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Leben im Van, Klettern am Limit - Gretchen tourt durch Osteuropa.

Why climbing is the best sport (and needs more women).

I first heard of climbing after I met a boy – he wouldn't stop talking about his biggest passion. I couldn't imagine what could be so damn great about it and I decided to see for myself. Fast forward five years: rock climbing took over my social circle, my free time, my vacations, my instagram and said boy is my boyfriend. Basically, climbing quickly became a big part of my everyday life. Recently, I even started to teach young girls how to climb. I mostly do bouldering and free climbing - which isn't an equivalent of the infamous free soloing Alex Honold does. I prefer climbing on real rock but living in Berlin I train indoors a lot.


Aaaall the way up there!
Aaaall the way up there!


At the beginning the concept of climbing felt nothing but wild to me. Why would you try climb a rock the hardest possible way? Why would someone make up rules for that process? Why would you carry kilos and kilos worth of gear around just to get to the best lines? Why would you put bruising your knees, cutting your knuckles and possibly your life at risk just to send a certain route?

I guess, climbing is just too addictive and now I routinely do all of the above and more. And it's so worth it!


Speaking of strong women..
Speaking of strong women..


Climbing had me frustrated to the point of tearing up after I kept failing that one move for the 1000th time. It had me being seriously scared for my own safety. It doesn't matter how experienced you and your belay partner are and how safe your equipment is – rock climbing is an extreme sport and it won't fail to remind you of that from time to time. I always try my best to be safe and I carefully weigh risks and options but you can't be prepared for everything.
I recall the sheer horror realising that the foothold that carried my whole body weight a split second before broke off and that I was in fact falling. I was lucky that day, as I already clipped my rope into the first quickdraw and my belay partner reacted quick and right. In another incident I confidently climbed towards the first bolt in a route which was about 5 or 6 meters off the ground. Just as I was about to put my hand into a crack, I heard a penetrating hiss-sound. I pulled back my hand, hold on to the wall, peeked into the crack and saw a family of dormouses watching me angrily. Climbing down is a lot harder than climbing up, so I chose to find a way around that crack, doing much harder moves than expected while still not on belay. I tried to stay calm and trust myself and my abilites – never have I been happier to clip a quickdraw in my life. I definitely learned a lesson that day: If there's no going back, you have to keep moving forward.
Climbing also gave me my happiest and proudest moments and fortunately these are the vast majority. For expample trying that impossible move for the 1001th time and finally sticking it.


Post-send happiness.
Post-send happiness.


I take so much from climbing. Of course there is an unlimited amount of things to learn about technique, physical and tactical skills, gear, knots and so on. Still the mental aspect was the biggest impact on my life. Climbing constantly challenges me. As a consequence I have to overcome the fear of failure and of falling. I try really hard to keep a positive mindset, to keep climbing fun and to achieve my goals. I learned, as obvious as it sounds, that I have to go for something to get it done. Your not going to send a route if you don't have a go and no matter how hard or scary a move seems, you have to risk it to suceed. This helps me climb better and more importantly it lets me navigate through the challenges of my life with confidence.


Running out of skin, but not of motivation!
Running out of skin, but not of motivation!

Climbing gifted me with the best friends I could imagine. They share this passion (or madness) with me, we train together, cheer for each other and we are beyond happy if someone sends their project. Also we trust eachother with our lifes on a regular basis so that might be one reason why climbing friendships are so intense. I enjoy hanging out with all my climbing friends, but my fellow female climbers have influenced me the most. Climbing is a sport that provides equal challenges regardless of your gender and lets you come up with solutions that fit your body type and abilities. I truly believe that women are capable of climbing just as hard as men, especially on an amateur level. Even looking at the world's top climbers the gap between men and women becomes smaller and smaller. And yet climbing is still a sports dominated by men. Artificial routes in gyms and grades outdoors and indoors often favor abilities and body features (such as being tall) that are typically associated with being male. As open minded as the climbing community seems to be, there is still that ocasional sexist comment, that sceptical look, that dude going shirtless. In other words, there's still work to do but thinking of the fierce and strong climbing women I know, I don't worry about it too much.


Cheering each other on.
Cheering each other on.

After all, climbing makes me happy and confident. I love learning new things, I love challenging myself, I love beeing outdoors and with my friends. Climbing inspired me to become a stronger woman and I hope it does the same for everyone who gives it a shot.

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