After swiping my Dad's Hi-8 camera at the age of 18 to shoot some of the scruffy climbing around Salt Lake City, I filled tape after tape of pretty rough footage. Occasionally, I'd get lucky and catch something cool, like a first ascent or a new area we had found. Unfortunately, I had more psyche than skill behind the camera. But what I lacked in camera steadiness I tried to make up for by capturing the "real" moments that I was seeing.
I first heard of Chris Sharma right about the time I was helping to get Pusher off the ground as a start up hold company. A friend of mine, who was a very talented climber, came back from a big comp in California where everyone was blown away by this kid from Santa Cruz, campusing up the finals route and demoralizing most of the field.
"I'm done. I've seen the future and I am no part of it. This kid was on a whole new level." He friend told us.
Tommy Caldwell and Chris had blown through Logan Canyon and Rifle hiking most of the hard routes in 1995, so I knew he had skills. I got word that he was going to be in the Virgin River Gorge, trying Boone Speed's direct start to "Route of All Evil", so Boone and I grabbed our kits and rolled south.
What happened next changed my future. It was around 75 degrees and dead still. Chris was a skinny kid with strong hands, smiling and polite, but not too confident about his chances in the heat. He got on a 5.11 warm up and had to stop and hang at every other bolt, he was so pumped.
"This kid is the future?" I asked myself. Boone looked at me with a raised eyebrow. He wasn't sold either.
But I dutifully got into position and filmed as he started to fondle the starting crimps, and something changed in his demeanor. Movements became precise; holds looked bigger when he grabbed them; there was no doubt in him. He put up the first 14c by an American that day, one that still commands respect today.
The next week he told me he wanted to go to Smith Rocks to try "Just Do It", which had only seen 2 ascents, none by an American.
I told Dave and Rob at Pusher that they would have to hold things down at the shop; I was a believer.
The footage of this is part of a "Flashback" series MVM is doing. For more from the old Pusher videos, check out a copy of the Matt Lund Tribute Video, available Oct. 1 through the MVM store. All proceeds go directly to the Matt Lund Fund (www.mattlundfund.com).