Who are you?
My name is Dustin Glasner. I’m 24 years old, and I currently live in the DC Metro Area.
How long have you been climbing for, and how did you start?
I’ve been climbing for about two years now, but it’s only been about a year since I started really training and focusing on it as a sport. I got my start through a pass/fail class during my senior spring semester in college. We climbed inside once a week, and the “final exam” was a trip to Shenandoah National Park in Virginia for some top roping. It planted the seed that would eventually blossom into a full-blown passion. There were some detours along the way, but the important part is that it happened.
Where do you climb?
I spend most of my time pulling plastic at Earth Treks Rockville, the largest gym in the U.S. When I do manage to get outside, Northwest Branch and Rocky Gorge Reservoir are my local areas for bouldering, Great Falls and Carderock for top roping, and Elizabeth’s Furnace for sport/trad/mixed. Governor Stable is only a few hours away and offers amazing bouldering…farther than that are the Gunks, Seneca, Coopers Rock, the New, the Red, Grayson Highlands, Stone Fort, etc. If you’re willing to drive up to 10 hours, there’s a ton of world class rock “near by”.
Unfortunately, I don’t have much time to get outside, so my favorite spots thus far are the only major destinations I’ve been to: Rumney, New Hampshire, Joshua Tree, California, and the New River Gorge , West Virginia. These trips were all amazing experiences, and I learned a lot about myself as a climber from them. I’m hoping to go back to any and all of them sometime within the next year. I’d also love to get to the Red, Bishop, Yosemite, and Hueco Tanks, though work makes so much travel very difficult.
What style of climbing do you prefer?
Inside and out, I’m a sport climber at heart. I boulder to build strength, and I am beginning to enjoy it more as an individual discipline. But most of my major goals on real rock revolve around sport climbing. I need to just set aside the time, get some people together, and plan a trip. It’s long overdue.
I’d like to trad and ice climb in the future as well. Maybe big walls someday. I’m open to pretty much anything, I’d like to be as well-rounded as possible.
What do you climb in (favorite gear, company, any sponsors, etc.)?
I’m rather obsessed with Five Ten’s gear. The Teams have been my go-to shoe through thick and thin, though the Dragons are definitely in regular rotation.
In terms of other gear, I love Black Diamond and Organic. I highly recommend the Black Diamond Flight harness – it’s pretty cheap for a non-entry level harness, and it’s really comfortable and lightweight. My sport rack is made up of BD draws. And Organic makes some of the best crash pads and chalk bags around – and made in the U.S.A.!
I am not sponsored, though I certainly wouldn’t mind it!
What does your training look like?
I usually spend 5 days a week training – sometimes 4 or 6, but never 7. The majority of my training is pure climbing – lots of routes and a lot of bouldering. I’ll do laps on climbs or boulder circuits (spanish workout, diamonds, etc.), and I enjoy hitting the system and campus boards. Otherwise, I do core workouts and some upperbody. But generally, I just climb and climb.
Do you compete?
I compete when I can, though not in any pro comps (yet!). I like competing, but it’s certainly not my main focus. I am, however, starting to train with an eye on major sport climbing comps during this coming Spring. And whenever I return to school for my PhD (next Fall hopefully), I’ll begin competing regularly in the Collegiate Climbing Series.
Why do you climb?
For me, this is the hardest – but at the same time, easiest – question somebody could ask me to answer. The simple answer is “because I love it, and it’s all I really want to do.” The long answer is a bit more complicated.
Obviously, I do it because I love the physical aspects of the sport itself – challenging myself, pushing my limits, dynamic movement, crimps, slopers, jugs, all of that. But what keeps me coming back to climbing is, undoubtedly, the community and the culture.
The people I’ve met through climbing are some of the best people I know, and most of my close friends are climbers. I love the mindset of it all, the passion that everybody shares. I love being able to meet someone and immediately having a lot in common with them – climbing provides that.
When I climb, everything else just melts away. All that’s on my mind is the task at hand – sticking that dyno, clipping the next bolt, finding a good rest, etc. I’m not thinking about the experiment I need to run at work or the bills I have to pay or the personal troubles I’m going through – I’m focused solely on climbing. When climbing can’t take my mind off of everything else, that’s when I know it’s something serious. Those moments are extraordinarily few and far between.
And I love the feeling I get when I climb. When you’re really dialed in, that sense of fluid, effortless motion. Of intense mental focus but complete calm. I haven’t been able to replicate that with any other activity, and even with climbing, those instances are fleeting. I’m always chasing that. When I find it, it’s the best sensation in the world.
Finally, in both success and failure, there’s a sense of accomplishment, of progress, of a step forward. Every climb you attempt has something to teach you, and you can always improve. You’re never done learning. Climbing has so much to teach you, not only about climbing, but about yourself and life. I know that’s a little cliche, but it’s true. If you climb often enough, you know what I mean.
Who are your climbing inspirations?
In terms of professional climbers, I really respect Vasya Vorotnikov. The guy is a PhD candidate, super strong, wins comps, and still manages to be incredibly down-to-earth, friendly, and humble. I also like Dave Graham, Paul Robinson, Steph Davis, and Sasha DiGiulian. And so many more, I could list another ten names here.
But aside from the pros, there are plenty of local climbers who I really respect and admire. These include Matt Bosley (I know he’s sponsored…), Will Anglin, and Josh Thompson. Along with pretty much everyone else I associate with at Earth Treks. Observing them climb and just being around them makes me a better climber.
What do you do outside of climbing?
Outside of climbing, I am a molecular retrovirologist working in a government lab. I hold a Masters degree in Biohazardous Threat Agents & Emerging Infectious Diseases, and next year, I’m hoping to go back to school for my Doctorate in Infectious Disease Epidemiology. I want to get out of the lab and do more work on the public health/biodefense side of things. Most likely involving disease emergence and evolution. You could call me a bit of a nerd!
But aside from that, I’m a musician and really enjoy playing music with friends. I’m not very good at guitar/singing, but that’s my main focus for now. I am, however, a seasoned trumpet (16 years) and piano (19 years) player. I also love surfing and the beach! Honestly though, the vast majority of my life is consumed by climbing.
What would you do if you could no longer climb?
I would, first and foremost, be extraordinarily sad. I’m sure it would be very, very difficult to adjust at first. But once I got through that, I like to think that I would continue to be involved in the climbing community. Either still working at Earth Treks or possibly in a coaching capacity. But I would definitely still support my friends and fellow climbers in whatever way I could.
Of course, I would also continue to pursue my academic passions – perhaps more seriously, since climbing would no longer be a distraction (though it’s a distraction I would sorely miss). I would continue with my music and probably recommit myself to that. And if possible, I would spend more time surfing. Though if I were forced to stop climbing, I’m guessing it would be the result of some sort of injury…
I think I could make a life without climbing work, but at the moment, I know it would be an immense challenge.
What does your climbing future look like?
I see myself climbing for a long time. I don’t see an end. For the moment, I’ll continue to train hard and push limits. I don’t like chasing grades, but I see myself working up to and hopefully breaking through plateaus. I’ll continue to make sacrifices in my life in order to make my climbing goals a reality.
I have a handful of trips planned in my head – both for sport and bouldering. I’m hoping that outdoor climbing becomes a more regular part of my life, and I’m doing what I can to make that vision a reality. I want to spend several weeks at various destinations this Fall/Winter – work allowing, of course.
Longer term, I would love to become a coach and work with younger climbers. It’s really satisfying to see people improve and get stronger. As I get older, I’m sure I’ll ease off on the training and limit-pushing, but I don’t see myself quitting climbing completely. Maybe I’ll learn to trad and be the awesome old crag-guy leading 5.6 on gear. Or maybe I’ll get lucky and still be able to send 5.12 when I’m 50. Who knows.
All I know is that climbing will be part of my life for many years to come.
What’s your climbing philosophy?
…climbing has never been merely about athletics. climbing has shown me how to look beyond myself and my own desires. it has taught me how to be part of a community, rather than living in a narrow world of my own making. I have learned, painfully, how to accept help from others. I have learned that my powerful emotions can be my greatest strength, as well as my greatest weakness. physically and intellectually, climbing has tugged me into the larger world, beyond my own culture and comfort zone. above all, climbing has shown me the existence of forces beyond the seen world. it has taught me to ponder the meaning of reality. it has shown me that I am small.
-from Steph Davis’s “High Infatuation: A Climber’s Guide to Love & Gravity”
Most importantly, climbing is supposed to be fun. If it ever stops being fun for me, I’ll take a step back and re-evaluate my life and my commitment to climbing. Also, living a life full of climbing requires some sacrifices and compromises. Just like with everything else in life, climbing requires balance. That balance will be different for everybody, but it’s important that you find what works for you.
Climbing is the best thing that’s ever happened to me. I found it during a very difficult time in my life, and it got me through some very rough patches. The sport, the culture, and the community have all made me a better person, and I’ve grown so much since I committed myself to climbing. I’m proud of the person I am now. I look back at the person I was before, and I can’t say the same. Climbing saved me.
I hope climbing can do as much for everyone else as it’s done for me. Stay stoked, stay passionate, and climb on!