Our Athlete Manager, Heidi Shingleton (dubbed “Minister of Culture” here at Sterling), scooped up our youngest team member, Abigail Humber, (with her mom and coach’s permission of course) and took her on an impromptu 4-day whirlwind road trip in Colorado.
The destinations were picked based on athletes Heidi was trying to connect with:
- Day #1: Boulder | Catching up with Anna Pfaff and Mo Beck
- Day #2: Castle Rock | Slumber-party at Heidi’s old house & training session for Abigail @ Ubergrippen
- Day #3: Ouray | “Adventure Climbing” with Marcus Garcia
- Day #4: Ouray 2.0| Via Ferrata with Angela Hawse
- Day #4.2: Rifle | “Project Heaven” with Rob Pizem
As the miles passed and stops were made, Heidi’s simple idea of showing Abigail a few things outside of comp climbing and seriously hard sport routes evolved. Thank you to Heidi for taking the opportunity to throw gas on the fire of a 17-year-old’s unyielding passion and curiosity for a sport we all love.
With a meticulously maintained log to monitor every aspect of my life, I wouldn’t call my approach to success spontaneous. Well, that was until Heidi invited me on one of her spontaneous adventures. I was just breathing a sigh of relief that it was finally time for me to recover after the Vail North American Cup ended, when I got a text basically asking me to drop everything and go on a road trip across Colorado. I was exhausted, I had a training cycle to attend to, I didn’t know if I’d be able to keep up with my diet, but for some reason I said yes anyway. I’m so glad I did.
Day #1: Boulder | Catching up with Anna Pfaff and Mo Beck
I packed up my things and we headed out. We drove by beautiful cliffs as we approached our first stop of the trip. We were meeting Mo Beck and Anna Pfaff. The introvert in me was already nervous, wishing I was climbing the cliffs we were driving by, where I’d feel more in my element. To my surprise, Mo and Anna had chosen a beautiful river as our meeting place, which immediately made me feel a sense of belonging. Back home in the DMV (DC/Maryland/Virginia area), people didn’t really seek out or appreciate the power of nature, so I usually felt alone in my constant desire to seek it out. This feeling of having found my community would be a theme on this trip.
I could sense the experience and wisdom of the people around me as I walked up to the picnic table, so I set the intention to try to absorb as much of that as possible. As we talked, I was struck by Mo’s confidence. She had the biggest presence in the room, regardless of the fact that she had one less hand than the rest of us. Her ability to feel at home in any environment was so inspiring to me. I listened to Anna talk about the journey she was on overcoming the removal and rehab of her frostbitten toes. I could tell under the surface that she was struggling, but she seemed so excited about her recovery. I can’t even imagine the overwhelming uncertainty of having your world turned upside down like that or the presence of mind required to let your toes get to that condition. I hope someday I can develop the faith in myself to be able to stay hopeful after facing a life challenge of that magnitude, or maybe that’s something you learn as you go.
Day #2: Castle Rock | Slumber-party at Heidi’s old house & training session for Abigail @ Ubergrippen
After a day in the gym with my body screaming at me, wondering why we were diverting our plan away from a nice relaxing recovery, we hit the road. Heidi and I headed toward Ouray. Of course, in full Heidi fashion, we stopped for some impromptu “white water floatying” on popsicle and mermaid-shaped floaties. We had stayed the night at Heidi’s childhood home in Castle Rock, a gorgeous yet cozy property on a hill overlooking the entire town. I definitely was envious as someone coming from the cramped quarters of DC.
Day #3: Ouray | “Adventure Climbing” with Marcus Garcia
We met up with Marcus Garcia for some “adventure climbing,” and oh boy was it an adventure. The first of the new things I tried was applying sunscreen before going out to climb, something I had always stayed away from for fear of greasy hands but that is apparently crucial in the alpine world.
Then, we began what was undoubtedly the most arduous approach of my life. Sliding carabiners up ropes and using something called a hollowblock to avoid falling to our deaths, Marcus, Heidi and I set off pebble avalanches down the side of the cliff as we climbed. Well, the pebbles were mostly from me… After what seemed like an eternity, we arrived at the most beautiful ledge overlooking Ouray.
There I was informed we would START climbing. After a bit of rest, I actually had the most amazing experience climbing in the beautiful little oasis in the sky. I felt like I was in a temple created by nature, where only a select few would get the chance to step foot. I was also pleasantly surprised that I was still able to onsight 5.12 after the crazy approach and being so far outside my comfort zone!
When I wasn’t on the wall, I took the opportunity to pick Marcus’s brain, applying the sponge mentality once again. I was shocked by the depth of knowledge he had about training- applying lenses that I’d never seen in my years of competition climbing. I was impressed by his humility and patience, taking the time to answer my seemingly ever-present questions. Marcus is the most amazing mentor, and I hope in the future I can keep learning from him. His years of experience couldn’t possibly be explained in a day. I hope someday I can be a mentor to younger generations like he is. Maybe along the way, I’ll get to go climb in more amazing places like the one I got the chance to experience that day! I sure hope so.
I definitely felt a sense of accomplishment lying on the bed in my room after completing a 200+ foot rappel to put an end to the epic day. It was then, in my semi-delirious state, that I realized I still had to get ready for dinner.
Once Angela Hawse got to our table, I snapped out of my brain fog. She had a presence that I can only describe as utterly badass. My jaw hit the floor when I heard she was less than a year away from 60. I could tell as soon as she walked in the room that she wasn’t just impressive for her insane longevity. You could tell Angela had a list of groundbreaking accomplishments to her name, and that list was still far from being complete despite her age. Angela, Marcus, Heidi, and I shared stories across the table and nerded out about training. Who knew a woman approaching 60 could flip tires better than I could! Well let’s face it, Angela can probably do a lot of things better than me.
Day #4: Ouray 2.0| Via Ferrata with Angela Hawse
6:30 the next morning came far too early when we got up to attack the Via Ferrata with Angela. I swear the only thing keeping me awake was the desire to take in the beautiful Ouray ice park, (and not to look like a complete fool in front of Angela and Heidi.) Afterward, Heidi and I took off toward Rifle, as I attempted to use a foam roller as a pillow to catch some Zs.
Day #4.2: Rifle | “Project Heaven” with Rob Pizem
My eyes widened as I saw the perfect walls of Rifle Canyon, positioned just a few steps away from the road. I clambered to get out of the car as I waved to Rob Pizem. I noticed Rob’s son scurrying around as I tied in. The movement here was so perfect. I just wanted to climb at Rifle forever. Rob took me on a little tour of the canyon's most classic and historical areas, my eyes widening as I stood face to face with routes on which my role models had experienced the same self-actualization that I had more recently on Proper Soul and Trebuchet. As we walked, Rob told me about how he has balanced his climbing and coaching career with the full-time job that is parenting. It opened my eyes to the fact that success, even in the world of high-level climbing, is possible while also finding life balance. I have been slowly learning the benefits of balance as I age, but getting to meet a living example in climbing was inspiring. I left Rifle wanting more, excited for the wealth of experiences still left to be explored.
Growing up, I feared that if I didn’t have it all figured out by 18, I’d have missed the boat. Now, as I finally approach that age, I’m realizing that there are still so many exciting mountains left to be climbed and moments left to be lived. I still have so much to learn, and so many opportunities left to learn it. You can never perfectly plan for the future and see every adventure coming, just like I could have never predicted this road trip. I got to meet so many amazing people, who shared so many lessons from their lives. If I could just adopt five percent of Mo’s confidence, Anna’s resilience, Marcus’s humility and knowledge, Angela’s determination and tirelessness, and Rob’s ability to find balance, I would be infinitely ahead.
It only took a few days to change my perspective on life, and I can’t wait to use the lessons I learned on this trip every day going forward. Once again, life taught me that it’s when you randomly say yes to opportunities that the best things happen.
Thank you to Heidi and everyone at Sterling who made this happen. I am so incredibly grateful.