Borealis Founder Matt Guertin Talks With Climber Peter Lenz
Nature is our jam, it’s where we go to reset, recharge, and be inspired. Too many days without a paddle, cycle or trek through the woods and we start to get the jitters. Fortunately for us, our region is gifted with a bounty of beautiful, wild places, as well as vital community of explorers, adventurers, and outdoor athletes who share this passion for wild pursuits. From weekend hammock parties to north shore ultra marathons, the spirit of outdoor enjoyment is strong here in the north. Wether it is regional exploration or a jumping off point to far-flung destinations, opportunities abound to get out, take it in, and receive nature's good tidings. As a way to pay homage to these people, places and pursuits, we’ll be featuring some of the folks who get out there, get stoked and make it happen.
“We are now in the mountains and the mountains are in us.” -John Muir
Matt: What motivated you to get into climbing?
Peter: I wanted to try climbing for a long time. But, I just never know how to start. Before I ever tied in I even owned a copy of the mountaineering bible Freedom of the Hills, and read it and daydreamed over it often. Eventually a Special Lady Friend got me to the climbing gym, then on actual rock and vertical ice. After she moved away I knew I wanted to keep at it. I really liked the adventure of climbing, the culture of exploration and the mental and physical challenges and rewards of the activity. So, I kept going to the gym, met new climbing partners and generally did my best to immerse myself in the community. I met some fantastic people that I now can call friends. During this time, I tried hard not to be a jerk - I think this got me invited on climbing trips. Those were amazingly fun. And continue to be.
Matt: Where did you start indoor/outdoor?
Peter: Like most climbers, here in the Midwest at least, I started climbing in the gym. The gym on the University of Minnesota's St. Paul Campus. I do remember my first time climbing outside on real rock. It was here at Interstate State Park. I was more than a bit terrified. But, once I finally trusted the anchor and the safety systems in this new and unfamiliar setting, it was definitely on!
Matt: Did you have a mentor?
Peter: I did not have a solid mentor. But, shortly after getting into the activity I found and devoured any and all climbing information that I could get, from books to reputable internet sites. I learned as much as I could through that. And while not having an "official" mentor I found myself climbing with more experienced people than myself at the time. So I paid close attention to what they were doing - be it setting an anchor, their movement on the rock or ice and their gear and their opinions on all things climbing. I pay little attention to professional climbers. Rather, I keep a closer eye on what some of the local climbers are doing and have done. These are the folks that motivate me more. There have been some amazing climbers come out of Minnesota.
Matt: What's your favorite thing about climbing/tell us about a particularly excellent time you've had while climbing?
Peter: It is getting on some rock or ice outside with friends. While I love trips to The Front Range of Colorado or the crazy rock of Western South Dakota, winter weekend trips to Minnesota's North Shore are always an excellent time. They usually go something along these lines... Leave Friday night after work with a small crew, battle traffic, grab a fast dinner, and get up to The Shore. Likely camp in the snow at a trailhead. Get up the next day, get coffee and find some ice! The finding ice part can entail post-holing through deep snow or snowshoeing up a semi-frozen river - it's all part of the adventure.
Matt: Talk to us about the local climbing community. How would you describe the scene?
Peter: The climbing scene here is great. I have had this idea that since we don't have actual mountains here in Minnesota, that actually facilitates a tighter community of climbers. I love hitting up one of the climbing gyms on a weekday evening and seeing the diverse crew of climbers - the , the new folks trying out an auto belay, the hardcore sport climbers and the folks training hard for an upcoming trip. There used to be a lot more group trips for the community. Some summers there were three or four outings. We would hit up Blue Mounds State Park, The North Shore or Devil's Lake. I would really like to see these return. There are a lot of people new to climbing here in the Twin Cities - I hope that someone will step up and bring these events back. They really served to solidify friendships and create new ones. There is a fantastic Twin Cities Rock Climbing Meetup group for those people looking to get into climbing or to find climbing partners.
Matt: You actually started an annual event in the climbing community. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
Peter: (Laughter)...Right, are you asking about Peter Fest? I really dislike that name, but it's just so ridiculous and I can't think of anything better. Here's the totally biased history: I used to talk about the Sandstone Ice Festival ad nauseam. In 2011 I was deathly ill and couldn't attend the event. Some great friends of mine thought that another event should be held so that I could experience some of the "fest" that I missed. So one weekend in January of 2012 we had the first "Peter Fest" back at Sandstone. We climbed ice, had dinner at the Hinckley Casino, went back to Sandstone and had an amazing bonfire and some laughs. We camped and climbed some more the next day. It was a really fun weekend with friends.
For the winter of 2013 it was suggested to redo another get together - it was cleverly dubbed rePeterFest by a good friend. This time I wanted to make it a fundraiser for the Minnesota Climbers Association, so they could have the pipes and hoses and shower heads they use to continue to make climbable ice at The Sandstone Ice Park. I reached out to some connections I had in the outdoor industry, a friend that was a brand representative and anyone else I thought might want to throw down some swag. We raised about $400, and that really got me excited about future events.
The event has grown a bit over the years. I've had some t-shirts and stickers printed up for the events. The last two years we rented a lodge at the Audubon Center of The North Woods, just outside of the city of Sandstone. This provided attendees with a warm spot for the evening hang out, fundraising, and socializing. And brought up friends that didn't have an interest in winter camping. Bent Paddle Brewing out of Duluth, MN generously provided evening refreshments for the last two events. All in all the series has risen close to $3000 for the Minnesota Climbers Association - I am pretty proud of that. For the 2016 event, Peter Fest Five, I encouraged climbers to drop off a few items to the food shelf in the city of Sandstone on the way to the ice. I want to expand on that in the future.
A big source of inspiration for these ice climbing events actually came from the cycling community. I highly admire the ethic of the free gravel races. Anyone can organize a fun group ride around the city. I remember reading an blurb in an All-City Cycles catalog about an underground, no-entrance-fee cyclocross race that the brand was involved in. The author encouraged anyone to organize and throw their own race in their own town. The idea that anyone can make up and execute a fun event that brings people together really inspired and stuck with me.
Matt: One last question, Why Merino?
Peter: There's nothing that does a better job at keeping me comfortable in the outdoors than Merino. If I am cold-weather fatbiking or ice climbing I always have on a merino base layer next to my skin. It regulates sweat to keep me dry, warm and cozy so that I can enjoy the day. When the temperatures are cool, a merino t-shirt or long sleeve does the trick.