Hidden in a small valley which ends in the backside of the beautiful Xiengliab Cave lies a climbing area called “Pha Tam Kam”, 12 km outside of Thakhek, Laos.
The climbing is wild and jungly, and there are over 280 routes, 12m to 40m long, with tufas, sintering and face climbing ranging from 4 to 8a+ . The ginormous roof climbs (starting at 6b+) are particularly fun and challenging to get on.
Every so often, we’ll interview extraordinary girls doing extraordinary things: this is Girl Crush. This week, we’re thrilled to feature Cambodia-based climbing entrepreneur Mary Lüthy, whose passion project is Phnom Climb, Phnom Penh’s first rock climbing gym.
Mary is super stoked about rock climbing because it builds community, a safe and supportive environment, trust, self-esteem, confidence and perseverance amongst locals and expats climbers.
“Most people don’t immediately think that a low income country like Cambodia would need something like a climbing gym. Yet, after living here for over 5 years, we are convinced that our beloved city, Phnom Penh, would be better off if there were more fun, constructive, and healthy activities available. We have watched the rapid growth of the economy and consumer possibilities, but no parallel growth of sports or extracurricular activities for young people. Phnom Penh is hungry for a rock climbing gym!”
-Mary Lüthy | Co-Founder, Phnom Climb
From Sheryl Sandberg to Bey (as in Beyoncé), there is a certain sense of gravitas (and, quite frankly, privilege) that lends itself to the image of the woman who ‘has it all’.
For some, it is the quintessential model of balancing a happy home, healthy relationships, and a hearty career; for me, it has been about crafting what I call a ‘corporate bohemian’ lifestyle (or, quite simply, ‘work life balance’) to create financial stability while having the freedom to pursue all of my passions – most of which involve travel, climbing, or the optimal pairing of both.
Admittedly, I’d been one of those nay-saying ladies in my earlier years, and just as I did not believe that women could have it all from a personal and professional standpoint (for reasons I won’t delve in here), so I did not believe that I could ‘have it all’ as a female climber.
We’re big believers that that rock climbing is perfectly suited as a metaphor for life, and Matthew Childs’ TED talk, 9 Life Lessons from Rock Climbing, nicely encapsulates this view:
Rule #1: Don’t let go
Rule #2: Hesitation is bad
Rule #3: Have a plan
Rule #4: The Move is the End
Rule #5: Know how to rest
Rule #6: Fear Sucks
Rule #7: Opposites are good
Rule #8: Strength doesn’t always equal success
Rule #9: Know how to let go
At first glance, it might look like Rule #1 and Rule #9 contradict one another, and luckily Rule #7 helps to clear things up 🙂
“What if jealousy really is a matter of geometry, just a matter of where we allow ourselves to stand in relation to another? And maybe then we wouldn’t have to resent somebody’s excellence. We could align ourselves with it.”
–Parul Sehgal, An ode to evnvy
Sometimes envy can be our enemy, and other times it can be our motivation. Its power lies in metamorphosis; when we transform envy into empowerment, we become our better selves, and open up a playroom full of possibilities.
Photo by Sasha Cox
Wadi Rum is everything you’d expect of a quintessential desert: it is extreme in summer heat and winter cold; it is violent and moody as the sun slices through chiselled siqs (canyons) at dawn or melts the division between rock and sand at dusk; it is exacting on the Bedouin who live in it and vengeful on those who ignore its dangers
–Lonely Planet Jordan
Wadi Rum in southern Jordan is home to some of the most spectacular desert climbing in the world. Certainly for U.S.-based climbers Indian Creek, Joshua Tree, or Moab are much closer options with stunning canyons and desert landscapes, so why make the trek to the Middle East to experience Wadi Rum climbing?