We caught up with the super-strong and amazing sport climber Paige Claassen to talk about Sarchasm (5.14a) in the RMNP, which is a single pitch sport route and is found above Chasm Lake. Located near the base of Long Peak’s well known Diamond, Sarchasm is at an altitude of an incredible 12,000 feet, involving intricate and highly technical, precise climbing.
Editor: We’re honored to speak with you and appreciate your time, Paige.
Paige: Thanks, ClimbSkiBoulderMagazine.com, psyched to chat with you for a bit.
Editor: Let me first congratulate you on your climb of Sarchasm in the RMNP.
What an intriguing and yet demanding climb. It must have felt amazing topping out!
Paige: I was relieved to finally finish the route, but couldn’t do much more than stand on the upper ledge at the anchors and try to regain control of my lungs. But yes, I’m really happy to have completed such a special line.
Editor: You mention that a lot of mental conditioning went into it, would you share your feelings on that? It is very much a heart and soul effort.
Paige: Sarchasm was definitely a mental battle, more than a physical battle. I fell near the top last season, and although that was a big letdown, I had the confidence that I could finish the route. This year, I had to resort all the beta, as it’s very intricate. On my fifth day up at Chasm, I fell off the top again, even higher than I had last year. I felt really defeated at that point, as pressure to finish was culminating. I experienced a great deal of doubt and frustration, but needed to maintain a strong and confident mind to finish the route.
Editor: Walk us through some of the technicalities of this climb that really made an impression on you.
Paige: It’s an interesting route, because the most difficult moves are small foot adjustments. Once I moved my feet, the hands followed easily. In that sense, it’s not a very physical route. However, it requires pretty serious core strength to move your feet up and precisely place them on really small smears. I never pulled very hard with my hands or arms, but had to squeeze with my legs and feet as hard as I possibly could to stay on the arete.
Editor: A truly impressive effort. How old were you when you were drawn to climbing? And where was this?
Paige: I began climbing at nine years old, when my parents took me to the local Estes Park climbing gym. I trained indoors and competed for the first 8 years of my climbing life, and didn’t begin climbing outside seriously until I was 17.
Editor: Who was your first climbing teacher?
Paige: Jim Dahlstrom was my very first instructor at the Estes Park climbing gym. Throughout my years on the Estes Park climbing team, Michelle Hurni, Mike Caldwell, and Stephan Greenway were all very influential coaches, each teaching valuable skills that I still hold onto today.
Editor: Is your family supportive about your climbing career?
Paige: My family is my greatest support system. My parents and younger brother, Sam, traveled to each and every competition with me around the world. Sam continues to be one of my favorite climbing partners, and we often competed together when we were young. My parents always say they’re glad we didn’t choose swimming as a sport, because instead of sitting in hot aquatic centers on weekends, we got to travel to competitions in really amazing places. I’m very thankful for the support and encouragement my family continues to provide today.
Editor: That's absolutely fabulous, as family support is everything.
Which climbers do you find most inspirational?
Paige: I’m an Estes Park local, so Tommy Caldwell was the primary climber I always looked up to. He developed many of the classic sport lines in Colorado, including Sarchasm. His climbing is certainly inspirational, but I find his humility the most impressive feat of all.
Editor: What is your advice to young climbers who look up to you?
Some of them get quite serious about climbing, instead of having fun with it.
Paige: You’ll have plenty of years to push your limits physically, but learning to appreciate and enjoy climbing at a young age will be your biggest asset. I think pressure and burnout are the biggest hurdles in an individual sport like climbing.
Editor: Good advice. Where would you love to visit and climb around the globe?
Utah, Africa, Spain, South America?
Or maybe the legendary Himalayas? What is your ideal climbing destination?
Paige: I would love to spend more time climbing in South America – Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador. I find the South American culture very interesting, and would love to explore their cliffs more. Of course, there’s always more climbing to explore near home as well – Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming host some of my favorite crags in the world!
Editor: Here’s an important question that truly defines a climber.
Why do you climb?
What has climbing given to you and to your life?
Paige: At a very young age, climbing gave me confidence and taught me how to work hard for what I wanted. I love that each route presents a new challenge, a puzzle to be solved. It’s very rewarding to top out a route that seemed impossible when I first walked up to it. Of course, I also love spending time outside, traveling, and meeting people from around the world. And, it’s a nice feeling to end the day tired and happy!
Editor: It is, indeed! What are your thoughts on the preservation of nature and climate change?
Paige: It’s a no brainer that we need to take care of the places we climb. Access is a big deal, and many popular climbing destinations are trashed. This is often from day users who are not climbers, but it presents an opportunity for climbers to step up and show that we care about the places we climb. Keeping enjoying your crags, but make a conscious effort to minimize your impact.
Editor: Well put. Okay, let’s mix it up a bit…this is sure to delight your fans!
On rest days, what kinds of books do you read?
What kind of music do you like to unwind to?
What’s your favorite movie?
Tea or coffee person?
What do you love to bake?
Paige: Right now, I’m reading the Art of Learning, which presents a really interesting perspective on how we master a sport, and deal with the pressures involved. I also enjoy historical fiction – The Red Tent and The Space Between Us are a few of my favorites.
I love anything I can sing along to, and I’ll listen to anything except Reggae.
True Romance is my favorite movie, but I’m a fan of all Quentin Tarantino films.
Coffee in the morning, tea in the evening.
Bacon chocolate chip cookies, cupcakes, anything I can experiment with.
Editor: Great choices, Paige.
What are the 3 things you never go climbing without?
Paige: Snacks, extra snacks, and a supportive partner in case I put too much pressure on myself.
Editor: And if you weren't a climber, what would you have been?
Paige: I’m going back to school next year…stay tuned!
Editor: Thanks for spending some time with us, Paige. It was great to learn about your climbing history!
Please come by and talk with us again, your fans love to hear from you.
Paige: Thanks ClimbSkiBoulderMagazine.com!
Editor: Always a pleasure.
Images © Cameron Maier
Photography & Video
Paige’s official web site: http://paigeclaassen.com/
Paige’s official Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/paige.claassen
Paige’s sponsors: The North Face, La Sportiva, Smith Optics, CAMP USA, Maxim Ropes
List of Paige’s FFAs
Just Do It (5.14c) FFA, Smith Rock, OR, May 2014
Ganesh (5.14a) FFA, Badami, India, December 2013
Sea of Tranquility (5.14a) FFA, Yangshuo, China, November 2013
China Climb (5.14b) FFA, Yangshuo, China, November 2013
Art Attack (5.14b) Second Ascent, FFA, Val Masino, Italy, September 2013
Rodan (5.14a) FFA, Waterval Boven, South Africa, July 2013
Digital Warfare (5.14a) First Ascent, Free State, South Africa, July 2013
Grand Ole Orpy (5.14b) FFA, Monastery, CO, September 2010
On the Cover:
Paige Claassen on Sarchasm (5.14a)
Cover Date: September 15th, 2015