The Zephyr is a gentle, mild breeze or any of various things of fine, light quality. For Kristoffer (aka Kris) Wickstrom, big wall aid soloist, the nickname more than fits both his climbing style and personality. He breezes up A4+ as easily as he glides into a conversation with most anyone he meets. At least he gave me that impression. The first time I met him, he walked confidently up to the crag at the base of the Zion classic Touchstone, where John, Marc, and I climbed one November afternoon.
“That crack looks super flaring, but really cool! How hard is it? It looks like it’s got perfect hands…” he exclaimed by way of introduction. A few minutes later, following a rapid-fire series of comments, I discovered that this enthusiastic young man works for the Navy as an avionics technician on H60 Sierra Helicopters. Rather than go home to the family he’s close to, he opted to spend his Thanksgiving vacation alone, climbing one of his dream climbs, Latitudes, an A4+ that slashes diagonally across the steep and dangerous Streaked Wall (all three routes are A4 and harder). Despite an 80-foot whipper and more than a week of lugging huge loads to the base of and off the top of the wall, he was all smiles.
“I haven’t talked to anyone in ten days!” he explained boisterously. “That’s why I’m so excited to see people right now!” I couldn’t help returning his huge grin. Later that night he stopped by our camp, a bag full of Old English in hand, and shared more of his short life with us.
At 21-years-old, the blonde Wickstrom is willowy, weighing significantly less than the giant hall bags he regularly lugs to and up big walls around California and Utah. He’s unsure how many aid routes he’s ascended, but ever since he started making homemade Rurps in his dad’s garage four years ago, he’s “nailed everything he can find.” His proudest ascents are his eight-day solo ascent of South Seas (A4 5.8) on El Capitan, Latitudes, and his solo of Red Rock's Aolean Wall (A4+), a wall he didn’t top out on, but on which he nearly died when a powerful storm socked him in, pounded him with avalanches, and soaked him to the bone, giving him hypothermia.
“I came back with a whole different belief in life,” he says of that epic. “I felt renewed. I actually look for that same experience now when I aid climb.” I asked him to explain why he loves aid climbing so much. Check out the accompanying video to find out more.
VIDEO: Kristoffer Wickstrom on why he loves soloing.
Kristoffer's gnarly wall fingers.
Looking down at one of the pitches Kris just led.
The Streaked Wall
1 year ago