Russ Clune is a cornerstone of the company Black Diamond’s history and an integral part of climbing’s humble beginnings in America. Recently, Sam Elias paid Clune a visit at his home in the Gunks, where he sampled the historic routes of the past, and attempted a rare ascent of the new-school trad testpiece: Brozone 5.14b.
But perhaps the most important thing Elias walked away with, amid all the climbing history lessons, and constant, often hilarious, Clune cliff-banter, was an intimate view into the soul of a man who has dedicated his entire life to climbing.
Peruse the pages of the Gunks guidebook and you’ll find Clune’s name tied to first ascents of numerous classics—perhaps the most famous being the seminal roof climb, Twilight Zone 5.13b. On top of remaining at the fore of free-climbing in the country (and world) for more than two decades, Clune also worked as a sales rep for Black Diamond since 1989.
Gripped editor Brandon Pullan touched base with Clune and legendary Smith Rock climber Alan Watts at the 2019 Denver Outdoor Retailer trade show. “Clune was asked about beta by climbers at the Black Diamond booth for certain classic Gunks’ routes and without hesitation, Clune could list intricate moves,” said Pullan. Watch a new video about Clune below, which features Elias and Lynn Hill.