As some people know I work at Climb Base 5 with Katelyn Connor. Yet we work at the same place we have somewhat different roles. Both I and Katelyn belay for birthdays and drop-in sessions, but Katelyn also gets the wonderful opportunity to teach people how to belay and coaches’ kids and adults the basics of climbing. She gets to have the joy of getting people started on their road of rock climbing. Katelyn is one of the best climbers I know and I love to climb with her. Once she and I were climbing, I was trying this new route that was very challenging. Even though I felt discouraged, Katelyn cheered me on to give me the push I need to finish it. I’ve been climbing indoors for only 5 months, so Katelyn has more experience and she can help me be the improve my climbing. She is the one that pushes me to try the more difficult routes and gives advice on how to climb it. Katelyn is a very strong climber I have seen her attempt and finish hard climbs without any breaks. I really want to get to her level of climbing by training more and climbing more with Katelyn. With more climbing experience, I hope I can also become an instructor and coach like Katelyn, so I can motivate other climbers to be the best they could be. The climbing community is one happy family and I am glad to be a part of it. At first, I felt left out amongst my peers, because I wasn’t the best climber there, yet I am still long ways away of being the best climber I can be, my family at Climb Base has opened my mind to this amazing sport in which has grown to be a passion of mine.
Answered questions from Katelyn
Why are you passionate about your job?
I love my job at Climb Base 5 because every shift I see new faces to the world of rock climbing. Whether I’m belaying a group of kids for a birthday or teaching an intro course on how to belay, adults and kids alike come alive in the gym. Seeing that fresh enthusiasm reminds me of how I felt when I first started climbing. For this reason, I work hard to show them everything climbing has offered me. The gym has become more than just a workplace for me, but also a home. The community of rock climbers helps each other by building one another’s self-confidence. We encourage each other to climb things that may be too hard and help each other in bettering our technique. You’ll often see other climbers cheering on their friends as they are on the wall so that they feel supported in achieving whatever boulder problem or route that they have been working on. This has directly correlate into bettering my mental health and I wish for others to have that same result. Climbing has greatly impacted my well-being and the ability to do that through my job for others, helps me give back to the climbing community for all they have done for me.
What obstacles have you faced to get to where you are today?
Although I loved to climb since my very first time being on the wall, I had to overcome my fear of heights and falling, recover from serious injuries and witness accidents. Leading is a form of climbing that more experienced climbers practice as opposed to top rope climbing. With leading, you start with the rope on the ground, then clip the rope into draws on the wall as you go up the route whereas, with top rope, the rope already connects to the top of your climb. With lead climbing, taking a fall above your draw means you fall to your draw that you last clipped and then double that. Lead climbing comes with a lot more chance of injury so I struggle taking more risks while lead climbing for fear of falling. Every time I come into the gym, I practice these falls with my belay partner to eventually overcome this fear. Although I haven’t been physically hurt from falling, I have suffered injury from overusing of my shoulder early on in my climbing career. This made it hard to improve my climbing grade when it hurt to climb. With time I learned better technique, stretched before and after workouts and took rest days when the pain became unbearable. I learned the importance of taking care of your body early on in my climbing and I’ll continue to take care of my well-being first. Risks also can arise while on the job. Most recently on a belay course, I was teaching, A man took an unexpected fall and hurt his shoulder. We talked for a bit about his pain and he agreed to go take a rest before continuing but when I turned to the next group, he fell unconscious. This has definitely been the scariest thing I’ve witnessed as an instructor and although he regained consciousness, we were worried enough that an ambulance came to make sure nothing had happened to his shoulder. Death and injury are a possibility to any climber since heights and falling are a part of the sport and that’s why I stress the importance of safety checks, good belay technique and proper gear in my classes.
What advice would you give to someone (me) would you pass on to someone that is interested in climbing?
If you have the opportunity or are currently working at the climbing gym, keep in mind that a climbing gym is just a giant playground and have some fun. If your starting out as a belay staff and you really enjoy it, you can get involved with other jobs at the gym like coaching and instructing, setting or working on the desk. Come to have a good time for yourself and spread your happiness for climbing to the kid and adults you belay. Always keep in mind the safety of others while in the gym and set an example to other climbers of safe belay technique. Make friends with your coworkers then climb with them and encourage them to succeed on their routes. Try and fail, then learn from it and keep trying. You’re capable of anything you put your mind to.
Would you be open to further contact by a Riverside student?
I wouldn’t mind being contacted. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions.
What has inspired you to climb?
I found the climbing community in a time of great change. I was first starting at the university for general science without any idea of what to expect while moving into adulthood. With class sizes of 300, it was easy to fell lost amongst the crowds of students so I started looking at clubs and volunteering opportunities within the school to feel more connected to the university and my studies. My sister who was already a member at base 5 introduced me to the sport but without the volunteer opportunity at SFU’s climbing wall I wouldn’t have been able to afford to get into climbing. There I made some of my first friends at SFU and grew closer to my best friend and belay partner. I was inspired but the other climber’s positivity towards one another and the feeling of accomplishing a climb I once deemed impossible. In that space, my climbing addiction took root and continues to grow today as I’ve transitioned to my paid position at Climb Base 5.
What is the hardest climb you’ve done?
In our climbing gym, we grade how hard a route is using the Yosemite decimal system. Where climbing is in the category “5” and the hardness of a climb is the following number after the decimal. Climbs in our gym start around 5.5 and work their way up to the 5.13 range. Most people should be able to climb up to a 5.7 grade without any previous experience but the grades steepen quickly. That’s why after 5.10, they have also rewarded a letter beside the grade between a and d, where increases in the alphabet, also increase the hardness of the climb. For Boulder problems, the V-scale is used instead since the problems are on much shorter walls, without ropes. The v-scale increases from V0 onwards, where V0 movement still has the difficulty of a 5.9 climb. Grades I’ve reached on Route climbing has been as high as 11c, however, may lead climbing grade is much lower than my top rope grade because of my fear of falling. For bouldering, the hardest grade I’ve climbed is V3 but I more regularly climb at a V2 level.
What would you say to someone who wanted to get into climbing
Get involved in the climbing community by talking to other climbers at the gym and open yourself up to learning new things from them. Sometimes you will feel like your progress has reached a platform but don’t let that stop you from coming to the gym with a positive attitude and cheering on your friends. When you come to the climbing wall, do it to have fun. For most people climbing is a way to feel relieved from their stressful work lives and to come relax with their friends. Don’t be concerned with doing alternative training when you’re first starting at the gym. The best practice is to climb as much as possible and learn from trial and error. However, do take care of your body and listen to it, take rest days when appropriate. Always practice safe climbing techniques and be a part of creating