Nick Duttle on I, Me, Mine (5.14d/9a). Austin, Texas. Photo: © Merrick Ales
Nick Duttle on I, Me, Mine (5.14d/9a). Austin, Texas. Photo: © Merrick Ales

Petzl athlete Nick Duttle, 32, of Colorado, recently made the second ascent of I, Me, Mine, a route put up by Rupesh Chhagan in the Austin, Texas, area. The route -- one of only a handful in the United States graded 5.14d (9a) -- takes an improbable line through the underside of a super-steep limestone roof. Rupesh originally give it a 5.14b (8c) rating, but after sending it, Duttle suggested a significant upgrade. The route is Nick's hardest to date. Petzl got in touch with Nick to get the scoop on this interesting route and his plans for the future.

Petzl: What is it like to climb I, Me, Mine?
Nick: It’s like falling until finally sending happens and you feel like you are levitating. It is very powerful, sustained, and delicate. The movement is very precise! If you are not flowing with the route, it will punish you. I was a bit too aggressive initially, and it sent me to the bleachers for injury recovery a couple of times.  

P: Were you surprised with the difficulty, considering it was originally graded 5.14b?
N: Ha yeah… Rupesh :) Some of his "V8" boulder problems are full-value V12. I had climbed on some of his lines in the past and was blown away by his suggested grades! I sent many of the other climbs at the area where I, Me, Mine is located, and it was the next logical step, but when I finally got on it last December, I was floored. I fought my way up the route, getting most of the moves but taking left and right and thinking, "Oh, boy, this thing is hard!" I realized it would take some real time to get it done.

P: How long did you work the route?
N: I started working it in December, 2011. I tried it a little bit and then moved on to other areas, but it was my mind for when my girlfriend and I would return for the holiday season. I thought I would be able to get it done around that time. Little did I know… I really started trying to do it in December of 2012 and did not complete the route until late March of 2013. Many, many tries!

P: Was it humid when you climbed the route? Because you don't sweat, are humid conditions actually your sending temps?
N: Yes, it was humid. Humid conditions are my time to shine. When everybody else is saying the season is over, I’m getting all excited because I can finally hang on! Most people don’t realize water is needed to make a friction bond. For example, picking up a glass or opening a door are things people who sweat rarely see as a challenge. I have dropped so many glasses, cups, and plates from dry, slippery fingers. Another example is snapping your fingers. I can’t do it; I don’t have the moisture.

P: What's up with access to this area?
N: I have been very fortunate to climb at the special spot. It is on private property and is very highly respected by its owners. They are very nice people but do not want it to be destroyed. Having the cliff owned by climbers privately makes a very different approach to land management in the state of Texas than, say, the way they do things in Hueco Tanks. I prefer it in many ways. 

P: Can you tell us about any projects you're working on now? 
N: Yes, I’m working on some other projects in the area, and one of them happens to be an extension to I, Me, Mine. It is for sure a step beyond, with wild moves on incredibly small holds that barely make sense to hang on to, but it goes the whole way! Rupesh and I have made good links and progress, but who knows how long it will take to complete. The project is tentatively named Us

P: Anything else?
N: I did train [running] on a track for some time for this project and my other main project. I also went to Hueco to heal a hand injury and almost sent some hard stuff, but as soon as my hand felt better I came right back to I, Me, Mine. I also achieved my goal of running a 5-minute mile before I turned 32, with loftier goals for later this year. I will try the project as long as the season holds, but I have much in the way of unfinished projects in The Red [River Gorge]. The humid season is coming, and it will be my time to climb.


 Watch Nick climbing Dharma Gate 

Dharma Gate - 5.14 from Merrick Ales on Vimeo.


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