Drew Hulsey loves to climb, period. He first touched plastic rock a little under a year ago, but since then, he's committed himself to bouldering, sport climbing, and lead climbing - both indoor and outdoor - something that usually takes most climbers years to transition into. He even has his eyes set to climb Snake Dike on Half Dome in Yosemite.
Drew is one of those people whose love for the sport becomes infectious to everyone else he meets. He loves to climb hard and he loves to hear about how you're climbing hard. In a sport where grades seem like king, he focuses more on balancing out his climbing style, technique, and increasing his time on the rock. He believes that you don't have to look a certain way or climb a certain grade to be a climber. You just have to climb.
We are simply obsessed with Drew's love and fervor for climbing and we just had to learn more about him!
Based in Nashville, TN
He is a data entry specialist for a home health service, but formerly a social worker
His home gym is The Crag (Franklin and Nashville)
If your calls go straight to voicemail, he's probably at Muir Valley in The Red River Gorge
Do you remember your very first time climbing? How did you get into it, how did it make you feel, and what was your first impression?
My first time climbing was almost a year ago. I had just seen Free Solo and my eyes were opened to a whole new world of climbing. I had already been searching for a way to get outside more and to be active and I thought climbing may be it. I was also so motivated by Free Solo to do something.
I went to my local gym and I was super nervous because of my weight. I wasn’t sure if there would be any issues with my weight at first. I always felt sort of limited to do a sport cause of my weight however it turned out that climbing was the perfect sport to get into for a guy my size. I asked an employee at my soon-to-be home gym who assured me that weight would not be an issue. The first time climbing was a rush of adrenaline. I sent a little route and was so stoked on actually making it up the wall.
In the beginning, I could really only do 3 routes a session before everything hurt. I have a lot more endurance now. The small gym I started in was the perfect set up for a beginner like me.
Can you talk more about your climbing journey? What are your climbing goals for this year and beyond?
It has been an awesome journey so far. A lot of hard work and time goes into my climbing but the work has paid off in more ways than one. Yes, my body has completely changed but I didn't realize when I first started climbing that I would meet amazing friends.
I didn't know I would receive so much support and love from the community. I didn't realize that within 8 months of my journey I would be climbing outside and leading outside. I didn't know the goals I would set for myself.
My current goals right now are to climb a route in Red River Gorge called "Eureka". It's an 80 foot 5.6 sport route. I think that will help me conquer a lot of fears and would be a big accomplishment. I would also like to get on my first multi-pitch. As far as gym goals its to climb 5.9 consistent and to get a couple of 5.10s. Long time goal is to climb Snake Dike on Half Dome. It is my big sort of my long-term climbing goal right now.
What does your current climbing and training program look like now? What type of climbing do you love most?
I'm in the gym 3-4 times a week. I don't give myself a set time to be at the gym I just go until my body says I'm done. So my sessions are usually projecting and climbing stuff for fun. I also do personal training one day a week for fitness. My favorite type of climbing is lead/top rope. Its something my wife and I can do together and it sort of can be trust/bonding exercise for us.
You were recently featured in a Climbing Magazine article in a response to a New York Times article. In the NYT article, a celebrity trainer made bizarre claims for the type of people who should be climbing. Can you tell us more about your thoughts on this and how it affected, and ultimately empowered you?
When I first read that article, my first thought was how incorrect that information was. Here I was, about 9 months into my climbing journey and I have been able to climb more than I would have ever expected. I have always felt limited by sports and physical activity because of my size. I found climbing to be so accepting and fun if you just put the work in.
When someone says you shouldn't do something because of your size that means there are limits. There shouldn't be limits on what you should be able to do in life. Not only was this article harmful to people who are not of a particular physique but it also implied that those who are not ‘able-bodied’ don’t have a place in climbing.
In my experience with volunteering with adaptive climbing, I have seen so many types of people who are able to enjoy climbing. They have no limits and they do amazing. I think it empowers me to keep posting on my social media and to keep pushing for acceptance. I may not look like a climber but I'm a climber.
See what monopkt. had to say about the NYT article here.
What would be your advice to someone who may feel intimidated that climbing isn't made for everybody?
I always say just try and see what happens. Be kind to yourself, know that it is hard. But it gets easier. The work pays off. Just know you are not alone in your feelings. There are several people feeling the same thing.
Any other life musings or thoughts you'd like to share?
Be kind. Be awesome. Be encouraging. Go out and try. Go out and be awesome.
Have questions for Drew? Share them below! You can also find him on Instagram @drewclimbswalls. Make sure to check out his newest podcast Thinking Outside on Apple Podcasts!