Snapshot: Claire Buhrfeind – When Your Hardest Year is Your Best
Claire Buhrfeind wins Worlds, thinks Olympic Games
The second annual Psicobloc Masters drew a slew of top women climbers including Sasha DiGiulian, Ashima Shiraisi, Delaney Miller, Alex Johnson and Alex Puccio. Male headliners included Chris Sharma and Daniel Woods. Thos names appeared in event previews—Claire Buhrfeind’s did not.
Almost unnoticed that year, 2014, the 16-year-old made it to the final round in the women’s competition, pitted against her home teammate Delaney Miller, on of her climbing idols, then age 19. A commentator called Buhrfeind a “surprise wild card,” saying he had expected Ashima Shiraishi and Alex Puccio to be the two top.
Miller and Buhrfeind climbed side by side until about halfway, when Buhrfeind moved ahead, increasing her lead to win by four moves.
Now 19, Buhrfeind says she was as surprised as the audience. “I didn’t have any other expectation other than to be terrified.”
This year, after a few years under the radar, Buhrfeind popped back up—in September dominating the IFSC Youth World Championships in Innsbruck, where she won in both lead and bouldering.
Hailing from Plano, Texas, she has been a member of Team Texas Youth Climbing Team in Dallas since Age 10.
Q&A with Claire Buhrfeind
Are you in college?
Basically, I’m doing a gap year. I went to school at the Unoiversity of Washington last year and just ended up with too many things on my plate at once. The past year has been really difficult for me. I’ve been very confused about who I want to be, and to be honest, at school I had a really terrible time. I just had a hard time figuring out how to balance school, climbing, friends, sleep—everything, and I just didn’t really know where I fit in any of those things.
Were the 2020 Olympics part of your decision to leave school?
Yeah. I’m really excited about the opportunity to compete for a spot.
So now I am home, just traveling and training. I am hoping to take some more classes in the spring, probably in Dallas at SMU [Southern Methodist University] so I can travel and go on the circuit again in the summer.
I am somebody who is 100 percent going to graduate from college, I just felt I needed to give myself a break from trying to multi-task everything.
Will you be nervous to compete against your friends for an Olympic spot?
I don’t think any of us are nervous about that. All of us love to compete.
Whatever happens, it will be a really great opportunity for our sport to be on that stage.
What is your training schedule like?
I need to start doing more speed climbing [laughs]. I think I’ll try and speed climb probably once a week, and then sport and bouldering are a little bit easier to combine. Every day is different. I’m training probably five days a week.
Have you, at 6 feet tall, been subject to any growing pains?
Yes. I’ve had recurring neck and back issues and some bulging disks—a lot of tightness in general everywhere. My arms used to go numb during climbing, and I couldn’t feel my hands. I think I grew really quickly at the same time I was getting a lot stronger, and that definitely contributed.
How do you cope with recurring injuries?
I started doing yoga, and just doing a lot of stretching before and after workouts.
I’m really inspired by my friend Margo [Hayes]. Of course, everyone knows she’s just incredible, and she’s an amazing person. I find a lot of inspiration with strong women in our sport who are really pushing the boundaries. Alex Puccio, Delaney Miller.
- 1st, World Youth Championships in lead and bouldering, 4th in speed, Innsbruck, 2017.
- 1st in lead, Youth National Championships, Kennesaw, GA, 2017. 1st in speed, USAC Open National Championships, Boston, 2016.
- 2nd overall, 7th in lead, adult World Championships, Paris, 2016.
- Sent Diaphanous Sea (V11) and Power of Landjager (V11), Hueco Tanks, TX, 2013 and 2014.
- Onsighted Face de Rat (8a+/5.13c), Céüse, France, 2016.
- Sent Ultraperm (5.13d), Red River Gorge, KY, 2012.
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