Beth Rodden: What I’ve Learned

I was part of the so-called first generation of kid climbers, which included Chris Sharma, Tommy Caldwell and Katie Brown, among others. Looking back, that was an exciting time. There weren't that many of us. We were just going for it.

By Beth Rodden | October 1st, 2010

beth_roddenBeth Rodden: I was part of the so-called first generation of kid climbers, which included Chris Sharma, Tommy Caldwell and Katie Brown, among others. Looking back, that was an exciting time. There weren’t that many of us. We were just going for it.

Comp climbing taught me discipline. You have only so many days before a competition. you have to make each training day count, even when you’re unmotivated. That became a very important base as I moved outside and pursued greater goals on the rock.

I was lucky to have come into pro climbing at a good time. The things that have taken me the furthest are being honest with my sponsors and giving as much back to the sport and the community as I can. It’s that simple.

Being taken captive by the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, 10 years ago during a climbing trip to Kyrgyzstan with Tommy Caldwell, Jason Singer and John Dickey, was life changing. I was just a 19-year-old kid who thought bad things only happen to other people. Afterward, I questioned everything, from my recent decision to climb professionally to who I could trust. I became shy and leery of people.

The effects of that trip still linger. I am picky about who I climb with and try to be selective about where I go, I’ve crossed off my list any countries ending in -stan. But there is only so much caution you can take. Sometimes you just get unlucky.

Just Listen. That’s probably the most important lesson I’ve learned as a professional. Listen to suggestions, feedback and people at the crag. This provides the platform for inspiring others to be passionate about climbing.

On a good day, I’m 5’1 tall. But I don’t think about my size on the rock. I look at a climb and see how I am going to climb it, not how someone taller would do it.

I hate being around ego. The best climbing partners laugh.

I get self-conscious around people I don’t know. I’ve walked up to large crowds and turned around because of the pressure I felt. It took me awhile to realize you can’t climb your hardest all the time. If you’re lucky, you can only climb hard a fraction of the time.

5.14 is freakin’ hard. Meltdown [5.14c trad climb, FA, Yosemite] was not just trying physically, but mentally because it took me over 40 days. absolutely the longest I’ve ever spent on a single route.

After sending a project I feel relief. There’s joy, but mostly relief.

My older brother, David, is a genius and I think that in turn somehow steered me toward sports as a kid. It was always tough being in the shadow of a 1,580 SAT score.

My trick for onsighting hard trad climbs? Just jam your hand in there and hope it holds.

What has changed? There are so many strong women out there right now. For the first 12 years of my climbing career, I climbed with guys. Only recently, I’ve surrounded myself with a group of incredible and supportive strong women.

The last two years, with a divorce and labral tear [shoulder joint], have been the most challenging of my life. After the injury and eventual surgery, I spent the last year not climbing, the longest I’ve ever taken off. But I’ve learned to accept ups and downs much better, and see my life in the bigger picture.

Recently, I’ve returned to the rock, maxing out around 5.10. I know I’ll probably get injured again, and I’ll probably cry about it and get depressed, but I’ll be able to wait it out and eventually start climbing again, just as I have before.

I’m a lifer. No matter how hard I climb, I’ll always do it.

Read about Beth Rodden becoming the first woman to establish 5.14.

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