Inspiration Series: Merrill Bittter

All Static and No Dynamic” sums up Merrill Bitter’s climbing style and is one of many first ascents he established in the Wasatch.  Merrill a 60-year-old IME employee has been climbing for 37 years around Salt Lake City. Beyond establishing dozens of first ascents Merrill inspires Wasatch climbers with his incredibly positive attitude.

You have been climbing at a high level for a long time.  How have you been able to maintain your motivation? Staying engaged in all the facets of climbing, ie. Sport, Alpine Rock, Ice, Plastic. I’ve always enjoyed climbing at my limit and try to push beyond that level.

Who do you look up to in the climbing world?  All the individuals pushing boundaries and those exuding enthusiasm, male, female, young and old, alike.

You have established an incredible number of first ascents in the Wasatch Range.   What inspired you to establish so many routes in the Wasatch?  I didn’t do too many FA’s as I really enjoyed repeating routes i.e. onsighting or redpointing. I find it thrilling to project a route and redpoint it. I love the “Process” of that experience.

What specific activities have helped you stay healthy and climbing? Diet and activity are my magic elixir. Especially at 60 years young.

Merrill on the cover of the American Fork climbing guidebook. He is climbing his route Blue Typhoon (5.13a).
Merrill on the cover of the American Fork climbing guidebook. He is climbing his route Blue Typhoon (5.13a).

Can you think of a specific local route that offered a special learning experience? Many routes forced me to intimately examine what I might do to reach the next level of performance. Satan’s Corner forced me to learn to jam. That experience was quite an epiphany! Think 1976.

How did you start climbing? After a late start into my outdoor lifestyle I was exposed to technical climbing while in Lone Peak Cirque during the summer of 1975. I saw a party of two climbers on the Lowe Route and decided that I wanted to climb that wall. I had been exposed to climbing only through old photos of knicker-clad men hanging in slings on big walls in Europe. By chance I stumbled into a basic Rock Climbing course through Timberline Sports in the fall of 1976, and the rest is history.

Merrill Bitter in the early 80s on Coffin Crack (5.12) in Little Cottonwood Canyon.
Merrill Bitter in the early 80s on Coffin Crack (5.12) in Little Cottonwood Canyon.

Is 60 the new 40? Hopefully my 60’s will be really productive. I am enjoying the “journey”!

What advice do you have for SLC’s aspiring climbers? Keep the expectations low and have loads of fun!

What are some major differences in climbing from when you started to now, as far as climbers approach to climbing? The evolution of climbing in all its forms has been thrilling to experience. Climbing skills have accelerated as more people became engaged and practices and techniques were negotiated and transformed, often violently. Training as well as passion for the sport and lifestyle has exponentially escalated standards globally. This phenomenon is exhilarating to watch and experience.

Merril Bitter during one of his usually sessions at the Momentum in Sandy, UT.
Merril Bitter during one of his usually sessions at the Momentum in Sandy, UT.

How long have you lived in SLC?  I’ve lived in SLC all of my 61 years. Only 3 years were spent living in Detroit when my dad worked on his PHD, back in the mid 1960’s.

Why do you enjoy the Wasatch Range climbing? The Wasatch Range offers so much variety of terrain and it would be difficult to match the ease of access to this variety living elsewhere. Plus, you can get anywhere in the west within a half or full days drive! Simply wonderful!

What is your favorite route in LCC, BCC, and AF? Fallen Arches in LCC, Goodro’s in BCC, Blue Mask in AF.

Why do you love Momentum? Awesome route setting, the power endurance nature of the climbing and wonderful people!

 

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