FRB: How did you get into climbing, Sara?
For personal reasons, I'm not going to give a detailed answer to that one. Let's just say I was pretty much dragged into it kicking and screaming, but then instantly fell in love. I started about three and a half years ago and was immediately addicted.
FRB: How would you describe
your climbing lifestyle?
Life has adapted to accommodate my climbing. Despite my beginner/moderate climbing level, climbing and spending time outdoors is what makes me the most happy and has taught me more than I could have imagined about myself and what I want out of life. I've made big life changes and decisions so that I can live as happy and sustainable of a life as possible. I think, had I not taken up climbing when I did, I'd probably be working crazy hours at a Seattle megafirm and headed for heart disease. My livelihood is more meager than it used to be, but my life is much happier and more satisfying.
FRB: Where do you like to climb?
Sara: Favorite places to climb are Leavenworth and Index in Washington, Smith Rock, Squamish, Red Rock, NV and Joshua Tree. My home gym is the Bremerton Vertical World, and I climb at other gyms around Western Washington when I'm nearby.
Who are some of your favorite partners.
All of my regular crew... we climb together as much as possible... nearby during the Washington season and away to sunny southern destinations for at least a week in the winter. Current favorites, without limitation since I'm sure I'm forgetting some are Sarah P, Katie T, Kari, Vic, Teresa who will someday get outside, Amy in between pregnancies, and the boys... Kelly, Shawn, and Alex. I'm lucky to have a lot of fantastic climbing partners and am expanding the circle to include some newer climbers which is also fun.
What kind of climbing do you like to do, Sara?
Sara: I'm currently seriously enjoying beginning trad leading, although my anchor building leaves something to be desired (John Long's Climbing Anchors is in my briefcase right now -- I pour over it several times a year). I enjoy moderate sport and trad routes, and am especially enjoying expanding into longer routes. I boulder on occasion, and love it, but after falling while bouldering in the gym and experiencing bone bruises in my ankle for the first time (I don't recommend them) I'm a pretty chicken boulderer.
What are some of your hardest sends.
Sara: Yeah - I'm not a hard sender. I think I have yet to cleanly lead a 5.10 outside. Hardest sends would have to be all of my many, many 5.9s over the last three years. I just did my first toprope onsite of a 10c (Son of Jesus) a few weekends ago at Exit 32 (North Bend, WA) so I've got to get on it on lead. I'm hoping to redeem myself a little bit this year by completing *a* boulder problem at Squamish. I didn't make it up at all last summer, but the season before I couldn't even finish V0's up there.
Tell us about your website.
What can people find?
Sara: RockClimberGirl.com is really just a diary of my climbing life. I originally started a personal blog on April 1, 2006. Over time, the blog got less and less "life" and more and more "climbing." In November 2007 I ported as many of the climbing posts as I could over to RockClimberGirl.com and have been blogging there ever since. Visitors will find trip reports, photos, gear reviews, non sequiturs, other stuff to read, and long-winded commentaries on my climbing life. While the site is really written by and for women, most of the mail I get is from guys.
What was your motivation
to start rockclimbergirl.com?
Sara: I originally wanted a place to share my climbing stories and photographs with friends, family and climbing partners. Since moving the site to its own domain it's gotten a bit more attention -- mostly from people searching for "hot female rock climbers." It's totally selfish. I just like to write, and I like to climb, and this gives me an excuse to write about climbing.
FRB: What direction are you gong to go
More of the same, although I would like to improve the design and readability. I haven't had a lot of time to spend on that kind of stuff since I'm so busy with work, climbing, and blogging about climbing. I've already made some great connections with other climber-bloggers, and look forward to the growth of more high-quality climbing blogs, quality writing, beautiful and inspiring photography, and good site design.
Some of my favorite climbing/climber blogs include
The Liminal Line by Majka Burhardt: www.majkaburhardt.com/liminal-line-blog/,
The CragBaby blog by Wasatch Girl: www.cragbaby.com/,
the Mountain Culture blog: www.themountainculture.com/.
FRB: What's the climbing scene
like in the northwest, Sara?
Dedicated. Most of the year, the weather sucks, so we climb what we can, when we can, and head for better weather when we can. I live outside of the main Seattle Metro area, and our local climbing gym is currently for sale (with a closure threatened if a buyer doesn't come forward). The prospect of trying to maintain a climbing community out here on the Peninsula while having to travel to Tacoma or Seattle for the nearest plastic and basically North Bend for the nearest real rock is depressing. But, no matter what, I'm a climber, and I'll find somewhere to climb.
What are some of your favorite areas
to climb in the northwest?
Vantage/Frenchman's Coulee is underrated. I've had some of my most blissful climbing moments ever out at M&M Wall and Sunshine Wall at dusk/sunset. Other favorites... all of Icicle Canyon in Leavenworth -- I have yet to do any of the other areas at Leavenworth but will probably spend a good deal of time up there this season. I'm also just getting to know Index, and hope to get some trips in there, too. Living as close as I do, I don't make it up to Squamish nearly enough... and I hear there have been a lot of changes up there since my last trip two summers ago. I have been known to go up there for a day's worth of climbing just so I get to pull in during the middle of the night and wake up under the Chief. I spend several trips a year at Smith and always have fun out there, also.
FRB: What the bouldering like in the northwest?
I'm not the best person to ask. I have partners who adore Gold Bar but the vehicle approach isn't suited to my little VW stationwagon so I've never made it up there. The Squamish bouldering is great but in my experience hard -- I look forward to getting up there soon now that I'm a bit stronger. We have one boulder up on DNR land in Poulsbo that a few friends dug out last summer... I suppose I should go see if it's been reclaimed by nature. I've bouldered just a tiny bit at Leavenworth, but really the most fun I've had bouldering wasn't in the Northwest at all, it was at Red Rock. During our winter trip this year, we ended most days at the Kraft boulders, sans guidebooks, just climbing whatever looked fun. I could have spent the entire trip in that boulder field and had a great time. I can't wait to get back.
After a long hard day climbing,
how do you like to relax?
Sara: I'm newly de-vegetarianized (after 12 years of not eating meat)... and I hate to say it, but I spend my climbing days daydreaming about the burger and beer waiting for me when I'm down off the rock. I love to end a climbing day back at camp with good food and good friends. Climbing relaxes me (except for the occasional adventure, which isn't always relaxing) so I like to go from chilling out climbing to chilling at camp. My favorite trip days are the ones when I can wake up, climb, camp cook, and then lounge by a campfire without going into civilization.
FRB: What is the average typical climber
like in the northwest?
I don't know that there is a typical northwest climber. We probably fall into a couple of categories. A lot of the climbers I meet are techie or science types; intellectuals who balance out their brains with climbing. Many joke about having no social skills which I don't think is true. Some of the most sociable, gregarious people in my life are some of my climber friends. We've got the whole range from lifers who eek out a living to Microsoft-ies with all that shiny new gear and fancy cars. Generally, in my experience, northwest climbers are a friendly, welcoming bunch with a good sense of community.
What are some of the best rock gyms
in your neck of the woods?
My favorite is the local Kitsap Vertical World. We've been blessed to have a facility this fantastic out here even though we're not in an urban area and the local climbing community is really tight knit. The gym is for sale. If anybody would like to come save climbing for Washington's Olympic Peninsula, I'll be forever in your debt. I've only climbed at a few gyms. I guess my second favorite would be the Redmond Vertical World location. The vibe out there is really friendly. The Seattle Vertical World always feels like a meat market to me, but maybe my view is skewed because our gym and membership in Kitsap is so familiar.
What is the northwest climbing community like?
I don't have much of a frame of reference since I've only traveled outside the northwest a little bit. generally, I'd say local climbers are fairly up on access issues and involved when it comes to preserving climbing access (the Washington Climbers Coalition folks put in a lot of work and are always ready to jump in when issues do arise). We're geographically spread out -- there's not a lot of rock in Western Washington, so most of us who live west of the mountains spend a lot of time on I-90 going to Eastern Washington or south on I-5 to sunnier climates. It's not unusual to go to Joshua Tree or Red Rock and meet folks from Seattle. So I guess that makes us pretty dedicated. We're used to having to travel in order to get on real rock, and I sure don't take any time outside for granted. In my climbing circle there's a broad range of experience and talent, but we all have fun together even though we're not climbing at the same level. Most of us do like our coffee. That's no lie! I usually travel with the world's greatest percolator and a french press even when I have nothing else in my camp box other than a spork and a pocketknife.
FRB: Thanks for the interview, Sara.