After 13 hours and 13 minutes of nonstop vertical climbing, a year of grueling training and one failed attempt, KW MAPS Coach - Abraham Shreve - heaved himself over the top of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park this past summer.
Exhausted, yet exhilarated, Shreve collapsed onto a warm granite slab at 7,659 feet tocatch his breath and surveyed the thousands of massive California black oaks dotting the valley below. From atop El Cap, one of the world’s most famous technical rock climbs, the trees looked like miniature green cotton balls.
“It was incredible, a dream come true,” says Shreve, 45, who grew up in Ogden, Utah, surrounded by mountains. He always envisioned himself scaling the Nose of El Cap; it was on his bucket list.
Four months after Shreve’s first successful ascent, he did it again. “I love sitting in a place where the only way to get there is the way we did,” he says. “Climbing is a sport that requires every muscle you’ve got, technique, and mental stamina.”
Shreve credits his feat to steadfast preparation and training with the help of a team of carefully chosen experts, dedication to his goal and a mindset for success. They’re tools he’s used for years in business, first growing a booming real estate practice, and then, for the last four years as a KW MAPS Coach, helping agents grow their businesses. The MAPS coaching program, led by Dianna Kokoszka, has won numerous awards for helping professionals transform their lives.
“Part of the reason I wanted to push this big goal was that I wanted to make sure I’m living the life I’m coaching,” Shreve says. “I challenge people to set a goal that sits just on the other side of what they think they’re capable of. The goal should make them nervous.”
The First Attempt
It was 2014 when Shreve first attempted to scale El Cap. Half of all climbers who attempt it are unsuccessful the first try. Most climbers make it to the top of the rock formation after three to five days of climbing. Shreve and his climbing partner planned for five. The weather that day in October was unseasonably hot and the system they rigged to haul up food and gear wasn’t working well.
“We got up 1,000 feet and tapped out,” Shreve says. Hanging from El Cap’s sheer granite face, he called his wife, Terresa, on his phone. She encouraged him to keep going. “It had been my dream for so long,” Shreve says. But he knew by the middle of day three, he and his climbing partner would run out of water. “I said to my wife, ‘Honey, we’re going to make the smart choice and come down.’"
Shreve was disappointed. Work and family then took over, but El Cap was always in the back of his mind. A year later, he was itching for a challenge. “If I don’t have something making me anxious, I stop progressing,” Shreve says.
He called a fellow climber friend to see if he’d be game to join him for another attempt at El Cap. “He said he’d do it with me if we did it in one day,” says Shreve. “You have to be climbing at an elite level to do that. It made me physically nauseous, but I committed right away.”
The Training Begins
That same day, Shreve got to work. One of the great secrets to successful people, he says, is they realize they can’t succeed on their own. Shreve himself was coached by KW MAPS Mastery Coach Tony DiCello, who brought him into the world of coaching.
With the climb, Shreve knew he needed help, a mentor and a solid plan to accomplish his goal, so he started to assemble a team of experts. “I asked myself, who’s the best person to mentor me on this climb?”
American climber Hans Florine, 53, has ascended El Cap 110 times. He held the speed record for climbing the Nose for more than 10 years. He climbed it in two hours and 23 minutes. For Shreve, he was a hero, a celebrity. In college, Florine’s poster hung from Shreve’s wall. In 2016, Florine had just released a memoir. Correspondingly, Shreve logged onto Facebook and sent him a message.
“One of my guiding philosophies in life is, ‘If you don’t ask, you don’t know,’” says Shreve. “I wrote to Hans, ‘I’m a 44-year-old father of four that cannot give up my obsession with the Nose, and [I] am wondering if you’ll have a call with me.’”
Florine wrote back, and he agreed to talk. Soon after, the two had an hour and a half-long call. After that, Florine came on board as Shreve’s coach, joining a strength and conditioning expert – who trains Mixed Martial Arts fighters – and a nutritionist. “You have to insert the right people,” Shreve says, “People that won’t let you take yourself off the hook or self-sabotage.”
Florine immediately sent Shreve a spreadsheet with a specific training schedule. They had regular Skype calls during which Florine taught Shreve new techniques. Shreve built time into his busy schedule to do 1,000- foot solo practice climbs in Zion National Park, and he created scorecards for his workouts, rating his progress. “We started this very systematic training,” Shreve says. “I reported to him.”
Creating the Right Space for Success
His three-hour workouts were going well, but Shreve soon realized he was succumbing to one of Gary Keller’s four thieves of productivity: his environment wasn’t supporting his goals. He knew he had to work out during the day. He wouldn’t sacrifice the time he spent after work with his wife of 21 years and four children. In the afternoons, he was committed to coaching his daughter’s soccer team.
So, Shreve set out to create a training space in his office. He built a five-station custom climbing simulator that helped him build muscle, hone his technique and build endurance. This is where he worked out in the early morning before his work as a coach began. “If I had not done that, I wouldn’t have been successful,” he says. Training wasn’t easy. At times it was repititous and boring but understanding that consistency brings results over time, he pushed on. He even persevered after injuring his elbow and knee. “I had some terrible days, but I never missed one training day,” he says.
Shreve Defends His Training Time
In business and in training, Shreve believes a morning routine is crucial. In his coaching, he recommends agents commit to leadgenerating first thing, even if other “emergencies” try to pull you away. “Lots of things feel urgent,” Shreve says. “The secret in business is to be able to keep things in their lane.”
Not a day passed without some task or event popping up that threatened Shreve’s training time. But he refused to let them interfere. “My plan for training was so clear,” he says. “It was easier for me to say ‘I can’t do that.’ Your clarity of plan will do much of the heavy lifting for you.” Knowing when to say “no” is also a valuable skill, he says.
To the Top
In June, Shreve climbed El Capitan with Florine. In October, he and his friend returned, hoping to reach the summit in 24 hours.
When Shreve took over to lead the ascent for the second half of the route, it was dark outside, but his training and fitness kicked in. After 33 hours of straight climbing, he reached the top of El Cap for a second time.
El Capitan may have been on Shreve’s bucket list, but he believes anything “cool enough” to do once, you should probably do again. Now, he’s gearing up for a third ascent of the cliff next year. This time, his goal is to reach the top in under 12 hours. To succeed, “We all need a very clear objective,” Shreve says.
This story originally published in OutFront Magazine Issue 15.1.
Words: Deborah Blumberg | Photography: Phillip Hanakaimai