An Interview with Anna Pfaff
Editor: Thanks for sharing some of your time with us, Anna. It is an honor for us to interview you about your amazing climbing career!
First climbs are always special. How old were you when you developed an interest in climbing?
Who were you with during your first climb and where was it?
Anna Pfaff: I grew up in Ohio and was always very athletic. I started climbing when I moved to Denver, Colorado in my very early twenties. My first time climbing was in Indian Creek with some college friends who were already climbers.
They taped my hands, showed me how to crack climb, place gear and stay safe. I was instantly hooked. After climbing in Indian Creek I was quickly on the road climbing almost full time. Some of my earliest memories of climbing include routes like the Emmons - Winthrop on Mount Rainier, Washington, the Salathe on El Capitan, Yosemite with Jean Readle, the Beckey-Chouinard in The Bugaboos, Canada with Keith Robinson.
Editor: Those are some cool climbs! Anna, you have climbed and ice-climbed in some of the most spectacular locations on earth. From Patagonia, Kyrgyzstan, Tibet, Pakistan, the Himalayas…
Which ones were particularly appealing to you and why?
Anna Pfaff: I can’t really narrow it down to a favorite location. Each place has
been unique in its own perspective. I really enjoy being in remote unexplored
areas of the Himalaya the most but have also had some of my best adventures in
more developed areas like Patagonia and Peru. I feel really fortunate to have
had the opportunity to experience different types of climbing in all kinds of
Editor: Share your favorite FAs with us. What were they like?
Anna Pfaff: It’s really a great experience when everything comes together and you and your partner are able to climb a new route or FA. In 2010, my partner Camilo Lopez and I climbed two new routes in the Miyar Valley, Indian Himalaya. It was just a fun time.
We had been there in 2008 also and climbed two new routes at that time as well. It was my first time in the Himalaya and it’s kind of where everything started for me in regards to exploratory climbing.
Editor: How do you narrow down your climbs?
What makes you say, okay, that route is awesome and I want to put it on my stoke list?
Anna Pfaff: It usually starts out with pieces of beta from researching other expeditions
or something someone throws my way. I’ll get fixated on a certain area
and keep pursuing it until I get the logistics sorted out.
Then, from sometimes a single photo or map we go check out what is out there. Sometimes it’s really hard to tell what you are going to come across on an exploratory expedition.
We can scope out lines and come back to them in the future. From the summit of one
peak you can see the vast number of peaks and unexplored valleys that exist and
even still remain unmapped.
A lot goes into it and sometimes a few years pass before getting back to climb a line you saw on a previous expedition. I have all sorts of beta written down in my little black book!
Editor: What was it like climbing in the mighty and magical, super-high Karakoram Range?
Anna Pfaff: I can’t wait to go back! It’s a majestic and powerful range and we had a great experience in Pakistan. The Khane Valley is beautiful and full of potential for new routes. The people of the Baltistan region are super friendly, giving and welcoming. I have gear cashed there so I will be returning as soon as possible!
Editor: Cool reason for a return trip, eh? Who would you say are some of your climbing icons, male and female, who you drew inspiration from?
Anna Pfaff: I’ve been inspired most by fellow climbers and partners throughout the years. I am around so many strong, motivated and psyched athletes who are on all sorts of rad endeavors.
Editor: Which climbing qualities do you think are absolutely required to be a really
good climber? I ask because every climber gives a different answer.
Anna Pfaff: Brewing the coffee for the 2 AM start! It’s really important to know
your limitations and when it’s safe to push it in the mountains, making
And as Alex Lowe said: “The best climber is the one who is having the most fun.” I agree with that.
Editor: Awesome quote, indeed. Before we’re climbers, we’re human beings. But would you say that male and female climbers approach climbing a little differently, when speaking from an emotional point of view?
Anna Pfaff: It’s hard to say I think both male and females bring different characteristics to partnerships based more on their personality than their gender. I think males and females can share the same emotional reactions in any given situation.
Editor: That's an interesting POV. Which routes are your all-time-favorite and where are they?
Anna Pfaff: The Salathe on El Capitan in Yosemite.
The Affanicief on Fitz Roy in Patagonia.
Ames Ice Hose, Ouray, Colorado.
Just to name a few!!
Editor: What gifts has climbing given to you?
Anna Pfaff: Climbing is a huge part of my life. The climbing community is awesome. I’ve travelled to places and met people from cultures so different from my own all because of climbing.
I’ve had some of the happiest and intense moments in my life happen in the mountains. Climbing itself is a gift.
Editor: Beautiful answer. Some climbers have reported experiencing a unique kind of spirituality when they’re in the big mountains of the world. They say it enriches them, and really heightens the whole experience for them. Others say they feel nothing.
Have you felt the mountains to be spiritual in any way for you?
Anna Pfaff: Absolutely. Just looking at the big mountains is captivating. Being able
to climb in them and experience their power is mind altering.
They are alive and in the end they make the decisions.
Editor: That is without a doubt, one of the best answers I’ve ever read.
Thank you, Anna. You are one of the strongest climbers in the world, and I am so very
honored to have done this interview with you. I hope to follow up with you on your next amazing climb!
Anna Pfaff: Thank you very much for the opportunity to share some of my experiences with you, and I look forward to talking with you again soon.
I would also like to thank my sponsors CAMP-USA, La Sportiva, and Maxim, for their support.
Check out Anna's amazing and super-inspiring blog: http://www.climbingmadness.blogspot.com/
Interview conducted by Vera Kaikobad L. Ac.
Editor of the Facebook Page: 'An Interview With'.
Editor-in-Chief of ClimbSkiBoulderMagazine.com
Interview © Vera Kaikobad L. Ac.
All images © of the designated photographer and used with Anna's written permission.
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On the Cover: Anna Pfaff
Cover Date: January 9th, 2014