Interview: Roger Fage, Professional Dirtbag

“I am weak, I get tired quickly, I am barely athletic, I lack mental fortitude, technical skills and I scare easily. Despite these shortcomings, I am trying to live the dream, get rich, famous and become a sponsored climbing athlete,” Roger Fage told us.

Though Fage has not yet realized his ultimate goal in life, he is living the dream, climbing and traveling almost constantly. So far his sponsors are those that offer him leftover food, and his fame stretches about as far as his stench. His travels have taken him all over the globe, and when he’s not checking off new climbing destinations, he’s fending off bears in northern Canada. He was kind enough to leave his tent site in Turkey and walk shoeless to an Internet cafe for a chat with us about what a dirtsquirrel like him does all day.

Dorian Tower, Thunder Bay

Roger Fage topping out on the Dorian Tower, Thunder Bay, Ontatio Canada [Photo] Roger Fage Collection

Climberism: So what’s a dirtsquirrel like you do for work?

Roger Fage: Work?! I wouldn’t lower myself to such an indignity. As a semi-pro, pre-sponsored climber. I’m supported by the community, like Sharma, or the crazy street people who mumble obscenities at the bus station and you pass them off your old sandwiches in hopes they won’t bite you.

But, now and again I wander off north to the deep, dark Canadian bush and play at forest adventure. I’ve been at some different jobs, but the jist is they fly me around in helicopters, drop me off on top of a mountain in the middle of nowhere, and in exchange, I search for gold, or cut down some trees and generally do my best not to be eaten by bears. In return, they give me many sandwiches and more money than a dirt squirrel like me knows what to do with. I love my jobs…. Even though they inevitably lead to multiple months long breaks from climbing.

What the hell is

Sponsor Me Now, quickly renamed Sponsermeow by my cat, was started a few years ago as I was headed out on a seven month climbing trip. It’s kind of been an ongoing list to the climbing industry of all the reasons why a wonderful young man like myself deserves to be showered with money, free schwag and general climbing glory. I think the climbing industry is stuck in an outdated paradigm where they sponsor modern “athletes” who are “pushing grades,” “brave” or whose climbing generally “lacks suck,” rewarding things like hard work, commitment and general good looks. Bah, I say. Bah to that! Time to get post-modern. Any modern professional can be talented and strong, but it takes a special kind of professional to fill in the gaps and be a filthy, lazy, no-talent bum who loves climbing enough to be at it every day. Climbing is, to me, as cheap wine is to hobos. That’s where I lie. It’s all very avant-garde.

It’s actually been amazing. The support folks are willing to shell up to dirtsquirrels, I’ve gotten private donations aplenty (so many sandwiches!), and Scarpa even sent some shoes one time. I’m not sure if they actually meant too…It could’ve been some sort of error in the mail, but like my grandma said, “Roger, a boy like you should take what he can get.” Anyways, go Scarpa! God they were comfortable—well made and full of performance and shit. I wish I was wearing them right now. Except they wore out, so now I have no shoes. (Clear throat…cough…cough).

Cennet 5.11d, Olympos, Turkey [Photo] Roger Fage Collection

Roger Fage on Cennet 5.11d, Olympos, Turkey [Photo] Roger Fage Collection

Tell me about Turkey.

I’ve been here for about three weeks now. I’ll probably be here for another month or so, and then onwards to Croatia or Thailand. This is my third trip here. Once this place gets the hype it deserves it’s going to explode. The scene here is somewhere between hilarious and amazing. Last week, it was the Turkish holiday so folks from all over Turkey flocked to Geyikbairi. It was a wild mix. At one end, there was this posse of beautiful 8a crushing ladies from Istanbul, and then a group of wild eyed guys with epic mustaches who were taking huge whippers on 5c’s.

There’s also a decent international contingent here as well, with a minimum of five different languages spoken around the campfire any one night.

OK, cool. Sounds like the North End of Burlington, VT., minus the campfire. So where else do you get your climbing fix?

It’s totally seasonal. Kamouraska, Quebec in the spring can’t be beat. There’s this quaint-as-shit French bakery and cafe in town and besides the amazing climbing, the bakery is enough to make you fall in love with the place. You can’t beat Nova Scotia in the summer. A day of seaside, granite bouldering, topped off with microbrews at the Henry House is unstoppably good. Then Rumney in the fall (on weekdays) is just the best. You can’t top ending the day with cheap NH liquor and a toss in the river. Then getting into winter ice climbing and heading up Gaspé way in Quebec. That place has so much heart it’s disgusting. The ice forms just wild there, all windblown and savage. At the risk of making inordinate pronouncements – I’ll be frank here, I do love to make them—the climbing in the North and East is by far the best. The rest of the continent is crap. BAM! I said it.

Yeah, that’s going to piss someone off. Thanks. You’re famous on the internet for being cheap. Tell me about your dirtsquirrelliness.

As I figure it, the key to dirtbag budgeting breaks down into roughly three main categories, with acceptable limits of dirtbagdom you’re willing to embrace each with. I figure the categories go something like this: austerity measures, dirtsquirrelliness (I’m not sure how to spell this word… doesn’t seem to be in the dictionary? WTF Webster’s?) and lastly, getting the local love.

Austerity measures is pretty self-explanatory. They are more or less how much discomfort, potential or otherwise, you’re willing to endure. Sleeping in a ditch is usually free, but sleeping in a ditch usually sucks. It’s about finding a balance. Food is a great place to budget, though nothing but oats will probably lead to scurvy.

Dirtsquirrelliness relates to your ability to get shit for free, or cheap, sometimes employing some fairly dubious measures. This is in the realm of dumpster diving, being in your twenties and lying in an attempt to get the seniors discount at Denny’s, or picking TP from public bathrooms. Though I’d say Sponsormeow is a pretty squirrelly way to go after funds.

Local love is by far the best, and usually leads to the wackiest experiences. This is more or less befriending locals and getting the low down on deals. This is the kind of thing that leads to hitchhiking up into the Turkish mountains for a newly befriended strangers wedding and copious amounts of homemade free pomegranate wine. People are generally generous and love to help out friendly travelers. That and when they hear that you’ve been more or less living out of a tent for the past three years, they feel bad for you.

I hear you’ve set some crazy goals. What’s this about a play-off beard?

Well, since my days as a fat kid, I always thought 5.13 was the epic grade achievable only by the most impressive of human specimens, and, well, I guess I still believe that. So, I’ve set that as my next climbing goal, and to keep myself encouraged, I’ve started the great Canadian tradition of the play-off season beard. No trimming till 5.13. Obviously, this could get out of hand, but hey, is there ever a better time in one’s life to grow a massive beard then when you’re living out of a filthy tent in Turkey? I think not.

How long is the beard so far? And are you getting close to 13’s?

I’ve done a few 12b’s since I’ve been here, but I’m definitely taking it slow and working my way up. After a five month break, I’m not in any rush to injure myself by getting back at it too hard.

The beard is not yet too out of hand—I can still comfortably down a bowl of soup, but she’s quickly making her way to the stage of crazy, hobo beard. I’m not going to lie, by the time I work my way up to 5.13, there’s a decent chance I’ll be sporting a Castaway style beard.

Anything else?

For the love of god, Petzl, Scarpa, La Sportiva, Evolv, BD, Metolius, anyone, I’m still waiting to hear from you with your generous donations to my cause. Did you lose my number? Call me! I still love you any- ways.

Roger Fage put together a guide book, An Ice Climbers’ Guide to Nova Scotia that is for sale at Mountain Equipment Co-Op in Halifax.



  • Dylan says:

    Geyikbairi is freaking awesome, I will be back….sometime…

  • Davor says:

    I can see he mentiond climbing in Croatia in this post. To anyone who doesn’t know, Croatia is a perfect place for climbers all around the world (or any other adventure seeker). Especially if you try climbing in Paklenica, which is also a national park, on the beautiful mountain Velebit.

    Many people come here every year for the annual Big Wall Speed Climbing meeting near the small town od Starigrad-Paklenica. This year it will take place from May 1st till May 4th.

    If you’re interested, you can read about this place on my blog.




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