Episode 10: Owen Summerscales and William Penner — The Roy Explosion

William Penner
Owen Summerscales

The bouldering in Roy, New Mexico features some of the finest winter sandstone climbing that the United States has to offer, a fact highlighted by a massive influx of visiting climbers since 2016, when the New Mexico Bouldering guidebook hit the stands. It wasn’t so long ago, however, that Roy was a loosely guarded secret that few knew about.

For most of us, around 2015 or so, Roy simply did not exist. And then, one day, it did. What happens when a bouldering area explodes into climbing consciousness on the coat tails of social media posts, magazine articles, and a coal-chugging hype train? How do land managers and stewards race to patch together a conservation infrastructure after the gold rush and steadily increasing popularity? Who is responsible for…any or all of it?

William Penner, 48, is a good person to ask. William was the first climber to stumble upon the massive swath of boulders tucked onto the Kiowa National Grasslands. He launched the development of Roy, with a handful of others in tow. Owen Summerscales, 38, joining the crew a bit later, eventually drew up the first bouldering guide to the seemingly endless bouldering potential of New Mexico, including Roy.

William and Owen joined us for a candid discussion of the discovery, development, and eventual popularity of Roy. Owen, however, has publicly stated that there will be no second printing/edition of the guidebook (currently sold out) until the Forest Service, land managers, Access Fund, and climbers can come to some sort of solution to the growing issues affecting Roy, from building more campgrounds to installing Wag Bag stations to improving some of the washed out dirt roads.

This is a fascinating look at a bouldering area — in real time — going through growing pains at lighting speed in the social media era. Let’s pop the hood and talk about Roy, a climbing destination so massive, so stocked with potential, that protecting the access, the environment, and the myriad private/state/federal lands is the only way to definitively assure a successful future for climbers.

Thank you, as always, to Ryne Doughty for the bangers.

Have a question, concern, pitch, or criticism? Drop us a line at thunderclingpodcast@gmail.com. We read and respond to every note we receive.

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