Self-motivation has been a virtue of Andy Raether since his Minnesotan adolescence. Fostered by active parents, his drive has been to give it all and pursue his passions with authenticity and genuine desire. The world-class sport climber has reaped the rewards of climbing through rigorous training, and the personal satisfaction and accomplishment that comes with it. Currently he lives in Las Vegas, Nevada, exploring his adopted Red Rocks and Mt. Charleston climbing meccas. The SCARPA athlete says he’s in the best shape of his life, and looks forward not only to climbing but building his own business with his girlfriend and partner Kim.
You grew up in Minnesota playing hockey. How does a kid raised on team sports end up climbing at the highest levels?
Mostly it had to do with my own interest and motivation toward the sport of climbing combined with living in a household that was very supportive. My parents never pushed me toward climbing, but they did instill a strong work ethic in me. Also they did not care specifically what sport or activity I chose to do as long as I put all of my efforts toward what I was choosing to do.
You mentioned that coaches’ and friends’ expectations of your continuation with hockey left a bad taste in your mouth, and how has climbing been different?
The bad taste was more that I wanted to continue to do something because I really wanted to. After a while I grew tired of whom I was playing with. Also, it was just all of my coaches expecting that I continue to play. Another thing is that in team sports there is an element of personal control that is taken away from the individual. With climbing I can decide exactly how much effort I want to put into it, how much I get to play, and what I get to play on. I really thrive in a situation where I get to choose what I am doing, and where the choices I make are entirely my own.
You said that early on in your climbing, you were very set on making the “grade”, getting the number. How has that changed for you?
I remember clearly when I started to climb that I wanted to do a single 5.14a. Being from Minnesota this was quite the task in my mind, and that number was what I focused on. If achieving that goal was all that I had stayed focused on I would have quit climbing back in early 2001 after having been climbing for a year and a half. My change in goals became doing first ascents. I really enjoy putting up new rock climbs. It always feels like an art project.
When I do a good job at putting up a new rock climb I can know that others will enjoy it after me. This spring I have even been bolting new climbs entirely for people other than myself. A couple of weeks ago a friend and I in one day bolted a 5.4, 6, 7, 8 and a 9. The bolts are close and all the climbs are suited for beginner climbers. I feel very good to be able to make a positive impact upon the community that I am a part of rather than just adding things that only myself and a few others will be able to enjoy.
You mentioned finishing your first 5.13b trad route recently. Does it give a similar satisfaction to sport climbing and bouldering or is it different?
Doing that trad route for me was the same as doing a 13b sport route in that it was like hanging the draws, because I placed the gear while leading. Generally I like climbs more when they are more involved. I like putting up boulder problems but am not that interested in repeating them. I like doing any sport climbing but more so enjoy doing new sport climbs. Most all trad climbs are fun because you have to add in the logistics of placing gear, being off the ground, setting up belays, moving efficiently, etc. I really like it all. Although with aid climbing I feel like a total gumby and get worked.
How long have you been with SCARPA, and what have been some signature products you’ve been keen on, and why?
I don’t remember precisely when I started working with SCARPA, but it was definitely love at first fit. My go-to shoes have definitely been the Mago, and the Vapor lace. I have been able to do several difficult routes in those shoes. Recently this winter I had the opportunity to test out the new Boostic’s and those were integral in enabling me to send the hardest route that I have ever done, Ancient Chinese Secret 5.14b. I have done several 14c’s, but they all took me one month to send. Currently I am in the best shape of my life. This first ascent took 6 months. I am hoping that it does not get downgraded.
Does the prospect of taking your technical skills into the big mountains have any appeal for you? Why or why not?
Oh absolutely. Since moving out to Las Vegas, my girlfriend and I have been frequenting the Sierras. I am really enjoying going out for a 24 hour climbing day to do a long beautiful hike followed by a climb that takes all day to summit. I find the mountains to be very calming when the weather is nice. In bad weather my anxiety acts like aerobics. So far in the mountains the most fun I have had has been doing ridges, because you can move quickly over thousands of feet of rock. Soloing on fourth and easy fifth class terrain keeps me very calm and focused, and by the end of the day you are just mentally wasted.
Are there any current projects in climbing or other aspects of your life coming down the pipe soon?
How is your next year shaping up? Right now I am working on a 40-meter vertical project up at Mt. Charleston. It should end up being a 5.14, but right now I am just having fun getting worked and taking huge whippers off it. I also just started bolting a two-pitch route up there as well. That should be quite good. My girlfriend Kim and I are also starting a climbing gym out here in Las Vegas, and hope to have that up and running within the next 12 months.