Interview With the ClimbingNarc is arguably the most popular climbing blog out there, with a loyal following that goes into depression when the site goes down for the weekend. I recently caught up with Brian Runnells, the Climbing Narc himself, to talk about the site and being a climber in the Midwest.

When did get started?

The site started 3 years ago during one of my frequent breaks from climbing due to injury.  One day I came up with a name, opened a blogspot account and started posting.

How has it evolved over the course of those 3 years?

I probably do fewer posts about myself than I used to, otherwise my main focus of drawing people’s attention to whatever is happening in the world of climbing has largely stayed the same.

Do you find it hard to balance keeping fresh content on the site with other commitments?

Yeah, this is probably the most difficult aspect of running the site.  I would like to be able to devote more time to developing ideas and stories but for obvious reasons the site has to take a backseat to things like work and family time.

You cover a lot of breaking news, how do you stay on top of the latest and greatest?

I’ve been reading as many different sources of climbing information as I could for a number of years now, and the increased popularity of blogs and RSS readers was like giving me steroids.  I’m constantly checking for updates that might be of interest to my readers.

Switching gears a bit, what’s your favorite climbing discipline?

Despite the fact that I injure myself with alarming frequency while doing it, bouldering will always be my favorite thing to do.  In the past few years I’ve tried to branch out into trad climbing but there’s no substitute for pulling hard on the smaller rocks.

How would you describe life as a climber in the Midwest?

Frustrating.  While there are some decent spots to climb locally (2 hours away), the better areas (RRG, HP40, etc) are at least 8-12 hours away.

What are some of the good local spots and what are they like?

Local is a relative term when the nearest crag is 2 hours away, but the best local area is without a doubt Devil’s Lake.  ‘The Lake’ is an old school area sort of like the Gunks or Seneca Rocks.  There are no bolts and everything is done using traditional gear.  To me toproping is kind of boring, but for classic trad climbing on vertical, almost frictionless, quartzite the Lake is great.  There are some pretty fun boulder problems scattered around the park as well, although the vertical style of the problems is not really my favorite.

How’s the climbing scene/community there?

I’ve been climbing at the same gym for over 10 years now so there is a really fun scene there.  Outdoors the scene is quite a bit more fragmented.  Most of the people at my gym prefer making the drive down south for their weekend trips so there isn’t a real strong scene at a local place like Devil’s Lake.  On any given weekend I would be much more likely to see people from my area down at the Red than at the Lake.

How did you get started climbing in such a vertically challenged part of the country?

My interest in climbing began after I read Into Thin Air for a High School English class.  Since the tallest mountains around here are trash heaps I figured I’d give rock climbing a try.  I was really terrible at first but for some reason I stuck with it.

From what I gather your wife climbs as well? Did you meet through climbing?

No, we actually dated for a number of years before I was able to convince her to try climbing.  Despite suffering a couple major injuries already she stuck with it.  Being able to travel and climb with her has been great.

Any big trips or goals for the coming year?

Nothing too major.  Since I never know when my next injury is going to happen I’ve sort of stopped making long range plans when it comes to climbing.  It’s a bit cliché, but I really just try to live in the moment when it comes to climbing.  After years of obsessing over future plans and dreams this new approach has served me well the past couple of years.  It’s helped make them the most enjoyable of my climbing career despite not climbing as much as I would have liked.

Great, thanks Brian!

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