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All Static and No Dynamic” sums up Merrill Bitter’s climbing style and is one of many first ascents he established in the Wasatch.  Merrill a 60-year-old IME employee has been climbing for 37 years around Salt Lake City. Beyond establishing dozens of first ascents Merrill inspires Wasatch climbers with his incredibly positive attitude.

You have been climbing at a high level for a long time.  How have you been able to maintain your motivation? Staying engaged in all the facets of climbing, ie. Sport, Alpine Rock, Ice, Plastic. I’ve always enjoyed climbing at my limit and try to push beyond that level.

Who do you look up to in the climbing world?  All the individuals pushing boundaries and those exuding enthusiasm, male, female, young and old, alike.

You have established an incredible number of first ascents in the Wasatch Range.   What inspired you to establish so many routes in the Wasatch?  I didn’t do too many FA’s as I really enjoyed repeating routes i.e. onsighting or redpointing. I find it thrilling to project a route and redpoint it. I love the “Process” of that experience.

What specific activities have helped you stay healthy and climbing? Diet and activity are my magic elixir. Especially at 60 years young.

Can you think of a specific local route that offered a special learning experience? Many routes forced me to intimately examine what I might do to reach the next level of performance. Satan’s Corner forced me to learn to jam. That experience was quite an epiphany! Think 1976.

How did you start climbing? After a late start into my outdoor lifestyle I was exposed to technical climbing while in Lone Peak Cirque during the summer of 1975. I saw a party of two climbers on the Lowe Route and decided that I wanted to climb that wall. I had been exposed to climbing only through old photos of knicker-clad men hanging in slings on big walls in Europe. By chance I stumbled into a basic Rock Climbing course through Timberline Sports in the fall of 1976, and the rest is history.

Is 60 the new 40? Hopefully my 60’s will be really productive. I am enjoying the “journey”!

What advice do you have for SLC’s aspiring climbers? Keep the expectations low and have loads of fun!

What are some major differences in climbing from when you started to now, as far as climbers approach to climbing? The evolution of climbing in all its forms has been thrilling to experience. Climbing skills have accelerated as more people became engaged and practices and techniques were negotiated and transformed, often violently. Training as well as passion for the sport and lifestyle has exponentially escalated standards globally. This phenomenon is exhilarating to watch and experience.

How long have you lived in SLC?  I’ve lived in SLC all of my 61 years. Only 3 years were spent living in Detroit when my dad worked on his PHD, back in the mid 1960’s.

Why do you enjoy the Wasatch Range climbing? The Wasatch Range offers so much variety of terrain and it would be difficult to match the ease of access to this variety living elsewhere. Plus, you can get anywhere in the west within a half or full days drive! Simply wonderful!

What is your favorite route in LCC, BCC, and AF? Fallen Arches in LCC, Goodro’s in BCC, Blue Mask in AF.

Why do you love Momentum? Awesome route setting, the power endurance nature of the climbing and wonderful people!


  • Lowell Bagley says:

    THanks Merrill !
    You’ve inspired me even though I am only 3 years younger lol! Especially when in your 40’s putting up that (I can’t remember) 6 + route and got in rock and ice magazine, I still have that magazine here somewhere! Back when I was in my forties and setting records downhill mountain biking.LOL…I know it’s quite a few years ago now, It goes to show that even though we’re older we can still do the things we love and Have Fun! So keep inspiring!
    Many thanks for the climbing advice and inspiration!Your still an inspiration to me!
    Lowell Bagley

  • Michael Anderson says:

    I went to high school with Merrill, have had the opportunity to climb with him in LCC, BCC and Yosemite (I’m not the climber like he is),and on ice. His life is a sermon of positivity and goodness in a world of cynicism and irreverence. Just knowing him has made my life better.
    Thanks Merrill

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