Ethan Pringle: A Multifaceted and Skilled Climber

By: Derek Vitiello | Last Updated on December 22, 2023


Ethan Pringle is an American rock climber who has notable ascents in sport climbing, bouldering, and even trad climbing. He was born and raised in San Francisco, and first began climbing at age eight when he discovered Mission Cliffs, a climbing gym just four blocks from his childhood home. He fell in love immediately, began competing at age twelve, and has been climbing professionally on both plastic and rock since then.

In America and abroad, he’s repeated many classic difficult sport routes like Necessary Evil (5.14c), The Golden Ticket (5.14c), Jumbo Pumping Hate on his second try (5.14a), Wheel of Life (5.14d), and Omaha Beach (5.14a).

For bouldering, you may recognize routes like Mandala (V12), Evilution (V12), Clockwork Orange (FA – V12), and Lifestyles of the Poor and Famous (FA V13).


Ape Index: 1.06 / +4″
DOB: 5/30/1986
Started Climbing: 1995 (8 years old)
Hometown: San Francisco

His trad climbing tick list is smaller, but still quite impressive, with routes like Blackbeard’s Tears (5.14c), a flash of Moonlight Buttress (5.12c), Iron Monkey (5.14a), Cobra Crack (5.14) and more.

As for competition climbing, he’s participated in the Bouldering Nationals, Junior Nationals, World Cups, Teva Mountain Games, and many more, and has also been a member of the US Climbing Team since 1998.

To this day, he’s an avid sport climber, trad climber, and boulderer – he enjoys sending big walls and hard boulder problems. To keep up with recent updates from Ethan, you can follow him on Instagram. He was also on the Training Beta podcast.

Notable Climbs

Lifestyles of the Poor and Famous (V13) First Ascent – 2020

One of Ethan’s more recent accomplishments is his first ascent of Lifestyles of the Poor and Famous, a highball test piece in The Buttermilks of California. He called it “one of the coolest unclimbed lines [he’d] ever seen.” It was one of the proudest FA’s of his career, and you can watch the video for Lifestyles of the Poor and Famous.

Flash Moonlight Buttress (5.12c) – 2018

Moonlight Buttress had its first ascent back in 1971 (Jeff Lowe and Mike Weiss), first free ascent in 1992 (Peter Croft and Johnny Woodward), and it was Alex Honnold‘s first free solo of a major big wall. It’s had many ascents, and Ethan Pringle flashed it in May of 2018, saying “I’ve wanted to attempt the ultra classic, 10 pitch Moonlight Buttress for a while now.” The route links over a thousand feet of exposed finger cracks and has seen thousands of ascents, but only a dozen or two onsights. You can watch a video of his climb and read more about his experience on Mountain Hardwear.

Blackbeard’s Tears (5.14c) – 2016

Ethan Pringle has the first free ascent of Blackbeard’s Tears, a 5.14c crack that’s only the second 5.14c trad climbing route in the world (with Beth Rodden’s Meltdown in Yosemite). He had actually hiked to the area 10 years ago, but either didn’t see the crack or wrote it off as too difficult at the time. This time around, he spent 10 days projecting it. For a more in-depth look at his experience with this climb, read this interview with Touchstone Climbing.

Ethan Bangs Out Thor’s Hammer (5.15a) – 2015

In Norway’s Flatanger Cave in 2015, Ethan Pringle took the fifth ascent of Thor’s Hammer (5.15a), only a day after Daniel Woods claimed fourth. It was bolted by Magnus Midtbø, but Magnus wouldn’t climb it until 2021 – instead, Adam Ondra got the first ascent back in 2012. It has become one of the most popular 5.15’s in the world and has been climbed by big names like Daniel Woods, Alexander Megos, Jakob Schubert, and more. Ethan has previously visited the area and already left his mark on The Eye of Odin (5.14c) and Nordic Plumber (5.14b).

Ethan on Thor’s Hammer. Photo from Lindsey Dolan.

Jumbo Love (5.15b) – 2015

In 2015, Ethan claimed the second ascent of Jumbo Love (5.15b), a route that was bolted by Randy Leavitt and first sent by Chris Sharma. It’s located at Clark Mountain in California, and has become one of the most famous routes west of the Rockies. At the time, it was the hardest single pitch of rock climbing in North America and Ethan’s hardest sport climb to date.

He’d been working on it off-and-on for a couple years, returning each season to dabble with the seemingly impossible climb. With this ascent, he became the second American to tick the grade 5.15b. In an interview afterwards, Ethan commented on his projecting and what he learned along the way:

What I will take away from Clark is the knowledge that I am truly worthy of accomplishing what I dream of. I have a lot more faith in myself after the close of this experience, and a lot more faith in my process. I at least hope I’ve learned to be a little more optimistic when it comes to encountering setbacks and moving past them! I think this will be a good experience to refer to in the future when that happens.

Ethan celebrating on top of Jumbo Love. Photo from The RV Project.

Go Big With Steven Roth and Too Big to Flail – 2014

In Bishop, California, in the Buttermilks, the Luminance boulder is home to Alex Honnold’s Too Big to Flail (5.13c/d). Steven Roth and Ethan Pringle took the third and fourth ascents of the highball after spending two and a half days projecting it. The crew rallied 18 pads (Alex used 34) for a ropeless attempt and both had flawless execution on their sends. Ethan suggested the sport grade of 5.13c/d for the entire route.

Arrested Development (5.14d) – 2012

Located in the Robbers Roost sector of My. Charleston, Nevada, Ethan Pringle claimed the first ascent of Arrested Development (5.14d) in 2012. It’s located to the right of America’s Most Wanted (5.13c) and has been climbed many times since then.

Tearing up the Rocklands – 2011

Even though Ethan was in Rocklands, South Africa, for only a few weeks, he made quick work of the area’s top climbs. He suggested downgrades for several routes, including Derailed (V14 -> V12), Black Shadow (V13 -> V12), and Mooiste Maise (V14 -> V13). He also built up an impressive ticklist with eighteen problems that were V12 or harder, and countless more that were V11 or less.

Ethan Makes Quick Work of China’s Hardest Lines – 2010

On a month long Chinese epic in 2010, Ethan sent some of the country’s hardest lines, including Thunder (5.14a) and Twin Lighting (5.14b) on the same day, a flash of Sea of Tranquility (5.13d), and ascents of Axe Man, Paper Cut, Gina and Tonic (all 5.13c), and French Gangsta (5.14b). He took the third ascent of Spicy Noodle (5.14c), which was the hardest route in China at the time, saying it was “the best line I have seen here.” It didn’t stay the hardest for much longer though, because a few days before he left, Ethan sent an open project bolted by Chris Sharma, calling it Spicy Dumpling (5.14d).

Cover photo by John O’Brien.

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About The Author

Derek, Co-Founder at Know Nothing Nomads

My goal with my writing and Know Nothing Nomads as a whole is to share my passions of hiking, camping, and a love of the outdoors with our readers.

Making the difficult and uncertain feel more approachable to people that might not know enough to feel comfortable taking their first steps into the wilderness is a driving factor for me.

When I'm not writing you can find me on a trail, in a forest, or next to a river with hiking shoes on my feet and a fly rod somewhere close by.

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