Building a (decent) lifestyle around climbing


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The state of quantum flux
Nov 14, 2017 - 05:48am PT
Just climb while you can...

Jim Henson's Basement
Nov 14, 2017 - 06:15am PT
Budget a vasectomy.
LOL Mike... that was the first thing random thing that popped in my mind

Doesn't matter what you do.. finish school and move somewhere where you have a climbing area - any climbing/boudering area within 30 minutes of your house.

PS: Did we mention...?

Don't have kids.
John Mac

Trad climber
Breckenridge, CO
Nov 14, 2017 - 06:46am PT
The guiding route (IFMGA) is a good gig when you are young and single but eventually it gets old. Here in the states it is challenging but in other countries it is a well respected profession.

Between heliskiing in Canada and NZ, as well as work in Antarctic and some private guiding in Europe you can do very well. Film location work was very easy and beneficial as well. I could easily work 6 months a year and spend the rest travelling and climbing. I ended up working more because I was having so much fun. Having a NZ mother and an Irish father really helped with the EU thing.

By 37 I realized that I wanted to spend more time with my wife and we both came to the realization that we had to stop living our parallel lives. I went back to school and did a finished a computer science degree I started many years previously (left after 6 months) and since then have been working in IT. I'm a contractor specializing in communication/collaboration and get to work when I want and have plenty of time off. We live in Summit County in Colorado. My wife is an RN and works 3 days a week in OR at the local hospital.

The thing about IT is that you have to really enjoy technology as it can be a very frustrating and difficult job. Nothing works as it is supposed too and the phone always rings late at night with some sort of emergency. You also have to keep up to date and that is challenging and takes time and money.

So get the degree and get some work experience and then have many happy years of recreating in the outdoors.

Bad Climber

Trad climber
The Lawless Border Regions
Nov 14, 2017 - 07:07am PT
I went the teacher route but considered getting into guiding when I was young. I decided that I didn't want to turn my passion into a job, but folks are different. I mostly enjoyed my years teaching, and there was the occasional satisfaction in knowing I was doing some good. Like all jobs, however, it had its share of frustrations. Ugh.


Occupied Territory
Nov 14, 2017 - 07:08am PT
Don't neglect your education

Today's education is overrated.

Lot's of people with worthless degrees bartending and flipping burgers.
Wade Icey

Trad climber
Nov 14, 2017 - 07:30am PT
Today's education is overrated.

Especially by the uneducated.


Trad climber
greater Boss Angeles area
Nov 14, 2017 - 07:43am PT
Get a night job. You can climb every day that way.

You want to climb every day, right?

Or you can work when it's light outside and do your climbing after dark. Whichever you think is easier.

Trad climber
Nov 14, 2017 - 08:16am PT
If you like engineering stick with it.
Location is key.
You've got it made if you can find a job near a climbing area you like.

Occupied Territory
Nov 14, 2017 - 08:32am PT
Wade, education for the sake of education is WAY overrated.

Education in the right field and with little or no student loan debt can be worthwhile.

Here is a list of the top 100 entrepreneurs that never received a college degree.


1. Abraham Lincoln, lawyer, U.S. president. Finished one year of formal schooling, self-taught himself trigonometry, and read Blackstone on his own to become a lawyer.

2. Amadeo Peter Giannini, multimillionaire founder of Bank of America. Dropped out of high school.

3. Andrew Carnegie, industrialist and philanthropist, and one of the first mega-billionaires in the US. Elementary school dropout.

4. Andrew Jackson, U.S. president, general, attorney, judge, congressman. Home-schooled. Became a practicing attorney by the age of 35 – without a formal education.

5. Andrew Perlman, co-founder of GreatPoint. Dropped out of Washington University to start Cignal Global Communications, an Internet communications company, when he was only 19.

6. Anne Beiler, multimillionaire co-founder of Auntie Anne’s Pretzels. Dropped out of high school.

7. Ansel Adams, world-famous photographer. Dropped out of high school.

8. Ashley Qualls, founder of, left high school at the age of 15 to devote herself to building her website business. She was more than a million dollars by 17.

9. Barbara Lynch, chef, owner of a group of restaurants, worth over $10 million, in Boston. Dropped out of high school.

10. Barry Diller, billionaire, Hollywood mogul, Internet maven, founder of Fox Broadcasting Company, chairman of IAC/InterActive Corp (owner of,

11. Ben Kaufman, 21-year-old serial entrepreneur, founder of Kluster. Dropped out of college in his freshman year.

12. Benjamin Franklin, inventor, scientist, author, entrepreneur. Primarily home-schooled.

13. Billy Joe (Red) McCombs, billionaire, founder of Clear Channel media, real estate investor. Dropped out of law school to sell cars in 1950.

14. Bob Proctor, motivational speaker, bestselling author, and co-founder of Life Success Publishing. Attended two months of high school.

15. Bram Cohen, BitTorrent developer. Attended State University of New York at Buffalo for a year.

16. Carl Lindner, billionaire investor, founder of United Dairy Farmers. Dropped out of high school at the age of 14.

17. Charles Culpeper, owner and CEO of Coca Cola. Dropped out of high school.

18. Christopher Columbus, explorer, discoverer of new lands. Primarily home-schooled.

19. Coco Chanel, founder of fashion brand Chanel. A perfume bearing her name, Chanel No. 5 kept her name famous.

20. Colonel Harlan Sanders, founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC). Dropped out of elementary school, later earned law degree by correspondence.

21. Craig McCaw, billionaire founder of McCaw Cellular. Did not complete college.

22. Dave Thomas, billionaire founder of Wendy’s. Dropped out of high school at 15.

23. David Geffen, billionaire founder of Geffen Records and co-founder of DreamWorks. Dropped out of college after completing one year.

24. David Green, billionaire founder of Hobby Lobby. Started the Hobby Lobby chain with only $600. High school graduate.

25. David Karp, founder of Tumblr. Dropped out of school at 15, then homeschooled. Did not attend college.

26. David Neeleman, founder of JetBlue airlines. Dropped out of college after three years.

27. David Ogilvy, advertising executive and copywriter . Was expelled from Oxford University at the age of 20.

28. David Oreck, multimillionaire founder of The Oreck Corporation. Quit college to enlist in the Army Air Corps.

29. Debbi Fields, founder of Mrs. Fields Chocolate Chippery. Later renamed, franchised, then sold Mrs. Field's Cookies.

30. DeWitt Wallace, founder and publisher of Reader’s Digest. Dropped out of college after one year. Went back, then dropped out again after the second year.

31. Dov Charney, founder of American Apparel. Started the company in high school, and never attended college.

32. Dustin Moskovitz, multi-millionaire co-founder of Facebook. Harvard dropout.

33. Frank Lloyd Wright, the most influential architect of the twentieth century. Never attended high school.

34. Frederick "Freddy" Laker, billionaire airline entrepreneur. High school dropout.

35. Frederick Henry Royce, auto designer, multimillionaire co-founder of Rolls-Royce. Dropped out of elementary school.

36. George Eastman, multimillionaire inventor, Kodak founder. Dropped out of high school.

37. George Naddaff, founder of UFood Grill and Boston Chicken. Did not attend college.

38. Gurbaksh Chahal, multimillionaire founder of BlueLithium and Click Again. Dropped out at 16, when he founded Click Again.

39. H. Wayne Huizenga, founder of WMX garbage company, helped build Blockbuster video chain. Joined the Army out of high school, and later went to college only to drop out during his first year.

40. Henry Ford, billionaire founder of Ford Motor Company. Did not attend college.

41. Henry J. Kaiser, multimillionaire & founder of Kaiser Aluminum. Dropped out of high school.

42. Hyman Golden, co-founder of Snapple. Dropped out of high school.

43. Ingvar Kamprad, founder of IKEA, one of the richest people in the world, dyslexic.

44. Isaac Merrit Singer, sewing machine inventor, founder of Singer. Elementary school dropout.

45. Jack Crawford Taylor, founder of Enterprise Rent-a-Car. Dropped out of college to become a WWII fighter pilot in the Navy.

46. Jake Nickell, co-founder and CEO of Did not graduate from college.

47. James Cameron, Oscar-winning director, screenwriter, and producer. Dropped out of college.

48. Jay Van Andel, billionaire co-founder of Amway. Never attended college.

49. Jeffrey Kalmikoff, co-founder and chief creative officer of Did not graduate from college.

50. Jerry Yang, co-founder of Yahoo! Dropped out of PhD program.

51. Jimmy Dean, multimillionaire founder of Jimmy Dean Foods. Dropped out of high school at 16.

52. John D. Rockefeller Sr., billionaire founder of Standard Oil. Dropped out of high school just two months before graduating, though later took some courses at a local business school.

53. John Mackey, founder of Whole Foods. Enrolled and dropped out college six times.

54. John Paul DeJoria, billionaire co-founder of John Paul Mitchell Systems, founder of Patron Spirits tequilla. Joined the Navy after high school.

55. Joyce C. Hall, founder of Hallmark. Started selling greeting cards at the age of 18. Did not attend college.

56. Kemmons Wilson, multimillionaire, founder of Holiday Inn. High school dropout.

57. Kenneth Hendricks, billionaire founder of ABC Supply. High school dropout.

58. Kenny Johnson, founder of Dial-A-Waiter restaurant delivery. College dropout.

59. Kevin Rose, founder of Dropped out of college during his second year.

60. Kirk Kerkorian, billionaire investor, owner of Mandalay Bay and Mirage Resorts, and MGM movie studio. Dropped out eighth-grade.

61. Larry Ellison, billionaire co-founder of Oracle software company. Dropped out of two different colleges.

62. Leandro Rizzuto, billionaire founder of Conair. Dropped out of college. Started Conair with $100 and hot-air hair roller invention.

63. Leslie Wexner, billionaire founder of a Limited Brands. Dropped out of law school. Started the Limited with $5,000.

64. Marc Rich, commodities investor, billionaire. Founder of Marc Rich & Co. Did not finish college.

65. Marcus Loew, multimillionaire founder of Loews theaters, co-founder of MGM movie studio. Elementary school dropout.

66. Mark Ecko, founder of Mark Ecko Enterprises. Dropped out of college.

67. Mary Kay Ash, founder of Mary Kay Inc. Did not attend college.

68. Michael Dell, billionaire founder of Dell Computers, which started out of his college dorm room. Dropped out of college.

69. Michael Rubin, founder of Global Sports. Dropped out of college in his first year.

70. Micky Jagtiani, billionaire retailer, Landmark International. Dropped out of accounting school.

71. Milton Hershey, founder of Hershey's Milk Chocolate. 4th grade education.

72. Pete Cashmore, founder of at the age of 19.

73. Philip Green, Topshop billionaire retail mogul. Dropped out of high school.

74. Rachael Ray, Food Network cooking show star, food industry entrepreneur, with no formal culinary arts training. Never attended college.

75. Ray Kroc, founder of McDonald’s. Dropped out of high school.

76. Richard Branson, billionaire founder of Virgin Records, Virgin Atlantic Airways, Virgin Mobile, and more. Dropped out of high school at 16.

77. Richard DeVos, co-founder of Amway. Served in the Army and did not attend college.

78. Richard Schulze, Best Buy founder. Did not attend college.

79. Rob Kalin, founder of Etsy. Flunked out of high school, enrolled in art school for a time, faked a student ID at MIT so he could take classes. His professors subsequently helped him get into NYU, they were so impressed.

80. Ron Popeil, multimillionaire founder of Ronco, inventor, producer, infomercial star. Did not finish college.

81. Rush Limbaugh, multi-millionaire media mogul, radio talk show host. Dropped out of college.

82. Russell Simmons, co-founder of Def Jam records, founder of Russell Simmons Music Group, Phat Farm fashions, bestselling author. Did not finish college.

83. S. Daniel Abraham, founder of Slim-Fast, billionaire. Did not attend college.

84. Sean John Combs, entertainer, producer, fashion designer, and entrepreneur. Never finished college.

85. Shawn Fanning, developer of Napster. Dropped out of college at the age of 19.

86. Simon Cowell, TV producer, music judge, American Idol, The X Factor, and Britain’s Got Talent. High school dropout.

87. Steve Madden, shoe designer. Dropped out of college.

88. Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple, billionaire. Did not complete college.

89. Ted Murphy, founder of social media company Izea Entertainment. Dropped out of college.

90. Theodore Waitt, billionaire founder of Gateway Computers. Dropped out of college to start Gateway – one semester before graduating.

91. Thomas Edison, inventor of the lightbulb, phonograph, and more. Primarily home-schooled, then joined the railroad when he was only 12.

92. Tom Anderson, co-founder and “friend” of MySpace. Dropped out of high school.

93. Ty Warner, billionaire developer of Beanie Babies, real estate investor, and hotel owner. Dropped out of college.

94. Vidal Sassoon, founder of Vidal Sassoon, multimillionaire. Dropped out of high school.

95. W. Clement Stone, multimillionaire insurance man, author, founder of Success magazine. Dropped out of elementary school. Later attended high school, graduating. Attended but did not finish college.

96. W.T. Grant, founder of W.T. Grant department stores, multimillionaire. Dropped out of high school.

97. Wally "Famous" Amos, multimillionaire entrepreneur, author, talent agent, founder of Famous Amos cookies. Left high school at 17 to join the Air Force.

98. Walt Disney, founder of the Walt Disney Company. Dropped out of high school at 16.

99. Wolfgang Puck, chef, owner of 16 restaurants and 80 bistros. Quit school at the age of 14.

100. Y.C. Wang, billionaire founder of Formosa Plastics. Did not attend high school.
Roger Breedlove

Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Nov 14, 2017 - 09:55am PT
Jody's post brings to mind the (paraphrased) joke:

"Don't finish school, become world famous and make a good living. If you find that you don't become world famous and don't make a good living, don't not finish school."

Maybe I should introduce you to base rate probabilities.

Skrer, I don't have any advice about how to build a life around climbing--I just walked away and started a non-climbing life at age 30, in 1980. By 1982 I had a graduate degree, a new baby, a suit, a non-beater car and a mortgage, and paid cancellation fees on flights and restocking fees on equipment purchased to climb the Mooses' Tooth. However, I pretty much agree with all of the comments above, but I would note that Supertopo is a self-selected subset of climbers (albeit stellar, successful and articulate). If you can, I think you should counter balance these views with views from folks who don't post on ST.

Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
Nov 14, 2017 - 10:30am PT
Jody, nice exceptions that prove the rule that most people need the structure and imposed discipline of a formal education, not to mention the associated contacts. Yes, my plumber makes bank (without getting his hands dirty) but not compared to my nephew’s childhood mate who retired at 28 after writing some yugely successful software.

The climbing world is also replete with professionals and academics who are standouts in their work and climbing. John Gill, Tom Cochrane, George Lowe, and our esteemed Crimpergirl come to mind.

If you think you have to climb a lot to be good then maybe yer not very good and likely to stay that way.

Trad climber
South Pasadena, CA
Nov 14, 2017 - 12:23pm PT
I am mid-40s, divorced after a decade plus of marriage, remarried and very happy with that person after 9 years, raising two teenage kids, and I've had phases of my career that are very demanding and successful and phases that are laid back. Climbing has not been as big a chunk of my life as I would like so far, but I'm on track to have that grow a lot.

My input:

1. The person you choose to spend your life with is the single most important thing that affects the quality of life in all aspects: it affects your hobbies, your career choices and trajectory, your friends, your state of mind in relation to those things, your attitude toward yourself, what sort of life you will have at the point you have kids if you choose that path, your daily living environment, etc.

2. If I had to choose between "a wife who climbs" and "a wife who is emotionally mature, is compatible with how I am tuned to give and receive love, and is a good fit for the other aspects of my life" I would choose the latter. But I would seek both (and I am lucky that I have found it!)

3. In order to do a good job of #1 (and not just gamble and hope to get lucky), you have to have experience of yourself in a serious relationship, to know yourself and someone else intimately, to know how you expect to give and receive love (which will evolve and perhaps become more sophisticated as you gain maturity), to know where your limits are in a relationship- what are your walk away issues, to have the wisdom to see a bigger picture and not be petty with little stuff so you can keep on appreciating the good you have without letting resentments build up).... I think all of those things need to be lived (and probably failed at a few times while you reflect on it) before you can really grasp it. Reading a book or heeding advice is just a starting point. Also, be wary of the rebound, where you feel wise after learning mistakes in a first relationship and then go with an opposite person where a whole new set of challenges appear. So the key point is- go ahead and live life, be in committed relationships, but be wary of signing on for life or having children before you understand what that entails. And protect against having unplanned children- you don't have the perspective to understand how big the cost can be for some momentary pleasure. Kids are intrinsically magical and wonderful joys, and it is such a beautiful phase of life to enjoy in the right circumstances, but it can lead to serious heartache when in the wrong circumstances. And be open about your thoughts and hopes and fears and feelings, which might expose you to more pain but also more joy and more likelihood of finding a great match for you.

==> Starting as you are by building a "climbing lifestyle" is a great way to begin finding a compatible life partner. You will be searching among people who already like to spend their time doing what you enjoy, living in the place you want to live, etc., and then you won't have to choose between "doing what you love" and "being with whom you love". All that other stuff I talked about matters more in the long run though. Also be wary that anyone you meet in college might be pushed to relocate elsewhere to honor their career aspirations. So take that into account again before making lifeong commitments.

4. Career: find something you enjoy doing, and that many people consider valuable and are willing to pay you to do! You say you enjoy engineering- a fine choice. Cultivate your passion for it, which will help your motivation to put in the effort to keep yourself employable and earning a decent income. This is part of the equation of living a lifestyle that lets you keep playing throughout your life while also tasting material pleasures, having a family, medical insurance in USA, etc.

5. Everything people already said about living near climbing and hanging out with climber people... it boils down to building your safety net and environment that reinforces the identity and lifestyle you want for yourself.

Trad climber
Nov 14, 2017 - 04:08pm PT
1. The person you choose to spend your life with is the single most important thing that affects the quality of life in all aspects: it affects your hobbies, your career choices and trajectory, your friends, your state of mind in relation to those things, your attitude toward yourself, what sort of life you will have at the point you have kids if you choose that path, your daily living environment, etc.

Excellent point. Spent 14 years with the wrong person. Biggest waste of time, emotion and money ever. Should have broken it off much earlier, but blind love got in the way.

Trad climber
Nov 14, 2017 - 04:19pm PT
Henry Kendall managed to do a lot of great climbing and also won the Nobel Prize in Physics.
My friend Sean has a PHD in Astrophysics, is the director of a radio astronomy observatory
and used to be one of the best all round climbers in Canada. Also managed to lead a 5.13 after his 50th birthday but was more proud of onsighting 12c. He lives near Skaha and would frequently climb in the morning and show up to work around 10 or 11 AM. So you can get in a ton of great climbing and still have a good career.
Another friend has made a great career as a professor. He was the first person to get a PHD in computer animation then spent 28 days hanging off the side of Cerro Torre and never finished their new route, They ran out of food. Many of Blob's past graduate students were climbers. He has done tons of climbing.
The academic and research life has lots of advantages but is hard to break into. All of these guys are really smart.

Boulder climber
Nov 14, 2017 - 04:42pm PT
Hey, try contracting! In the Northern hemisphere you'll rotate counterclockwise as you travel down to the inevitability of being a Walmart Greeter.

No, things well, consider those around you, don't complain, be a team player, lead by example- the rest will take care of itself.
Bad Climber

Trad climber
The Lawless Border Regions
Nov 14, 2017 - 05:04pm PT
One climber I met was an engineer. I think he was paid to evaluate/certify building plans, something like that. He had a sweet deal: So long as he could get a signal, he could download plans, evaluate, certify or not, send back with notes, whatever. That was his job. Completely portable and flexible. When I met him, he was hanging out in the back of his truck with a laptop open and working. His wife was a contract nurse: Three months on, three months off. There was ALWAYS more work. He could spend a few hours working in the truck or at a cafe, whatever, then hit the crags. Pretty schweet.

Jim Brennan

Trad climber
Nov 14, 2017 - 05:06pm PT
Just the Maid put it best. Whatever you do for a profession will always tax your time. If you live within a reasonable distance to climbing and skiing, a huge percentage of what it takes to keep motivated (getting there) is taken care of.

There is also a similar cost in living close to your climbing area, if your work is in an area requiring a time consuming commute every day.

Trad climber
Mancos, CO & Bend, OR
Nov 14, 2017 - 05:16pm PT
"Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans."

John Lennon

"The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry."

Adopted from a poem by Robert Burns


Nov 14, 2017 - 05:27pm PT
If you have to ask. . . . .

Nov 14, 2017 - 09:14pm PT
here’s two, maybe even three, bits based in what i wish someone might have told me 20 years ago [along with the unlikely wish that i’d actually been able to listen to them - ha!]:

you’re going to make mistakes along the road to wherever you think you are trying to head.

sometimes the mistake can even be where you think you should head.

ie. don’t get too caught up in the big picture shIt. stay aware of it and move towards it while staying open to the possibility that you may be headed in 180 degrees the wrong direction at times.

focus on following your heart as it evolves and the big picture trajectory will tend towards taking care of itself.

ie. the external details of the decisions you make are only equally as important as your listening to your own internal intuitions.

be curious and enjoy the ride you’re interested in experiencing and wherever you end up will have been worthwhile...

all the best.
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