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Outdoor 31 May 2016 Back to list
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Sleepless in Pizem's House

Sleepless in Pizem's House

Words and photos by Rob Pizem

Hi, this is Rob Pizem and I am coming in live from my dirty green couch in my toy cluttered living room in Grand Junction, Colorado. I have been a sponsored rock climber for nearly 15 years and people always ask how I manage to get so much done in so little time. It is already 8:30 PM, I am exhausted but this article has to get written. I wanted to share with you a glimpse into what it’s like to walk in my shoes.

Monday’s are relatively easy for me. I am normally resting from whatever weekend adventure I created for myself or my family (my wife and a 2 year old boy and a 4 year old boy). The alarm sounds at 6:00 A.M. and I can never get used to waking up after a partial nights rest (my youngest is only half potty trained and normally around 1 or 2 AM my wife or I have to get up and do a diaper change. The real challenge is falling back a sleep for the remaining three hours before the day begins. I normally can’t fall back a sleep and lie there dreading the sound that will ultimately wake me up two minutes after I finally begin to sleep again. 

At that point there is no turning back. My sons are up and need attention. My wife and I divide what needs to be done and I am out of the house by 7:00 A.M. and heading to my high school teaching job at the local alternative high school. By 3:00 P.M. I am heading out to pick up my sons from school and day care and have about an hour to take them to a park or into the Colorado National Monument before their gymnastics classes begin. After classes, we make dinner and read to the boys and get them to bed by 7:30 P.M. If I am still reeling from the weekend, I head to bed by 8:00 P.M., and, if not, I stay up until 8:30 P.M. I am a real party animal.

I smack the alarm as it buzzes at 4:45 A.M. on Tuesday morning. I work at the climbing gym training local athletes for biking, climbing, skiing, mountaineering, canyoneering and whatever else they want to do outdoors. After that class, I run another climbing specific training hour and then shower up and head to the high school. This is when I train for climbing. By 3:00 P.M., I am out and back to the gym and setting routes until 5:00 P.M. At that point I run more training classes until 8:00 P.M. If I am not destroyed by then, I will get in an hour of roped climbing in with some friends.

Every other Wednesday, I take my outdoor program out on an adventure. That means that we leave school at 8:00 A.M. and mix up the day with the unknown. We hike, we climb, we rappel and in general create an experience that gets students out of their comfort zone. Each trip is different and goes rain or shine. No matter how many times I lead a trip into the wilderness, I fear that I will lose my job because something bad may happen. Each time we come back safely, I feel like it was a success. I quickly pick up the boys and take them on a mini adventure outside or take it easy in our yard until dinner. After the boys go to bed, it’s time to train on the Treadwall for an hour and then do all the house chores and hang with my wife. 

Thursdays I wake up at 4:45 A.M. again and run those classes at the gym and then head to work. After school time on Thursdays is filled with crafts and swim lessons until a late dinner. If I am heading out of town for the weekend, then it’s time to pack the car with climbing and camping gear which unfortunately can take a couple hours.


When Friday comes I am worked and I head west to play on the big stone about six hours away in Zion. I roll in after midnight with my partner, sleep as best as I can with the sound of late night passing cars and I’m up around 5:00 A.M. to work on a new climb until dusk. After a meal, I pass out at camp and do it again on Sunday only it’s worse due to the fact that I arrive home after midnight.

Monday morning is back and I take the trash out and begin it all again. I have tried having only one job (teaching) and I have tried to cut back on obligations, but I find that I can’t sleep unless I am totally destroyed. If I have any dead time at home I am always working on the yard or cleaning out the garage or some part of the house. I never was taught how to sit still when I was young and it’s a blessing and a curse for me now. Yes, I am a very goal oriented and I plan things out months in advance, but that is the real reason for me accomplishing big goals. I am not super human or the greatest athlete in the world. I just put in the time, put a smile on my face and keep pushing.

Rob Pizem is a professional rock climber and first ascentionist that has made several covers of climbing magazine. He's know for it ascetic routes in and around Zion. Find and connect with him on Instagram.

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