Life is Beautiful
The last few weeks I was climbing in Wyoming with friends in Wyoming. Life was very mellow – the days that we climbed (generally a cycle of two days on, and one day off) we hiked out to the massive new cave that Kevin and Alli have been developing, climbed – with some success and some failures—and then we went back home, made food, and watched TV, or played Video Games. During our rest days, we went swimming, out to the Saloon, and played more Video Games.
The Easy Life. The Good life. The Beautiful Life.
I need space to just be with friends and to relax. Though, it has been an active relaxation. Wyoming has been my training to prepare for a greater goal of mine that I am now preparing for in the coming week. While in Wyoming I focused solely on climbing and elevating my fitness on rock – by challenging myself on hard lines and having fitness days at the crag. I accomplished some new First Ascents, felt the Flow for climbing, and laughed a lot. Wyoming was perfect.
In a few days I am traveling to Switzerland to start work on a new project – a big wall project called Zahir Plus. I am excited, intimidated, and anxious about the climb. The route is one of the hardest routes in the world and I am curious to see how it feels and if it is possible this month. There are multiple difficult pitches stacked on top of each other, long run outs, and there is also a two hour trek in to the base.
I will be climbing with Edu Marin. He was my partner on my project last year in The Dolomites – Bellavista – and we are motivated to embark on another challenging journey!
Over the past weeks, I have been reflecting a lot on memories with my Dad who passed away just a month ago. Writing has always been an outlet for me to express my thoughts and to find my quiet space even amidst crowded spaces. Below is something that I have written about him.
“Every time someone dies it leaves space inside you. That space signifies the effect that person had on your life and the amount of love between you.
The larger this space, the greater the love.”
My dad taught me to dream. He was a dreamer.
He dreamt dreams bigger than him and he aspired ruthlessly towards achieving them. He taught me to follow my heart, and to live for my passions.
He had a heart of gold, and I am so thankful for having been brought up with his love. I know that my dad wants my family to love each other and to stay strong. Through this we can come together and fill the void of his physical space with our closeness. While he may not be here now, he is still watching over me with love.
Whenever I drove home from training and pulled the car in to park in the space behind our house, I would look up. Peering out of our kitchen window was my dad watching me. I would get so frustrated! In my mind, he was watching me to make sure I wasn’t going to scratch the car as I parked. While that may be true, I also like to look back and believe that like all other times, he was just watching me. Wherever I was in the world, he would be watching.
When he could make it to my competitions, he would, and he would proudly stand there with my mom, putting his thumbs up. If he couldn’t be there, he would be up watching me from home, whatever the time zone difference. Generally I was adamant to show my dad that I could do it all on my own. But, whenever I gave him an opportunity to do something for me, he went above and beyond the task to show that he was there.
Last June I was leaving to Spain from New York. I went straight from an event in New York to the airport, and I needed to be in Spain for an event the next day. I was going to be gone for the rest of the summer. While I was in the taxi to the airport, I realized that I didn’t have my passport. I called my Dad, who was at his marina in Baltimore, and I told him that I had an emergency. My passport was on my desk in Virginia. He was in the middle of work, and he told me that he would get in the car and drive to the house right away to get it.
An hour later, after he drove in the opposite direction of New York, from Baltimore to our house, he had retrieved my passport, and was calling to tell me that he was on his way to New York. I told the lady at the airport check in that my dad was on his way from Virginia. I got the last flight out that night and I waited anxiously for him. He had just over four hours to make it there for me to make my flight. The airport staff and I were cheering as he ran in to the airport, minutes before my flight departure, with the passport in his hand. He handed it off to me, and told me what he always said:
Do your best!
We high fived, and he pulled me in for a quick hug, and then I made out on a sprint to the plane.
While his physical presence may not have been with me around the world, he was always there. He may have a different angle now, but I know that he is still watching my family and me. This space that I feel is what I mourn.
But the space is a gift from his departure. He has left space for something new, a space for something beautiful. My dad would like me to fill this space with passionate dreams, and with the fearless ability to go after those dreams.
Thank you Dad, for teaching me to live my dreams. You will always be with me in my pursuit of them.
Finding the Flow
I wrote this just before my mom called me about my Dad having a stroke, and it is motivating me through these hard moments. I hope it can motivate you to find your flow in whatever you are passionate about, too.
How I find my "Flow"
For me, it is the moment that everything clicks. All of my senses feel completely aware of and in tune to what I am doing. I grab the rock and my fingers fall perfectly into place around the best parts of the hold. My body twists naturally into the moves. When I place my feet, I know that they are going to stay. I don’t doubt my rhythm – the pace feels regulated. I can breathe easily. The abrasive bite of the rock helps me; the pain in my hands feels like a connection between the wall and me. Gravity is weakened. Falling is out of my mind. I am only thinking about the next moves in front of me. I am concentrated on controlling my breathing.
When I find my flow, I feel limitless.
That said, I found my flow yesterday and I completed another first female ascent that I am proud of! I went to Wolf Point again with Blake, Erynn, Matt, Kyle, Vance, and Travis. I had the intention of sending “Remis.” Remis is a beautiful, clean line up the steep limestone cave. The line cuts left at the cliff bulge, where the crux of the route is. There are some powerful moves at the beginning, but the main difficult section involves doing a “slam-dunk” move to a good hueco hold off of two smaller pockets and a right hand small intermediate. I sent Remis my first try of the day, and decided to carry the momentum past the first set of chains to check out the moves on “Remed Out,” the extension that is 120 feet long and 200 times more exposed. All of the moves came to me with ease, but I knew that I would be much more tired piecing them together in a solid burn. After the initial set of anchors, there is a bouldery crux, followed by exposed, technical climbing up a vertical face, then cutting left to an arête. I came down from the top, thankful to have used an 80 meter rope because when I arrived back at the ground, the rope was about to go through my belayer’s end. After taking a break and hanging out with the crew on the ground of the cave, I went up again thinking that I would do a beta burn – to find the most efficient methods through some of the harder moves. I climbed through Remis and still felt fresh, so I figured I should keep climbing through the entry moves of the extension without stopping. Climbing through the bouldery crux just after the first set of anchors felt oddly easier. My hands were falling perfectly into place in the pockets, and I was gaining confidence in the fact that I had complete control of my breath.
I find that often when I have sent harder climbs I leave the ground with little expectations. The times that I am not thinking about the top, but rather I am thinking about executing isolated sequences smoothly are the times that I then find myself at the anchors. Stressing out about trying to send a project feels inevitable, but when I can find that balance between trying hard, and also letting myself go; trusting myself, and not being afraid to fall because this thought doesn’t even cross my mind is when I do best climbing.
I am ready for a harder project, now =]
Wind and Rattle
Today marks the end of the first week of my trip in Wyoming.
Upon arriving, I met Mandy Pohja and Brian Fabel in Jackson Hole and we drove to their house in Lander. Mandy and Brian are the most welcoming, down to earth, friendly people I have ever met. They had a BBQ at their house the first night and I met a handful of local Lander climbers.
The next days, I went to Wolf Point with a group of them, including Kyle Elmquist, BJ Tilden, Kyle Vasso, Tom Rangitsch, and Inge Perkins. Also a part of the crew are Blake and Erynn Cash from Tennessee! Although I had never met anyone from the Wyoming climbing community prior to this trip, I feel so at home here. The energy is really positive and encouraging, and the psyche is high. Not to mention, the bar is high; everyone is pushing hard climbing and working out the new lines.
The place that we have been climbing is called Wolf Point. This area is very new, and the rock is Dolomite Limestone. The cave is actually a little daunting – it is tall and steep, without many obvious holds. To get to the cliff, you need a high clearance truck with four-wheel drive. After an hour of driving, there is an hour trek in. First, 1500 feet down the valley, then after crossing the rapid river, there is a 1000 foot vertical trek.
I find the climbing very physical. Long, powerful moves are typically my weakness, and I get to climb a lot of them here. While the climbing is hard, I know that this is good for my improvement and I can feel my shape improving.
Because the rock is so fresh, too, the skin is certainly a fighting factor.
So far, I have had some success, and some failure. I have also had a lot of fun, made some amazingly genuine new friends, and experienced the wildest outback.
Animal sightings thus far: Bison, a Grizzly Bear, Antelope, lamas, and … NO rattle snakes. Yet. But, they do say Wind and Rattle Snakes. So… every day that we don’t see one, I feel like our odds are more and more against us.
We are at a junction with pure projecting and new media culture circling around climbing...
Climbing is growing exponentially. Similar to more people starting climbing, there is also more attention being driven to climbing. In general, I think that this is great. More publicity for the sport doesn’t just mean more people to share the passion of climbing with, but it also means more funds are available to enable accessibility, gear, training, equipment improvements, rapid progression, and also the possibility of professional climbers making enough of an income to be true professional athletes.
With the progression of climbing and with more people getting involved with climbing, First Ascents and First Female Ascents become more rare at popular areas. So, how do we manage who has access to these routes? Sure, new development is crucial, yet when there is a standing project bolted and the person that has equipped this route opens it up to the climbing community to try, and then everyone should have equal opportunity to try it, right?
This is a controversy that may be occurring more often than before.
Production companies need to film climbers in order to produce climbing videos. Furthermore, story lines are important for the success of the videos.
When professional climbers decide on a project to film, this, at least for me, is a unique experience of finding what is aesthetically inspiring, physically challenging, and has that extraordinary special factor to it in my eyes. This extraordinary factor includes the line being undone before, or for women, undone by other females. First ascents and First Female ascents are proud because essentially they open the flood gates to everyone else – they prove that a stream of movements all link together and that the climbing is possible.
Someone asked me a good question about the climbing and filming process during my Reddit AMA
I have been contemplating this topic more heavily recently, and a current controversy sparked my interest to convey my thoughts.
I have told several media outlets and friends about my plans to try Iker Pou’s route, Orbayu in Northern Spain with Edu Marin, my climbing partner from Bellavista. Iker Pou established the route a few years ago, and since, the route has seen few ascents, and no women. We had arranged media and aligned our sponsors with the project proposal, yet this morning I received a message from a friend of mine from Switzerland, Nina Caprez, informing me that this has been her dream project and that her and her boyfriend, Cedric Lachat, have plans to rig the route with static lines and equipment for the film crew in June, and then they will be on the wall and try to complete it by August.
I have tremendous respect for both Nina and Cedric as professional climbers. Due to this respect for them, I have decided that I am not going to intertwine myself with doing this route this summer because their film agenda already seems prebaked; but, perhaps if you’re making a film about a piece, then have designated times to be filming and not be filming and climbing at the same time. Multipitch projects are difficult because people cannot exactly climb the route at the same time, but there could be windows of opportunity as a solution, perhaps. Then, maybe projects like this are real duels… who does the ascent first does the first (female) ascent.
No one should have the right to claim the first ascent if it’s an open project; but at what point has a claim been developed enough to a point that as one professional climber to another, you respect that person’s film project and go elsewhere to try a different route?
That said, I have the utmost respect for the initial bolter. I believe that if he or she would like to take ownership or flag the line that he or she bolts and cleans for a designated amount of time, this is completely valid. Though, when the lines get blurred is when someone else has bolted the route and left it open to anyone to try.
A prime example of me having the privilege to climb an Open Project was in South Africa. There were two routes that I did that were Open Projects. One of which, the film that I produced with 3StringsMedia, RedBull, and Adidas was on a climb that was bolted by Andrew Pedley and left standing open to anyone to try. I felt so lucky to have come across this precious gem, and to have had the opportunity to go for the first ascent. Sure, other people were working on the climb and trying to do the first ascent as well. Though, it was not clearly in my domain to say – Hey, don’t try the route –my film crew and sponsors have already invested in this project. Maybe were I to have freshly bolted the line and wanted to have the first opportunity to try it after cleaning it and finding it, then I would think that I deserve a designated window to work on doing it first. But, if I were not to be able to in that window, in my opinion I would open the route then to share it with the community and to cheer for the people who may be able to climb stronger than me on it.
Really, it is hard to rule out media from climbing. In my opinion, ruling it out is not a good idea at all – climbs should be documented, and also I love to watch climbing at its cutting edge. Though, there needs to be a more inclusive way to deal with multiple people trying the same project - even if it comes down to failure within videos. Trying a new project may be time consuming and take years. One of my inspirations, Chris Sharma, admitted this himself with several of his achievements. What was really unique to me about the Reel Rock Tour 7 was that both Adam and Chris were vying for the first ascent together. This was a great way to capture this notion of projecting and to shine light on both athletes performing at their best for themselves in order to complete the climb.
Going to Reno, I had a small scale Vegas in mind. When I thought of Reno, I thought casinos, smoke, neon lights, and legal prostitution. When I was in Reno, I didn’t experience even a hint of any of this. I know, I didn’t go to any sort of Emperor’s Club… I am sorry if you’re surprised!
What I did experience was climbing a multi pitch up the side of a building, an enthusiastic community of climbers, white water kayaking, and rock climbing. The initiative of the trip was to do an appearance at the Base Camp Climbing Gym’s reopening with Kevin Jorgeson. I climbed the outdoor multipitch wall, participated in the “Pro’s vs Joe’s” Competition, in which my team won – Go Senderellas! – And gave a slide show Saturday night. Sunday, Kevin and I taught a clinic at the gym and did a little bit of climbing ourselves, and then we went kayaking in downtown Reno!
Running straight through Reno is the Truckee river, which then dumps into a white water park in the center of the downtown area. We started 2-3 miles north and kayaked down the river. Jason Craig, one of the World’s best freestyle kayakers took Kevin and me down the river and gave us a clinic on white water kayaking. It was truly inspirational to see him in his element, showing us some of his tricks like front flips and backflips in the kayak. Being a complete beginner at a new sport was also a rewarding experience. The water is like the antithesis of me – I get internally petrified when I am stuck under water more than a few seconds, and I am concerned with creatures I can’t see lurking in the waters. But, I was having so much fun that these fears didn’t really faze me. It helps to have such an expert along, no doubt!
To top the day off, we visited Jason’s farm, had a BBQ outside, and sat outside under the lit up night sky.
The next day Brian Sweeney took us to Donner’s Summit to climb at the Star Wall. I felt so rejuvenated to be back on real rock. With school and weekend events it is really difficult to get to go climbing outside often, so now it feels like a real treat. It had been since my Spring Break in March when I was last climbing outside. I am so thankful that it is SUMMER! We did some sending on the Star Wall, then drove back the short 40 minutes distance to Reno and got back in the water with Jason!
Unfortunately, the trip came to a close the next day and it was back to the airport. Though, I fell in love with the scene in Reno and I have full confidence that this town has a promising outdoors future. I will definitely be returning shortly, and I envision great potential events for the venue that BaseCamp and the Whitney Hotel have.
Live with Al Roker and Steph Abrams!
A Weekend Trip to Seoul
An nyung haseyo? I am now leaving Seoul, Korea, after a wonderful weekend. This was a very short trip – I flew in on Saturday and flew out on Monday. Though, I had a great time for the little time I had!
The purpose of my trip to Korea was for the Adidas Rockstars Event in Korea. I had a packed media tour during the event where I did interviews and met with the Adidas crew in Korea. Also along on the trip was Alex Nehls from Global. I love meeting with everyone from the company and having the chance to work together from an athlete-business perspective.
Each time I have been to Asia I have been so impressed by the kind hospitality and warm welcomes. Everyone in Seoul was so genuine and I truly appreciated getting to experience a new country and culture. While the trip was short, we got to see some of the city attractions, including having lunch at the top of N-Tower, I put a lock in the love chains, and we had traditional Korean food, including Korean BBQ which was delicious.
Now I am headed to NYC for a 2-day media tour with my agent and publicist. Then, I am going to Montreal for my brother’s graduation from McGill University, and then to Reno, NV for a gym opening!
Stay tuned for more later =] I am currently reading Agassi’s book, Open. Now that school is done for the summer, I get to do some pleasure reading!
I Believe in the Power of Summer
This week I finished my final exams at Columbia University, packed up all of my stuff from where I lived uptown, moved it to my new apartment downtown, and then I drove down from NYC to Richmond, VA for the annual Dominion Riverrock Festival. I was really excited to be back and climbing. I injured my knee and took time off to heal, so this was my first opportunity back and in the competition arena.
Supposedly one of, if not the, largest outdoor sports and music festivals in the nation, Dominion Riverrock is always packed with palpable energy, positive vibes, and awesome people. I love it! For the past three years, there has been an innovative “Boulder Bash” competition, in which climbers from around the country come to compete on an unordinary wall: two 25 foot roofs held together by scaffolding and pieced with separate hanging volume structures, which are decorated by climbing holds.
I went to the first Dominion Riverrock Boulder Bash, in 2011, and have come every consecutive year since. The past three years I also had the fortunate experience of winning the competition.
The best part is that when you get to the top of the wall, there is a platform to stand on and to look out at the amazing crowd.
This year I didn’t have the performance that I wanted to have in the final round, which landed me out of the winner’s circle. The route was challenging: it was very powerful and gymnastic on sloped SoIll holds, reffered to (as they appear) as the “dead baby heads.” Meagan Martin, one of my best friends who currently lives in Boulder, CO, proved total mastery of these heads. She was the only competitor in finals to top the route, and I want to extend a big congrats to her on her finals performance. She earned the W!
While I was not very happy with my climbing at Dominion, I still had a lot of fun seeing all of my friends, getting to meet a lot of wonderful people, and being outside in the warm summer sun.
With Exams freshly finished and a healthy, recovered body, I am so motivated for this summer! While being in NYC, I love the city, but I really miss having the opportunity to go outside as often as I’d like to go, given schoolwork. My schedule can get pretty packed between school work, training, events, media, and speaking engagements that time falls into this vault. There is rarely a point during my school year during which I feel like I have complete free time. There is always something that I could be doing that is more productive…
But this is probably not something that fades. During the summer time, though, it feels like most of my stress does evaporate, though, when I get back into a routine of living my life outside. Therefore, I have structured my schedule this summer to focus around climbing trips in a fewer places this year than last, but all in areas that I have either been longing to go to, or love to frequent. I will be doing scattered competitions and appearances, climbing outside, and following whatever adventure seems most appealing!
So, stay tuned for my summer adventures =]
First stop: Korea!!!
I am headed to Seoul for the Adidas Rockstars Event. Yahoooooo!
April 20, 2014 First Post!
Happy Easter! Welcome to my first blog post on my new website! I'm currently working on bringing my old blog back from the cyberspace graveyard, but for now, please enjoy these posts about my adventures!