Favorite type of climbing (bouldering, sports climbing, trad, etc.):
Ice Climbing, Mixed Rock and Ice, Dry Tooling
When and how did you get into climbing and what kept you interested / fascinated in the sport?
A girlfriend in college brought me to the newly opened climbing gym on campus and it was love at first crimp. I transferred to Colorado State University from a college in Michigan under the pretense of switching majors but it really was a guise so I could be closer to world class climbing.
While I was at CSU, I took an outdoor education class on Ice Climbing. I loved it. I ice climbed sporadically for years, but it wasn't until 2012 when I came to a crossroads in my life, that I decided to make ice climbing a main priority. I was a few years out from graduate school, living in Portland Oregon when almost simultaneously, I broke up with my boyfriend of 5 years and was laid off from my job.
I wasn't interested in staying in the city and felt like I had been sleepwalking through my life. I wanted to do something that made me feel alive. Ice Climbing! I packed my belongings into my 1999 Ford Ranger and moved to Ouray, Colorado. Almost every day that first winter, I went to the ice park and rope soloed in the Pick-o-the-Vic area. Not only did I explore ice in the park and surrounding areas, but I discovered just how much fun dry tooling is as well. Dry tooling and mixed climbing have become my favorite facet of climbing.
Who was your childhood hero and do you consider yourself a role model now? Does it influence you at all that other people look up to you?
Growing up, I didn't know climbing was a sport. I was really into swimming and Summer Sanders was my hero. She swam butterfly and Individual Medley like I did; gold medaling in the 1992 Olympics. I was also really drawn to Picabo Street, first off because her name was so awesome and then because she was such a dominating skier. I loved watching her race on TV. She influenced my own decisions to race downhill in high school and a little in college.
I've had a couple young women come up to me and say they've seen me compete in Ouray and it influenced them to take up climbing. That makes me feel proud. These young women are so fortunate to have climbing gyms and local crags to climb at. The future of the sport rests in their hands.
What were the most important milestones in your life so far, both in climbing and in everyday life? Did you immediately recognize them as such or only later on?
One of the biggest milestones for me was back in 2014 when Kitty Calhoun asked me to go ice climbing with her in Iceland. She is a mountaineering legend and I felt with that invite, I had been asked to join play in the big leagues and that made me feel quite honored. I explained to my mom that it was like Michael Jordan had asked me to go play basketball with him.
What were your greatest failures / setbacks / injuries? How did you cope with them and how did you come back from them?
I'm just coming back after a dreadful 2 years of what seemed like never-ending injuries. Over training lead to tendonitis in both shoulders and elbows which severely limited my climbing. As a result of the crippling tendonitis in my upper body, I started running more and subsequently tore my left hip labrum. I couldn't climb, run, walk or sit without being in pain. In Feb 2019, I had surgery to repair my hip and the recovery was the most intense I've ever experienced. I laid flat on my back, barely moving, for an entire month after surgery. Slowly, my hip healed, and I worked with a Physical Therapist to gain strength in my hip and overcome my tendonitis. It's been a long and arduous process to learn how to push my body to achieve performance without injury. So much of what I do these days while training is injury prevention.
What is your favorite climbing related story / experience?
One time, my friend Mary Harlan and I were climbing in the Black Canyon of the Gunnison and we were unexpectedly benighted. As darkness fell, we made our way down to the river for water. Deep in a narrow side canyon chock full of dense trees, we startled a large animal and screamed ourselves silly sure that we were about to be eaten. We sang loud songs, clapped our hands and pleaded with the sharp toothed, flesh-eating animals to stay away from us. Mary split some cheddar cheese with me that was melted and mushy after being next to her warm body for the last 10 hours. We spooned together in the tall grass next to the river's edge and I promptly fell asleep. She spent the entire night awake and shivering while I soundly snoozed next to her. Around 5:00 am the next day she nudged me awake, annoyed that I had managed to sleep. We did the walk of shame and got back to the top of the canyon a little before noon. We sat just below the canyon rim and soaked in the sun, not wanting to return to real life and answer all the phone calls of, "Where are you!?"