Monday, September 26, 2011
by Tara Ziegler
“The best climber in the world is the one having the most fun”. –Alex Lowe
There is a new breed of climbers developing that are taking the sport in a very competitive direction. In almost any gym you walk in, you are bound to find a majority of the “regulars” training for upcoming competitions or some pretty ridged personal goals. Another type of climber you will also see are the ones that embody Lowe’s quote, as simple as it may seem.
At Aiguille, that climber would undeniably be Dean Pflaumer. I can guarantee there is no other person here that has as much climbing knowledge and skill, who remains one of the friendliest and most helpful members in our community. A veteran of Aiguille, you have probably had him help you with some type of outdoor question, beta for a route or quoting movies. However there are only a few people who know the depth behind Dean’s climbing background and everything this man (…myth, legend…) has accomplished in the decade he has been a part of the sport…all while just having fun.
A native of Pennsylvania, Dean moved with his family to Florida when he was 11 years old. His sister, Diedre, fled the state after college as soon as she could embark on a new chapter in her life, in a state with a little more density. In December 2000 she introduced Dean to Aiguille and her new passion. A week later he had a membership and within months he was working at his new second home. “It was definitely a sport, but it was also a lifestyle and that’s what caught on to me real quick. It got under my skin way fast. ”
Mainly bouldering during his first two years of climbing, he didn’t exactly get approached by too many people looking for a partner. “It was stupid stuff like dyno-ing and campus-ing. I would scream at the top of my lungs while I was climbing. I was that guy. ” Once he began top-roping, fellow employees took him under their wing and began teaching him how to lead climb. That was just the beginning. “Whether you’re a climber or employee, it’s incredible how it’s a family. It’s a church. I remember thinking when I first started climbing here ‘this is my home’ and it still is. It is for a lot of people here.”
Through the years Dean has vastly improved in his knowledge and skill level in the sport. He has traveled and climbed all up and down the East Coast from his first ever trip to Lost Wall Georgia to The Gunks in New York. He has also been all over around the West including Colorado, California, Washington, and Oregon. One of his most memorable trips to Colorado was when he and Diedre had to dodge a train “Stand by Me” style and complete a Tyrolean traverse on a cable 30 feet above a river, and that was just the approach. After Dean lead his first 10d in 60 mile an hour winds, his sister took to the wall where she dislocated her knee only 10 feet up, forcing them to pack up and head back down.
Though luckily he has not experienced any real injuries or accidents, he did have one very close call. While ice climbing 25 feet up Dean swung out from the wall and as he came back two of the front points on his crampons landed perfectly on either side of the rope, barely missing it.
Dean has racked up a great deal of knowledge and training in both climbing and mountaineering. Aside from being a certified Climbing Wall Instructor by both the CWA & AMGA, he also has experience in trad-climbing, self-rescue, ice climbing, crevasse rescue, alpine climbing and everything in between. Currently he is in the process of becoming a single-pitch instructor. His main goal is to be a professional outdoor guide.
None of this training is new to Dean. He has been soaking up anything he can learn about climbing since the day he started. “If I found someone who worked here and knew something, I wanted to learn it. And once I learned it I would practice. I remember being taught how to ascend and I would come late Saturday or Sunday night, go back to where no one was and practice over and over and over. People would look at me like I was crazy. It’s a lot of boring hard work.”
Even at his extremely respectable level of climbing, Dean’s number one priority is to not take himself too seriously and to always have a good time on the wall.
“I don’t train hard and climbing is so cool that you don’t have to be good to enjoy it. There’s just something sublime, the sense of accomplishment that you get. Whether you send a project route or not, just getting on the wall and doing something both physical and mental at the same time, there’s nothing else like it. The numbers that you climb are not as important as people put stock into.”
at 1:25 PM