Sean Isaac

On 27 Years of Climb­ing and Mu­sic

Gripped - - PRO FILE - CAJ Cana­dian Alpine Jour­nal CAJ ), Cana­dian Alpine Jour­nal

Dur­ing the 1990s, Sean Isaac helped push the sport of win­ter mixed/ice climb­ing in Canada, which even­tu­ally led to a suc­cess­ful ca­reer as a re­mote big wall climber. Nearly three decades af­ter find­ing climb­ing, he has shifted fo­cus from dan­ger­ous new rout­ing to be­ing a dad, edi­tor of the ( an alpine/ice guide and a mu­si­cian. We touched base with Isaac at his home in Can­more af­ter his ice climb­ing guid­ing sea­son and be­fore his mu­sic tour sea­son.

Where are you from and how did you find climb­ing? I grew up in Saint John, N.B., but went to univer­sity in Thun­der Bay, Ont., where I learned to climb 27 years ago. Climb­ing al­most in­stantly took over my life so I quit school af­ter two years and spent eight months climb­ing in New Zealand and Aus­tralia, where I pro­gressed from lead­ing 5.7 to 5.12. Upon re­turn­ing home, I drove west across the coun­try to Can­more when I was 20 and never left.

Do you miss be­ing a pro climber? I was a spon­sored pro­fes­sional climber for about 10 years from 2000 to 2010. At the time, I thought it was the best “job” ever, and in­deed it was. I climbed as much as I wanted and trav­elled as much as I wanted. It was per­fect at the time, but I do not miss it. I am equally con­tent and mo­ti­vated now with my life as an alpine guide, edi­tor, father and mu­si­cian. Where’s a few ranges you climbed new routes? I was for­tu­nate enough to climb new routes in re­mote ranges all over the world, in­clud­ing three trips to Patag­o­nia, two trips to Kyr­gyzs­tan, Pak­istan, Peru, Alaska and Cirque of the Un­climbables. I’d say the one I am most proud of is the first as­cent of the east face of Cerro Mas­cara in the Bader Val­ley in Chilean Patag­o­nia. Conny Ameluxen and I spent 14 days on the wall climb­ing through some pretty in­tense weather to com­plete it.

What has changed since you started climb­ing? A lot has changed since I started climb­ing in 1991. There were no climb­ing gyms or even sport climb­ing in Thun­der Bay, so I feel lucky that I learned to trad climb be­fore I even knew what bolted climb­ing was. The other huge change for me would be ice equip­ment. My first tools were slip­pery straight-shaft X- 15s with home­made web­bing leashes. Then I pro­gressed to bent-shaft Black Prophets with slightly bet­ter leashes then Co­bras with clip­per leashes, then leash­less Vipers, then Fu­sions, and now, Nomics. We used to have to carry a third tool to torque in the screws be­cause they were so aw­ful. Now a mod­ern screw spins in within 20 sec­onds and al­most zero ef­fort.

Who are three young climbers that im­press you? I have been the edi­tor of the for the past 10 years, so I read a lot of im­pres­sive as­cents. But I’d say I am most taken by Marc-An­dre Le­clerc. Of course, his solo alpine as­cents are mind-blow­ing, but with­out re­ally know­ing him other than through his writ­ing, I ap­pre­ci­ate his ethic and ap­proach to alpine climb­ing. I am go­ing to add my two friends named Will to that list – Will Gadd and Will Mayo. They are young at heart and con­tinue to im­press and in­spire me.

You’re an alpine guide, is that your main work? Yes, I am an acmg alpine guide and work year-round guid­ing rock, ice and moun­tains and in­struct­ing cour­ses. I re­ally en­joy the teach­ing as­pect of be­ing a guide. Part of me wishes I had learned from an ex­pe­ri­enced pro­fes­sional in­stead of through drawn-out trial and er­ror.

Be­sides guid­ing, you’re a suc­cess­ful mu­si­cian. Who is your part­ner and what/where do you play? My girl­friend, Julie Chang, and I be­gan a singer-song­writer duo

Julie Chang and Sean Isaac are The Raven & The Fox

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