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A Morning with American Ice and Comp Climber Tyler Kempney

Sitting on a crashpad-couch, Tyler Kempney slides a hand through his hair as he tries to remember the chronology of the last few days. Since Thursday, he’s climbed at Poke-O-Moonshine (Adirondacks), New York, Snake Mountain, Vermont, and took second at the Petra Cliffs drytool comp.

“This year I decided to try out ice comps, and to see how I would do without specifically training for them,” he says.

Kempney taking second place at the Smugglers’ Notch Ice Bash kickoff party at Petra Cliffs in Burlington, Vermont. Photo: Sam Simon.

The weekend prior, Jan. 18 to 21, he competed at the Ouray Ice Fest where he took fifth in men’s and seventh overall. He placed mid-pack in speed. “I am not a fast climber,” he says with a snicker.

Kempney, 26, from Carthage, New York, started climbing rock six years ago and learned from watching movement. A year after he began rock climbing, he started coaching at The Edge Halfmoon. “Once you teach something, you understand it really well,” he says.

A year later, in 2013, he started climbing ice and mixed.

Today, he climbs 150 days outside and visits the gym only once or twice a month. He regularly climbs 5.12 trad, WI5 and loves mixed.

Though he’s climbed Red Bull and Vodka M11 a steep bolted line in Colorado’s East Vail Amphitheatre, he prefers naturally protected ice and rock routes in the M8 range.

Sat., Jan. 27: Kempney dynoing for the ice on Paradigm Shift M8. Photo: Pete Hoang

Sitting down with Kempney

We’re at the specialty gear shop Rock and Resole located in the corner of a warehouse in Boulder, Colorado.

The phones are ringing off the hook and the interview is constantly interrupted when he picks up and talks with customers. He works here as the rock shoe buyer.

Surrounding us are 80 models of shoes and more coming in. Haulbags and ropes hang from the walls.

“I don’t do just one type of climbing,” he says, “I enjoy bouldering, sport, trad, pure cracks, offwidth and ice/mixed. I move very statically and like to lock everything off. Onsighting is my favourite.”

Here One Minute, Gone the Next

Aside from traveling across the country to compete, Kempney also seeks rarely formed ice routes in Colorado’s Front Range.

Last October, he took advantage of a cold snap and drove from his home in Boulder at 3 a.m. to climb the first ascent of an ice route 60 metres right of Smear of Fear WI5 at the base of the Diamond in Rocky Mountain National Park.

The sun was just starting to hit the wall when he reached the face at 7:30 a.m. He and his partner, Ryan Kempf, made it 15 metres up the wall, via drytooling, before retreating due to melting conditions.

In less than a minute after retreating all the surrounding ice routes collapsed. “As we pulled our ropes our route fell,” he says.

Oct. 5, 2017: Kempney and Ryan Kempf packing their bags as the route they just attempted falls to the ground. Photo: Erik Aagaard.

(Read more about Kempney and Kempf’s collapsing ice climbing story in the upcoming issue of Gripped.)

What’s next for Kempney? “This Saturday, I’m going up to climb The Squid M6 WI5. Next week, I’ll be training with kids from the USA Youth Ice Climbing Team drytooling on the treadwall at The Spot bouldering gym.”

Kempney climbing the elite mixed route during the 23rd Annual Ouray Ice Fest. Kempney took 5th in men’s and 7th overall. Photo: Brad Mcmillon.

Kempney will be competing at the North American Ice Championship in Fenton, Michigan from March 16 to 18.

To learn more about Kempey, follow him on Instagram.

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