I haven’t always been a climber. As a kid I detasseled corn in the fields of Iowa. I made french fries at McDonald’s for two years during high school (great way to meet the college boys…). I sold t-shirts at NASCAR events. I worked as a bartender in college—and got fired when I ditched work to go down to Padre Island for Spring Break. I was a Delta Delta Delta sorority girl (“If your date won’t, try Delt!”). I did a George Foreman Grill infomercial. I earned my black belt in Tae Kwon Do (and still have the uniform, which is great for role-playing with my husband…). I raced downhill mountain bikes on the NORBA circuit and was ranked 12th in country. I robbed a bank (okay, so it was for a reality TV show and not a real bank, but I’m still counting it).
Those were all great times and interesting “lives”, but none as remarkable as the space I’m in now. The travel, the friends, the adventures, the challenges, the lifestyle, the enlightenment, the successes and the failures that are unique to climbing completely fulfill me. I shudder to think what would’ve happened, what life I would be leading today, if not for the roadtrip I went on when I was 25 that plucked me from the stimulation black hole of America’s heartland and planted me into the richness that is the life of a climber (maybe some combo of previous experiences, like working at McDonalds on Padre Island and training at Rex Kwon Do’s Danger Dojo or selling Delta Delta Delta t-shirts on an informercial with George Foreman?).
Year you first started climbing? 1994
Three climbing achievements you are most proud of? 1) My first lead: I had been climbing two months. My boyfriend at the time (who had gotten me into climbing) was attempting a 5.10 finger crack. He couldn’t do it, but I really wanted to climb this line. I told him to come down and “give me the rack”. It wasn’t pretty, but I got the rope up. 2) Chain Reaction at Smith Rock, Oregon: When I first saw Chain on the cover of the guidebook, I thought, “Whoa, that looks impossible!” To my limited 5.9 brain, anything harder than 5.11 was inconceivable—5.12 might as well have been 5.14. Two years later I tried this renowned line. Despite having now climbed 5.13, an element of absurdity still rested in my psyche concerning this route. Naïve, I accepted my partner’s beta sequence, but kept falling on an easy, but looong, horizontal reach under the roof. I must have fallen on this move 30 times. Ready to give up, I tried one last resort: Lynn Hill. She’s just as short as me so I asked her how she did Chain. She didn’t know (she hadn’t tried it), but offered to give it a go. Never once even glancing at the hold I was trying to reach, she contorted her way up the arête in a manner I had never before witnessed. I did it next try.
3) Cracker Pterodactyl 5000, Jebel Mischt, Oman: With Zoe Hart, Jonathan Thesenga and John Dickey. We simply headed up the 3000-foot limestone wall with two racks, two liters of water per person (Zoe carried mine!), a couple of bars and emergency blankets. A day and a half later we summited, leaving no fixed gear.
Memory/story of the first time you ever went climbing? First of all, I’m from Iowa. So I didn’t have the opportunity to start climbing when I was three years old. I was 25, still living in Iowa, when a boyfriend asked me if I wanted to “go on a roadtrip”. “What’s a roadtrip?” I asked. He explained that it was when you got in your truck and traveled around mountain biking and rock climbing. Thrilled by this idea, I said yes, despite having never been rock climbing before (I did own a mountain bike). Determined to fake it, I voraciously read John Long’s “How To Rock Climb” during the drive from Iowa to Wyoming. By the time we arrived at Vedauwoo, and without actually ever physically doing it, I could tie a figure 8, equalize an anchor and hand jam.
Favorite climbing area and why? Squamish. The variety and quality of climbing is unmatched. Everything from big walls to bouldering to deep water soloing. And those Canadians can really party, eh?
Best climbing experience? That’s tough to say— I’ve been lucky enough to have had so many over the years! But a recent one that comes to mind is that during a trip to Spain I flashed this really cool 35-meter tufa route, which was one of my hardest graded sport climbing flashes. My husband was belaying me, cheering me on the whole way. When I came down he was so happy for me. Much more stoked than I was for myself! It’s nice to be with someone who is so supportive.
Worst climbing experience? Years ago, I threw a wobbler after falling off, I can’t remember… probably some .12b, which included throwing my shoe in the Crooked River… in front of about 50 people.
What's your dream trip? Where? With who? I’ve had so many dream trips with great people that I feel a little selfish even dreaming about yet another one. I honestly would like to go some place where I could volunteer my time to help people in need. I know this sounds cliché, but it’s the truth.
Guilty pleasure? I’m somewhat of a hedonist, so I don’t really feel guilty about any of my indulgences.
BD gear you use every time you go climbing? I have a mantra that I say each and every time I pack my pack, whether it’s going to the gym or to do a big route: “Harness, shoes, chalk bag, belay device.” My favorites are the Aura and Chaos harnesses, ATC Guide (KP gave me a special one in pink), Livewire quickdraws (they’re just too tempting to grab) and of course, every girl loves her a nice set of #1 Camalots.
Something that annoys you while climbing? When people talk to my belayer while I’m climbing or spray me unrequested tall-guy Beta.
What/who inspires you in climbing? People that are psyched to be doing what they are doing. People that try hard, regardless of the grade. Nothing is worse than a pouting and whining frownie face at the crag.
Favorite après-climb meal? Busy Bee Tavern’s garlic burger and PBR tallboy
Favorite climbing flick? Hard Grit? I think that’s the only one I’ve ever seen.
What's in your iPod? Spanish, by Michel Thomas.
Strangest place you've ever woken up? Emergency room.
Strangest person you've ever woken up with? I think he was Swedish…
Three things you'd never roadtrip without? Coffee, earplugs and lip balm.
Superstitions? I always make a wish when I blow an eyelash off my finger.
What's your dream job? Being my brother’s wife’s husband (did that make sense?). She works for the State Department and they live in a different country’s capitol every two years. He doesn’t have to work, so he stays home and learns stuff. Like he taught himself Hebrew and goes to cool museums.
How are you training when you are not climbing? Just like fifth grade PE: push-ups and sit-ups.
If you could steal one thing and not get caught, what would it be? Diamond Medallion Status on Delta.
If you could have dinner with three people (dead or alive) who would they be? Julia Child, Sacagawea and that tattooed female mummy Moche queen they recently uncovered in Peru. She was buried with two war clubs and 23 spears.
Do you have any tattoos or piercings? Yes, my ears are actually pierced five times. When I was in 7th grade I stole a hypodermic needle from my mothers work bag (she’s a nurse) and took it to school. I pierced my own, along with several other girl’s ears in the lunchroom. I got in real big trouble.