Grant Simmons, Ladies and Gentlemen
This guy. If you know him, you’re already smiling. If you don’t, I hope some day you will.
I met Grant in college some increasingly long number of years ago. It makes me feel really old to say it that way, but it also makes me feel incredibly fortunate to think back on how long Grant and I have been friends.
We went to school together at St. Mary’s College of Maryland, in a galaxy far far away
from rock climbing. We lived amid a general populace of very good, very stoked people – but almost nobody was stoked enough on climbing to make the 6-10 hour drives through winter conditions to the New, or the Red, or the Obed, or Boone, or wherever we went. I knew Grant would be an incredible partner when he signed up to brave icicles and dripping wet rock with me on a January trip to Tennessee. He never stopped smiling, never complained, and I don’t think in all the years since, he everhas (that’s hyperbole, but you get the idea.)
After college, Grant moved out to Santa Fe, New Mexico, and I lived in Rocky Mountain National Park, in Colorado. It was about an 8 hour drive from one place to the next, and along that drive, you passed approximately 47596024 different climbing areas. But we both made that drive many times to climb together. Whether sport climbing at New Mexico crags like El Rito, or teaching ourselves how to alpine climb (and how to layback the lip of a bergschrund) on the Diamond of Long’s Peak, Grant and I always had a good time together. I found something infectious about his personality. He was so smart, so good at listening, and so even-tempered, that he could usually get me to change my mind, or my attitude, with a gentle admonition, or suggestion. I don’t know many other people about whom I could say the same.
Back in 2012 (or maybe it was 2010, or 2011, I don’t know, my brain doesn’t work that well), Grant turned me on to a place called Cochamó. “The Yosemite of South America,” he beamed. I remember being surprised, and a little intimidated, by Grant’s audacity. I had a year or two of age and experience on him, and often in our climbing relationship, I’d been the instigator, and he the voice of reason. Yet now, as I shook in my boots thinking of remote big walls, and the uncertainties of international travel with a ton of gear, Grant seemed undeterred. It was on his courage and trust that I pulled the trigger, and bought my ticket.
Our trip was a towering success. Even though the biggest thing we’d ever climbed
together previously was only about 6 pitches (if you ignore the 600 foot approach chimney), we used our best weather window to tackle Bienvenidos a Mi Insomio on Trinidad Norte – a 1000 meter 5.11. We were out of our league, sure, but we gave it hell, and stood on top after not a lot more than 12 exhausting hours. The next day we lounged in the sun, feeling like Trinidad had rather gotten the better of us. Later, though, people told us we had actually made rather good time. It was our first big wall, and the first time I realized how well we could climb fast together.
Over the years to come, Patagonia would become an obsession for us. We went back to establish Las Manos del Dia, an Astroman-esque line of impeccable quality on Trinidad Central (and still my favorite First Ascent to this day). Later, Grant would again raise the bar encouraging me to join him on a trip to El Chalten. I shook in my boots through a gnarly approach, and fat snowdrops, and eventually shook loose and left. I was just too intimidated by those walls, and the area. But Grant stayed. His careful patience would win the day, as he ended up basically guiding a couple of pro climbers up Fitzroy’s Afanasseif. if you haven’t heard that story, it’s because Grant hasn’t sprayed about it. And that’s because that’s the kind of guy Grant is. He’s not sponsored, but if you need someone to guide your sponsored athlete, you might consider hiring him.
Our lives over the past few years have taken Grant and I more often than not to different sides of the country, with different days off, different partners, and different plans. But he’s still one of my very best friends, and a man I would trust with my life in all circumstances. It’s not just that, though, it’s that I would trust him with anything in all circumstances. If I needed to get something done, anything done, and I couldn’t do it myself, I’d ask Grant first. He’s so damn reliable, so dependable, that it would never enter my mind to doubt him.
But above all, Grant Simmons has a huge heart, a winning smile, is nearly twenty feet tall, looks great in a dinosaur costume, and is just plain awesome. Whether walking up Inti Watana to Resolution Arete together in a few casual smiling hours, or simuling the Matthes Crest in the wee hours of the morning after driving through the night from San Francisco together, I’ve had so many damn good times with Grant Simmons that I can barely keep track. I mean, I can’t keep track. There are just too many.
If you’ve ever thought about hiring a guide to take you climbing, I’d consider looking up Grant. He’s currently based in North Conway, NH, but he just got back from another successful trip to Chilean Patagonia, and I bet he’d travel for the right client and the right objective. In the summers, he’s a proud guide for the Atlantic Climbing School, in Bar Harbor Maine, where he has made countless clients very very happy climbers. You could say he knows the climbing up there in Acadia pretty well – he wrote the frickin’ guide book. The dude is a master of every type of rock climbing (like many guides), but he is also incredibly patient, super-compassionate, acutely intelligent, and … wait for it… humble. That’s a complete package that’s pretty damn hard to find in a guide, in my opinion.
I just plain love this guy. Here’s the bottom line. I don’t know how this is a climbing article, maybe it isn’t. But maybe, just maybe, this is an article about what a climbing role model ought to be. What was his toughest onsight? Which hard boulders has he crushed? How many first ascents has he done? I don’t know. Grant’s a damn good climber, but none of that matters. In fact, it all pales in comparison to what does.
What matters is Grant’s character, compassion, intelligence, thoughtfulness, and commitment to the community. He is an exceptional guide, a guidebook author, a pioneering independent climber, and a salt-of-the-earth good dude. He is an exemplar of what a climber should be, and I sure am proud to call him friend.
Grant Simmons, ladies and gentlemen, let’s give the man a round of applause. If you want to get in touch with him, I’d suggest dropping him a line via the contact page at Rock Climbs of Acadia. Do you know someone else who is a badass climbing role model? Want to share your own glowing praise for them? Send us a query! We’re always looking for submissions, and good people. Peace.