Lessons in Lead Climbing (Part 1): Elvis Leg Isn’t the End

Four years ago I took my first lead fall in a tiny college gym in Cheney, WA. The class had been short and I’d completed it with three of my good friends. We’d spent a few hours learning the basics of lead climbing like how not to z-clip or backclip. We learned how to give and take slack and how to jump at just the right time to ensure a softer fall for your climber. We had gone through all the basics and now it was time to pass the lead climbing test. It was a moderate 5.8 climb with holds for days, but I was still shaking and nervous because I knew the closer I got to the top the sooner I’d have to let go and trust that I wouldn’t deck and end my life.

It took me fifteen minutes to let go of those stupid plastic holds.

At that point I thought to myself, Alright Megan, nice work, you learned how to lead climb, now you can go back to top-roping for the rest of your days. Because NO WAY was I going to put myself in that situation again. No thank you, I will pass.

Unfortunately for me and my fear, my insistent friends had different plans for me.

Not long after the class, the four of us hit the road to northwestern Montana in search of limestone and campfires and wine. We were stoked to be on an all girls climbing trip. We didn’t need men to rope gun for us! We knew how to lead climb, dammit, and lead climb we…might.

On our first pitch we all chickened out before the first bolt. We’d caress the start holds, hoping they’d unlock some secret power within us that would enable us to float up the wall, but nothing happened. We barely even got our feet off the ground.

We regrouped and found another pitch that looked a little more forgiving and I decided I was going to do it. I’d climbed 5.8’s tens, if not hundreds of times. Physically it was possible.


I roped up, did my buddy check, and was on my way, one tepid move after another. With every vertical movement, my breathing come quicker and my Elvis-leg threatened to shake me right off the wall. But if I bailed, and none of the other girls could make it to the top, then we would lose gear, and I was determined to bring my shiny new quickdraws home with me.

Disbelief washed over me as I clipped into the chains. I’d done it. I’d lead a route outside and I didn’t die! Hallelujah!


When my introspection came, as it usually does, I gained some perspective about climbing. Like how many people are climbing every single day, and how many of those people return home safely. Or the fact that these routes are bolted with protection in mind, and the purpose of the rope and the quickdraws and the bolts are to work harmoniously together in order to keep climbers off the deck. Now, granted, this doesn’t always happen, but now, in the five and a half years I’ve been climbing, I’ve seen someone (my brother, actually) really deck only once, and he walked away with a bruised ankle.

All these what-if’s and fat-chances are the nemesis of my climbing. Whether I’m on the wall, walking to the wall, standing below the wall, on top of the wall—these are the ideas that invade my mind. Ideas of bolts pulling, of harnesses failing, of choss cascading off the wall. Constantly I remind myself that while these things can happen, chances are that they won’t. Chances are, whatever climb I’m attempting I’ll finish it the way I’ve finished the others: with a little bit of style and some awesome Adam Ondra inspired yells.


Don’t let the fear of what could happen make nothing happen. -Doe Zantamata

Confessions of a Part-Time Vegan

My name’s Megan, and I’m a part-time Vegan.

Wait. What?

You heard me. I consider myself a part-time Vegan because I’ve been convinced that a label is necessary, however, unfortunately, I fit no label currently offered.

Because when I go grocery shopping, I fill my cart with Vegan food. With spinach, and bell peppers, and fixing’s for black bean tacos. I choose to not buy food made from animals (with the rare exception of honey.)

But then when I’m at work (where I’m gone for days at a time) and I go out to eat with my coworkers, and there’s this incredible sushi restaurant a block from the hotel, I eat sushi. With cream cheese in the middle.

What’s even more, when I’m traveling abroad and stumble upon a restaurant that offers a local delicacy that involves meat from the cows that have roamed the fields around the establishment for the years of their lives, I indulge.

Am I making you uncomfortable yet?

Unfortunately, my friends, we live in a cookie-cutter world that is desperate to fill molds and find labels for everything. Feminist, Marxist, Democrat, Republican, Conservative, Liberal, Vegetarian, Christian, Crossfitter, Book-lover, Dancer, Actor, Writer, the list goes on and on.

And so we buy in. We fill out our “About Me” sections in listicles, naming off all the things we identify as. We check off all our qualifiers hoping that we can connect with someone else, somewhere else, who identifies with these things too.

The problem is, we are no one thing. And we aren’t even a conglomerate of all the things we have defined ourselves as.

My version of being a “writer” is much different than Stephen King’s version of being a writer. I write flippantly. Every other week, sometimes every other day. I can go months without writing, and then not be able to go days without it.

You guys. I have no standards!

Truth is, I’m tired. I’m tired of trying to be all of one thing when I’m a beautiful mosaic, cultivated from this confusing and brilliant world.

And maybe I’m crazy, but I think that’s OK. I think it’s okay to call yourself a writer even though someone has told you that in order to be a writer you have to write everyday for thirty minutes a day. It’s okay to call yourself a climber even if you climb once a week because that’s all the time you have in your crazy busy life. It’s okay to call yourself a feminist even if you shave your legs and take your husband’s last name.

And it’s okay to be Vegan one day and Vegetarian the next and eat meat the day after that. That’s the power of the present moment and the beauty of being human. We are whatever we are for today.

Cheers to that.



Joe’s Valley (And Why the Climbing Community Rocks)

I’ve never considered myself a boulderer. Not on any level. In fact, it wasn’t until recently, after I’d moved to a completely new city and state, and lost all my previous climbing partners, that I found myself in the bouldering gym. Doing boulder-y things. Like trying to be burly. And dynamic. And walking around in a bro-tank.

Just kidding. About the burly-ness that is….

img_5938Anyways, the more I’ve bouldered, the more I’ve come to enjoy the movements and strength. (Plus the grunting, you can’t forget the grunting.)

With all my new-found intrigue and lack of total loathing for bouldering, I suggested to a couple friends we head down to Joe’s Valley in South Central Utah for the weekend to wreck our fingers on the magnificent sandstone. img_5794

And wreck we did.

We decided to start out on the warm-up boulder by the creek, then quickly progressed to the incredible Big Joe problem on the Big Joe boulder. It’s a V7. I’m not a V7 climber. However, working my way through the strong movements gave me hope that someday I might find myself completing more difficult problems.

The rest of the day we putzed around on a few 4’s and 5’s and were mostly shut down on everything we tried. Ah, the beauty of the desert.

img_5778That evening my fancy fiancé made Dutch Oven enchiladas and we all sat around the fire playing music, enjoying a few too many glasses of wine, and dabbling in philosophical conversations.

Waking up early the next morning was definitely not an option, so we hit the boulders in Man Size, near the campground, around 10. Not only was it my first time on a bouldering trip, but it was my first real experience climbing with a group of women who were climbing hard and trying hard and encouraging one another. On top of that, the guys we were climbing with were also encouraging and empowering and inspirational.

After lunch we headed back down to the warm up boulder, so I could work on my v5 project, and some of the guys wanted to check out The Angler. We were all cheering each other on, letting out some words of affirmation and motivation when two of my friends (who were climbing outside for the first time EVER…yay converts!) said to me, “Wow, I think climbers might be the most positive people I’ve ever met.”

Yeah. This community is home to me.

ASDT Rendezvous

You guys. I don’t even know where to start with this post.

I just returned from a weekend long adventure in the mountains with 100+ incredible women from all over the country. img_5895

Women who drove from Oregon, who flew from Florida, who carpooled from Salt Lake City.

And why? Because there’s something stirring in all of us. There’s an energy in our souls that calls us to come together because there’s power in numbers. There’s power in knowing and being known, in understanding a bit more of ourselves by learning about others and their stories.


I heard about And She’s Dope Too through Instagram (you can check out their feed here, or their website here), and stumbled upon the information through their Rendezvous when I was poking around on their online shop. Immediately I thought, a weekend getaway with a bunch of outdoorsy women? I’m in!

So I packed up my car, nervous and wary about showing up by myself, and jumped onto I-15 to Ogden. Once I saw the ASDT pop-up tents, and turned into the Dancing Moose Farms parking lot, all my fears were contained as I was welcomed with genuine smiles from the check-in table.

After only a few hours, I knew I was attending a life-changing event.


The women who shared their stories around the campfire are women who have overcome great obstacles. They are women who have gone from not wanting to get out of bed in the morning to inspiring thousands of people to run. They are women who have been stirred from the monotonous lifestyles they grew up with to passionate, curiosity-driven whirlwinds of light and self-love and intrinsic power.

I am so inspired.

With each women I met I became more inspired. I was inspired by the woman who decided to reconnect to herself in nature after her divorce. I was inspired by the woman who didn’t think she could stand-up paddle board, but attempted (and succeeded!) anyways. I was inspired by the many married women who refuse to fill the entire role of caretaker, housekeeper, dinner-maker because they have passions of their own they so desperately need to pursue.

And also, I was inspired by the men at home who encourage and empower their wives to participate in events like this because they know that the power of women is not something to fear, but instead something to embrace.

There is still so much I need to process, but as I do you’ll all be the first to know.

My deepest, most sincere thanks to ASDT for putting on a weekend where I could feel fully free and deeply known.


She is free in her wildness, she is a wanderess, a drop of free water. She knows nothing of borders and cares nothing for rules or customs. ‘Time’ for her isn’t something to fight against. Her life flows clean, with passion, like fresh water. -Roman Payne

10 Reasons You Should Climb Rocks

1. It’s therapeutic

Climbing puts you in a zen like state. I come into the gym, or hit the trail and everything falls away. The stress of work, of relationship, of money (always money, right?), slowly makes their way out of my consciousness and into the greater energy of the universe where it gets demoted to nonexistence. My stress disappears and all that matters is movement and the present.

2. It’s an awesome workout

I deeply and passionately loathe working out. I sometimes feel dragged to the gym by my fiancé like a kicking, screaming five-year-old. “But I don’t wanna!” I tell him and he shakes his head. It’s not fun. And I won’t believe you if you tell me otherwise! But climbing is fun and it’s challenging and if you climb long enough and hard enough you’ll feel those beautiful beads of sweat forming on your forehead and get the release of endorphins like you do after 500 air squats in the gym.

3. The community is unmatched

As human beings we desperately long for a sense of community. Look to religious groups, crossfit, and book clubs for your proof. We want to feel part of something and realize that no, we’re not alone on this strange planet just hanging in the balance of the galaxies. Climbing not only gives you a sense of community, but gives you friendships for life. (Case in point: My fiancé and I met at our university’s climbing gym.)

4. You get to be outside for days, weeks, or months


5. You consistently get to face your fears

This probably sounds like a point that should be on the list of reasons to not climb rocks. However, the majority of us spend our days running away from our fears at supersonic speed. Facing your fears builds confidence, and then eradicates your fears—I am living proof of this. I used to be terrified of heights. Now my list of multi-pitch routes I want to climb grows on a monthly basis.

6. It lets you fail. A lot.

I hate failing, and throughout my life I’ve consistently fought the drive to be perfect. I don’t want people to know I’m weak or incapable. When I first started climbing I only made it so far because I couldn’t put on a front. Climbing leaves you bare and vulnerable. It doesn’t leave room for white lies or perfection. What it does give you though is the drive to push through your weakness and your imperfection and your failings. It gives you the opportunity to rise up. It gives you character.

7. It lets you encourage others

I love this about climbing. When I tell people I climb, I let them in on a big part of my story. I get to tell them about all the stuff I’ve overcome. I get to share my passion. This fire inside me encourages others to face their fears and to try those things they always wished they tried.

8. It can humble you

There’s a lot of ego in climbing. Head into the gym and you’ll see a wide variety of humans doing a wide variety of things. You’ll see guys using sheer muscle to make their way up a problem. You’ll hear grunting and some really strange self-talk. The climbing sphere, like any other, has some people who have a hard time reigning in their ego. However, if you give in to perspective and let it, climbing can humble you in a way nothing else can. One day you can be confidently dominating a V4 and the next you can be shut down on a V1. You can climb an 11d in the gym and then head to Moab and try out a 5.9 crack that completely destroys you. And that’s okay.

9. You’ll feel like a badass

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been regarded as a “badass.” (Disclaimer: I’m definitely not a badass. I read old fiction novels and drink tea and enjoy binge-watching “Friends.”) However, in this current day and age it seems like anything that involves getting off the couch and interacting with the natural world is considered “badass.” I’ll take it because it drives people to get off their behinds and do something rad. Which, I must add, this world definitely needs more of.

10. Because why not?

This may be the most valid point I have to offer. What will you lose from climbing? Two hours of your life—if you absolutely hate it. But the gains are astounding and life-changing. Stay tuned to hear more about how climbing has changed my life.

It’s not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves. -Sir Edmund Hillary

The Overwhelming Nature of Anxiety

A couple months ago I summited a peak, all by myself, for the first time in my life. And let me tell you, it felt amazing.

There are a few things many people don’t know about me:

  • I am constantly anxious. As in, my mind continuously comes up with the worst-case scenario in each situation and runs through it over and over and over again until I’m essentially a basket case of nerves and emotions.
  • For a long time I’ve let this anxiety rule my life. I’ve shied away from climbing, hiking, taking risks. I’ve worked myself into a panic when I didn’t hear back from a loved one for a few hours. I’ve been overwhelmed with negative possibilities time and time again.
  • However, generally speaking, I’m an optimist.

Wait, what?

I know. It’s confusing, even to myself. I’m a positive person. I believe in the goodness placed in the souls of humanity. I believe if we continue to better ourselves we can become the stewards of this planet that we’re capable of being. I believe that kindness, conversation, and perspective can overcome the evils continuously presenting themselves in our world. With my heart, I genuinely believe all of these things.

But then my brain goes to the dark side. The fat-chance side. The one-in-a-million side. Like getting mauled by a cougar. Or losing any member of my family to any number of diseases or devastating circumstances like murder or car accidents. Or coming across a crazy in the woods. Or my bolt pulling. Or triggering an avalanche. And for the longest time these scenarios that haven’t even happened to anybody I know dominated the hemispheres of my brain until I felt overwhelmed and isolated and stuck. How would I ever live my life to the fullest if I kept suffocating under the weight of my anxiety?

Then I had an “aha!” moment. I never wanted to label this for what it was. I thought I was just another worrier (and maybe I am, I haven’t seen a doctor for a diagnosis for personal reasons), but I googled anxiety and what I found honestly changed my life. Our brain is our most powerful tool, and when used to benefit our livelihood, dreams, goals, and aspirations, it can alter our lifestyles dramatically.

It’s one phrase:

“I’m going to worry about this later.”

So. Stinking. Simple.

Because what happens when you worry about it later is that when later comes, there’s nothing left to worry about. The irrational fear has passed. You’re in a new environment and whatever presents itself there will be worried about in the next environment. It’s fear-shifting. By pushing fears into the future I’m more capable of living in the present. Fully.

I will tell you though, sometimes it doesn’t work. Sometimes I still feel trapped under this oppressive fear and negativity. Like a few weeks ago when I was hiking in Neff’s canyon all by my lonesome, and something moved in the bushes, and I couldn’t spook it, so I eventually turned around and walked the other way. The defeat I felt weighed heavy on my sensitive soul, but this is what I knew, it was temporary and the next day would be different. And it was.

I hiked up to Grandeur Peak with just my backpack and my not-so-shiny new approach shoes. I didn’t put headphones in, and I continuously reeled my mind back in to my breathing, to the beautiful sounds of life around me, to worrying about it later. Like magic, I didn’t assume every slithery sound was a snake lying in wait, but instead I heard lizards and marmots and squirrels. The thick stand of trees I passed through didn’t have my eyeballs dodging between every narrow space, instead I stood in awe of their massive stance, of their roots stretching deep into the earth and their branches reach, reach, reaching for the sky.

When I finally made the summit, winded, sweaty, and awe-struck I couldn’t keep from giggling. Up there I had nothing to worry about besides my place in this beautiful, living, breathing, ever-changing, natural world.

And that, my friends, was pretty fantastic.

She was powerful not because she wasn’t scared, but because she went on so strongly, despite the fear. -Atticus

Solo Summit. My first ever! Grandeur Peak 8,299′

It’s About Damn Time

I’ve talked about starting this blog for months now. I daydreamed about it. I thought about all the awesome articles I would write that would inspire people to get outside and do scary things. I did a massive amount of thinking. I even wrote 10 posts. And then I started thinking about the time commitment and the fact that it could all be for nothing. That nobody would want to read it. That nobody would be inspired by it. That I was a hypocrite because when I’m not climbing or doing some other outdoorsy adventure I’m re-watching the 10 seasons of Friends.

I told a good friend this fear the other day and she gave me a swift kick in the pants to get moving. To start writing because she wanted to read it. And it’s not the first time someone’s said this to me. So dammit! I will write even if it’s only for myself and a small handful of my friends. Because life is short and my dreams are big and I can’t spend another day waiting for more knowledge about blogs or bigger and better adventures. Life will continue to pass, and I get the sincere pleasure of documenting it in a (hopefully) inspiring way.

So here’s to beginnings. To standing firm in the face of fear and failure. To testing limits. To sitting in front of the computer writing instead of watching mindless TV shows. To pushing myself, and hopefully pushing others. To believing, and dreaming, and hoping, and doing.