November 14, 2010 George Foster

Dark Horses No. 4

What is happening?? I barely even know who this next guy is and yet here i am preparing to let him into a pretty exclusive club of stallions. Why? Well, without giving too much away, he has a way of leaving a lasting impression on all he meets with his general attitude towards life and people, and his ability to 100% kill the rock! In the curious position of being both one of the most opaque of Dark Horses and yet possessed of an incredible lightness of being…..people of the world i give you – Nicholas Isaac Mathis.

In lieu of any exotic location where climbing ‘journalists’ catch up with their prospective stars the quest for a piece on Nick has been long and fraught (with laziness on my part) and so some of these answers of his may very well be but a distant memory, but i’m sure the principles that he stands by are as solid as ever. With not undue ado this if for you…..

1. What first got you into climbing on rocks? 
My dad – he wasn’t a climber, but very open minded and willing to let his 6 year old kid explore new pursuits. I didn’t really get into it though (i.e. buying my own climbing shoes/chalk bag) until I was a freshman at Humboldt State University getting high, on the rocks, of Moonstone beach in Northern Cali.

2. Do you make a conscious decision to crush every time you go out or is it just a coincidence?
I can’t help it. I’m awaiting a pending 6 figure sponsorship deal to produce my own line of fruit juices (squeezed by my own hands). In reality, my relationship with climbing on rock is a lot different than in the gym. Outdoors its a partnership – my inspiration, the rocks, the vibe of the place, whether that leads me to gunning for the anchors of a 5.12 onsight or strolling up a 3 pitch 5.6 trad route. Climbing indoors, conversely – its usually all business – trying to progress with the quickness …that or goofing off with friends. The sesh depends on the attitude/aptitude of who I’m climbing with.

3. What holds your interest in climbing? What’s your favourite challenge?
Big wall free climbing (sorry boulderers). Don’t get me wrong, it’s all rock climbing, but my journey with climbing is leading me to the bigger multi pitch rigs. That’s my favorite challenge. What holds my interest in climbing are the paradoxes it elicits from me: vulnerability/strength, fear/serenity, complexity/simplicity, nature/nurture, intuition/technique, certainty/doubt, etc.

4. Is climbing a sport or a lifestyle?
Although climbing necessitates fitness and does influence lifestyle, for me, climbing is spiritual.

5. Is it hard maintaining your fitness while studying away in DC?
&@#% yes! I live 45 minutes by metro from the nearest climbing gym (which costs more than I’m accustomed to), the nearest outside areas are either gang-infested or (worse) top-rope only. I spend a lot of time trying to use my Moon (George – other products are available – just not as good) hang board, and I run/bike.

6. How much – if at all – do you train/structure your training to achieve maximum effort out on the rocks?
I’ve noticed fitness for tall, lanky persons like me really boils down to the core/abdominal muscles so I focus on that. I do as little as possible with the fingers…injury prevention is a higher priority for me now. In my eight years of steady climbing, the best training I’ve found for climbing is rest. People like us who are psyched on climbing have a tendency to overdo it. What else?… I’ve reaped the benefits of Eric Horst’s books as well as this site: toyed with a lot of the techniques . Oh yeah, don’t be shy to climb and talk advice with the pros.

7. What’re your goals for the coming 12 months?

Well, this summer I ticked my hardest sport climb – Chronic, 8a/5.13b at Little Si’s World Wall 1 in Washington state, USA (see below). I am restructuring my beliefs right now about what goals are possible to achieve. I’m planning a spring break trip, where I’d like to “earn my keep” in the 5.13 range. It’d be cool to get up a v10 boulder and do a one-arm pull up sooner or later. In the short-term, I’m going to fully recover from a nagging hamstring injury and un-freeze my gym membership lol.

8. How much of your personal style is dictated by the person you are? Do you become your alter-ego when climbing?

My personal style – of climbing – is all about the swag; I wear a helmet – an orange one. My climbing style is also very vocal – I use the “SharmOndra” scream! My alter-ego is NICHOLAS MADNESS first witnessed and coin-phrased by our friend Micah….my alter ego is characterized by a heightened state of uninhibited insane effort and total commitment .

9. Would you agree that ‘how’ you climb something is more important than simply getting up the thing – your thoughts on it too?
Good question George. Yes I whole heartedly agree. Things I’m impressed by are: environmental stewardship (e.g. picking up other peoples’ trash they litter), building on the lineage of testpieces, onsight ground up ascents, climbers who leave hard routes natural for future generations, climbers who move fluid like a brush on canvas, big walls scaled with no hardware left behind, locals developing climbing areas, climbers who’ve been at it for 30, 40, 50+ years.
I feel it’s important to point out that the HOW of my climbing continues to evolve through my own experiences and the lessons gleaned from others.

10. Any plans to climb abroad? How do you think the US climbers are viewed in Europe and vice versa?
Us Yankees have a great deal left to learn from the rich climbing traditions in the UK and throughout the rest of Europe. Guys like me think we’re badass climbing 8a, when in Europe, everyone does it as a warmup….more importantly though, is how European societies have welcomed climbing as an acceptable, popular, interesting, and serious activity…newsworthy even! As for Europe’s perceptions of US climbers, I think “Team America’s” performance on the UK’s Gritstone impressed people, the US’ boulderers are known to be strong, and our best climber over there is Sharma.
Regarding my travels. I am planning on climbing trips through Spain, Greece, France, Switzerland, Germany, and Turkey in Europe once I graduate nursing school. Life is long and the world is a small place, so live well, and make lots of friends. God bless. NM.

Sage advice there kids, that you’d all do well to follow.

NB: Might have stolen that last picture from Micah, but then what’re you gonna do Micah huh?? HUH?!? Also – dunno who took the others but they’re GOOD. 

Comments (5)

  1. I took ALL the photos (except the one of him on Chain Reaction).
    Excellent post Georgie boy!
    When are we gonna’ see you’re ugly mug back here in the states?
    Oh, by the by, I’m headed to Bishop in a week! I’ll be thinking of you while I cry in my tent every night…(from the lack of feeling in my toes)

  2. NM

    Lol. SOrry my fault Micah! Forgive me. I owe you all royalties from this interview bro. The climbing pictures you’ve taken of me are the most treasured ones I’ve got.

  3. NM

    Crush in Bishop! I’ll be there in my mind… cruising up double digit boulder problems with Jimmy and you lol

  4. Bangdoel

    Nice pics, George. When will you try our mountains in celebes island Indonesia. Much more beautiful mounts here. BTW, I copied 5 photos. Thank You.

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