Nathaniel Coleman, 23, qualified for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games last November. Since the pandemic, he’s spent more time outside than ever. His tick list has filled out. In August, he skipped V15 to send The Grand Illusion, V16. Now, he’s put down Empath, in Tahoe, California, his first 5.15a.
The route was equipped by Carlo Traversi in 2019, but it was Jimmy Webb who originally spotted line potential. In 2018, Webb, in Tahoe to develop boulders, sent Traversi a picture of the cliff. Traversi subsequently visited a year later, drill in hand. He bolted and cleaned what would become Empath and, in total, invested somewhere between 10 and 15 days of work into the route before snagging the FA. He told Rock and Ice in an interview that the route came together when he hiked in with Webb and Daniel Woods, who were both visiting from Colorado. Webb and Woods were quick to follow suit, from ground to chains.
Coleman showed up for Jimmy and Daniel’s sends. He sent it, too, a few days later.
Coleman wrote Gym Climber, “The first day I was there, Jimmy and Daniel sent back-to-back. So, that first day was the most valuable in learning all the different beta from J., D. and Keenan Takahashi. And it was really helpful to see how the moves could flow together, especially because the route felt so crazy-hard my first time on it. … The next two sessions were mostly Keenan and I sharing new beta adjustments, psych and belief.”
For the send, power endurance was key, wrote Coleman. “The big challenge of Empath, for me, was climbing on it enough to make the beta feel more automatic and second nature. I think I built just enough endurance to recover at the upper rest just in time. Literally, the try before I sent the route was the first time I felt blood returning to the forearms while resting.”
With the Olympics less than a year away, Coleman spoke to how he views the intersection between outdoor projecting and competition: “I think outdoor climbing can build a lot of skills applicable to competition bouldering and sport climbing. In bouldering, you have to think outside the box and be willing to try new beta on the fly. It is a lot about listening to what your body wants to do intuitively, and then seeing if the rock features will work with you. In outdoor sport climbing, slower pacing is key. Staying present and deliberate while being pumped is a big part of competition sport climbing as well.”
For Coleman, the heat of competition wasn’t entirely missed outdoors. In addition to working Empath, he worked a few boulders in the area with the same crew. Coleman wrote, “Occasionally, there was an FA that we would all be working on at the same time, and I definitely noticed a competitive atmosphere. At first, it was stressful, since I’m used to separating competition and outdoor climbing mentalities. But then I noticed that everyone was still supportive, friendly, just happy to be there and taking on a challenge. When someone would get the FA, the rest of the crew was only stoked for them. And until everyone sent, everyone was still equally invested in the boulder.”
Next up, Coleman is heading back to Salt Lake City, Utah to train and continue to maintain a balance indoor and outdoor sessions. “After Thanksgiving, I want to join the crew in Yosemite for what I’ve been told is incredible bouldering with next level projects,” he added.