Eric’s Biography

chickies-edit-smEric began climbing in 1977 (age 13) with his older brother, Kyle, at the hometown crags in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. In years prior, Eric participated in numerous traditional sports (he excelled in baseball and was the team’s leading batter his final year) but climbing quickly became his passion. After reading Pat Ament’s Master of Rock (the biography of John Gill), Eric joined the high school gymnastics team and specialized in the still rings–this was the beginning of his interest in training for climbing. In 1979, Eric teamed up with two other school-aged climbers, Jeff Batzer and Hugh Herr. Daily bouldering, roped climbing, and training became a ritual for them. In 1981, Eric and Jeff climbed over 300 days together, primarily at the Shawangunks (NY) and their home crags in Pennsylvania. [Click photo for larger view: Eric Leading Mike’s Roof (5.10a) at Chickies Rock, PA circa 1980.]

foops-smToday, high-end climbing is populated with teenagers, but back in the 1970s the then-small sport of rock climbing was dominated by adult men. These three young climbers from Lancaster, PA stood out not only for their age, but also for the grade they climbed. In 1980, Eric lead his first 5.10 climbs at the Shawangunks in New York, and the next year he broke the 5.11 barrier with numerous ascents including, at the time, one of the youngest leads of Foops (5.11c) in April 1981. em> [Click photo for Eric climbing Foops (5.11c) at the Shawangunks, NY in April 1981.]

CC-crack-smallSummer 1981, Eric traveled to Boulder, CO and made quick work of many classic 5.10s and 5.11s including ascents Tagger (5.10b/c), Kings X (11a R), Athlete’s Feat (5.11a), Kloeberdanz (5.11a) and Country Club Crack (5.11c). The trip culminated with a toprope flash of The Gill Crack (5.12a), the 17-year old’s first 5.12 climb (and a rare grade for most any climber at that time). [Click image for Summer 1981 photo of the second pitch of Country Club Crack (5.11c), Boulder Canyon, CO. Note: the hard-rubber EB shoes and red webbing “swami belt” harness.]

EH_Dragons_Jaw-1986-smBack east, Eric spent his senior year in high school climbing weekends at the Gunks and Seneca Rocks. During weekdays, he bouldered at nearby crags and devised home-training methods (including his first home training wall comprised of small wood blocks screwed to the walls and ceiling of his basement). Summer 1982, Eric began college at Penn State University–he also began his assault on blank walls at the nearby Bellefonte Quarry with the 3rd ascent of the area’s hardest climb, White Line Fever (his first 5.12 lead). Teaming up with local cragmaster, Jim Bowers, the pair spent the next four years establishing dozens of new routes, and, in 1986, they established what were perhaps Pennsylvania’s first two 5.13 climbs: Power Windows (12+/13-) and Autumn Arch (12+/13-). Meanwhile, weekend trips to the Gunks and Seneca Rocks produced a long ticklist of classics in the 5.10 to 5.12a range. [Click photo for one of Eric’s first ascents at Bellefonte Quarry, Dancing in the Dragon’s Jaw (5.12b/c), a marginally protected R-rated mixed route. 1986]

diamond-smNovember 1986 brought Eric to a little-known (then) area in southern West Virginia, the New River Gorge. You might say it was love at first sight as Eric pulled down on the steep, pristine Nuttal sandstone. This first visit culminated with him free climbing a former aid line out an overhang–at the grade of 5.12a/b, Pilots Of Bekaa became one of the area’s hardest routes. In 1987, Eric joined existing new route activists (Artz, Begoon, Parker, Reed, Thompson and others) on forging dozens of new routes including his ascent of Diamond Life (5.13a) at Bubba City. In October 1987, Diamond Life was the New’s and West Virginia’s only 5.13; however, this would change quickly as the handful of New River activists cranked out many routes of this grade and harder in the following seasons making the New a world famous climbing area. Eric remains active at the New River Gorge with over 200 first ascents to his credit. A prolific “new router”, he has established over 400 routes at crags in several states. [Click photo for Eric’s first ascent of Diamond Life (5.13a), New River Gorge, WV. 1987]

wonderama-smIn addition to being an active first ascensionist at the New River Gorge, Eric was also a prolific new route developer at home in Pennsylvania from 1985 through 1993. Along with Bob Perna, Hugh Herr, Mike McGill, and others, Eric established over 150 sport routes at Bellefonte Quarry, Safe Harbor, Birdsboro, and other nearby crags. Eric also made occasional visits to the granite crags of Old Rag Mountain (Virginia) where he established more than a dozen trad and sport routes. [Click photo for Eric on his Safe Harbor classic Wonderama (5.12b), 1991.]

Horst_JustSendIt_FirstAscent-smThough based in Pennsylvania, Eric has enjoyed traveling to over 100 crags, both famous and obscure, in the United States. He’s also climbed across Europe including stops across France, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, and Monaco. Still, Eric, his wife Lisa Ann (an LPGA golf pro and climber) and sons, Cameron and Jonathan, call Lancaster, PA their home. They enjoy frequent weekend climbing trips and strive to camp and climb as a family as much as possible. Eric also travels alone on frequent climbing trips and to speak at venues across the country. And, in addition to his type-A-driven writing, training, and climbing schedule, Eric is an adjunct faculty and staff member with the Earth Sciences Department at Millersville University.
[Click photo for Eric on the first ascent of Just Send It (5.13b), New River Gorge. 1992]

EH_GoodPain1995-smEric credits his background in math and science as spurring on his interest in the science of climbing performance. Since his early days of home training (circa 1979) to present, Eric has always had almost as much fun training for climbing as he has climbing itself. Over the years, he has studied hundreds of research articles and texts on exercise physiology, motor learning, and sports psychology. Since 1988, Eric has coached countless climbers on how to climb and train more effectively. He has authored over 75 articles on the subject for the major climbing magazines as well as written several best-selling books in the genre, including, Flash Training (1994), How To Climb 5.12 (1997), Training For Climbing (2002). All three books have foreign translations. In 1994, Eric commenced as a design consultant for Nicros, Inc., a manufacturer of climbing walls and training products, a position he continues with today. [Click photo for Eric on his route Good Pain (5.13b), Lancaster, PA. 1992]

logotherapy-smIn his “free time” away from climbing, Eric continues to write books and magazine articles, speak, record podcasts, shoot climbing and fitness photographs and videos, and develop self-development material (such as his Mental Wings CD). The thread that connects all his activities–writing, training, photography, public speaking, and this web site–is his desire to motivate and inspire others, in creative and innovative ways that will leave a lasting legacy. His first beginners’ book, Learning to Climbing: The Complete Guide to Indoor Climbing, was released in July 2006–a full-color, expanded edition was published in early 2013! In 2008 Falcon released Conditioning for Climbers and a massive 2nd edition of Training for Climbing. Eric’s proudest text is his recent book, Maximum Climbing, on the cognitive and experential aspects of climbing performance was released in Spring 2010. Visit Eric’s Publications page for a full list of magazine articles and books. [Click photo to view the first ascent of Logotherapy (13a/b), New River Gorge, WV. Fall 2002]

Cam_HeBiggum-closeup-smallThe last few years have given rise to two more elite climbers in the Hörst family, Cameron (born 2000) and Jonathan (2002), who are already recognized internationally for their difficult ascents. At age 11, Cameron shocked many climbers by redpointing three routes at the rare grade 5.14a/8b+. One year later younger brother Jonathan did his first 5.14a/8b+ ascent at age 10 years and 7 months, for which Climbing magazine proclaimed “the youngest ever 5.14 ascent”!  Jon-GalacticE2-smallAs well-rounded, high-IQ athletes, the Hörst brothers also excel at American Football, while continuing to train as two of the top youth climbers in the world. In November 2013, the Europe’s Climax magazine  gave Cameron and Jonathan a coveted  OLGA Award for their accomplishments on the rock, and in 2014 Climbing magazine awarded Cameron with a Golden Piton award. The Hörst boys were feature in a 2014 EPIC-TV series as well as the subjects of a mini-documentary titled “The Send Bros.” produced by Three Peak Films and released in Summer 2014. [Click photos to view to view the Hörst brothers climbing 5.14a/8b+ at Ten Sleep Canyon, WY]

HorstFamily-DevilsTower2014-smHaving climbed now for more than two-thirds of his life, the elder Hörst shows no signs of slowing down. Eric credits “balance” for his longevity in such a rigorous sport–he says “climbing has always been a big part of my life, but it has never been my whole life.” He continues to work on developing new mental and strength training methods, spending weekends climbing and meeting new people and, best of all, enjoying quality time in the outdoors and playing a variety of sports with his wife and sons. When asked to name his biggest climbing accomplishment, Eric doesn’t name a climb, but instead says “having helped thousands of climbers in over 50 countries to climb better and, hopefully, enjoy this wondrous sport even more!” [Click photo for larger view of the Hörst family on the summit of the 800-foot-high Devils’ Tower, WY. Summer 2014.]

Biographical videos:

Professional Organizations:

Eric is a member of the International Rock Climbing Research Association (IRCRA).
Eric is a member of the International Rock Climbing Research Association (IRCRA).
Eric is a member of the NSCA.
Eric is a member of the NSCA.