Climber Spotlight: Kentucky’s Hometown Hero, Dru Mack

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Kentucky’s hometown hero, Dru Mack has an infectious psych and is one of those climbers who is mega-supportive, regardless of what level you may be climbing at. He is most prominent in the Red River Gorge community but has also taken his stoke to crags and boulder fields all over the U.S. and internationally.

In this Climber Spotlight, Dru shares how he transitions from sport climbing objectives to bouldering goals and what he does to stay psyched and strong.

… Before we get started, watch this:

Quick bites

  • Nickname: Dru Mack (I have an easy first and last name, so people say them together often)
  • Age: 23
  • Years climbing: 12
  • Most memorable climb: All of them? I love climbing so much, it’s too hard to pick a favorite.
  • Favorite tunes that get you psyched: Hip-hop. Kendrick, Cole, Nas.
  • Favorite Red River Gorge crag: The Motherlode
  • Favorite rest day activity: Hiking, taking photos, sleeping literally all day, and maybe catching up on some Youtube videos

Tell us about your recent trip to Rocklands, South Africa.

Wow, South Africa was insane.

I was there for six weeks, which for me was by far the longest bouldering trip I had ever been on. There are boulders everywhere and they all tend to be tall and beautiful. Of course, I had seen a million videos of the Rocklands before coming, so I had a couple goals in mind.

After some time adjusting to the area, I had some big personal breakthroughs, including my first V10 flash, my first V12, and even a day doing four V10s. I was really proud of doing the classic boulder, Splash of Red, which is like 20 feet tall and hard at the top. A melting pot of cultures gathered pads for this one and I topped out in just a few tries. I was relieved but also super psyched to stand on top. I did a lot of mileage on this trip, trying to climb as many problems as possible, but I hope to return in the future for some bigger and harder goals.

Do you identify mainly as a sport climber? How do you prepare for bouldering trips?

Definitely. Growing up in the Red River Gorge it’s easy to just focus on endurance training. I prefer sport climbing, but think bouldering is really important to be a stronger climber. I train by bouldering in the gym. Just trying hard problems with friends is the most enjoyable way to gain power. I also do some campusing and finger strength exercises.

Do you adopt a different mindset when you’re bouldering vs. when you’re sport climbing?

The mindset is always to just go out and try hard and have fun, whether I’m sport climbing or bouldering.

I really invest a lot of time in my sport climbing and feel like I just started to see what I’m capable of in bouldering. I’ve spent years on particular sport climbs, and only spent 2 days on my hardest boulder. So definitely the mindset is different when it comes to the time I dedicate to things … going into a long route I normally just expect it to take a lot of effort.

So you crush boulders and sport climbs … Do you ever plug gear?

Nope! When I was younger I learned how to place gear and did some routes I was excited about, but I haven’t done it in a while. I would really like to get back into it in the future and visit some of the amazing traditional areas like Yosemite and Indian Creek.

Have you ever had any plateaus in your climbing? If so, how did you break through them?

Around the .12d range I hit a pretty big wall, I felt like I was there forever. I took a step back and worked on my weaknesses in the gym. I realized I needed more power and strength to improve and do the routes I wanted to do. Anytime I feel like I have a plateau whether big or small, I normally ask myself if I need rest or figure out the areas of my climbing I’m neglecting.

How do you train? Do you follow a specific training program or anything like that?

I train based on my goals.

If I have a trip, a route, or boulder that I really want to do I train to do that particular thing. I think that keeps the motivation really high as well. I will also look at my weaknesses and try to get better at those. I’m lucky to train with some amazing and very experienced friends, like my buddy Lee Smith, who as a physical therapist understands the body really well.

Do you do any coaching or mentoring?

I love working with kids and helping them become better climbers. I also started climbing in the RRG at a very young age, so I want other kids to have that experience as well. I’m still in the process of figuring out the best avenue for that.

I missed Rocktoberfest this year. What were the highlights?

AHHH Rocktoberfest was amazing! The Red River Gorge Climbers Coalition was able to pay off Miller Fork … can’t ask for much more than protected climbing areas. There was a baller party on Saturday night, and a bunch of awesome athletes doing clinics on Sunday. I highly recommend everyone come next year!

The Red season is winding down … What are your winter plans?

I’m back in Louisville, Kentucky doing some route setting work and just training for bouldering! I would really like to make some trips down to Chattanooga to try some hard boulders.

What’s on your radar for 2018?

I’m in the scheming and planning stages for 2018. Of course, there are a million places I want to visit, so it’s always hard to choose where to go first. I guess the top places I want to spend some time are Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming. I also hope to get back overseas where I want to see Australia, Norway, France, and China. I guess we’ll just see what happens!


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