Destination Climbing: Laos

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.

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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.

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Girl Crush: An Interview with Mary Lüthy

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.

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“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

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The Female Climber’s Guide to Having It All

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.

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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.

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What Rock Climbing Can Teach Us About Life

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 Climbingnicely 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 🙂

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An Ode to Envy: Ascending to Our Better Selves

“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.

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Photo by Sasha Cox

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A Rocky Relationship: A Personal Essay

Climbing and I have a complicated relationship.  Sometimes my connection with climbing is tenuous at best, and though it may always appear bright from our shiny Instagram-filtered worlds, only I am aware of its lackluster days.  It is for these reasons that climbing has been my greatest mirror, and best metaphor for personal relationships.

It is the longest relationship I have had (outside of familial ones), and like all meaningful relationships, we find ourselves feeling accomplished, worthy, truly loved, happy, free and (literally) on top of the world at times, but it is not without its challenges.  In fact, it is this constant struggle that I have with climbing to continue to grow my physical strength and technique and emotional capacity to deal with failure and unforeseen situations that makes it a truly special relationship.

We all know the aforementioned positive emotions well – how freeing it can feel to be on top – whether it’s the first overhanging v0 we sent after repeat visits to the 45 degree wall, or the first rays of light we reach at the the summit after days of climbing up steep alpine terrain with unforgiving mountain conditions.  These feelings fuel our very being, give us life and light and hope.  But we speak less of the lackluster days – we know those well, too.  The ones where, despite days/weeks/months of projecting project X, we still can’t seem to nail that crux move, or we had to back away from the summit bid due to unforeseen circumstances (e.g. we simply ran out of time).  Or maybe it’s just that we had a bad climbing day – our heart wasn’t in it, we felt uninspired, and we simply didn’t want it badly enough.  Climbing can feel treacherous like that – one day we’re BFFs, and the next it’s like ‘hey, I thought we were friends, man – what’s up?’.  And we want to run.  Far away. From the flappers, shoulder tendinitis, badly chipped manicures, toe spurs, callouses, crooked bulging fingers, and lingering lower back pain.  But we can’t.  Because it hurts so good.

Am I advocating masochism here?  Surely not.  The pain to which I refer  is the pain of growth – of becoming.  And I think that all meaningful relationships to our personhood are like that – they’re rocky and beautiful, tense and intense and all-around awesome all at the same time, within the same hour of the same day.  They envelope us in their womb of loving kindness and shape us in ways we could not even imagine.  They stretch us to become the kind of person that we used to only read about in magazines and see in social feeds and never believed we could truly be.  Until we do.

And so yes, it’s been a rocky relationship, and I celebrate your rugged edges, Climbing.

Happy New Year.

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Love,

Jeanne

Destination Climbing: Wadi Rum

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?

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