Adam Griffith got his first taste of climbing while working on cell towers for a family company. A friend took him up and Griffith, 39 of Tooele, was hooked.
“That was it,” he said.
Griffith has loved rock climbing since 17 years ago, when a friend, Dustin England, took him on a climb near Ophir. Besides rock climbing, he also loves to create climbing routes for other avid climbers.
Bolting or creating a route is when someone climbs up a certain height and puts in large bolts for other climbers to follow. Griffith estimates he has created 20 to 30 climbing routes in all, many of which are in the county.
“It’s safe if you do it right,” he said.
He said that all climbing accidents occur because of human error — people going without ropes or instructions, or when they take too many chances or dares.
There are many different types of climbing, including: sport, bouldering, top rope, free solo, trad and mountaineering. Griffith’s said his two favorites are sport and bouldering.
Sport climbing relies on permanent anchors (known as bolts) fixed to the rock. It requires the climbers to have gymnastic-like strength, high skill levels and endurance. The height at which a climber ascends depends on both the route and bolt. And, while most people think of climbing with bolts in the outdoors, indoor climbing can also involve bolting..
Bouldering is a climbing type that is done without ropes. The climbs are short and over a mat (crash pad) in case of a fall, so that the climber isn’t injured. With this form, a person typically doesn’t climb over 20 feet above the ground. This type of climbing can also be done in both the outdoors or in a gym.
But Griffith doesn’t restrict himself to practicing in just the outdoors and in gyms. He has his own setup at his home.
In fact, Griffith’s five children have all tried the sport. While the older ones prefer other hobbies, Griffith says his youngest, Axton, 7, loves to climb with him.
Griffith said his wife of nearly 20 years, Tawnee, supports him in the sport, even though he is nearly topped out on the upper end of the climbing difficulty level. She also supports their children participating in climbing.
Griffiths explains that along with the different types of climbing, there are also different grades or difficulty levels. This allows climbers to gauge what route fits their current skill level. If they wish to challenge themselves, they can determine which level would be the next step up in their progression.
Grades 5.0 to 5.6 are easiest and, in general, these require no ropes.
“It’s like a steep hike anyone can do,” explains Griffith.
With grades 5.7 and up, ropes are highly recommended. Once the grade gets to 5.10 there are letters involved, 5.10ABC or D. The grade ratings go up to 5.15. The hardest climb Griffith has done was a 5.13C in Ophir Canyon.
“Most people don’t go to the 12s,” he said. “I would like to get to 5.14.”
Griffith said anyone can climb. He suggest beginners always go with someone who knows how to teach the skills of climbing and who knows the safety guidelines.
Griffith has met many climbers as he has progressed in the sport, and, as a result, he has developed some strong friendships along the way. He also claims that some of the best climbs he has experienced are in Utah.
“I don’t know how many times I’ve heard, ‘I’ve moved to Utah to climb,’” he said.
Griffith typically climbs three times a week. But, his favorite times to climb in the year are in the spring and in October. During the summer, when it’s hot, it is not ideal, he said.
The best summer hours for a climb are early in the morning or in the evening, he added. It’s hard to see where you are going or what you are doing, because of the sun’s level on the horizon. So, the summer can get dangerous.
Griffith claims, however, as a general rule, that climbers are cautious people.
“Climbers are really nice people, down to Earth,” he said, and he added that he has met hikers from numerous countries.
“People come to Utah from all over the world,” he said.
The most iconic place for Griffith to climb outside of Utah, he asserted, was Wacko Tanks in El Paso, which he emphasized is “just beautiful.”
The limestone, he said, was pocketed. It intrigued Griffith that formerly the Navajos would collect water in these pockets.
Besides climbing in the great outdoors, Griffith said that gyms are a great resource for beginners to learn how to climb. Gyms typically teach top roping and leading.
Griffith encourages climbers to research the climbs before they plan their hikes. They should look at the different climbs available, what exercises are important to strengthen you for climbs, and what other tips and advice are available, he added. One very helpful website Griffith recommended is mountainproject.com.
Because of the growing number of gyms, and shows like American Ninja Warrior, climbing has grown in popularity in the last four to five years. While many new hobbyists learn inside gyms, Griffith recommends getting outside and tackling the mountains. He said he loves the outdoors.
“It’s peaceful, relaxing. There’s not an adrenaline rush. [I] enjoy being in the mountains,” he said.
Griffith is planning two iconic hikes this year: he would like to go to Moab and he has his sights on Castleton, Utah.
Of his passion, Griffith said hiking “keeps you in shape.
“There hasn’t been one year I haven’t wanted to climb,” he said.
Of late, climbing has recently taken a lower priority in Griffith’s life, because of his other commitments with his job, getting into a new home, and the demands of children. He has found he has had limited time to pursue his climbing hobby.
Despite a dearth of recent climbs, Griffith takes pride that he has enjoyed creating routes for other climbers to enjoy. These include local routes in Ophir and Middle canyons.
Tooele County has a plethora of great hikes, Griffith said. He even said that Chris Sharma, the best climber in the world according to most notable climbing websites, has developed routes in the Stansbury Mountains’ South Willow Canyon. Sharma’s expertise springs from the fact that he has twice climbed the hardest known route, La Dura in Spain (grade 5.15C).
Griffith himself is happy with his contributions to climbing in the state. He has developed around three dozen Utah routes.
Of the sport, he said, “There’s something about getting out, like hunting and fishing. It’s very safe and fun. Anyone can jump right into it.”
Climbing never gets old for this elevation enthusiast, who says living in Utah feeds his soul. Here, he is able to experience the thrill of new heights just miles from home.
And, for Griffith, climbing is a gift that he can keep giving, whether it is through remembering his first hike in Ophir Canyon, sharing his expertise with others or creating a new route up South Willow Canyon other locals will use for decades to come, he has made his mark in the county and state climbing community even as he looks to conquer the next route.