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V0* - My Climbing Origin Story

alex mauss rappeling for the flynn center fundraiser over the edge burlington vermont

It all started in the summer of 2018! I signed up to be in a fundraiser event called Over the Edge, an event in which you raise money and then rappel down a local building (what a combo!). I would be fundraising for the art and performing arts organization: the Flynn Center in Burlington, Vermont. Before the rappel event, I was encouraged to get some practice: this brought me to the local climbing gym, Petra Cliffs. I had a blast learning to rappel, so I started looking into meet-up groups at the gym. This is how I found Women On The Rocks, Vermont.

alex mauss rock climbing gym

I’ll never forget the first few meetups I attended; I would watch these female climbers float up the walls with such grace, strength, and ease. Then I would try and I wondered how their easy movements were physically possible! The pump* was real and my body had never felt heavier. Not to mention, as soon as I got off the ground I was terrified to fall no matter how short of a distance it actually was.

*check out the climbing term dictionary at the bottom of the page if you need it!

But that discouragement didn't last long. The women in the climbing group would cheer me on, even through my most embarrassing attempts! Their energy was infectious and inspired me to keep going. My Gumby* girlfriends and I then signed up for a top rope class, steadily moving from 5.7s to 5.9s to 5.10s* and so on. (although moving past 5.10s was much slower progress, of course!)

We celebrated our wins and laughed off our many fails and flails.


alex mauss rock climbing gym

Fear and anxiety

have always been my biggest obstacle in climbing. However, experience has taught me how to listen to those feelings and flow through them, rather than be overcome by them. For me, the hardest part of being afraid is the shame that comes with it. Do I have more anxiety than others? Am I weak? How can I hide this feeling that could be perceived as a weakness?

In reality, I am the only one perceiving my feelings as weaknesses.

What I love about female climbers is that if you share that you’re feeling afraid, it’s often met with an "I've totally been there", or even a “Don't worry me too." Being able to accept my anxieties (which is still a work in progress) I've found is key to moving past them. Having the comfort with my climbing partners to fully be myself is a major step in that direction.


Climbing in Hawai'i

When my husband and I moved to Hawai'i, I knew it was imperative to find another community of female climbers. I decided to start my own meet-up group: Women on the Rocks, Oahu, named after the group that got me started in Vermont. I was amazed at how quickly the idea spread on social media, I couldn’t wait to meet the many excited female climbers who responded.

alex mauss at crag with female rock climbers

At the time, O'ahu only had one small climbing gym (now there are 3 gyms! Check out my design collab HiClimb Honolulu for Women in Sports Week) and it was early in the pandemic so our first meet-ups were all outdoors. Outdoor climbing was completely new to me and I remember being terrified at the exposure. It was like being back at the beginning of my climbing experience all over again. I also was so humbled that day, volcanic rock is tough! I was climbing well under my usual grade at the gym. But it didn’t matter. The group I was with had that same infectious energy: I felt like I could do no wrong.

I feel so lucky that even though my crag* crews have rotated quite a bit throughout the years, the encouragement, love, and joy I’ve felt anytime I’m with female climbers is constant.

I do my best to keep passing on that infectious supportive energy that I fell in love with from the very beginning and that has helped me so much both on and off the wall.

*Your Climbing Term Dictionary:

  • V0: Climbing grades are used to note a climb's difficulty. Bouldering climbs grades begin at V0 and go up to V16 (in the US, currently).

  • Pump or pumped: A sore, swollen, and weakening feeling of overworked muscles. Usually used to describe forearms.

  • Gumby: Beginner climber

  • 5.7s to 5.9s to 5.10s: Climbing grades are used to note a climb's difficulty. Rope Climbing grades begin at 5.1 technically, but most often 5.6 is seen as the lowest grade and can go up to 5.15c (in the US, currently).

  • Crag: an outdoor climbing area


Want to learn more about climbing in Hawai'i? Check out Kanaka Climbers.

A animation illustration Babe on Belay female climber term with rope and carabiner

Much of my artwork is inspired by my experiences in rock climbing, take a look:

Thanks for reading!


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