| Ivan Greene on the French Connection in the Gunks.
Photo by Tim Kemple
Focused and intense, with short, dark hair and a sense of style that's more metro than crunchy granola, Ivan Greene is not exactly your stereotypical "dirtbag climber." Hailing from New York City, Greene is a unique mix of city-creative and mountain goat, equally at home in a Manhattan nightclub and hanging from a roof in Hueco. He's working on his first solo album, and, with fellow climber Jason Horvath, recently launched a clothing line last year called Khadejha, all the while touring the country with the Red Bull College Tour, conducting clinics "about you, and the rock, a how to fully focus on your goal," he says.
Teaching people to stay focused may seem a bit ironic for someone who seems to always be doing ten different things at once, but Ivan Greene takes his climbing seriously. He started climbing in the Gunks back in the late '80s, co-wrote the definitive bouldering guide, Bouldering in the Shawangunks, with Marc Russo, and has established more than 200 problems in the area and more 500 first ascents worldwide. While not actively competing, Greene's got five Northeast Championships under his belt and is a 5.14 climber and V13 boulderer. He's a certified instructor in New York, who's spent time guiding for Al Diamond's Diamond Guides in New Paltz and now teaches at the uber-chic Chelsea Piers climbing wall on the Hudson River.
Ever the sport's ambassador, Greene recently made time in his busy schedule to chat with one of MountainZone's editors about climbing, art and Khadejha:
Favorite Nightclub: Marquee
Favorite Coffee Shop: Café Gitane
Favorite Restaurant: Rice
On your nightstand: Alarm clock, sculpture I made of 'God,' plant, cell phone
Favorite NYC Climb: Brooklyn Bridge
Favorite Problem: Genghis Khan, a new line in the Gunks
MZ: : How old were you when you started climbing? I've read you took to the sport like a fish to water, how do you think your background prepared you for climbing?
IG: I did gymnastics for like a year growing up, but I was really into breakdancing and other forms of dance, like Modern and African. I feel all of these things combined helped with climbing. They gave me a great sense of what my body can do, how to move dynamically, balance, coordination, power, focusall of the things that are utilized in climbing.
MZ: What was your initial impression of the sport?
IG: I just fell in love. It was purely a feeling. It felt so good to climb; it became an obsession immediately. And, coming from the city, being in the mountains was bliss. Though I did really like all the bullsh*t with climbers, they seemed so serious and elitist.
MZ: What drew you to bouldering as opposed to longer sport or trad climbs?
IG: In the Gunks, where I started climbing, you had to climb trad if you wanted to climb; it's that simple. But eventually I found climbing trad to be limiting. It was more about your gear and keeping your shit together on run-outs. So I traveled over to Europe and around the U.S. sport climbing. After visiting Hueco and Fontainebleau, bouldering really just felt like the next natural step. It's what I was attracted to. The movement, the hardest moves possible, gymnastic, everything I love about. Plus it was funa bunch of monkeys hanging out supporting each other, pushing each other, having a good time…
MZ: When you're in New York City where do you climb?
IG: When I'm in NY and want to climb outside I usually go to the Gunks. If not, then I head over to Ice Pond or Bradley. Both are amazing and have a different feel than the Gunks. In the city there is really only Central Park. There are a few decent boulders there to play around on, but it's not a Mecca. There is one project uptown that is pretty ridiculous and when I get back to the city I am going to work on it. A huge roof overhanging the main road that weaves through the park.
MZ: Any recommendations for those who live in the area looking to climb or get into climbing?
IG: In NYC it's tough in the sense you have only a few gyms. And the best one is pretty expensive for a "climbing gym," but that is because it is way more than just a climbing gym. It's like a beautiful resort, with yoga classes, a sundeck, indoor beach volleyball, a spa, a huge cross-training weight area, and, by far the nicest wall in the city. So, I would say, just figure out how to scrap the money together and go to The Sports Center at Chelsea Piers. Other than that, there are some awesome bouldering walls not too far away in New Jersey: the NJ Rock Gym and the Gravity Vault. Closer to Westchester I would go to The Cliffs at Valhalla. But, above any of this, call Rock and Snow and get a guide to climb outside in the Gunks with. But just do it!