An Interview with Jonathan Siegrist
Editor: Thank you for sharing your thoughts on climbing with us, Jonathan. We truly appreciate your time when you're so busy.
You’ve written about taking advantage of the limited amount of time you have in any given location, in order to meet your climbing goals. You mentioned wanting to climb all the difficult classics and that the best way to tackle them is on the first try.
How has this experience been for you?
Jonathan Siegrist: Well, it’s certainly had it’s ups and downs. I’ve failed at first try climbing far more times than I have succeeded but some of my favorite climbing achievements are definitely those flashes or onsights of proud area classics, so of course it’s worth all the failure to have a few gems in the bag.
Editor: You make an excellent point when you state that trying to climb any route first try is tough enough, but when you have to work with a certain amount of time and physical energy, the first try allows you to do other routes and not get stuck on the same route, going over it again and again.
Have you ever had to let that really interesting route go for the moment and move on and come back to it later to send it?
Jonathan Siegrist: Yes, for sure. Sometimes I think it can be very helpful to take yourself away from your main objective for a little while and then return with renewed stoke. I’m super stubborn with my climbing and often continue to beat my head against a route until I finish it - for better or worse, so I think I should listen to my own advice on this one sometimes too!
Editor: Tenacity. That's very interesting. Another superb point you draw attention to is that when you’re traveling, your time on the crags is limited and more importantly, your energy level also has to be rationed appropriately. What you refer to as a ‘logistical approach’ seems to make a lot of sense.
How did this logistical approach come about?
Can the climbers out there also use it to their advantage?
Jonathan Siegrist: Yes, for sure. I see so many very capable climbers waste a lot of energy at the cliff by not narrowing their focus and also just simply climbing too much on day 1 for instance.
Skin, energy and stoke are all limited resources and we can only spend so much per day. I think two really easy ways to help with efficiency are first off - make a plan of your intentions for the day, or furthermore, for the trip.
What do you really want to do? Which routes or ascents would you be most happy with walking away? Once you determine what it is that you really want, then make sure not to waste any energy climbing anything that’s not directly on path to that desire.
Secondly, I think it’s really important to know about how much climbing it takes you to feel warmed up. I see a lot of people wear themselves out by warming up half the day and then by the time their real projects are up, they are too worn out to actually try hard.
Editor: You are highly selective about what you want to onsight or flash, keeping energy conservation in mind. Has this been a very successful approach for you?
Jonathan Siegrist: Well, by no means am I any kind of benchmark of first try climbing. There are athletes that flash my projects (Ondra and Megos), and also I’ve never been a competition climber, which puts a lot of emphasis on first try attempts - so naturally I think that competition climbers are better than your average red point climber.
So yes, this method has been relatively successful for me, but there are certainly others that are much better! I have some flash goals for myself over the next few years and in order to succeed I will try to further develop my first try climbing for sure. We can always improve!
Editor: You pay a lot of attention to rock type and crag style in a new location, yet you wait until the very end of a trip for a hard first try attempt.
Can you share why that is and the benefits climbers may derive from that?
Jonathan Siegrist: Well, rock varies so so much between crags and of course between rock types. Just because you are confident on 5.12 limestone means very little really when you’re face-to-face with 5.12 slab by granite.
In this spirit. I find it really important to get a strong feeling for the area before you put it all on the line for your flash attempt. How do you use your feet? How textured is the rock? How do the features look from the ground versus how they feel to the touch? All of these things are important lessons to be learned for climbing well at any area.
Editor: Some great words of advice that you have shared are that when going for a flash, it is critical to understand foot beta and that hand holds are crucial to read. Also, another good point you shared was that on a first try, foot holds and body positioning are more difficult to map out at the first go. Finding out where you plan to rest is also a great point.
What if the rock is extremely steep and there is no way to rest before moving to the next hand or foot hold?
What can climbers do in a situation like that? Any advice?
Jonathan Siegrist: Well, in this situation you will have to rely more on your strengths than your skills. Sometimes speed can be a valuable asset. I generally like to climb slow, static and in control, but when I feel myself fading towards the end of the day I will often pick up my pace quite a bit.
Editor: At what age did you develop an interest in climbing?
Which particular climbing trip/location got you hooked?
Jonathan Siegrist: My personal interest in climbing really developed when I was 18, after high school I took a year off to travel. On this year off, I went to Peru with my Father to climb some big peaks and we wound up getting into a pretty sick big wall down there.
I had a little experience climbing but by all means this was out of my comfort zone. However, it was eye opening and despite getting my ass totally kicked it did light a fire to check out climbing more seriously.
Editor: What are some of your all-time favorite routes/grades?
Jonathan Siegrist: Really hard to say exactly but a few off the top of my head that have been important in my climbing would be ‘Cloak and Dagger’ 5.13 (essentially the first route I bolted), ‘Sarchasm’ 14a (my first 5.14), ‘Necessary Evil’ 14c (a huge mental battle for me, and in many ways my first really hard route in my mind), ’24 Karats’ 14c (one of my favorite FAs), ‘Enter the Dragon’ 14a (a trad route FA, perhaps my favorite FA ever still), ‘The Honeymoon is Over V 5.13c (an alpine wall in Colorado, an incredible experience all around). Man I could go on and on…so many good rock climbs...
Editor: Before any climb, how do you like to center yourself, hone your inner focus and really get in tune with the crag’s spiritual energy?
Jonathan Siegrist: I like to joke around if I’m with good friends. I like to bring the stress level down as much as possible. After all, it is just climbing. But I’m obsessed and so sometimes it can wind up feeling really stressful to try hard. Some of my proudest sends have started with a joke or some good laughs.
Editor: Who would you say are some of your climbing icons, who inspired you?
Jonathan Siegrist: First and foremost, Tommy Caldwell. His climbing is varied and proud, he is humble and yet so so accomplished. A legend for sure.
Ethan Pringle has always been a huge inspiration. Chris Sharma has become more and more of an inspiration to me recently.
Boone Speed, Liv Sansoz, Randy Leavitt, Colin Lantz, Arnaud Petit, Paige Claassen…
Daniel Woods is the strongest climber I’ve ever seen. Otherwise, it’s all my close friends and my Dad. I love seeing my good friends train, try hard and succeed, this is for sure the most motivating.
Editor: How cool to have a Dad who also loves climbing like you! Thank you for spending some time with us. These tips are going to be so helpful to the climbers who follow you and learn from you.
We hope to interview you again in the future and gain some more words of wisdom from you.
Jonathan Siegrist: Anytime! It would be my pleasure. Cheers and thanks!
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 emailed to us by Jonathan.
Did you enjoy our interview with Jonathan Siegrist?
A big thank you for being here!
We hope you enjoy our clutter-free, clean, ad-free layout.
This is a revenue-free site.
Please 'like' our Facebook Page below as we work hard to interview more of your favorite athletes!