Photos Francois Lebeau/Caroline Treadway
On his day, Phil Schaal was one of the best boulderers in the world, repeating numerous hard test pieces and leaving a legacy of classic first ascents. Tragically, in October last year, he died following an extreme allergic reaction to a synthetic drug.
Despite a Five Ten sponsorship and repeats of legendary problems such as the fifth ascent of Daniel Wood's Jade V14 and Ty Landman's Midnight Express V14, Schaal largely shied away from the media limelight. An underground machine, he quietly travelled the world expanding his ticklist of hard problems.
The first time we crossed paths was in Joe’s Valley ten years ago. I remember precisely; he was camping in a sweet beige mini Toyota Tacoma, mostly traveling by himself. He showed up at the Nerve Extension and Smoking Joe area. We were at that time climbing around V6/V7 and his mission was to try to flash some V9 and V10. We were just impressed. We spent a week or so with him, spotting each other and sharing the flames at night. We were enjoying his presence, his humility and openness.
Quiet and humble, he was doing his own thing. From what I know, he wasn’t waiting for anybody to do what he wanted to. His contagious laugh lit up the days we were with him. Super generous and non-judgmental, he helped everybody of any levels. Under the radar, he was a silent ninja crusher.
My path crossed his again when I moved to NYC. A few months after my arrival in the city, I was surprise to see him walking in Brooklyn Boulders and being Phil Schaal. He hadn't changed. Smiling, with his sophisticated dirtbag/city boy look, he was always ready for a little joke. It didn’t take that much time for him to integrate into the community and have his personality recognized by all.
A great man, Phil Schaal.
Photographer wandering the globe creating photo-reportage, portraiture and adventure photography