Photo Bobby Model

IF YOU'RE LUCKY ENOUGH TO FIND A WAY OF LIFE YOU LOVE, YOU HAVE TO FIND THE COURAGE TO LIVE IT.
-Owen Meaney

Paul Piana was born in 1954 and raised in Newcastle, Wyoming. His family were among the first settlers in the Northeast corner of the state. During his early years, the pioneering spirit and free thinking way of life was ingrained into him by his families' example.

Paul has worked at diverse occupations over the years: disc jockey, bentonite miner, the U.S. Marine Corps, waiter, sous chef, even a hitch at Neptune Mountaineering, et. al. However, since 1966 Paul has been, first and last, a climber. His expertise as a paid spokesman and technical consultant has been greatly valued by numerous outdoor industry companies.

Paul's latest book is BIG WALLS, Breakthroughs on the Free Climbing Frontier; a large-format, coffee table book lavishly illustrated with 93 color photographs. This landmark book was published in 1998, by Sierra Club Books (Random House).

Paul has a profound case of climber's wanderlust and has traveled the globe seeking the most challenging and exotic rock climbing situations. An interest in sharing the spirit of adventure, has led Paul to participate in adventure film making. Many of his expeditions have been filmed and broadcast on ESPN and Outdoor Life Networks.

Paul is best known within the climbing community as the first ascentionist (with Todd Skinner) of the world's most difficult long free climbs, most notably the Free Salathé Wall in Yosemite National Park. However, Paul is equally proud of the following select list of Climbs, Awards and Recognitions.


Paul is a member of a distinguished group of athletes at the pinnacle of their chosen sport. He strongly believes the old adage: The harder you try, the luckier you get. Climbing and its philosophy are testing grounds for this doctrine so, with this in mind, Paul is researching and planning for the next great endeavor into another blank spot on the map.

Select Climbs:

  • First Free Ascent of the Salathe Wall on El Capitan in Yosemite National Park, California, 1988. (VI 5.13b)

  • First Free Climb of the North Face of Mt. Hooker in the Wind River Range, Wyoming. 1990. (VI 5.12a)

  • Explored and developed new climbing area "Wild Iris" in Wyoming.
  • First Free ascent of Proboscis Wall in the Cirque of the Unclimbables, Northwest Territories. Named route: The Great Canadian Knife. 1992. (VI 5.13b)

  • First Free Climb of The Pan American Route on El Gran Trono Blanco, Mexico. 1993. (V 5.12d)

  • First Ascent of Spider Web Wall via Great Spirit Route, Big Horn
    Mountains WY. 1996. (V 5.12a

  • Explored and established climbing in HaLong Bay, Vietnam. 1997

  • First Ascent of Harmattan Rodeo in Sahara Desert, Mali, Africa. 1998
    (V 5.13b)

  • First Ascent of War & Poetry, Ulamertorsuaq, Greenland 1998.
    (VI 5.12c)

  • First ascent East face of Poi, Ndoto Mts, Northern Kenya, January 2000 (VI 5.13a).

Awards and Recognition:

  • Recipient of the Underhill Award for Lifetime Climbing Achievement by the American Alpine Club. December 1988.

  • Keynote presentation at American Alpine Club annual meeting. Atlanta, GA. December 1988

  • Recipient of Special Jury Award, Telluride Mountain Film Festival for his slide presentation "Free at Last." 1989.

  • Appeared on the cover of international climbing magazines 1988-1992.

  • Guest Speaker at British Mountaineering Council Festival. 1991.

  • Speaker at Adventure Karrimor. North Wales, November 1992.

  • Discussion Panelist, Bnaff Festival Mt. Films. 1993.

  • Banquet presentation at American Alpine Club annual meeting Seattle, Washington.

  • Contributor to The Royal Geographic Society Book of Heroic Climbs,

  • British Alpine Club, Christian Bonnington, Editor. Octopus Press 1993.

  • Guest Lecturer, Dundee Film Festival, Dundee Scotland, 1997.

  • Keynote Speaker, 100th Anniversary Banquet, The Alpine Club, London England, 1997.

  • Jury Member Banff Festival of Mt. Films. 1997.

  • Jury Member Telluride Festival of Mt. Films. 1997.