Climber Spotlight: Ethan Pringle

Libecki! I have never been so fucking scared in my life! … But I am having so much fun! I’ve never been so psyched!

Ethan Pringle shouted to climbing partner and expedition mentor, Mike Libecki, while on a big wall first ­ascent mission in Greenland.

Ethan Pringle
Ethan Pringle on an alpine expedition in Western China. Photo: Ethan Pringle

Ethan grew up in the Mission district of San Francisco and started climbing in the gym at age eight. By the time he was 15, he had won the Junior Nationals and Junior International competitions for four consecutive years. As he got older, Ethan branched out from the competition circuit and quickly started pushing the sport in other disciplines as well. To this day, there are few who have sent as many hard boulder problems, sport climbs, and traditional lines as Ethan.

Ethan Pringle and Mike Libecki
Pringle and Mike Libecki on the first ascent of Run for the Bolder (5.12R). Photo: Keith Ladzinski

He has repeated and established numerous cutting­-edge boulder problems, including the first ascent of Clockwork Orange (V12R) in Red Rocks, the Grampian’s Wheel of Life (V14/5.14d), Sky (V14) in Rocklands, and many Buttermilks highballs such as Too Big to Flail (V10/5.14aX), The Beautiful and Damned (V13X), and the second ascent of This Side of Paradise (V10R/X). His resume contains far more R and X ratings than most climbers of his ability level.

Ethan is also an accomplished traditional climber, having sent several hard gear routes, including the second ascent of Iron Monkey (5.14a/b) in Eldorado Canyon, Sonnie Trotter’s Cobra Crack (5.14a) in Squamish, BC, and a first ascent of the five-pitch alpine route, Run For The Bolder (5.12R) in Western China.

One of his most notable and generally unpublicized climbing achievements occurred in the spring of this year. In a 36­-hour push, Ethan flashed or onsighted all 35 pitches of El Capitan’s Freerider (5.13a), with the exception of the Huber Boulder Problem.

He fell once on this pitch, lowered back down to the belay, and redpointed on his second try. While there are other climbers who have claimed a flash of El Cap, no one has come as close to a true flash as Ethan.

Ethan Pringle Free Rider
Pringle redpointing the Huber Boulder Problem pitch after his only fall on the entire route. Photo: Walker Emerson

However, at 28-years-old, Ethan is confident that one of his proudest sends has yet to come. In an interview with Rock and Ice magazine, Ethan talks about projecting the 250 ­foot-long Jumbo Love, the hardest sport climb in North America with a grade of 5.15b:

I know the route is very close to my physical limit, so it’s really inspiring to me.

3 Days with Ethan Pringle:

While he is a multi­discipline climber, Ethan’s roots lie within the realm of sport climbing. At age 12 he redpointed his first 5.13, The Beast in Rifle, Colorado, and the year after, he sent his first 5.14: Soul Train at Mt. Charleston, Nevada (which was subsequently downgraded to 5.13d).

Since then he has sent over 50 routes with a grade of 5.14 or harder, including Realization (5.15a) in France, a first ascent of Arrested Development (5.14d) at Robbers Roost, Nevada, and the first ascent of Spicy Dumpling, a 5.14d in Yangshuo, China.

On top of his world class climbing achievements in all disciplines of the sport, his humble demeanor, loyalty to his friends, and silly sense of humor have earned him respect from climbers around the world. After climbing a first ascent on Higher Cathedral Spire with Ethan in Yosemite this fall, Cheyne Lempe told Alpinist Magazine:

What I was most stoked about was hanging out with a super rad friend.

Pringle and Lempe on The Constant Gardener
Pringle and Lempe establishing The Constant Gardener (5.11R/A3) in Yosemite Valley. Photo: Austin Siadak

Thank you for the inspiration Ethan, and good luck on Jumbo Love this spring!


Ethan Pringle still resides in the Bay Area to be close to his family and friends, but escapes to the Sierras and abroad every chance he gets. He is sponsored by Mountain Hardwear, Touchstone Climbing and Fitness, Petzl, Maxim Ropes, and Metolius.

To follow his adventures, check him out on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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