Joe Skopec. Photo Credit: Tyler Palubiski
An Interview with Joe Skopec
We appreciate you taking the time to speak to us, Joe. We know you have a tight
schedule and are very busy.
Editor: How and when did you develop an interest in climbing? How old were you?
Joe Skopec: My interest for climbing started since I was old enough to
hear my father's climbing stories from the Czech Republic. Most kids, before bed
time, would hear a nice fairytale, but not from my dad... My dad would tell me
epic climbing stories and every story would end with someone dying. I wonder
why I never got much sleep as a kid.
At the age of 7 my dad decided I was old enough to try outdoor climbing. My dad gave me a 5 minute belay lesion with a figure 8 device and off we went. The day started off well with doing a few warm ups and then my dad decided to try 5.11+ trad roof crack. My dad was maybe 15 feet off the ground and all his trad gear blew off, due to the rock being very chossy.
My father hit the ground so hard he soiled his pants. I just remember crying and wanting to go home, but my father is an old European climber, which means he is badass and does not give up. He went to the river to clean himself and sent the route right after, while I was crying/belaying the whole time. Somehow I became addicted after this event.
Editor: That's an amazing story. You’re based in Ontario. Which climbing spots do you like best in Canada and in the US?
Joe Skopec: That is a tough question due to my favorite crag being a closed crag, which I rather not say the name of. But then again 80% of Ontario's cliff are closed or access is iffy.
Editor: Who are your climbing icons?
Joe Scopec: I don't have any big named icons, but I look up to so many. Many were local crushers that I grew up with. My main childhood icon and someone who is still my icon is Zach Treanor. Zach wasn't the strongest climber around, but his dedication and motivation to climbing and developing helped me become who I am today with climbing.
Editor: What is your all-time favorite climb and what was its grade?
Joe Skopec: Nostalgia 5.13D- Ontario. You will never find a climb where you have to do a very big dynamic move up to a hold and then dyno downwards! What a great climb!
Editor: That's pretty fantastic. How do you mentally prepare right before a particularly challenging climb? Is there a system you follow that helps you focus and strengthen your core so that you perform at peak level?
Joe Skopec: I project way too much, I feel like I have projecting down to a science. First I'll go bolt to bolt, figuring out beta, ticking holds, and seeing which draws needed extending. I'm lucky that Grand River Rocks climbing gym allows me to set the crux sequence, which allowed me to mimic every move. Next, I'll take two weeks off the project to work endurance. Then, whenever I'm free, I'll give the project red point burns.
Editor: You recently established one of Ontario’s most challenging sport climbs. How
many months did it take you to do that? When did you bolt it?
Joe Skopec: I bolted "Bromance" back in March of 2014 and sent it on November 3rd. I'm unsure how long the route took me, because at first I couldn't do the crux and walked away from the climb until the middle of September. But this climb probably took me about 20 sessions.
Editor: Can you describe this climb and the various degrees of difficulty that you
overcame to establish it?
Joe Skopec: This route clocks in at 65 feet long, which breaks down to a technical crimpy start, to huge thuggy throws, to a shoulder breaking crux move on a very bad sloper hold, to yet again big throws on good holds that goes around 5.12+ to anchors. There is only one real rest at the second bolt, but after that you're racing to the anchors with barely any time or any place to rest. The route was so alluring in its challenge that it brought me back relentlessly. However, it was starting to cost me sleep and money. The hospital would call me if I wanted to work the next day, but before agreeing to anything I would preface my answer with, "Let me check the weather first." This led the staff to start calling me a "Fairweather Worker."
If I did have to work, I had a three stage process to projecting this route:
Stage 1: Work from 7pm-7am
Stage 2: Sleep 3 hours and go straight to projecting (Often heavily assisted by
caffeine. And cookies. And tea. And, do you happen to have more cookies?)
Stage 3: Work 7pm-7am
Editor: You also established Déjà Vu (5.14a). What was that experience like for you?
Joe Skopec: Déjà Vu was a very similar experience to Bromance, but I was battling wet holds, very cold weather, and a stomach virus. I remember doing Déjà Vu in maybe -2 weather and barely feeling my finger tips. I was so happy to overcome Déjà Vu and that stomach virus.
Editor: Many climbers view climbing as a spiritual journey, a very special connection to nature and a chance to understand themselves in a deeper, more powerful way. How does climbing make you feel emotionally?
Joe Skopec: Wow. This question made me reminisce all the good times I've had with my climbing adventures. Climbing has shaped me into whom I am today. Climbing has showed me that dreams can come true, but at a price of hard work. But climbing has also showed me the world, 90% of the friends I have today, and happiness.
I'm a nurse by day, climber by night. Or climber by day, nurse by night, if I'm working a night shift.
Thanks for chatting with us, Joe. We hope to do a follow up interview with you after
your next phenomenal climb!
Interview conducted by Vera Kaikobad L. Ac.
Editor of the Facebook page: 'An Interview With'.
Editor-in-Chief of ClimbSkiBoulderMagazine.com
Interview © Vera Kaikobad L. Ac.
All images © of the designated photographer and used with Joe's written permission.
On the Cover: Joe Skopec
Cover Date: December 3rd, 2014