DRG Member Spotlight: David “Em” Emrich

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You’ve seen him flagging on gym walls, doing laps on the crack or maybe unicycling up Mt. Diablo. Long-time DRG member, David “Em” Emrich is our October Member Spotlight!

When did you first discover climbing?

When I was little I saw a photo in a book of a guy chimneying.  I knew then I wanted to climb. Took a long time before I actually did any roped climbing. I used to go to Oregon every year to mountain bike with a friend who climbed. He told me if I could climb 5.10 we’d go climbing at Smith Rock.  So I started climbing down here roughly 17 years ago, and on my next trip he introduced me to multi-pitch trad climbing at Smith Rock, the birthplace of American sport climbing. The rest is history.


When did you become a member at DRG?

I’ve been a member since the gym opened. It’s the only rock gym I’ve belonged to.

Tell us a little about DRG’s early days!

The gym had good route setting and a friendly atmosphere, but it always seemed incomplete until the crack was installed.

In addition to climbing, you also ride motorcycles and the occasional unicycle. Can you tell us a little about your passions?

Cycling is a lot of fun, motorized or human powered.  The one that’s new to most people is the unicycle. It really lets you experience life in the slow lane–especially on going downhill where bikes can leave you for seriously injured or dead.  Like climbing, if it looks fun to you, you’d probably enjoy it.  

How do you train for your big climbing projects?

Most training I do for outdoor projects is for the approaches.  Forgetting how much effort the approach takes works too (e.g. for Snake Dike).


What’s your most notable/memorable climbing experience?

Any day climbing something big in the Yosemite high country is awesome to me!

I had a notable day back in June 2008.  Less than 5 months after I had a full Achilles tendon rupture, Tioga Pass opened and I went up to test myself on Cathedral Peak.  Wasn’t sure I could even do the approach hike over the snow, but I ended up climbing Cathedral Peak twice that day–first via an easy route on the west side, bagging Eichorn Pinnacle and the summit, and when that went well, I descended and climbed the often crowded Southeast Buttress. Didn’t see another soul until I got back to the trailhead!  

Who do you share the stoke with?

When I can, I love to share it with my daughter.  I think our last roped climb together was the North Arête of Crystal Crag in Mammoth.

What is something that most people don’t know about you?

I volunteer most Saturday afternoons with White Pony Express, often picking up food from donors and transporting it to shelters.  Cuts down on the climbing, but it’s good to be doing something new and helpful to others.


What’s next for you?

Hoping for either a motorcycle road trip to points north, or a climbing trip to the Sierra.  We’ll see…

Any advice for climbers looking to get their first taste of outdoor climbing?

People often start traditional climbing by going out with a more experienced partner.  That’s a great way to start if they can teach good techniques, but I’ve seen people being taught the “gumby” way (poor techniques).  If you want to do traditional climbing, read books, take classes or whatever, but make an effort to learn good, efficient techniques. In addition to more general books like Freedom of the Hills, read Hans’s book Speed Climbing.  It will make you more efficient on multi-pitch routes.