Paige Claassen – Professional Climber

Paige Claassen – Professional Climber January 30, 2017

City/Country: Estes Park, CO USA and De Doorns, South Africa

List major accomplishments in rock climbing or sports in general:
Just Do It (5.14c), Smith Rock, Oregon. America’s first 5.14c
Grand Ole Opry (5.14b), The Monastery, Colorado
Art Attack (5.14b), Val Masino Italy – one of the world’s hardest slab climbs
First Ascent of Digital Warfare (5.14a), Wow Prow, South Africa
Launched non-profit organization – Southern Africa Education Fund

Let’s go back to the beginning. Where, when, and how did you start training?
My family moved to Estes Park, CO when I was 9. I was shy, struggled to fit in, and wasn’t very good at the other sports I tried (soccer, swimming). My parents took me to the local climbing gym and it just clicked. I loved it and quickly became involved with the local team and in National competitions.

What first gym did you attend?
The Estes Park Mountain Shop Climbing Gym.

Who were your first teacher? What are some aspects of his/her teaching approach that stand out in your memory?
Jim Dahlstrom was my first instructor. Learning to lead climb is a big step in each person’s climbing journey, and I remember feeling terrified of falling. To get me over that fear, he would make me take long falls (onto the rope of course, completely safe) so that I could learn to feel safe and comfortable. In high-level climbing, it’s common to take 30+ foot falls – 16 years after Jim Dahlstrom taught me about falling, it’s a normal part of my daily climbing routine.

What’s your current gym?
I primarily train outside, or at my home by using hang boards, the TRX (suspension training), and basic weight routines. When I am home in Colorado, I train at the Boulder Rock Club – the vibe is laid back and comfortable, yet the routes offer a great variety of styles, which I find optimal for training.

What are some things that have influenced your rock climbing training?
The people I climb with definitely influence my climbing, so I try to climb with a wide range of partners. The exciting part of climbing is that you can always learn something from your partners, no matter their age, ability, or level of experience. We tend to mimic the styles of those we climb with most often. I find that if I train with my husband, my climbing becomes more dynamic and powerful, but less calculated. If I climb with girlfriends, I climb more slowly and accurately.

What brand(s) is your gear? How long have you been training with it? Anything special about this gear?
I’ve worked with La Sportiva for the past 8 years, and they’ve always been the only option in my mind for climbing shoes. My very first pair of shoes at age 9 were La Sportiva Mythos. Today, I use the Miura VS for technical climbs and Skwama or Futura for bouldering. La Sportiva recently launched an apparel line, and they’ve finally filled a gap in the market for durable, comfortable, and functional climbing clothes that look cool and don’t hinder my movement – a tough find in the climbing world!

What’s the most important aspect of being a climber in your opinion?
I’m super grateful that I get to spend so much of my life outside with the people I love. I’ve been able to travel all over the world to climb, and I met my husband through those travels. God gave me the gift to climbing, and I always want to be able to use that to help others. I recently launched my own non-profit organization, Southern Africa Education Fund, which works to educate and empower kids in rural communities and give them the ability to lift themselves and their families out of poverty.

Your advice to the parents who is trying to get their kids stick with rock climbing lessons?
I often call climbing the misfit sport – it often attracts kids like me who didn’t fit in other places. It’s an independent sport and takes a lot of self-motivation. It teaches kids an incredible work ethic and sense of reward when they put in the hard work. On the flip side, I see a lot of parents pushing their kids so hard that the kids burn out and don’t love the sport anymore, so I always encourage parents to nurture their child’s journey, but the deep sense of motivation has to come from the child.

My parents always said they were so glad my brother and I got into climbing because our family was able to travel around the country and the world for competitions. For them, it definitely beat sitting in a hot aquatic center waiting for swim events.

Your advice to the kid who is getting into rock climbing?
Just have fun. Don’t compare yourself to other kids or put pressure on yourself to excel at a certain thing. Try out all styles of climbing – sport, bouldering, indoor, outdoor, technical, powerful – and do what gets you excited.

Can you give us a glimpse of your current training schedule? How often do you practice and how do you practice?
I trained in the gym for 14 years, 4 days a week. Today, I feel like I’ve built a strong enough training base that I can train outdoors and achieve the same results. If I want to excel at a certain style that I’m weak at, I will plan my own training program in the gym to improve on that weakness.

What was the most memorable climbs you had?
Grand Ole Opry (mentioned above) was one of the most memorable because it taught me what I was truly capable of – giving 110%, and reaching beyond my perceived abilities.

Just Do It (mentioned above) was an important landmark for me because it was my most difficult climb to date, yet my mind was in a strong place and I was able to connect the pieces of the puzzle quickly.

What inspires/motivates you?
Beautiful climbs in beautiful places but most importantly spending days outside with the people I love.

What are some of your interests outside of rock climbing?
I love to bake and cook (and eat!). I’m trying to learn to kite surf, but it hasn’t clicked yet. I enjoy taking photos, particularly when I’m traveling. And planning the next big adventure is always a good hobby!

Do you teach rock climbing? If yes, what’s the best way for students to reach you?
I teach clinics at various climbing festivals in the United States throughout the year and have worked with gyms in the past to coordinate a weekend of clinics. Private coaching is difficult, as I’m rarely in one place for very long, but families can always reach out via the contact form on my website.

What is one piece of advice that you would give to somebody who is inspiring to some of the same things that you’ve achieved on how they might be able to get an edge in that journey?
Training has to be fun. It won’t always be easy, but find ways to make it fun, and find goals that motivate you to work through the less fun times.

Paige, we wish you well and continuing success!

Follow Paige on Facebook or Instagram
Follow Southern Africa Education Fund on Facebook or Instagram

We’d love to recommend a book:
Chris Noble’s latest book “Why We Climb“, featuring stunning photos and first hand interviews with top climbers from around the world.

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