On the Cover:
An Exclusive Interview
Cover Date June 27th, 2015.
An Interview with Beth Rodden
In the world of climbing, there is one name that commands great respect and instant admiration. Which is why getting to interview this superb and word-class climber is an incredible honor for our magazine. Beth Rodden is looked up to by millions of men and women climbers, and women climbers who are also moms, across the nation.
Beth is proof that a climber can be extremely talented, yet humble, have an incredible skill-set on the rock, yet also be able to show the human side of such a demanding sport.
Easy to talk to and truly one of the sweetest climbers I’ve had the chance to converse with, Beth embodies all that we’d expect from a tremendous athlete, as well as an erudite, sensitive writer who has connected with people across the world with her fantastic blog.
Let’s chat with the one and only, Beth Rodden!
Editor: We’re so honored to speak with you and appreciate your time, Beth.
Beth Rodden: Thanks for thinking of me, Vera!
Editor: With so many FAs under your belt, what has been one of the most challenging route/grade you’ve ever done and where was this?
Beth Rodden: The most challenging rated route I’ve ever done was Meltdown, in Yosemite, CA. It’s in upper Cascade Creek, right next to a beautiful waterfall.
Ron Kauk (one of my climbing heroes) had the vision for the route and put the anchor bolts in about 10 years before I started working on it.
Editor: What kind of rock type do you enjoy climbing on?
Beth Rodden: I’d probably say that I am partial to granite, but I really enjoy a variety. Every time I get on good sandstone, like in Fontainebleau or in South Africa, I have such a fun time. And the limestone sport climbing in Europe can’t be beat. But, if you were to ask me to choose just one, I’d say the granite of Yosemite. :-)
Editor: At what age did you begin to learn climbing? You participated in a lot of comps early in your career. Who were your first coaches?
Beth Rodden: My dad took me climbing in the Sierras a handful of times when I was very young. He grew up part of his life in Europe, and learned to climb over there. But it wasn’t until he took me to the local climbing gym when I was 14 years old that I really started climbing full time.
I didn’t ever have a coach. Back then, there were no coaches in climbing, except for maybe in Europe. I was lucky enough to be part of that first generation of kid climbers (along with legends like Katie Brown, Chris Sharma, Tommy Caldwell, Dave Hume, etc.), so there was really no set standard of teams or coaches yet.
One of the owners at the gym and a couple of the employees, Mark, Dan and Dave all took me under their wing, and climbed with me. But what I loved about climbing was that it was self-driven, it wasn’t like the other sports I participated in that had a coach and a set practice time and routine. It inspired this self-drive and determination in me. I pushed myself and climbed as much as I could because I loved it. :-)
Editor: Do you remember your very first climb outside a gym? What did it feel like to connect to the rock? First climbs are always remembered and are a treasure.
Beth Rodden: I remember the first trip one of my mentors Dan took me on to Donner Summit. It felt so foreign, yet so exciting. Granite is so different than indoor climbing, much more technical and subtle. I really took to it and loved it. We spent the entire day outside climbing till our skin fell off. I completely passed out on the car ride home.
Editor: What is your favorite route in Yosemite that you would like to climb just because its natural rock flow blends perfectly with you?
Perhaps there is more than one such route?
Beth Rodden: Ooof, that’s a hard question. So hard to pick just one! :-) I really love climbing at Pat and Jack - it’s a crag down canyon with a good variety of climbs, none of them super hard (at least the ones I do regularly) but I love them. There are a few good finger cracks, face climbs, etc.
I think I trend towards not very steep climbs, climbs that require a lot of problem solving and thought. I really love pushing my body in climbing but also love how much of a mental sport it is. I’d say at that cliff I’d probably choose Knob Job. :-)
Editor: What was it like being in Font, especially with Theo with you on the trip?
He would be the bonus, of course, enjoying the beautiful forest all around him and watching his Mama climb.
Beth Rodden: Font was amazing. I really loved being back in that magical forest. I had been there twice before, and loved it each time. But being able to travel there with Theo was extra special. Watching him discover the sandstone, the different areas, the new terrain was amazing. And it is so kid friendly that it seemed like a great first international trip for both me and him!
Editor: Who would you say were the climbers you looked up when you were first starting out? Lynn Hill comes to mind…anyone else?
Beth Rodden: For sure Lynn Hill, she is such an icon in our sport, what she did was/is so groundbreaking. Robyn Erbesfield as well - such an amazing and focused climber. Peter Croft and Ron Kauk as well were huge inspirations to me, as well as Jim Karn.
Editor: Your life as a professional climber has gone through various stages, which all professional climbers go through. What did it feel like when you got your first sponsor?
You have so many now, but getting sponsored for the very first time surely creates an inner dialog and one starts asking a lot of questions and feel happiness as well as responsibility. What was it like for you?
Beth Rodden: Oh man, I felt like the luckiest person in the world! Ed Sampson was the La Sportiva rep for the gym I started climbing at. He gave me my first pair of shoes when I had only been climbing for a month or two.
I couldn’t believe I actually got a free pair of shoes!!! And that he thought I must be a good climber was beyond flattering. To be honest, I still feel so fortunate to have such amazing and supportive sponsors, they really are great.
Editor: Gosh, I can imagine how elated one would be to get your first pair of climbing shoes! :-)
You come across as a sensitive, intuitive and passionate climber…has climbing made you more intuitive about which climbs you do and shouldn’t do?
Beth Rodden: Hmmm, that’s a good question. I’m sure climbing has taught me a lot about what my body is or is not capable of.
But I also think that I like learning about the sport and talking to other climbers as well. I think I learn an immense amount from other climbers, so that probably has a lot to do with it as well.
Editor: In an extremely demanding yet satisfying sport like climbing, how do you protect your fingers and hands?
Climbers are always super-concerned about the condition of their hands/shoulders…some climbers choose to sandpaper them, do you?
Beth Rodden: I don’t do a ton of sandpapering on my fingers, but that’s because I have really wet skin, so I tend not to get splits very easily. I definitely have a skin care routine, Climb On bar is huge for me, I can’t imagine what I would do without it.
As far as conditioning, I really try and take care of my shoulders and joints. I have extremely loose joints, and even looser now that I am still breastfeeding Theo. So I really try to work on stability exercises with those.
I’ve had a lot of shoulder injuries in my career, so I try to be as proactive as I can with them. As far as my fingers and hands, I have also had my fair share of finger injuries. I’m still looking for the magic answer when it comes to keeping those injury-free, if/when I find it I’ll let you know! :-)
Editor: May you always remain injury-free, Beth. :-)
Okay, there are ethical questions when it comes to climbing; there are unspoken rules and standards where the preservation of nature is held highest, where one actively does no harm to one’s natural surroundings, kind of like the clash between the ethics of Royal and Warren.
How will you teach Theo about your personal code of ethics?
What will you do to make sure that he understands about climbing and its power to emotionally touch one’s heart?
Beth Rodden: That’s a great question. I would love to teach Theo to respect his natural world and environment as much as possible. It’s an incredible gift and resource, one that I think as climbing grows in popularity will be tested and pushed.
However, I think the best way is to lead by example, so I’ll do my best to show him how lucky we are to have it and that we have to treat it well so that it will be here for generations after his.
Editor: That's a wonderful answer.
Here’s an important question that truly defines a climber.
Why do you climb? What does it give you emotionally?
(When you’re in the midst of nature, there is a connection that you make with your surroundings and yourself that others may not sense.
Many experienced climbers whom I’ve interviewed, who are now in their 60s and 70s have learned to pick up on nature’s language quickly.)
What has climbing given to you and to your life?
Beth Rodden: That’s a great question. Climbing is an anchor for me in my life. It taught me self-reliance, self-drive, gave me courage and passion. I honestly can’t imagine my life without it.
Before climbing I loved athletics and sports, but wasn’t necessarily passionate about any one thing. Then I found climbing and it literally felt like things fell into place. It introduced me to an amazing community of passionate people and also showed me a way to experience the mountains like I never had before.
I also truly love the problem solving aspect of it, which I fear is being lost in climbing a bit. I love walking up to a route and not knowing how to climb it, or all the beta. Sure I love working out beta with friends and climbing together. But I so often see and hear now people just asking how to climb it, or pulling up a video before even trying a climb.
It’s more of a purely athletic approach to climbing than a combination of mental and athletics. Which is completely respectable in its own way, but also is a bit sad to see that part of the sport being lost or not enjoyed as much as it used to be. That adventure or exploratory part that I know is why a lot of climbers get into climbing.
I think when climbing in the mountains, being surrounded by natural beauty inspires me to be more intuitive, more creative and try harder. It’s a pretty special way to experience the mountains.
Editor: What got you into nutrition?
What are your thoughts regarding vegan and non-vegan meals?
Beth Rodden: I’m not sure I’m really into “nutrition” per se, but more into good quality food. I try very hard to buy food grown locally and sustainably raised from farmers that treat the environment, land and animals with respect. I feel that that has been lost in our food system.
The way our grandparents used to eat is vastly different than how the majority of our nation eats now. Animals are raised in horrific environments and then sold to us to eat. The number one complaint I hear about eating local, organic and pasture raised foods is price. But the amount of money the average American spends on food compared to 50 years ago is crazy, it’s a fraction of the price and it shows in quality.
Editor: That's incredible when you think about it, yes.
Beth Rodden: It’s almost as if we don’t care how our food is raised or what is put in it, as long as it is cheap, then that’s okay. I’m much more willing to spend a larger part of my income on good, quality nutritious food that will actually nourish my body. I’d rather do that than have new electronics, toys, etc.
Editor: I wish more folks felt that way.
Beth Rodden: As far as vegan, vegetarian, etc. When I’m traveling and don’t know the way that the animals were raised, or if they were most likely factory farm raised, I always eat vegan. I’m allergic to dairy, so it means I just don’t get eggs or meat. When I am home, and know and trust that I’m buying eggs and meat from farmers who respect the land and their animals, then I will eat meat probably 3-4 times per week.
Other than that, I eat A LOT of fruit and vegetables and nuts and good bread, pasta and soups. I really love food and preparing and sharing meals. I feel that it’s a bit of a lost thing in our culture.
Editor: That’s a great observation, and you’re incredibly well informed about this.
Beth in your opinion, are climbers born or made?
Beth Rodden: Ha! I’m not sure. I know that I loved climbing trees when I was a kid - I guess I was born, but had to really find climbing to flourish as an actual climber :-)
Editor: Okay, let’s ask you some fun questions…
What kinds of books do you enjoy reading?
Beth Rodden: Biographies.
What kind of music do you like to unwind to?
Beth Rodden: Hmmm, I’ve been liking Sean Hayes in the evenings.
What’s your favorite movie?
Beth Rodden: Most cheesy love stories are my favorites.
What’s your favorite food?
Beth Rodden: So hard to pick just one, but I guess if I had to - I’d say a peach that is perfectly ripe. :-)
Editor: A perfect choice! :-)
Thanks for spending some time with us, Beth.
Please come by and talk with us again, your fans love to hear from you.
Beth Rodden: I’d love to, Vera! It’s been an honor!
Editor: Oh, the honor is entirely mine! :-)
Interview conducted by Vera Kaikobad L. Ac.
Administrator of the Facebook Page 'An Interview With'.
Editor-in-Chief of ClimbSkiBoulderMagazine.com
Interview © Vera Kaikobad L. Ac.
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Official web site: www.bethrodden.com
List of sponsors:
Outdoor Research, La Sportiva, Metolius, Climb On, Osprey Packs, BlueWater Ropes, Clif Bar, Oakley.