*New series on the PG blog!*

Here we turn the spotlight on YOU, the members of Planet Granite. 

Our community is a kaleidoscope of people with a colorful array of interests, experiences, professions, personalities, and motivations.

In each Member Profile we hope to share a bit of the passion and spirit within our community at PG.  Enjoy!

Alex Dang is a member at Planet Granite San Francisco. He always has a smile on a face and friendly words of encouragement to share with those around him!

Here he sits down with PG SF staff member Sonaz for the interview.

Interview with Alex Dang – Sunday April 20, 2014

Q – I see you all the time here at Planet Granite, how did you get introduced to the wonderful world of climbing that you seem to be so fond of?

first climb vietnam 2011

Alex on his first rock climb! Vietnam, 2011.

It was August of 2011 at Halong Bay in Vietnam. I was on a 3 day junk boat tour and had to pick a day adventure. I was deathly afraid of heights so naturally I picked climbing!

I was terrified the whole way up but as soon as I got to the top I was sold. The beautiful view of the limestone islandettes were amazing and I was hooked.

I look back on that day now and laugh, the route couldn’t have been more than a 5.1 but I struggled the whole way up and was absolutely terrified! I came back home and signed up to be a member at Planet Granite as soon as I could, September 28, 2011 to be exact.

Q – Wow, impressive you remember your ‘member anniversary’ date, tell me more.

The first thing I did as a member was take the Beginner Rock Climbing Class offered here. I signed up the same day as two other students,  Josh and Cara, who are now both great friends! We try to do something every year to celebrate the day we met and started taking the class together.

Our instructor was Clara, I remember how psyched she was to teach us how to climb and that transferred over to excitement for me, making me even more psyched to become a better climber.

Alex Dang 2

It all began in BRC! Alex with his climbing family – Josh, Cara and Joe. Photo credit: Joseph Walker.

Q – That’s pretty cool that our BRC was such a fundamental part of your introduction to climbing, have you taken any other classes at PG SF?

I’ve taken them all! I am a product of this gym. It sounds a little corny but really I am where I am today because of the staff. They have taught me so much in my past 2 ½ years of climbing.

After BRC I moved on to take Balance and Technique. My instructor was Steve, whom I call ‘sensei‘, I truly valued all of his input.  Even when not in class he would pull me aside to give me tips on how to climb better, he has been a great influence on my climbing career.

After Balance and Technique came Power and Endurance (which brought my climbing to a whole new level) and so on, each class I took made me more and more stoked to climb!

Q – From the looks of it, you’re still pretty psyched to climb! How often are you in here?

5 times a week. I would like to come more but climbing has taught me to be pretty good at listening to my body.

[I had to pry this out of Alex at the end but rest days often entail bicycling long distances, anywhere from 30 to 100 miles can be considered ‘fun’ for him].

Sport climber and cracks

From gym climbing and clipping bolts to bloody hand cracks, Alex is psyched on all kinds of climbing.

Q – What keeps you coming back?

I love the journey of climbing, it’s you and the wall and that’s it!  It’s taught me to put my energy into the things that matter most among them a strong community of friends and living simply.

It’s become a philosophy central to my life and it’s brought me to the mantra I often tell myself as I’m climbing.

Q – Care to share the mantra?

It’s the journey not the destination.

Q – It seems like that could probably carry over to a lot of areas of life. Tell me about your profession, and has that mantra snuck into your non-gym life?

I am a LMFT, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist by title. My actual job is psychiatric case management where I work with older adults. A lot of them have memory issues so this mantra is a reminder to be present not in life but in the moment is one and the same.

With it, I’ve become more centered and focused. It’s easier for me to make decisions and be clear in my direction both in work and personal life. One of the things it’s helped me with the most is challenging irrational thinking, any fears that I or my clients might have I am able to identify and confront much more easily. It’s also mellowed me out.

Alex Dang 1

Alex pushing through the hike and taking in the view at Owen’s River Gorge, CA. Photo credit: Joseph Walker.

Q – I can’t imagine a non-mellow Alex, what were you like before?

…Way more type A!

Q – Haha, It sounds like you’ve come pretty far in 2 ½ years, what is your favorite part about climbing at PG SF?

The community here, the staff is the glue that holds this place together! They’re awesome, genuine, authentic and inviting.

Q – [Me post blush] Ok, last question, as a relative newbie climber myself I find you and others that are definitely fixtures in this community to be an inspiration. How can I better myself as a climber, any advice?

Just ask… [judging from his example I gather lots of time on the wall and being open and hungry for input from others are two characteristics I am trying to emulate].

And with that ladies and gentleman, I give you Alex Dang!

Stay tuned to hear more about him and fellow PG Members in the near future. 

Sonaz STT climbing



ABOUT THE AUTHOR – Sonaz has been on staff for a little over a year, working to improve her climbing during early morning bouldering sessions.  Aside from bouldering at dawn, she enjoys long walks on the beach, adventures and playing with other people’s pets.