The year is 1977. A spry 13-year-old boy scales the crags at Chickies Rock in Lancaster, Pa. A rope is all that separates him from serious harm, a fact of which he is very aware, but he overcomes his fears with every step.
Almost 40 years later, that boy is now a man, an expert climber and director of Millersville University’s Weather Information Center – Eric Horst.
“My older brother introduced me to climbing when I was 13 and I was immediately hooked,” Horst reminisces. “At its core, climbing is about problem solving, both mental and physical, so it was a perfect fit for an athletic boy who excelled at math and science in the classroom.”
Horst admits that initially, his biggest challenge was overcoming irrational fears, but he has come a long way since those days. The experienced rock climber has now written over 100 magazine articles and seven best-selling books on the subject. One such book, “Training for Climbing,” has sold over 150,000 copies with the third edition just released in July.
If being a world-renowned rock climbing authority was not enough, Horst is also a husband, a father and a passionate meteorologist.
“These two seemingly different activities actually call on similar mental skills, with analysis of novel situations at the heart of both activities,” explains Horst. “I learned as a youngster how to set goals and then follow through day in and day out, even when progress may seem imperceptible. With a belief in the mission and a vivid picture of the completed project in mind, I can maintain motivation and forward movement, ascending the metaphorical mountain one step at a time.”
Horst’s determination to improve started as a boy and has not stopped since. In order to continue exploring his new interest of rock climbing, a teenaged Horst relished the opportunity for after-school and weekend climbing adventures. He perfected his skills on the cliffs at Chickies Rock and Safe Harbor, developing and popularizing sports climbs for other adventure seekers. Without resources such as climbing gyms, instructional books or climbing coaches at his fingertips, Horst joined the gymnastics team in high school to prepare his body for the sport he truly loved.
“In the 1980s I began serious training for climbing and I spent a lot of time researching and experimenting with various training techniques and modalities. One thing led to another and I gradually turned into one of the world’s leading experts on the subject of training for climbing,” explains Horst.
As an expert in the field, it is only natural that Horst passed his passion down to his children. Sons Cameron and Jonathan have been playing on an indoor climbing wall at the Horst home since the age of four. By the age of 11, the boys passed their dad and coach in maximum ability and are world-class youth climbers.
In order to keep up with their exponentially increasing talent, the Horsts must travel further away than the local cliffs of Lancaster County. Horst himself has climbed throughout the United States and Europe, most notably to ascend El Capitan in Yosemite and to establish hundreds of first ascents at the New River Gorge in West Virginia. On a recent trip to Wyoming, his wife and sons joined him on a climb of the 600-foot Devil’s Tower.
Despite all his knowledge and experience, Horst was surprised by all the positive attention his books have received. “You might view my climbing as my hobby, whereas as my career is that of a professional meteorologist,” says Horst. “I’m a very energetic person and I find great joy and challenge in both roles. I wake each day with the goal of being a world-class meteorologist and climber. Of course, I also place tremendous value and importance on being the best dad and husband I can be.”
For those interested in rock climbing, Horst suggests starting out with some basic climbing and safety instruction; the climbing gym at Spooky Nook and the soon-to-open climbing wall at Lititz Rock are two nearby options for learning to climb indoors.