Climb Every Mountain (Literally), Follow Every Dream
By Lisa Ingarfield | @tritodefi
As the Von Trapp’s hiked over the mountains in Austria at the end of The Sound of Music to a chorus of “Climb Ev’ry Mountain” there was nary a mountaineering harness in sight. Climbing is a great outdoor activity, especially in Colorado. It can be as simple as a local hike, or something more technical. It really depends where your interests lie. To learn more about how women can get involved in the climbing scene, I sat down with Sarah Maurer, a Denver transplant and adventure lifestyle blogger, who has been rock climbing since 1994 and mountaineering since 1999. Maurer is a freelance writer, and teaches a beginner level mountaineering class through Colorado Mountaineering Club (CMC). She hopes to offer a class just for women in the future.
Maurer is a bouncy redhead with lots of energy. She is constantly smiling and is eager to share her experience with, and love of, climbing. Currently, Maurer is training to climb Mount Rainier in Washington through CMC’s High Altitude Mountaineering School. Her trip is planned for July, and while Mount Rainier is not as high as some of Colorado’s 14ers, it is a technically difficult climb because of glacier cover and conditions. Most recently, she learned how to rescue someone should they fall into a snowy crevasse. Maurer is exuberant about her climbing adventures and the skills she is learning in this class. She is not fazed by crevasses and snowy knife edges, unlike your author who, while not put off by 14ers or climbing, trots off quickly in the other direction in response to the term “knife edge” or the idea of ending up at the bottom of a crevasse.
Maurer has climbed 30 of Colorado’s 58 mountains above 14,000 feet. She thinks that she will end up doing them all, because she is now over halfway. To meet this goal she will have to climb Mount Antero which is the least exciting of all the climbs: you have to walk up a road to the top. She shrugs, and reluctantly says she will probably still do it to get all 58 under her belt. I asked Maurer why she climbs: “Everyone has something they can’t not do…it feels spiritual” she shared. From the first time she started technical caving (exploring caves requiring technical climbing and traversing skills) she was hooked. “It’s addictive” she says. For women interested in exploring the climbing scene in Denver, or broadly Colorado, Maurer recommends taking a class. “Keep hiking, keep trying, and keep improving” Maurer concluded.
I asked her if she had ever been injured climbing, because this is a realistic concern for newbie climbers just starting out. Maurer laughs. No, she says. She has fallen in her neighborhood, landing on a wine bottle, and she broke her wrist while on a climbing trip in Italy. She was walking at the time and not actually climbing. From Maurer’s perspective, you can manage your risk by being smart, careful, and prepared. There are a lot of women climbers in Denver. In Maurer’s experience, she climbs with women and sees women out on the trails all the time, even the more technical trails. Her section of the high altitude class has more women than men, too.
When asked about how women can get involved in climbing in Denver, she shared the following tips and thoughts:
Have a goal – decide on what you would like to do, and then plan to train so you can successfully achieve it.
There are plenty of options, so if you aren’t ready to climb a 14er, you can start with a hike. There are all types of climbing adventures available to you in Colorado from technical climbs to gentle hikes, all set in beautiful surroundings just outside of the city.
There is no 14er in Colorado that requires you climb with a rope. Some have routes where you can, but it isn’t a requirement. Climbing mountains doesn’t have to be super complicated.
Some 14ers, like Longs Peak for example, require that you get up early. This is because climbers need to be away from the summit by lunchtime (and sometimes earlier) to avoid getting caught in lightning storms. Maurer recounted an experience on a climb, where she was running to her car for cover from lightning and a family, with a toddler in tow, was headed up the mountain in the opposite direction. Don’t do that.
Meetup.com is a great place to go to seek out climbing partners, and there are many groups especially for women. However, don’t assume that the leader of the climb has good experience or will take care of you. There is no vetting for group leaders in this setting. She recounted a story of a climb leader who posted “Summit or Bust” on 14ers.com during a stormy climb. The forum ate him alive.
Always tell someone where you are going and how long you expect to be. Avoid climbing alone, especially if you are a novice. Consider buying an emergency beacon that you can activate if something happens. It will enable friends, family or rescue crews to find your location.
Find a community, join a club and/or take a class. REI offers a variety of educational programs including women only climbing classes. The Colorado Mountain Club offers also offers classes and discounts on climbing gear. It is $70 a year to join as an individual, $115 for a family, and $30 if you are under 30.
Lastly, as Mother Abbess sang in The Sound of Music:
Climb ev’ry mountain,
Ford every stream,
Follow every rainbow
‘Till you find you dream.