Max Manson won’t tell you this, but he’s kind of a big deal. By the age of three, he was climbing in Eldorado Canyon, by the age of 12, he had summited all 54 fourteeners, and last summer he won the Junior Olympics in pole vaulting. Most recently, Colorado Mountain School nominated him “Young Colorado Climber of the Year.” Go, Max, go!
In between being a young Olympian, a trad-climbing-crusher, and a regular 16-year old, he coaches at EVO LOU. We sat down with him for a minute to learn some things.
Hey Max, thanks for meeting with me—I know you’re a busy human. Tell me about when you started climbing, and who introduced you to the sport.
My Dad was into climbing, so when I was three years old I was already in Eldorado Canyon on top rope.
I’m pretty sure that’s how Tommy Caldwell started. No big deal. How else has your Dad played a role in your climbing evolution?
We wanted to climb all the fourteeners, and he knew some of them had technical spots, so he said ‘why don’t you take an Intro to Climbing class at the BRC?’ I wound up on their team when I was eight or nine. From there I went to ABC, then to Movement.
Did you end up summiting all the fourteeners?
Yeah! When I was twelve.
So you get to Movement. Then what?
I joined Team Sik Bird and made friends who wanted to climb outside. I had been in competitions, having a ton of fun, but I loved the outside stuff so much more—especially when I started trad climbing last summer.
Who was (is) your trad mentor?
Probably this guy Eddie. He climbs here [at EVO] sometimes. You might know him. He took me up Maiden, which was really cool, and I knew I had to go back. My friends and I ended up practicing, going back, and then finding easy stuff in Edlo from there.
Have you fallen on gear yet?
Not a ton, because I haven’t been leading super hard routes yet. I have taken a couple falls though.
In the past year since you started trad climbing, what’s been your hardest lead?
5.11+ in Garden of the Gods. It was called Anaconda.
Gnarly. What draws you to trad climbing?
I just like it; it’s a lot more adventurous than sport climbing. The routes seem more fun, and I like finding the route. I’ve also always loved Eldorado Canyon.
It’s pretty magical, I agree. Do you know what you want to be when you grow up?
When you’re not training for pole vaulting or climbing or coaching or being a student, what are you doing?
I still really enjoy fourteeners and watching the sunrise.
You’re a unique teenager. Do you ever feel a disconnect between yourself and your peers?
Yeah, most of my friends in school aren’t as into climbing or outdoor stuff so it can feel different, but it’s good.
Do you have any long-term goals for climbing?
Bigger mountains. I definitely want to get Everest one day. Maybe all the Seven Summits. Climbing 5.14 is a big goal of mine, or maybe just 5.13 on trad. Stuff like that.
I have no doubt that you will.
Max Manson chronicles his pole vaulting, climbing expeditions, and summiting on his YouTube channel and his Instagram @adventurestothemax