Midway through October 2012, Chris Kalous had just uploaded to iTunes the 21st episode of his podcast, “The Enormocast,” and was closing in on the one-year anniversary of the show. The next week, he drove to Castle Valley, Utah, and along with Sam Lightner, freed one of the hardest multi-pitch routes in the desert: the four-pitch, 5.13b Ivory Tower, on the iconic Castleton Tower. It was the hardest first ascent of a climbing career that has spanned more than two decades, and forms the backbone for what’s become THE climbing podcast.
Kalous, now 43, has a day-job resume that includes every-man titles like climbing guide, high school teacher, climbing gym manager and now house painter. His climbing resume, however, has bullet points that show where his true passion lies: First ascent, The Grendel, Proboscis, Northwest Territories, 5.10 A4; solo winter ascent of Lost In America, El Capitan, 5.10 A5; Free Rider, El Capitan, 25 pitches, 5.12+; second ascent, Reticent Wall, El Capitan, 5.7 A5; second ascent, solo, World’s End, The Titan, Fisher Towers, 5.9 A5.
His hour-plus-long podcast episodes draw inspiration from the interview style of Marc Maron’s “WTF,” and have featured high-profile climbers like free soloist Alex Honnold, climbing and BASE jumping author Steph Davis, groundbreaking free climber Lynn Hill, and legendary 1970s first ascensionist Henry Barber, as well a bevy of other core, but not quite household names in the climbing world.
Kalous’s climbing and storytelling, he says, share the same genesis: the outdoor adventure floor in his dorm at Colorado State University, where, as a freshman, he got out on real rock for the first time at Horsetooth Reservoir and was hooked.
“From the beginning, we filled our study sessions and BS sessions when we couldn’t climb with the next best thing: talking about climbing,” Kalous says. “Furthermore, when someone did return from an adventure, it was mandatory that we’d gather in a cramped dorm room or around a cafeteria table and be regaled with tales from the trip. So I think talking about climbing (or writing) probably was a skill I had long before I could actually climb.”
Whatever identity his career has taken, Kalous has made time for climbing, locally in his three favorite haunts near his home in Carbondale, Colorado: the splitter sandstone cracks at Indian Creek, the overhanging limestone of Rifle Mountain Park, or the long, intimidating traditional routes climbing out of the bottom of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. His work year is punctuated by international trips, to the sandstone towers of Jordan’s Wadi Rum Desert; the huge granite walls of Cochamo, Chile, or the remote big walls of Mexico’s Basaseachic National Park. And he’s always made time for storytelling, writing feature articles for Rock & Ice, Climbing magazine, and now “The Enormocast,” which scratches the itch.
Recorded in the living rooms of his guests, his rustic RV parked in Moab or at the International Climbers Festival in Lander, or in a hotel room in Salt Lake City during the Outdoor Retailer trade show, Kalous brings his conversational inquisitiveness to the table and gives a voice to the luminaries of climbing. To check out The Enormocast, head to enormocast.com.
Photos by Andrew Burr