Ethan Pringle on winning the Unified Bouldering Championships comp at the Nor'easter

The weekend of September 25-26, Ethan Pringle won the Unified Bouldering Championship finale comp at the Nor’easter Sport, Music, and Conservation festival. The event drew top climbers from all across the country, among them Daniel Woods, the odd-on favorite based on his recent World Cup win and spate of top-end boulder first ascents. Still, a competition’s outcome is never certain, and Pringle, whose sends of note include a quick repeat (and proposed downgrade) of Chris Sharma’s sport masterpiece Realization (5.15a), can hang with the best on any given day.

Fresh off a long recovery from should surgery, Pringle also recently dispatched one of the world’s hardest boulder problems, a route-length roof line called Wheel of Life (proposed V16; see Pringle’s blog on that send here), in Australia’s Grampians area.

Following is an interview with Pringle about his experience at the Unified Bouldering Championship competition and the Nor’easter, plus plans for the future.

How did you injure your shoulder?
I tore the labrum in my left shoulder on Finals Problem No. 4 at the 2009 ABS Nationals in Boulder, CO. I did it on this big monkey-bar/iron-cross move. The labrum attaches to the ball of your shoulder socket; all the muscles that originate in your shoulder attach to it. As I understand it, my labrum slipped over the bone and tore away from it, though my shoulder didn't dislocate. I knew immediately when it happened that it was very bad, even though I didn't know exactly what had happened, and I thought it was the end of my climbing career.

After a few months of letting my shoulder heal and trying some physical therapy, I knew it would never be close to the same strength if I didn't get it operated on, so I decided to get the surgery in early June of ‘09.

When you did Wheel of Life, did you think to yourself, “I’m back, baby!”?
I did think that after doing the Wheel, yes. But I that had that thought long before, as well, like when I started doing V10’s in the gym, when I did Assassin (5.13d) at Jailhouse, or when I did White Wedding (5.13d) second try at Smith Rocks, in March 2010.

Ethan Pringle on Wheel of Life, Grampians, Australia. Photo: Mark Heal.

Going into the Nor’easter comp, did you feel strong and ready to go head-to-head with Daniel Woods?
I felt strong, yeah, but ready to go head-to-head with D Woods? No. When I watched Daniel in the qualies on Friday, he just looked like a machine. He showed absolutely no sign of struggle. He cruised through all the problems like they were V2, and when he was holding onto the smallest crimps and doing the hardest moves, he looked like he was on buckets. He really is on another level in terms of strength and core and all that. I was joking to everyone else in the finals that we were all competing for second place. I guess I jinxed him?

Daniel Woods, the man to beat. Photo: John Evans.

Was there a point where the tide turned and you felt like you could win it?
I gobbled down a dozen cocoa-covered coffee beans that my friend gave me right before the finals so I felt great! I could tell Woods was pretty flustered after not sending the first problem, and I could see that a bit of a mental block was forming. After Brian [Kim] and I were the only ones to do Problem No. 2, I thought it was in the bag for me, but then I heard him send No. 3 and I thought, "Crap, now I have to send it, too, or else I'm out." Fortunately, I did.

What was your favorite moment in the competition?
Sticking that finish jug on problem No. 3 was pretty satisfying. That was a high point, for sure; I was amped. I didn't even care that I had won, really, I was just so happy that I had jumped my own mental hurdles and somehow my recovery had come full circle. I was also really surprised because I didn't expect myself to win at all. I was also psyched the crowd was so into it and a bunch of my good friends were watching, and my girlfriend was watching online.

Pringle on the podium, with Brian Kim in second and Daniel Woods in third. Photo: John Evans.

Do you plan to do more many comps in the future?
Well, I seem to get hurt at every other comp I enter, even when I tell myself I'm gonna take it easy. In the finals of this one, when I jumped down from the top of the second problem, I tried to stick the landing on two feet instead of tucking and rolling. That turned out to be a bad idea, because the walls are so high. My right leg collapsed and I felt some popping/ripping sensations in my right calf, behind the knee. I thought I had really done it, but after a few minutes my leg stopped hurting and almost felt normal. But the next day, and every day since, my calf has been hurting and my knee's been a little swollen and irritated.

If I was smart, I'd stay away from comps, but the truth is, competing is still really fun for me, especially when I do well. I love the pressure and the energy and most of the time the creativity of the setting. Winning a World Cup is still one of my goals. I'd really like to do a whole season of bouldering WC’s in Europe one of these years, but it's hard to go over there when you're on your own in terms of resources.

Pringle at the UBC comp, Nor'easter. Photo: John Evans.

Did you catch any of the bands at the Nor’easter?
Yeah. I think the Walkmen were my faves. !!! (Chk Chk Chk) played a few cool songs, and Dr. Dog was pretty great to.

Do you have any projects at the moment?
There's this project up at Robber's Roost that I think will be 5.14d. I tried it a few times last week and it felt doable, but I have to heal my calf first. I was planning to start working on Jumbo Love, like, today, but between my pulled hammy and now my pulled calf, I'm not sure my right leg will be able to handle the five right heel hooks. Besides that, I have a bunch of climbs I wanna get on in the Red River Gorge this fall, with maybe a couple stop-offs in Utah and Colorado on the way.


The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd> <hr> <br> <img> <object> <embed> <h1> <h2> <h3> <h4> <h5> <h6> <p> <span> <b> <i> <u>

More information about formatting options