Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Meet... Sam Douglass

Sam Douglass at Aiguille Rock Climbing Center
By Aubrey Wingo

I have interviewed many members as a writer for the Crimp Chronicles so far. Many of these have accomplished great climbing feats, participated in charities, and are overall wonderful interesting people. Then, you have Sam Douglass. Born in Jersey, and then hailing from Ashland, Kentucky, Sammy D moved to the Orlando area when he wanted to work under the instruction of a professor at UCF to study the euphonium. Now, on his way to nursing school, Sam has been a jack of all trades amidst his six years of climbing.

Once a server, zipline instructor, denture manufacturer, musician, performer in instructional videos for the euphonium, medical assistant, instructor at the UCF Tower, and now a caterer/bartender for Puff N Stuff, at 26, Sam strives to finish his nursing degree at Valencia, and then move to California to live in the Sierras. Until then, unfortunately, we have to live with his cynical demeanor, intolerance for stupidity, and terrible climbing abilities. Sam started climbing after randomly going to the UCF Tower and becoming psyched after climbing their chimney. Running back home to grab his roommates Mike Mage and Dan Perez, the three of them were hooked. Portraying what he has called a “super weak” climbing style, Sam might be the best “taker” I’ve ever met. For the most part, Sam has always focused on rope climbing of any kind, but hates to “practice” climb, or what us normal climbers call bouldering.

For six years of climbing, Sam really hasn’t ventured to many locations and is known as what I would call, a “Red Snob”. Sam’s favorite place to climb, and probably always will be the Red River Gorge in Kentucky, not only because of its vast array of sport and trad climbing routes, but it is also very close to what he considers his hometown. The style of climbing there is also “great for me because I’m basically weak so I can climb hard without really climbing hard.” When his climbing partners win the fight against the stubborn snob to go somewhere else, Sam ventures to Foster Falls in Tennessee, the New River Gorge in West Virginia and Yosemite National Park in California. Along with his dream to live in the Sierras one day, Sam also dreams to climb more in Yosemite, Tuloumne. If he had to go on a bouldering trip (just for practice of course), Bishop would be amazing as well. As long as its an overhanging arete, Sam will climb it. But there are two routes that are on his tick/bucket list, one being Paradise Lost (5.13b) at the Red, and Bachar Yerian 5.11c R/X) at Tuloume. In this writer’s opinion, he’s got a lot of work to do.

Sam Douglas and Doug Lutz at Aiguille

When I asked Sam about what training he likes to do to perfect his weak nature, he replied “I prefer the steam engine trains over monorails.” Sporting his La Sportiva Solutions and Black Diamond harness whenever he can, training involves climbing at Aiguille on rope as much as he can with his twin. Wait, I forgot to mention that Sam has a twin brother that works at Aiguille! His name is Doug, and according Sam, he is a “sexy beast, strong as ****, and he definitely got the climbing gene.” Doug and Sam met through climbing at the UCF tower and have been belay buddies ever since... or when Doug isn’t sick of him. But when Doug’s not around, outside, he has soloed and rope soloed, of course we won’t let him do it in the gym. All in all, Sam is what you would call a lone wolf. Not because he’s not friendly, even though he isn’t, but climbing alone or in very small groups is better. “I prefer climbing at the crag and not seeing anyone. December and January at the Red is awesome when Miguel’s is closed!”


In being a part of the climbing community and part of the medical field, one of the things that Sam does not tolerate is ignorance at the crag. This might make him a bit of a dictator when it comes to climbing ethics and risk management, but through the experiences that he has witnessed, it is certainly warranted. “Being the gumby is not bad, because we’re all gumbies at some point. But going outside pretending to know what you’re doing, that’s the problem. It doesn’t matter what grade you climb or how long you’re been climbing, it’s about your experience and as much experience you have.” One climbing day at the Red, Sam while belaying, witnessed a girl who was climbing on top rope on the wrong side of the arete, due to the location of her anchors, fall and slam her head into the wall, cutting it open. Upon her belayer asking for Sam’s advice, which was to take her to a hospital immediately, he eventually saw them at another area at of the crag, climbing somewhere else. “Her brain could have been swelling and they didn’t care!” Soon after seeing another climber belaying on lead 15 feet away from the wall and his partner wearing headphones where you could hear the music he was listening to 60 feet in the air, a frustrated Sam left the crag. “Chances are, if you are showing up to the crag in tennis shoes, and there is more than four people, that’s when it’s time to leave.” And make sure not to talk about grades around him, because he won’t care. “I don’t know, I don’t really grade. But if I had to, ‘it’s always V16, but I’m not going to grade it’ or some other back handed comment. It’s ‘V-just have fun or 5 just get on it’ for me.” For Sam, grading is completely unnecessary. “I understand why grades are there. But I don’t want to hear about them or talk about them. My best climbing days are just when I say screw the grades, and I just find something that looks beautiful and inspiring, and I just do it. It’s not about getting the send, or redpointing or falling but its about finding the most beautiful line and being on it. Whether you’re failing or just trying it. For me it’s probably just as much of a mental thing as anyone, but I’d just rather get on it and find out.”

Overall, despite his unapproachable nature, Sam’s a pretty good guy. He enjoys listening to the Avett Brothers, Mumford and Sons, and Gregory Alan Isakov. He prefers to drink bourbon and playing football (I mean futbol, “not that grid iron stuff!”). And boy, does he love big soft pretzels. And as much as he enjoys the Red, he seems to enjoy Aiguille too. “I think that the routesetting makes up for the facility. Not that the gym is terrible, but I’ve been to gyms that are incredible facilities, but they didn’t have great setting. I like the staff, and maybe only some of the members, but overall it’s good.” So if you’re ever in the gym or even at the Red, make sure to look for the tall, obnoxious guy always wearing the RRG hat, and give him a wave. Never know, might even get a smile... or just see a particular finger, but I’m sure it’s all love.

Share this post:

2 comments:

  1. Uh oh... Super Safe Ian is upset. Look out guys!

    ReplyDelete