Clint Dillard is a Family Practice Physician Assistant, whose life has been guided by his passion for climbing. After living in Louisville for 17 years, a little voice started nagging him, saying, “A rock climbing gym would be great here.” When his wife, Erin, was pregnant with their second child he told her, “We’re going to build a climbing gym.” It did not go over well at the time, but she is on board now! Here’s a little bit about where Dillard came from, why he loves the climbing community, and what his vision is for the future.
Clint Dillard on first ascent of The Politician
So, Clint, how did you come to be involved with building a new climbing gym?
I’ve lived in Louisville for a long time and seen the climbing community really grow here. Many of my friends always talked about how great it would be to have our own gym in this area. We always hoped someone would do it.
And then you became that someone?
I talked about it for a long time, until one day I just knew I would. I told Erin I wasn’t sure how we were doing it, but we were doing it. I started working on it with two friends. We started doing a lot of research and developing a business plan.
Okay got it. So how did you get involved with EVO?
My friend Stephen Price and I met Cort and Hilary at the Climbing Wall Association in 2014, and that’s when our project became serious. The four of us make a great team and we really got to work that summer. Our son Layton (named after the late Layton Kor) was also born the week after we agreed to team up, so that made for a busy summer.
How did you and Erin meet?
Erin was an EMT at the hospital, I was a paramedic on the ambulance…I used to bring her patients.
Well, that’s adorable. And you’ve been in Colorado for 17 years?
Yep. I came out west for the first time in 1994 when I went on a month long climbing trip my Dad to Yosemite and Boulder. I’m from Georgia, where I was trained as a paramedic, and wanted to join the search and rescue team, which brought me to Boulder.
Curve-ball question (just kidding): What about climbing gives you such gusto?
I love the adventure. For 25 plus years it’s been my life—my whole life. It’s everything I’m about. Over time I’ve had a path take me one way, but climbing always pulls me back.
Dillard on Camp 6 of The Nose
I was a climbing guide for a long time, and I loved the community, and sharing my passion for the sport. I also love the history of the sport.
What does EVO Louisville mean to you?
On the surface, it’s great to build a gym, but at the same time, I’m excited to use the gym as a pathway to educate the community about the climbing’s history, and the ethics. I think, unfortunately, with a lot of the more modern gyms we’ve lost a lot of that…and that’s one of the things I love about EVO; we’re grounded in the history. Climbing is more than just inside the walls of the gym.
What type of climbing is your jam?
As far as climbing itself, I love every aspect; bouldering, trad, mountaineering, alpine, ice climbing, sport climbing—everything.
Clint and Erin Dillard in Wyoming
What would you like to tell the community via this interview?
That EVO Louisville is welcoming to families. Kids are natural climbers, and we’ve made a really cool kid area, we will have daycare and a youth team. But at the same time, we want the all climbers to feel at home, and we don’t want the place to be run rampant, so we’ve created some great zones for each user group.
It sounds like there are going to be places for all the people to climb harmoniously.
For sure. Also we consulted with Paradox Sports about adaptive climbing, we feel like we’ve made the gym accessible to anyone.
Can you tell me a lil’ more about what is going to make EVO Louisville so sweet, besides everything from the ground up?
We are building a treatment room, for bodywork, like massage and chiropractic. At some point we hope to have sports medicine in the gym; I have a long-term dream of having a specific-to-rock-climbing rehabilitation center.
I could benefit from all those things. Will there be yoga for the yogis, or not-yet yogis?
Yes, there will also be a yoga room, a large fitness area, and maybe a brewery next door. We’re talking to people, but nothing is set in stone yet.
Namaste. What’s the wildest thing about all of this?
All of this is wild because I had a vision of how I’d want a climbing gym to be: one with displays about the history of the sport and how we got to where we’re at (as a climbing community), along with a way to educate new climbers about the ethics. There are people who learn to climb but don’t learn about climbing outside. When I met Hilary and learned what EVO does, I thought, ‘this is exactly my vision.’
The Dream Team unites!
Honorary Dream Team Member - Hilary Harris
How will you teach new climbers about gym-to-crag ethics?
We really want to promote the Access Fund and we hope to offer classes outside—not just inside in the gym. We’re going to have a rappel ledge so we’ll have a class on that and all the different techniques; setting anchors, cleaning anchors. Because of my history on search and rescue, I want to bring back the climbing self-rescue courses that used to be offered years ago. Most climbers are set up for everything going just right; when it doesn’t go right, it’d be great to have some basic skills to get people out of situations or help somebody else.
I’m looking forward to those classes, and I’m officially stoked.
Fingers crossed for January 2017!
Fingers crossed right meow. Thanks so much for your time.