In this week’s Climber Spotlight, we hear from the charismatic, down to earth, and beastly strong Dan Beall. His father spent the 70’s climbing at Taquitz and Suicide Rocks, which comes as no surprise to anyone who has seen Dan climb before—it’s obvious that he has climbing in his blood. With many bold and difficult ticks under his belt, Dan has established himself as one of the strongest climbers of this generation.
Read on to hear about the early days of his climbing career, his heartbreaking yet inspiring story with The Process (V16?), and his love for the Buttermilk Country:
How did climbing enter into your life? Tell us about the early days of your climbing career.
I went climbing for the first time when I was pretty young, though perhaps not by today’s standards. My dad used to climb at Tahquitz and Suicide back in the 70’s, but without the convenience of gyms or really any climbing that wasn’t trad, he fell out of practice until a gym opened up near my house in Poway, CA.
He took my brother and I in when I was maybe 10 or 11, but I wasn’t a particularly athletic kid, and I was paralyzingly scared of heights. As a result, I spent the next few years sort of dabbling. I’d go into the gym on a school trip or for a birthday party, but I certainly wasn’t a ‘climber.’
At some point something changed, and honestly I don’t remember what it was. This seems odd given how much of an impact climbing has had on my life since. I guess some amount of growing up and slow exposure to the sport, but whatever it was, somehow I got hooked, and I got my first gym membership around Christmas of 2004 and I’ve been at it ever since.
I grew as a climber at a time and in an area that had a pretty minimal climbing community. Certainly there were no other kids to climb with, and there were barely more adults who were interested in being saddled with a 14-year-old gumby. As a result, I really had to teach myself. I had to stumble upon and develop my own ideas of training. I had to realize that it was possible to push yourself and progress.
When the gym you climb at only sets up to V4, and the strongest climber you’ve ever met or heard of—outside of Inertia (an early climbing movie by Paul Dusatko) or Climbing Magazine—climbs V8 or V9, the idea of trying to be the best (or even remotely competitive) never even occurs to you.
Eventually though, my natural flaws of pride and stubbornness raised their heads, and I put the years of training alone together with my developing scientific bent, to form a ferocious training regimen that caused almost as much improvement as it did injury. And here we are. Plus or minus some outdoor climbing.
You put in a lot of work to the Grandpa Peabody project—a line that was eventually sent by Daniel Woods and is now named The Process. Was it hard for you to see it get sent by someone other than yourself? Are you going to keep working on it?
I’m absolutely going to keep working on it. I currently have all of December blocked out to be in the Buttermilks, but realistically I’ll probably head out as soon as the weather gods allow. After the amount of time I’ve put into that climb, I couldn’t possibly put it aside without totally losing my mind.
It was hard to see Daniel finish the climb. I had put so much into it. I cleaned it and made it safe. I believed in it when no one else did. I figured out the kind of absurd logistics necessary to climb it, and I kept hope despite every possible thing going wrong, from broken holds to broken tendons to whole seasons with unprecedented bad weather.
I fought for it, I did everything I could, and I didn’t send. It was a little demoralizing. Despite all of that though, it was also awesome to see Daniel get the first ascent. It was great to be there to witness the realization of my idea, even if it was a bit second hand. It was fulfilling to see the damned thing get done, it was a relief to see that it was possible and it was inspiring to see Woods put on a master class of physical fitness whilst overcoming his own fears and uncertainties.
It was also a real treat to see the climbing community in Bishop come together to support both of us in our undertaking, to carry countless pads and to hang out in the cold and the dark to hold lights for us and cheer us on. It was a really crazy time and a roller coaster of emotions. I kinda wish it had ended with something other than exploding the crux hold after Daniel left, but hey, it keeps the fire under me to train for another year and to make sure to bring my A game this season.
Always a silver lining, always psyched. Though I did run out of psych for a bit. I pushed myself so hard last season that I found for the first time that I didn’t have any further to dig. I wasn’t burned out exactly, I still enjoyed climbing, I was just exhausted. I was so mentally fried, it took months to regrow the ‘try hard’ that I normally rely on in place of thing like good judgement and advance planning and things like that.
What is one of your proudest climbing accomplishments?
Mostly silly stuff. Training feats that I never thought I’d be able to do, climbs on my home wall that took years of falling to actually link. Some goofy eliminates on the Grandma Peabody.
As far as actual climbs go, there have been several meaningful lines, but until I actually send The Process, the two that stand out the most are Terremer (V15) in Hueco Tanks, and Tiers of Uncertainty (V11/12) on the sail of the Grandma. Terremer was always something that seemed so impossible, the epitome of a hard crimp line, and it had only been climbed by Fred Nicole, Daniel Woods, and Paul Robinson. They are climbing legends, and have been personal heroes my whole career.
To be able to push my art into that realm, even if only for one line that fit my body type and style pretty much to a T, was incredible. Tiers of Uncertainty was different. It’s basically a V11 or 12 FA that I did on top rope. Pretty utterly insignificant, but it took more vision than anything else I’ve tried, on the send go I tried harder than I have on pretty much anything else I’ve done, and it was a chance for me to contribute a beautiful (in my opinion) new test piece to the Buttermilks, an area that has profoundly influenced me over the years.
What is one of your not-so-proud moments in climbing?
Getting my ass kicked at competitions, feeling self-conscious, and making excuses. Probably everyone does it from time to time, I don’t know. But I should sack up and suck more gracefully when the occasion requires.
What’s next for you? Any big goals/projects?
Go back to The Process and get that done. Go to Colorado to check out some of the many hard beautiful lines out there (Hypnotized Minds, Paint it Black, Defying Gravity among others. Fingers optimistically crossed).
Also, train for ABS Nationals, and maybe just this once make it out of qualifiers to earn a slot at the Vail World Cup. I’m not a great comp climber and I’m less inspired by competitions than I am by outdoor objectives, but making it to the World Cup has been a goal of mine for years, and one of these days I’m gonna do it, gosh darn it.
If you could give one piece of advice to a beginner climber, what would it be?
Do NOT get injured. It’s an awful downhill spiral. Other things too, but if I have to pick one, it’s that.
If you could give one piece of advice to a V15/5.15 crusher, what would it be?
Be scientific about your training. Some people are, but many more aren’t. Think specifically about what you’re trying to accomplish, both in climbing and with each specific training exercise. Make sure they line up and that you aren’t wasting your time with something that doesn’t fit your goals.
Innovate, experiment, and document your results. It’ll be more efficient for you and it will provide more information for everyone else in a sport with a woefully limited reserve of training doctrine or data.
Anything else you’d like to tell us?
I’m wildly sleep deprived and the above is probably both ramble-y and ridiculous. Please forgive me.
We send a big thank you to Dan for sharing his honest, inspiring story. We can’t wait to see what you’ll do in Bishop this season! Good luck, Dan! We’re all rooting for you.