First time, love at first sight! Africa is exotic, welcoming, and free. I feel so fortunate to be able to travel here and I am so appreciative to everyone making my trip so great!
On July 2 I traveled to Johannesburg with 3StringsProductions – Keith Ladzinski and Andy Mann and Arjan de Kock of South Africa. Our agenda was to climb at Waterfall Bovcn – South Africa’s gem for sport climbing. This climbing location is easily world class. Located outside of JoBurg, the landscape is filled with rolling hills, trickling mountain streams, and immense cliff faces. The rock is a red and black streaked bullet-sandstone. The climbing is technical, physical, and proud. It includes cracks, daunting vertical faces, and thin edges.
I spent my first day at Waterfall Bovcn accustoming myself to the style of rock climbing there. I onsighted and flashed a couple routes including “The Beast,” an 8a+ (5.13c), and “Monster,” a 7c+ (5.13a), and “Jack of All Trades,” 8a (5.13b). Not wasting time, the next day I was quick to find a hard project to settle in to. While climbing at the “God No” sector of Waterfall Boven I came across this proud and intimidating blank face that was striking. There was no chalk but the rock jutted out from the Cliffside, asking to be climbed. I was climbing with Arjan de Kock and we looked for the route in the guidebook, contacted some locals, and found out that indeed, it was a pure line that had not seen any ascent. Originally bolted by Andrew Pedley in 2008, it stood as the “Overlord Project.”
With this aesthetic line in front of me, it would be a shame not to try it. So, I got the draws together, lapis brushes and chalk out, and ventured up the unknown line. Working on a project is always like putting a jigsaw puzzle together – figuring out how pieces fit in order to form a unified whole. I had never been through the process of trying the unknown, though. This process of finding out if something truly was possible was new and exciting. As Arjan and I chalked up the holds, worked out movements, figured out sequences, the route began to take form. I started to believe that it was possible. The abandoned blank face now had fresh prints!
I felt totally enthralled by this new project and exciting adventure. July 5 I went in to Johannesburg to give a slide show presentation to the South African Climbing Community, but then I unfortunately had to opt out of the planned climbing exhibition the next day at “Choss Pile” because of my enthusiasm to return to Waterfall Boven to try my project and because of the time constraint that my film crew had with getting footage of the climbing. For anyone that was expecting me at “Choss Pile,” I am so sorry I couldn’t make it!
The next two days I spent at Waterfall Boven were exciting! The moves began to flow and I unlocked the sequences. My third day on the route, my 6th try (like with Pure Imagination!) I sent the route!
Ecstatic joy! I surge of motivation and joy ran through me at the top. I was so happy because this was a route that at the beginning, I did not even know if it was possible. The climb included long vertical run-outs, some gnarly falls, some bigger reaches, and some crack climbing. In the span of a week, I found the key to unlock this new beautiful line.
I chose to name the climb “Rolihlahla,” which is Nelson Mandela’s middle name. I chose this name as a tribute to Nelson Mandela. Mandela is one of the greatest men in history and it is moving to be here during such a critical period of South Africa. With Mandela’s ailing status, the world is on high alert for his dwindling wellbeing. Driving through the country, we can feel the community’s deep-hearted passion and love for him.
As for the difficulty, I chose to grade the route “8c.” I think that this is an appropriate grade in comparison to other 8c’s that I have done. Arjan de Kock, who I worked the route with from the start, nabbed the second ascent and confirmed this grade as well to me. Grades are obviously subjective, though, and ultimately what matters most is the unique exquisiteness of this line.
I am proud of this accomplishment
I also did the first female ascent of “Godzilla,” an 8b, and became the first person in history to onsight “The Bovenator.” The climbing continues… and my psyche GROWS!
Stay tuned for more about our trip! Also, 3StringsProductions will be producing a film for RedBull and Adidas so I cannot wait to share my trip in full detail through this video!
HOLA de Espana!
Back again in Spain, I can honestly admit that I cannot get enough of this country. I love the culture, the landscape, the way of life, and last but certainly not least, THE ROCK!
The main difference between climbing in Europe and climbing in the US is the concentration of difficult climbs in each area. The US has some amazing places to climb, but the amazing thing about Spain, in particular the Cataluna Region of Spain, is that there are so many world-class challenging routes in a wide variety of areas all within less than a 2-hour driving radius from each other.
Today I have arrived to lovely RAIN in Rodellar for a week of climbing.
Before coming to Rodellar, I was first in Zaragoza, Spain for an event with EntrePrises at Dock39 – an incredible outdoor adventure center, then in Riglos with Adidas. In Riglos, I went kayaking and mutli-pitch climbing, along with hanging out with fellow Team Adidas Athletes and Employees. Following Riglos, I traveled with fellow Team Adidas Climbers and Spanish “Strong Men!” Dani Moreno and Alberto “Beto” Rocasolano to Margalef for two days where I did a few onsight routes, then I went to Huesca with Dani to train and to climb outside at two nearby climbing areas the following week.
Then, for the weekend I went to Gijon, Spain for the Spanish Championship. This was the 4th competition in a row for me that went very well… I won Yay!
The routes were really well set and I enjoyed the energetic crowd! The wall was outdoors in the City Center Plaza so there were a lot of people in the audience as well! There were two rounds of competition on Saturday – first the Semifinals and then the Finals in the evening. Semifinals were flash format in which I was tied for first after finishing the route along with three other women. Then, the Finals round was an onsight round in which we had a preview for six minutes, then eight minutes to climb the route.
Ramon Julian Publique (Spanish and World Champion) and I were the only ones to reach the top of our respective routes (male and female) and therefore, I won for the women, and Ramon (always IMPRESSIVE!) won for the men!
Now I have just arrived to Rodellar where I will climb outside for my final week. Unfortunately, the forecast is quite grim. Today it has been raining all day. Tomorrow I will climb in the big cave at Las Ventanas, so hopefully everything has stayed dry. Maybe the rain will stop, too!
Fingers Crossed for Buen Tiempo!
Ciao for now!
I have to begin this blog with a little story and give a shout out to my Dad! I was at my home in DC for a day after Colorado visiting my parents, and then I traveled back up to NYC for a last session training with Alexi Thomakos, and the Up2Us Gala. I had my flight out of NYC. Though, through this stream of events I managed to forget my passport on my desk in DC. I realized this on my way to the ABC Studio (roughly 2pm). Uh Oh. My flight was at 7pm out of New York and my passport was in DC. So, I called my Dad who was at work in Baltimore, MD (about an hour north of home). He immediately dropped what he was doing and drove home, retrieved my passport, and drove up to New York to meet me at the airport.
Miraculously, he arrived, passport in hand, and I am now in transit to Spain. So, to begin with: THANK YOU, Dad. You are a hero!
And… side note, thanks police for not giving my Dad a speeding ticket during this express delivery journey; D haha!
That said, here’s where I am at now…
Since I finished my final exams in May, the stoplight has been on Green. Meaning: Go!
Sure, during the school year I can travel by weekend and train; however, only on breaks from school can I really climb outside. Fortunately, I have a three-month vacation now before classes start back up at Columbia University, so for me that means it’s time to be OUTSIDE!
My plan for the summer primarily consists of traveling to new and exciting destinations, and revisiting the places I love most. The latter stated, I am beginning my “summer trip” in Spain.
Prior to flying out to Spain, I attended the Up2Us Inaugural Gala. I am an Athlete Ambassador for Up2Us and there is not enough praise for the positive work that the folks at Up2Us are doing for youth across America. Up2Us promotes sports as the solution to obesity, youth violence, and educational challenges.
The Gala was the cherry on top of the wonderful experience I am having working with this organization.
So – now for the raw climbing!
In a nutshell, this is my summer plan:
I am going to Zarragoza for an Adidas and EntrePrises Outdoors Sports Event. Then, I am climbing outside in the Cataluna region until the 26 of June con mis amigos!
Following Spain I will be in Germany visiting the Adidas HQ for a few days, before departing to the new and exciting portion of my journey: South Africa and Namibia!
My good buddies and film crew, Keith Ladzinski and Andy Mann of 3sm, will be traveling along making a new film centered on me climbing, developing, hanging (on rock and with friends ;)), and experiencing the unique culture and nature aspects of South Africa and surrounding locations. More information on our trip coming soon.
After, I fly back to Europe for a few days, and then continue westward to LA for a photoshoot with RedBull and other related events.
Then, from LA I will travel down to South America for the World Games in Cali, Columbia. This is the biggest calendar event on the competition schedule for 2013. I am excited to represent USA, and to chill with my friends from the other countries, and to meet athletes from the other sports competing as well.
For the remaining two weeks of August I will return to Europe. I have outdoor climbing plans in Italy, assuming the weather cooperates for our project! Originally I had planned to go to the Dolomites for part of June and this portion of August; however, the weather has not been the best for the project I had in mind, so the Dolomites are on schedule for August!
Then, end of August I move back to NYC to begin my next set of classes at University.
Travel won’t stop because less than two weeks into September I will be returning to Germany for the Adidas RockStars Event. Though, I will be back and stationed in my FAVORITE CITY IN THE WORLD. Aka, NYC, the BiG APPLE ;D
A la Roca!
Xx S <3
Central Rock hosted the biggest and the best North American sport climbing competition that I have been to in Hadley, MA this past weekend. With the help of incredibly supportive sponsors including two of my own sponsors, Adidas and FiveTen, the event organizers, in particular Shane Messer, hosted an amazing event. Big names and fellow professional climbers including Meagan Martin, Daniel Woods, Jimmy Webb, Nadya Vorotnikov, Rob D’Anastasio, Delaney Miller, Jon Cardwell, Chelsea Rude, Claire Buhrfeind, and many more athletes showed up to compete in THE RING OF FIRE for a fun competition and for a big cash purse!
After a flash-format qualifier round (in which I sent our three routes) the top eight men and the top eight women qualified for the final round. This was an onsight round with one route for women and one route for men. Both of the routes crossed each other, traversing the large steep headwall and formed multiple S-like paths upwards. The headwall was already long and steep, but with our finals climbs, we may as well have been doing some laps with the distance that they covered!
Needless to say, I really enjoyed climbing on the routes set. I was really impressed with the huge crowd turnout, quality of the routes, level of climbing, and the overall execution of the championship event.
Cherry on top was winning and getting to see all of my friends
Thank you so much to everyone for making my weekend so fabulous. And, additionally, THANK YOU to all my amazing fans for the support. I always love meeting you and feeling your positive energy – it boosts me up the wall
So much love,
Japan – Finals – Move Out – Dominion Riverrock – Ahhhh, HOME.
All in 7 days.
My last week has been pretty jam-packed but maybe one of my most successful weeks yet! After being in Japan for the Invitational Lead Master where I took the Silver Medal, I flew back to NYC to write my final exams. I had 15-hours on the flight to study so I guess the time spent sitting on the plane in transit studying would have been spent sitting at the library instead. So, in my opinion, this worked out fine – multi-tasking style =]
After finishing exams at 10pm I went to Brooklyn Boulders, and had one more training session with my new coach Alexi Thomakos who has been INCREDIBLY helpful for me especially in training my power and mental game. I also have to thank Robyn Ebersfield for helping me with my latest progression. Between working with Alexi and Robyn, I can attest to the fact that mentally and (hopefully!) physically, I am stronger and really motivated for the next feat.
The next day, I packed up all my stuff from where I was living in NYC into my car and moved out. I drove from NYC to my family home in DC for a night, then the next morning drove to Richmond for the Dominion Riverrock Festival.
Dominion Riverrock is perhaps my favorite event of the year. The overwhelming number
of friends, crowd support, energy, and general excitement always amazes me. The competition is so unique and fun, I can’t foresee ever not wanting to go! Thank you, Sport Backer, Peak, and everyone involved in the production and execution of this event!!!
I was also really happy with my performance in the competition and to defend my title as the Champion =] Yay!
Yesterday (Sunday) I drove home from Richmond to DC, unpacked, and collapsed in my own bed for the best night of sleep in a while!
Now, I am in DC for a few days before returning to film one more time with Good Morning America and Ginger Zee, but this time outside climbing, in New York, then Boston Friday night for the weekend!
I am finalizing my summer plans now and getting really excited to get back outdoors for the next adventure!
Stay tuned =] Always PSYCHED!
Xx S <3
Voyaging around the world has taken another level for me lately while balancing my studies at Columbia University, to the point that I am on return now from my latest weekend trip: to Japan!
While being in school, I really can’t make long trips because I need to be in present for class in NYC as well, so in order to make the annual Invitational Lead Master in Osaka, Japan, I left school Thursday evening and am returning Monday morning to finish writing exams.
The international sport-climbing event went really well for me. I was pleased with my performance and my place: Silver Medal! I was honored to stand on the podium amidst Japanese victor, Jiyota, and Johanna Ernst of Austria.
Competitions can always be finicky – the outcome is contingent on such a miniscule part of a career at whole – it all comes down to one day, one climb; one mental and physical performance. I cannot control what type of route I am given or what sort of physical attributes it will include, but I can control my own preparedness and approach.
My competition approach is always changing, adapting, and evolving. Sometimes I am happy with my performance, and sometimes, like in Colorado at the competition last month, I am upset with my climbing and inability to control my nerves. A lot of competition climbing comes down to dealing with the mental approach and channeling nerves in the right direction. What I find similar to outdoor climbing is that I need to find that balance between caring and not caring – between trusting myself and being in control, but having enough freedom to open my boundaries of control and to let myself go. I perform best when I can climb freely and relaxed, while climbing with efficiency and a fiery force of drive to excel.
In my opinion, there is no such thing as a perfect competition- I will always see what I did wrong before I see my performance strengths. However, I also know that finding happiness in my successes and motivation in my failures is necessary to continue training and pushing myself in the different scopes of climbing, be it in the outdoor arena or in competitions.
Therefore, I was happy that my latest training paid off for me in Japan.
Now, I have my final exams to finish early this week, and then it is onwards to my summer adventures.
Off to STUDY!
Leading up to this weekend, I was the reigning undefeated National Champion. I had not fallen. Then, it happened. I stumbled. I messed up in finals at the competition. But this was one event, one off competition, and I am still here to push forwards.
How do we move forwards knowing that we make mistakes and our mistakes do not define us?
In my opinion, we just have to believe. Not in some metaphysical power (though I have nothing against that, either), but in ourselves.
For me, I have to know that I can move forwards and be stronger than before. I have to know that within me, I have the potential to perform at a higher level than my past performance.
Perfection is a perpetual goal. Never will we arrive at a point that defines perfection because there will always be something greater to achieve, and some new limit to overcome.
Though, I want to strive for this unattainable aspiration because I want to be the best all around human being that I am capable of embodying. And, I want to attain this status through a multitude of facets of my life including through climbing, academics, and social aspects. What I have to realize is that in this journey, I will fail. In my career, I will have a range of big failures to relatively irrelevant hiccups.
In September, I failed myself through an injury that rendered me incapable of climbing. I overcame this and I won the panAmerican Championships and climbed outside. Now, I failed in Colorado at Nationals. I fell short of my performance ability. I was nervous and I failed to channel these nerves in a positive direction. I felt inhibited and weighted down by pressure when really I could have felt boosted by an air of confidence.
So I fall.
And this feels devastating and it hurts. But I am getting back up again and I am ready to work harder, to see the next challenge, and to confront this next feat with confidence and assertive power. Everyone has the potential to overcome momentary failure. And in the wake of falling, the strongest will stand taller. I want to be my strongest. So I plan to keep reaching higher.
Congrats to Charlotte Durif of France on the Win. Impressive Performance
Now, Off to training.
… And Class!
As Oprah quoted Roosevelt in my video, “It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.”
I was walking to class early last week, talking online with one of my best friends, Matilda Soderlund from Sweden, on Facebook. She told me that she was going to Spain in a week and that I should come. I had a few days off school so, why not? You only live once, right? =] So, tickets booked, and my impromptu week trip to Spain was scheduled.
Needless to say, I am in love with Spain, specifically the Catalonia region where I have spent the majority of my time. There is just an infinite amount of both developed and undeveloped limestone cliffs and the serene landscape is breathtakingly vast. Every time I travel to Spain I fidget with excitement. The anticipation of feeling an undefined looming adventure about to be had fills my heart and consumes me with excitement. I cannot wait to be outside, to be rock climbing, to be with my friends, to be breathing fresh air, and to be living my next adventure.
Though, I had not been home to DC since a few days in November, so I decided to sandwich my trip to Spain with two days at home. Time enough to have a restful sleep in my own bedroom, play with my aging pup, and eat my heart content with some home cooked food… Including my dad’s prime grilling! Unpack some boxes, fill up a suitcase, and I’m off to the airport. SPAIN!
Traveling to Spain is freedom for me. It signifies me returning to what I love most. Whenever I go to Spain I am taken away by the fervent passion I feel for not only challenging myself on new climbs to try, but also by the sheer feeling that I have when I start to click back in to climbing outdoors and can exactly feel the texture and shape of the rock formations, my fingers mold into the rock, and gravity fades away into this element that seems irrelevant. It’s a feeling of control and certainty. When I feel this weightless catharsis in climbing, I feel the ultimate pleasure in life. Everything becomes possible in my mind and I just want to breathe in the adventure. I am free.
While my trip was short, it was enough time for me to realize this sensation of exhilarating passion for the outdoors. I cannot fathom a more liberating experience than living life outdoors with my close friends, challenging myself both mentally and physically on world-class routes, and overlooking the lush green Spanish countryside from the top of the mountain. I feel sheer bliss. And I am more motivated than ever to be back!!!
I climbed a total of five days while in Spain- all the days I was there except for one rest day after the first two days of climbing in order to rest off the jet lag. The first days after a flight and after not climbing outside (or not too much climbing at all actually due to midterm exams) are generally my adjustment days where I feel a little weak and tired. I don’t stress this so much because I’ve learned that it is quite normal. Having a tight schedule makes this difficult because more often than not I will be jet-lagged during my short time-framed trips; however, I adjusted in to the rhythm and had a great day following my rest. I sent two 8c’s in one day, one of them being on my first try, and then I onsighted a satisfying amount of pitches at an area I had never climbed at – Terradettes.
To cap off the trip, Matilda, Arjan, and I decided to take “a muerte” and living large to the max and we drove to Barcelona after climbing, met up with our Spanish friends including Edu Marin, Gerard, Jaume, Christina, and a motivated group of others to hit the discotec night scene. I then went from there to the airport. No hotel room necessary =]
Now I am on the airplane, tired but high on life. I feel rejuvenated and ready for my next adventure. I have a lot of school-work to do now too, so, I guess I’ve got to get to writing what will be graded. =]
Next I fly out to St. Louis to give a talk and to teach a clinic at Washington University through Professional Climbers International (PCI) with Kevin Jorgeson and Daniel Woods.
Time for studying!
Xxx! Love S