When New Hampshire climbers Lee Hansche and Jay Knower started the First Ascent Podcast last July, they thought it would be a “fun outlet for the humor” the two have been sharing since meeting in the Concord, NH Eastern Mountain Sports in 2002. In the podcast’s kickoff episode, called “Two Aging Climbers Spray About Climbing,” it’s clear that they were right. “Our thing is that we just keep talking,” said Jay. “We just talk, and when the timer gets to 45 minutes, we awkwardly end [the podcast].”

We sat down with Lee and Jay to learn more about the duo’s podcast, climbing in New Hampshire, and more.

Jay (left) and Lee (right).

goEast: What do you find special about climbing in New England?

Lee: For one, it’s the ever-changing conditions. I think that’s something very special about New England. Whether that’s special-good or special-challenging, I think that depends on the season. But that’s something that shapes some of the characters we get back east.

Jay: Oh, totally. I also think that if you live out East as a climber, it can be really great, but if you travel East as a climber, it’s hit and miss. I’ve told friends, “you’ve gotta come climbing out East!” but when they do, it rains for their entire trip. I think you can access New England climbing a lot better if you live in New England. There’s sort of a barrier to entry.

goEast: How did the two of you meet?

Jay: We met at EMS, actually. In Concord. Store 501! It would have been 2002. I had just moved to New Hampshire from Wisconsin and landed a job at that location, and Lee was already working there. Lee was kind of a big deal back then.

Lee: Not anymore. [Laughs]

Jay: Lee was like the climber of the store. I was like, “oh, that’s the climber guy, gotta talk to him because I’m a climber too!”

Lee: I was there for a year and a half while Jay was there, and then I took a job at a nearby climbing gym—and I’ve been there since.

goEast: So, you started climbing together after meeting?

Lee and Jay: No. [Laughs]

Lee: The funny thing was, we mostly just talked about climbing together, but never climbed together.

Jay: Well, there was the Mountain Project thing that brought us together. Mountain Project was big in Wisconsin, but when I moved to New Hampshire, I realized that no one was using it in New England. I introduced it to Lee, and we both became New Hampshire admins. So we collaborated on route listings and the technical aspects of climbing.

Lee: That was in 2007, and that was when we realized we had different perspectives on a lot of little things. I’d be like “that route is great,” and Jay would say, “that route is garbage,” and we’d get into the same kind of banter that we do now. Through Mountain Project, we got to know each other’s personalities.

Credit: Brent Doscher

goEast: Who’s idea was it to start the podcast?

Jay: My sister and I host a podcast together, called Brand New Information. And I was like, “well this is pretty easy to do.” So I turned to Jay and said, “we should start a podcast!”

Lee: It’s easy on our end, because we do what we do anyways, which is spray about climbing, and then our editor takes care of posting it to Spotify and Apple Podcast.

goEast: What’s your overall goal for the podcast?

Lee: I don’t think we ever discussed a goal.

Jay: You’ve totally stumped us with this question. We don’t know!

Lee: A huge part of it is to entertain. We enjoy entertaining and informing– but never instructing. I think it’s fun to inform people about things, and honestly think it’s a fun outlet for our humor.

Jay: I like developing new routes and new climbing, but what’s really cool is to help establish a culture and community around climbing. I’d really like the podcast to be an extension of that, where it has a culture, a community, and is a positive force in the climbing realm.

goEast: How do you find guests for First Ascent?

Jay: We’ve asked so many people. We’ll be just talking to people, and ask them if they want to be on. Often, they’ll say something like, “ahh, I don’t think I have much to say,” but then will launch into this incredible story about something climbing-related.

Lee: The other thing we go for is less about interviewing and more about hanging out. I’d rather talk to some big shot climber about some innocuous topic than about how they train. I’d rather get to know them than the feats everyone already knows about. But sometimes performance will come up. We had some strong ice climbers on, and we covered some of the stuff they’d been up to, but we also kind of hung out and shot the shit.

Jay: And that’s the template for the podcast. We wanted to replicate crag banter—the stuff that people talk about at the cliffs. We wanted to put that on a podcast.