Mountaineer, ice climber, trad/sport/mixed climber, environmentalist, husband, father and all around AWESOME guy, DRG member George Peridas shares a little bit about growing up in Greece and how he balances family, career and climbing. Check out this Member Spotlight!
How did it all begin?
I was born and grew up in Athens, Greece. I spent my summers in a small sailboat, cruising around the islands – that cultivated my love for nature and the wilderness. In college I took up rowing and kept it up for eight years. It was competitive and physically grueling, but I learned that training pays off and how toput mind over matter during intense physical discomfort (a.k.a. racing)…
What brought you the U.S.?
Work. I work for an environmental advocacy group on climate change policy. I came to the U.S. to be where action was needed most.
When did you first discover climbing?
In 2007 when a coworker dragged me to a gym in D.C. I used to suffer from an intense fear of heights, and was very glad to be lowered down after having clumsily clawed my way to the to the top! After moving to California, I visited climbing gyms once a month or so. 5.10b was my limit. After signing up to a guided Rainier climb, I gradually got into mountaineering. At the same time, I was attempting the previously unthinkable: rock climbing outdoors. One thing led to another, and soon a whole host of activities that I had always ruled out followed: leading trad, alpine climbing, ice climbing. Conquering my fear of heights and making what previously seemed impossible come true has been intensely rewarding.
How did you first discover DRG and when did you become a member?
When we moved from the City to the East Bay in 2011, I needed a new gym and DRG was the closest. I became a member in 2013. The walls are not as tall, but instruments of torture abound, and I was struck by how different the vibe is. Less of a “scene,” and a community that seemed much more closely knit.
You are a busy man. How do you find the time/dedication to keep climbing?
It’s not really a choice – I need a dream and a goal, and also exercise to stay sane! I have a very understanding and accommodating wife who appreciates this and lets me go play. With a young child, and another one on the way, squeezing training in is tough. I set aside 2-3 time slots a week and make the most of these sessions. With sleep deprivation, I find that my body takes longer to recover from workouts. Despite that, I have been able to keep improving my performance over the past two years.
Getting away with family obligations is hard. If you are still single, enjoy the luxury! Finding time to plan and pack, and leaving them for the weekend requires some logistics. A single slip – weather, partner – means that plans can be on hold for another few weeks, or even until the following year. There isn’t much room for error. It’s also harder knowing that it’s no longer just about me. Responsibility makes you view risk differently, and I find myself wondering if I should even be doing this. But I believe that with prudent decision making, climbing is still safer than road biking or driving.
How do you train for your big climbing projects?
I wish I could say I get outside every weekend and build up to the big one through a series of smaller milestones. Unfortunately I can’t do that. I have to go for my objectives having essentially done less homework. On the day, you have to have your head in the right place and pull out all the stops. It’s not ideal. It means you don’t get to spend the requisite time building and refining good technique, and that the first pitch inevitably feels more foreign than it would if you got out regularly. But at least it teaches you to dig deeper. I try to compensate on the conditioning side by training indoors. Again, it’s not the same, but it has worked reasonably well so far.
What’s your most memorable climbing experience?
From a pure climbing perspective, in early June of 2012 we climbed the Clyde Couloir to Starlight Peak in the Palisades – one of the more remote, beautiful and imposing areas of the Sierra Nevada, and home to one third (five) of California’s 14ers in one continuous ridgeline! It was early June and apparently water ice had formed in the Couloir. The route has gained a bad reputation for injuries and even fatalities over the years according to guidebooks and ramblings, but I have been unable to confirm them. A very narrow chute with loose rock above it, it’s a bad place to be in the event of rock fall, and seldom climbed.
However, the conditions were right. The snow still kept things consolidated high up, and a few cold nights froze the water ice pitches into decent shape. We climbed snow and low angle ice low down, a crux pitch of steep water ice, followed by more snow and some easy rock higher up. The climb culminates on top of the Milk Bottle, an improbable needle of a summit block on the ridge crest with huge exposure on both sides! The sensation was amazing. It was 100F in Bishop after we came down, and we had been swinging our ice tools… It felt like we snatched a special moment that doesn’t present itself very often or for very long. We were in the right place, at exactly the right time. You can watch our helmet cam footage here.
But from a personal standpoint, proposing to my then girlfriend on the summit on Mt. Shasta after climbing the Bolam glacier on a ridiculously windy day has to be the most memorable. Being hypoxic of course, she said “yes”…
Who do you share the stoke with?
I have met my partners in a number of ways. Some were friends, or friends of friends. Others I met at the gym. Some I met in the mountains, and some online… You don’t need to be friends with a climbing partner to have a good or successful climb, but a climb with friends is always more special. I look forward to climbing again with my wife, with whom I have shared many wonderful trips, and hopefully our sons, once they are a little older. Ultimately it will be their choice, but I want to show them the beauty and secrets of the mountains.
What’s next for you?
Trying to salvage this season from a series of setbacks. Things haven’t gone exactly to plan so far. And welcoming our second son into the world in late October!
Any advice for climbers looking to get their first taste of climbing outdoors?
DO IT! Do your homework and read authoritative texts on safety, anchors etc. Realize that you could get injured or die if you mess up. Go with someone who is seasoned and knows what they are doing, and don’t hesitate to ask questions. Get professional instruction if you don’t have access to someone like that.
Try many different things: different types of rock, trad, sport, bouldering, snow, ice, peak bagging, mountaineering, face, crack, everything from tips to off widths and chimneys. Enlarge your skill set and experiences. Somewhere in there you may find what you love best. Do Hard Things!