The Need for Speed

The peaceful silence of Lion's Head was broken as Greg Williamson shouted, Rope! He dropped a line from the cliff top and zipped down it.I only hav...

By Rock and Ice | February 2nd, 2010

Keith's-Corner-183The peaceful silence of Lion’s Head was broken as Greg Williamson shouted, “Rope!” He dropped a line from the cliff top and zipped down it.

“I only have 20 minutes,” explained Williamson, an architect who was here on a break between meetings. “Thought I’d get a few pitches in.”

To access this limestone sport-climbing area outside of Ontario, climbers must rap in and then climb out. As a result, locals often toprope self-belay, running laps on their favorite climbs. Williamson lapped five routes, packed up and left.

Motivated is too small an adjective to fit Williamson, a guy who once rope-soloed 60 routes as difficult as 5.12+ in a day at this Canadian crag. Before he was an architect and a mega endurance climber, Williamson was a competitive body builder, a super-bike moto-racer and a street brawler. A friend once observed, “He’s basically five dudes in one.”

“From an early age,” says Williamson, now 35, “I had two weight-training partners who taught me how to push myself every single day. It’s something that has helped tremendously in climbing, business and life in general.“

At age 20, while competitive power lifting, Williamson sustained a major pectoral injury, which eventually brought all his then 230 bulky pounds to rock climbing. Instantly taken, Williamson had to adapt to the pace of this sport, a big change from 80-foot jumps on a dirt bike and bee-lining a street bike down roads at speeds of 180 mph.

“That’s 180 mph in a straight line,” says Williamson. “However, it’s far more exciting to throw the bike into a corner at the track at 150 mph.”

At one point, street brawling provided Williamson the rush he craved. He remembers one particular night at a bar when he and two friends got scrappy with some other guys. The bouncers threw them all out, and the other gang confronted Williamson and his friends in a nearby parking lot.

“What ensued was straight out of an old Western movie,” says Williamson. “Bottles were smashed over our heads, and someone bit off the entire top half of my friend’s ear! Right as we were starting to get the upper hand, the police showed up and we all got thrown in jail for the night. Every weekend when we were 19 we lived out stories that we will remember for a lifetime.”

For Williamson, who has owned his own architectural design firm for the last 10 years and is married with two daughters, those savage days are long gone. You’d be hard pressed to meet a nicer and more encouraging person.

Williamson has opened his home to Toronto climbers and friends. Nightly campfires always seem to result in Williamson recounting another high-speed story, or lighting off a wax bomb. At home, he has channeled that energy and motion into his family life. “Already the bond I have developed with my 6-year-old from climbing with her and striving toward similar goals has been great. Climbing is something you can actually do with your kids, instead of just standing back watching.”

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