David Rozul is a nomadic climber embarking on a year of adventure + climbing throughout the Pacific Northwest United States.
Name: David Rozul
Hometown: San Diego, CA
Where are you from? This is actually my last day in San Diego, CA. I’m hitting the road and I’ll be traveling around the country to climb. What most inspires me is meeting other people. The climbing community is so diverse and welcoming; I’m looking forward to trying new things and seeing new places.
The outdoors inspires me. I can’t pinpoint a singular time or place that stands out in my mind, but to me being in these wild places puts things into perspective. To have the opportunity to be in the outdoors full time is incredible. It’s not forever but I have the opportunity now while I’m healthy and I don’t have a mortgage or a family yet. I told myself, even if I go out there and hate it, at least I did it, and I can live with that. I can live with trying.
Hitting the road
I’m going to Arizona first. I have a beautiful girlfriend who is in medical school and she’s rotating at a hospital in Phoenix, AZ. From there the plan is to head towards the Sierras then UT or CO. I’ve never been to the Northern Cascades and I definitely want to spend some time in Squamish, British Columbia. I’m looking forward to living simply, climbing, reading, writing and just taking it all in. I’m going to be living in my Subaru. I didn’t buy a van; I thought about it, but ultimately, that would have delayed my timeline and for me, been an unnecessary cost. It’ll be a lot of tent camping.
I really had to be resilient. There will always be naysayers questioning my decision. Recently I spoke to my grandfather. He told me, "you’re making a mistake. Why would you give up your job?" I grew up in a traditional Asian family, but my family is very open minded and has been supportive. I floated the idea to them a few years ago. After I brought it up again, they were like, "whoa you’re serious about this!" They know I’m passionate about climbing and they understand that this is something I want to do as part of my life experience. Right now my priority is to get out and explore while I still can and I’m still healthy. Life is short; you never know what’s going to happen.
How did you get into climbing? I started climbing in 2014. I had just broken up with my college sweetheart and a friend of mine took me to the climbing gym on guest pass to take my mind off of things. I immediately fell in love with it. The more you go to the climbing gym, the more familiar faces you see. Eventually, I made a group of friends there and we started climbing outdoors together.
In 2017, I was in Yosemite and just standing in the valley. When you’re there, right in front of El Capitan, you can’t help but be inspired. That was the moment I decided that I wanted to get into traditional climbing, or trad. A month later I bought my first rack. Sport climbing requires a lot of physical athleticism but trad is really about getting to know your surroundings. I work in a career of public relations which often you need to stay connected. To go to these wild places where I have no choice but to disconnect required me to acknowledge who and where I am in the grand scheme of things. And that’s very small. When I climb, and I’m up high, I feel so small and my problems feel so small.
After learning to trad climb, I was all in. In 2017, I started to go outdoors on climbing trips every weekend. I spent a lot of time on the rock learning rope systems and correct gear placement. That Fall, I went to an American Alpine Club climbing festival in Moab, UT. I asked a few friends if they wanted to go but I eventually went by myself.
It was a nice opportunity to test the waters of being alone while traveling to new places to climb. I flew into Salt Lake City, rented a car and made the four hour drive down to Moab. I camped out for a couple days and participated in the festival. I even linked up with a guy to climb Castleton Tower, a 400 ft sandstone tower that rises out of the ground atop a 1,000 ft cone in Castle Valley, UT. Afterwards, we went to the festival and linked up with two people I knew from my gym in San Diego in the crack climbing paradise, Indian Creek. Essentially you use spring loaded cam devices inserted into the crack in order to ascend the route. In Indian Creek everything is the same size and the cracks generally extend up 60 or 70 feet high. It was a great time. It was my first time in the Creek and it was amazing.
What was your introduction to the outdoors? What kinds of outdoor activities did you do with your family as a kid? We went camping once or twice when I was younger, but I don’t recall the outdoors being a big part of my family’s life early on. I always did have a sense of exploration though. I used to be a runner and really enjoyed cross country. I growing up in the Bay area and I remember as a teenager, I would pull up Google Maps and look for green open areas on the map that I could run to and explore. My goal was to find open spaces and get away from all the concrete and power lines. Later, in college I did a lot of running, hiking and camping. I unfortunately no longer am a running because of bad knees. I’ve had two knee surgeries. I now hike with trekking poles everywhere. With big multi-pitch climbing the approaches to the base of the walls are pretty involved. Climbing has been an amazing outlet for me to be active and stay outside! .
What are your thoughts on outdoor advocacy and promoting diversity in the outdoors? I come from a place where I feel very fortunate to be surrounded by an incredible accepting and welcoming community. My climbing crew in San Diego is pretty diverse as well. It pains me to know others are having sub-optimal experiences outdoors, and I want to do what I can to give people the same respect and experience I’ve been so fortunate to have in our shared natural spaces.
Recently, I had the opportunity to attend the International Climbing Festival in Lander, WY. It was amazing! It was also my first time in Wyoming. Three friends and I piled into a Prius and drove sixteen hours from San Diego, CA to Lander. It was a fun experience. I’ve been to climbing festivals before but this was different. In Lander it was apparent how the whole community came together. The entire town was involved. The one screen theater in town held an adventure film festival. The Yoga studio had free climbers meditation. The Lander bar was the central hub. I walked into the post office and the they were like “welcome to Lander.” There was even an art walk, free tacos and beer.