Instructor Interview: David Farkas

Instructor Interview: David Farkas

  • Posted by Kaleigh
  • On December 18, 2017
  • Comments

Meet David Farkas

He's not only a lifelong climber, he's also The Front's adult programming lead and our busiest instructor because of his unique ability to help people find their emotional connection with climbing, while clearly and effectively teaching skills to help them feel more confident and comfortable. We sat down with him to learn more about his background, climbing experiences, and (of course) van life.

How did you first come to climbing, and how long did it take for climbing to become a big part of your life?

I first came to climbing in the summer of 1991 after family friends got me into downhill skiing and backpacking during high school. One day I went into an outdoor shop and saw the copy of Climbing Magazine with Lynn Hill on the cover after she became the first woman to climb 5.14. I opened it up and the magazine swallowed me whole. The beauty, physicality, culture, and equipment of the sport instantly captivated me and I knew I had to climb.

A friend of mine and I decided it would be a good idea to start soloing up the 2nd Flatiron in Boulder, Colorado in hiking boots. My friend stopped lower down. After becoming terrified a little higher up, I decided to toss my large camera and hip belt into a nearby crevice because I was certain it was going to throw me off balance right before I plunged to my death. Fortunately, I safely down climbed. As my friend was spared a scare on the first day, he went back the next day and got just as scared while retrieving my camera pack in his deck shoes.

I wisely sought proper instruction after that and did my first roped climb on Supremacy Slab in Eldorado Canyon a few weeks later.

What are some of your favorite aspects of climbing? What gets you excited to go climbing?

I enjoy almost all aspects of climbing. It's a beautiful and challenging exercise that can take place in incredible natural settings as well as on artificial surfaces. I love the problem solving and adventure that comes from doing a new or more challenging climb as well as the grace that comes from a well-rehearsed effort.

Climbing partnerships are some of the deepest friendships I have formed and I also enjoy being a part of a larger climbing community. I feel that some climbers used to be more cliquish and stand-offish in previous decades though now that climbing has grown so much and become more mainstream, it is possible to meet lots of people with similar ability levels as well as more approachable mentors and instructors.

What gets me excited to go climbing is loving it so much. Whether on a boulder problem, a mountain, or a weekend road trip, if I commit my attention fully to that experience, then I learn about not just climbing but also how that use of attention and connection offer ways to grow in other parts of my life.

What are some of your favorite climbing areas?

Some of my favorite climbing areas are Eldorado Canyon, Joshua Tree National Park, Maple Canyon, Indian Creek, and the ice climbs near Silverton and Ouray, Colorado. I would also like to return to the North Cascades and the rock climbing of Washington Pass sometime too. I really love great indoor climbing too, which is what brought me to The Front.

How long have you been teaching climbing? Where are some of the places you have taught?

I have been teaching climbing since the early 1990’s. Shortly after I started climbing I was lucky enough to stumble upon famed climber Ed Webster who had hand-built this amazing stone climbing wall in the corner of a suburban Colorado recreation center. It was SO good! Cracks, edges, blocks….there were lots of great elements and it even had a chimney! Ed got me in touch with the supervisor and I ended up working Sundays and a weeknight teaching kids and adults how to belay and do some basic movement.

I started working for Outward Bound in 2001 and that took me all over the Colorado backcountry. It is amazing to reflect now how much I learned with and from my students over those summer seasons. A challenging route with a skilled partner nowadays can pale in sheer adventure compared to safely getting down from a high pass with 10 of other people’s children under my wing.

I returned to climbing instruction in Durango, Colorado around 2010 and then guided full-time with The American Alpine Institute in Washington for a year and a half. I worked in Washington, Red Rock, Joshua Tree, the Sierras, and I went on one trip to Denali.

It is through these experiences that I also became involved Arno Ilgner and his Rock Warrior’s Way material. I was fortunate enough to co-teach a Trad Camp in Joshua Tree and Indian Creek with him as well as several Falling and Commitment clinics during a gym tour of the four corners area. Practicing Rock Warrior’s Way material has had the single biggest positive impact on my climbing and I really enjoy sharing elements of those practices with my students.

Do you hold any certifications?

I am first-aid and CPR certified, have a Climbing Wall Instructor certification and I am a licensed physical therapist assistant in Colorado and Utah. I have also passed AIARE Level I and II certifications and plan on renewing my Single Pitch Instructor certification in the spring.

What are some of your favorite things about teaching? Are there things that you love to teach or never get sick of?

My favorite thing about teaching is helping someone develop a skill or an insight that they can then go apply to their challenge of choice and then share it with others. I also enjoy that a student’s success is not all up to me. I have to do my part, and so does the student, based on what they want out of the experience and what they are willing to give to the process of learning. When that exchange clicks, I revel in the natural high that comes from helping a student learn more about climbing or themselves than they knew before.

I never get sick of teaching someone how to tie a correct and neat follow-through figure-eight knot, and I love teaching climbers how to turn their hips and reach further on an overhanging wall. I find these things so essential and beautiful, like a perfect cappuccino or being kind to a child.

What are your goals both as a climber and as an instructor?

My current goals as a climber are to continue to improve my movement skills in gym and sport climbing while also working in a training program that lets me improve my physiological weaknesses such as power endurance, etc. I also look forward to doing more ice climbing this winter as it is possibly my favorite form of climbing.

To really push to a new personal level in any of climbing’s disciplines lets me know what I am made of in terms of emotional commitment, attention, effort, and if I am really willing to change my status quo. If I am, and I am able to put my ego aside long enough to learn how to do something better, than I have learned not only how to be a better climber, but a better human being. One of my teaching goals is to help students have similar realizations.

Anything else we should know about you or that you'd like to share?

Sure! I love music, coffee, great food, and would like to pick up my guitar again. Other than that I have also enjoyed working in health care over the years, probably because my mom was a nurse, and she did it so well. She poured her heart into it and still made time to love everyone around her. I also learned as I aged-almost too late-what an amazing English professor my father was. He taught for 37 years before dying from sudden leukemia half a semester away from retiring. He was always there but we struggled to be close when I was younger. We luckily became very close again in the last 5 weeks of his life and we mutually understood that we loved each other and that we both loved to teach too, though through different means.

After my first WFR course, I was so psyched on health care that I became a nurse’s aide for 5 years. I felt very fortunate to help people in some of their darkest moments with great co-workers in the climbing mecca of Boulder, Colorado, though I decided to earn an undergraduate degree in Adventure Education instead of nursing. Several years later I had an ankle reconstructed after a climbing fall, and thinking I needed a more “regular” job again, I became a physical therapist assistant. I worked as a PTA in Colorado for a year and am licensed in Utah as well. After climbing at The Front last winter though….I was hooked again and knew I wanted to make climbing my career.

Any thoughts on van life and/or advice on those interesting in pursuing it?

Oh…van life. I mean, van life!!! Haha. It is pretty great since my girlfriend and I can park it at the gym. We took a while to insulate it and then it needed a costly repair, so thankfully our friend and amazing Front member, Kelsey Hanson, has put us up for the last two months. If you really want to do it….you should! It has pros and cons, like everything, but if you feel like going for it, or anything else, do it! Life can be short. It just so happened it took me until my forties to pursue a dream I had in my twenties…not so I could I save up money doing something I hated in the meantime, but so I could work through my anxieties and learn how to choose a lifestyle I enjoy and take ownership of, rather than one I don’t enjoy, or worse yet, let somebody else pick for me.

« David Farkas teaches many of our adult climbing classes! Sign up for a class today to learn the basics of climbing, get over your fear of falling, or advance your climbing technique!