith of his competition career when he placed first at the ABS National Bouldering Championships in Boulder, Colorado.
Slowly, Segal realized there was more to climbing than plastic holds and chalk-filled warehouses, so he ditched the gym and began journeying outside. Segal quickly realized that the climbing gym had been a gateway to experience the outdoor world, and the act of moving his passions to outside the concrete walls of his youth was thoroughly transformative.
In the outdoors, Segal began bouldering (climbing very difficult moves, very close to the ground) and sport climbing (climbing longer difficult routes that require a rope and fixed protection). Eventually, however, he was drawn to traditional climbing. “Trad climbing,” as it’s often called, uses removable gear to protect the climber and the rock, as opposed to sport climbing where the bolts that protect the climber are fixed permanently in to the rock.
Matt was immediately inspired by the “leave no trace” mindset of trad climbing: the concept of walking up to a cliff and leaving it exactly how he found it was revolutionary.
The world of trad climbing is where Segal began to flourish as a professional climber. He soon distinguished himself as a leader in establishing very difficult and dangerous traditional climbs such as the Iron Monkey (5.14) in Eldorado Canyon, Colorado and the Orangutan Overhang (5.14-) at Independence Pass, Colorado with a strong ethic toward preserving the natural environment.
Soon, though, even this faded… and he wanted more. He realized his love was not only for the climbing, but for the adventure that climbing could provide. Combining the skills, strength, and focus his competition and outdoor exploits taught him, he wanted to explore, traveling to more remote areas to develop and test himself in the big mountains.
After many expeditions and adventures, Matt began to understand that climbing helped him to not only appreciate the great outdoors but also the fragile lives we lead. It has allowed him to learn and accept his fears, and challenge them, taking his life quite literally into his own hands. It’s now Segal’s goal not to continue to push his personal limits but to share these life lessons with the next generation of explores.
• The Iron Monkey 5.14 R (first ascent) Eldorado Canyon, Colorado
• The Orangutan Overhang Overhang 5.14 (first ascent) Independence Pass, Colorado
• Smart Went Crazy 5.13+R/X (first ascent) Eldorado Canyon, Colorado
• Air China 5.13+R (first ascent) Liming, China
• Cobra Crack 5.14 (5th ascent) Squamish, Canada
• China Doll 5.14R (2nd ascent) Boulder, Colorado
• Primate 5.13X (2nd ascent) Boulder, Colorado
• Gia E8 Peak District, England
• End of the Affair E8 Peak District, England
• Free Rider 5.12+ 3,000 ft El Captan, Yosemite, California
• Chief Link Up: Black Dike 5.13, Free Grand 5.13, The Shadow 5.13 (over 20 pitches) Squamish, Canada
Nickname: Miami Vice Grip
Words To Live By: “The arrival of chaos should be regarded as extremely good news.” -Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche
Favorite Climbing Area: Eldorado Canyon in Boulder, Colorado—the place I learned how to traditional climb.
Favorite Destination: Spain
Favorite Book: The Life of Milarepa
I Get Amped Listening To: Sage Francis & Buck 65
Inspiration Within Sport: Anyone who goes out and pushes themselves is really inspiring to me. Also, the fact that people are constantly raising the bar in terms of difficulty and style.
Most Humbling Moment: Getting worked on the 5.9 off-widths in Yosemite Valley.
Proudest Moment: Establishing the first 5.14 traditional route in Eldorado Canyon: The Iron Monkey 5.14R.
I’ve Always Wanted To: Base Jump
Three Things I Always Pack on a Trip: My journal, coffee and a good book.
Cause(s): Access Fund, Paradox Sports, American Alpine Club
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Editor: Rachel Nussbaum
Photo: Matt Segal