Author Archives: Katie Lambert

About Katie Lambert

A Louisiana raised California climber.

Father Time and the Pursuit of Flow

Wow, here it is, the blank page. Where to start? 

We arrived back home in Bishop this afternoon at approximately 1pm. We drove over Tioga coming from El Portal the night before, after having just stepped off the wall for the prior 10 days. 10 days we spent on Middle Cathedral, on a route that had somehow come to take a prominent residence in my life over the last four years. 

A route that had come to mean something deeply personal for me, the appropriately named Father Time, the vision of Mikey Schaffer. First off let me express what a beauty of a route this is and brag on Mikey a little.

I had come to know Mikey some over the course the last 16 years in Yosemite and have had the privilege to make some of the second ascent and early repeats of his routes. I liked his style – his lines have always been interesting, hard and mentally demanding. Things I somehow thrive on despite how mentally taxing it might be for my own sake. I also knew things could never be over the top reachy as he’s a fairly vertically challenged individual himself. But, that’s not to say my 5’00” stature wouldn’t have struggle. But, I admire Mikey and respect his own work ethic and vision. 

I had been in the market a little bit for a big Yosemite project. I tried my hand at El Cap via the Freerider and while those experiences were in themselves amazing, I didn’t want to toil over there in the sun for a while. The crowds were growing to boot and everyone who is everyone or wanted to be someone and even those who might consider themselves no one were vying for a free ascent on the Big Stone. 

I wanted to be challenged but also wanted to be realistic. I’m nothing special as per rock climbing – no child prodigy, not especially gifted, just really freaking driven. I’m a middle-class climber with a tremendous work ethic, a lot of heart and definitely a bit of luck and am just good enough that I can make a bit of a living out of it. Coming from Baton Rouge, LA I dreamed of free climbing big walls in Yosemite. That was what I wanted to do with my life, that’s what kept me stoked on so many of those hot humid nights as a teenager. 

So, while my inspirations might be huge I do like to keep it within the realm and this route seemed to me within it. 

May 2018 was the first time I climbed on it. Nina Williams and I teamed up to check it out that year. We tried it traditional ground up wall style, hauling 6 days of food and water every pitch. The climbing was slow and tricky and the hauling even slower. This was Nina’s first wall and while she is incredibly strong and talented, she knew not of the ways of wall life. I taught her how to do it all on the fly – how to haul, how to dock the bags, how to release the bags, how to set up the portaledge, etc. 

It was fun and I enjoyed her very much as a partner, but it was mentally taxing in that way that it can be when you feel like you hold the experience for the situation and are the one with the answers. 

We got pretty worked and we didn’t top out that go round. If memory serves me correct, we were able to check out the upper pitches through the cruxes and sort out enough beta that we were stoked to come back in the fall to try again. 

Fall 2018 we teamed up for another ground up effort, but we had help with the hauling. We had freed all of the bottom swapping leads through to the headwall cruxes. I was French freeing my way up the infamous Athletic 12c (5.13b) pitch when my finger got pinched in between two carabiners. A nasty blood blister took up the entirety of my right pointer finger, which shortly thereafter burst open. This small flesh wound drastically hindered my ability to bear down and really perform for free climbing. Nina, being the elite level climber that she is, pulled off an amazing free ascent that trip. 

I was inspired but exhausted. Things weren’t finished for me yet. 

Life things happened and I took a whole year and half away from the route but it stayed on my mind. Pretty Strong, the movie, had come out and I had to relive that second time up there over again a few times and my inspiration was turning more to frustration. I just needed to get back up there. 

My friend and incredible suffer bunny, Lindsey Hamm said she’d go with me to try again. For the third time I ventured up wall style. She’s got muscle and so the hauling was a bit easier this go round, but while Lindsey is an accomplished AMGA guide she also doesn’t have much big wall free climbing experience. There were some epics – we endured a hideous windstorm where we got fully flipped up, over and out of the portledge one night, she hit her head pretty hard and we endured a freezing and exhausting next day. By the end of the week there just hadn’t been enough time for me to sort out the beta, recover, and red point. 

Time is always the limiting factor. Lindsey had her own life obligations to return to. I had a little more time and was able to convince my devoted husband to come to Yosemite and give me a belay up there on the hard pitches, to which he did. It was just enough time for us to get up to the headwall and for me to successfully redpoint the first of the 5.13 cruxes called “The Boulder Problem.” I was pretty stoked because this was a good a crucial step in my own road to unlocking this route for myself. 

I climbed on the second and third crux pitches, figured out some beta all over again and then we too, had our own life obligations to return to. I promised myself to return in the spring but I would need to employ different tactics. I just am not the type to be able to pull it off ground up wall style. I needed more time to get things sorted for myself. 

With the help of some important folks in the story I was able to haul and fix ropes allowing for micro-taxioning sessions over the month of May. Siege-tactics is how some like to refer to it, but I don’t like the connotation of that and would rather think of it as a means which enables a way. This wasn’t about proving anything to anyone except myself, it was my own journey and this was just part of how the process had evolved. 

From May 1 – May 29 I had a total of 11 days of climbing on the route. Ben joined me for a lot of that, as he himself was now interested. I had wanted to be up there with him for years. He had a hand in putting up one of the crux pitches for the first ascent and I knew that he would do well on freeing that stuff. Plus, he has always been my best partner for he is solid in more ways than just experience.  

For those of you who know the ins and outs of high exposure on fixed lines, trying your hardest on self-belay devices with teeth, then you know it can feel gripping and it just doesn’t totally allow you to go all out with wild abandon. But, it did allow me (us) the opportunity to dial in the  beta and get in shape. 

The end of May into the end of the first week of June we had to return to Bishop for work. We made a plan to ready ourselves to go for it wall style starting June 14th. We were ready and so was the heat but we stayed the course. This was Middle Cathedral after all, the wall was basically shady all day and the wind had been nice, in fact downright cold at times. 

On the morning of June 14th we arrived at the base around 6:30am. Much to our surprise the entire wall was in the sun. This was in fact the earliest we had been up there all season and we were not expecting this. But, alas we are on the Earth and it has a tilt and as the days crept towards the solstice the sun also crept across the wall three separate times over the curse of the days. By 8 am the wall was shady and we knew we had approximately 3 hours to get up to the first 5.12 of the route before it would be in the second phase of the suns ‘passing. We raced the sun up the bottom 10 swapping leads with no falls. A relief as any mistake would have definitely placed us climbing hard and runout 11+ slab in the heat of the day in the blazing sun. 

Day 2 June 15th- we awoke feeling tired. We’re not spring chickens and so we have to play our cards wisely. We decided to rest for an attempt at getting up to the at least the first crux of the route, pitch 14, the Boulder Pitch. On June 16th, day 3, we woke to insane temps. But, we stayed the course. We swapped leads to the Boulder problem with no falls. We regrouped and then I tried the pitch first. 

It is 3 bolts long and really does come down to a single move once you get through the intro of the climbing. It’s not easy and definitely requires some good skin, but it’s doable. I had done it before. I tried a few times but on this this day I never stuck the last move, a jump to a sloper jug. Ben sent first go. I almost split a tip and decided to call it. I would need really good skin for the rest of the route. The first signs of doubt and anxiety started to creep in. But, we had 6 more days. 

Day 4, June 17th we woke to near blistering heat. We were in the midst of a five-day record-breaking heat wave. We rested as we would surely loose skin trying anything in those conditions. 

June 18th, Day 5-it was still hot, but we were antsy and decided to crag on the upper two crux pitches. We realized pretty quickly it was a bad idea as neither of us could hold onto anything too small so we did a little more homework on the insecure liebacking of the end of Athletic pitch, and a bit on the Index. We checked the weather forecast. We were due in for a few more days of heat and then the temps were dropping from the 100’s back to the low 90’s and high 80’s. We discussed tactics and decided to go for the top 5 summit pitches while in the heat wave and save the harder stuff for the slightly cooler days.

June 19th, Day 6 – 100+ temps that day as we jugged from the bivy to top of the Index pitch. I tied in, racked up and we swapped leads to the summit through one 5.10, two pretty damn hard 5.12s, one death block filled 5.9 and a chossy and runout 5.8 chimney. Ben had no falls. I fell once on my 5.12 lead pretty low off the anchor. I lowered and red pointed second go. It was brutally hot, and pretty damn intense as a result. We topped out, did a rappel and celebrated with baths from sketcky water we found on a ledge before we proceeded to keep rapping back down to the bivy. A huge burden of the route had been done and now we could focus on the hard stuff. 

Day 7&8 June 20-21 we rested, celebrated our 9th wedding anniversary and waited for the temps to drop a few degrees. June 22, Day 9 we jugged up to the Index pitch. I warmed up on it two minitraxion burns. And then Ben went first for a real redoint and he sent first go. He hadn’t quite done this pitch as one thing in our homework session and so it was really exciting to see him do it. I got choked up, he was well on his way to a no falls free ascent. 

I tied in and fell just past the upper bolt of the crux. I cursed, recomposed myself and  lowered. This pitch had taken me the absolute longest to unlock, but it was the one that was the least height and power dependent and the one that relied the most on footwork and wizardry. It was right up my alley. I pulled the rope rested a little, ate some gummies and then sent second try. 

I climbed it flawlessly with flow. It was emotional and amazing. I had been on the verge of several emotional breakdowns and as I cleaned the gear on lower and got to the belay I was in tears with relief, amazement and joy. Ben hugged me and we stayed embraced, suspended in this blissful realm for a few minutes before we got our shit together and moved down to the Athletic pitch belay. 

I needed to recover a little and it was Ben’s turn. He tied in and sent first go. It was beautiful. He climbed so well over terrain that really epitomizes everything that is amazing about Yosemite freeclimbing. 

I went. My crux had previously been a long move after a kind of hideous down climb section. I mentioned that Mikey isn’t a giant, but he still isn’t five feet and zero inches. There are some bad crimps and long reaches and I had to find my own way through this terrain. I stuck it all to my surprise and I made it all the way to the upper offset lieback. I  faltered my feet, used too much muscle to right my wrong and fell. I pulled back on and climbed to the top. 

I lowered and came to feel pretty tired while sitting at the belay. At that point I had climbed 5 pitches of 5.13 that day counting the warming up on the Index. I didn’t think I had another go. We rapped to the bivy.

June 23rd, our 10th and last day. I was trying to not feel pressure, not feel intense, but to  just be cool. We jugged up to the Athletic belay- I warmed up on the Boulder Pitch. It was really hard to keep it together. I was on the verge of coming completely unhinged at times…an emotional bundle headed for a train wreck and yet somehow I managed to stop and inhale and keep bringing myself back from the brink.  

I pushed out all the negative chatter, focused on the positive, pulled energy and inspiration from my heroes the likes of Muhammad Ali, Bruce Lee, Jimi Hendrix and every single climber that forges their way through time and dedication, hard work and a little bit of luck. I exhaled, tied in and pulled onto the rock. 

I stuck the down climb moves, absolutely smashed the long move that had been my crux and made my way into the crack and eventually the offset, insecure, and total body pump liebacking, running it out even. I pulled through the roof and up to the jugs and to the anchor. I had just sent the mother fucking Athletic pitch! It truly felt amazing, a feeling actually that I can’t even put words on yet.

I lowered, cleaned the gear and got to the belay. Ben and I were both crying. So much relief, so much emotion. So much anticipation and work and want had been dedicated to wanting to climb well on those pitches and to finally being able to see it through. 

We packed up and moved down to the Boulder. I tried it 6 times and never could stick the sloper jug. I’d hit it and slide off again and again. I then tried Mikey’s beta, no jumping involved but tenuous crimping with little to no feet. Skin was thin by this point, and I was starting to feel the fatigue. I tried one more time but ended up one hanging the Boulder. The sun was starting to make its way up the wall and I was done. I had reached my limit. We rapped to the ledge packed up and went to the ground. 

For the sake of technicalities on this 10 day ascent I freed everything, swapping leads and leading the cruxes with success except for the Boulder Problem pitch. However, I had red-pointed that pitch back in the start of December when Ben came and belayed me up there.  So, I have freed the entire route with an asterisks on the Boulder pitch. 

I’m pretty satisfied, really pretty fucking happy actually. 

I took on something for myself that became completely personal and deeply meaningful in many ways. Ben and I had met on Middle Cathedral 11 years prior, celebrating our 9 years of marriage up there was absolutely one of the most special things. And I had put everything into this route, it had come to represent a lot for me as far as my own journey with climbing. 

Big wall free climbing is a total mind fuck. It’s exhausting, it’s really inconvenient, and it’s never certain. There is a lot of internal pressure that builds, and, in the end, there is no fame and fortune that awaits you. It’s a rather inglorious pursuit of toil, emotion and 20lbs of human waste to carry back to the car. 

And yet in these completely vulnerable spaces we put ourselves in something transformative happens. You enter another state of being, something that becomes other worldly. You know exactly what to do, you can anticipate how it’s going to feel, and you just breath, just keep breathing and making moves. One step at a time. 

The Flow State, it can be elusive and just about impossible to grasp, but it happens and its real and it’s the most amazing feeling. A feeling so free, so elevated and so pure that I think anyone who has felt it can attest to wanting it more – The pursuit of flow.

Hendrix definitely had it, Bruce Lee and Ali for sure. I had been seeking it and I found it up there and so much more. 

Thank you Mikey for your own toil, passion, motivation and absolute gem of a Yosemite free-climbing contribution. Thank you to all the love and support, both physically and emotionally, to all my partners and friends who have been with me through this process. It wasn’t a perfect ascent, but its mine and I’m damn satisfied. 

For those interested and don’t know:

A Year

It started and ended in Bishop, Ca and in-between there was much action. Here are just a few of the moments.

Late Winter

 We were deep in the throngs of remodeling our coworking space, having finally finished demolishing a reasonably ok building, striping it down to it’s imperfect skeleton and were starting to rebuild. We turned a significant corner in the mega project.

  I deadlifted 230lbs.


We bouldered a lot and I ticked a plethora of things from v5-v10.


The tablelands caught on fire.

 I tried to send V11 but didn’t.

Julie Ellison with Never Not Collective followed me around filming – I mostly flailed.

Patrick O’Donnell and I put up a new route in Owens.


“Pretty Strong,” 12c. photo by Julie Ellison


We were constantly toiling and making progress on Bishop Cowork.

We both red-pointed Ethan Pringles, Shart Attack, 5.14



photo by Calder Davey

 Julie missed the shot.

We were curious about “Nudist” culture so we took a trip to Saline Valley.

I met up with Nina Williams in Yosemite and started climbing on our big wall project.



The toiling on Bishop Cowork slowed for a bit while we waited for the drywall but commenced shortly thereafter.


We climbed a bit in Pine Creek and trained, I really had only one objective on my mind.

My one-arm hangs got better as did my campusing endurance and pinch strength. I could taste the imminent success and I was hungry for it.

I started climbing on the project but, it was too warm.

I had a quick work trip to Canada to film a commercial.

We snorkeled with family in Key West. That was our very first non-climbing vacation.


I had a quick work trip to Switzerland. It’s quite civilized and as with most places in Europe, the rock seemed endless.

We climbed adventure routes in Tuolumne, testing our wits on the runout and delicate moves.

I sent TopGun, 5.14, in Tuolumne for the 3rd ascent. My project of 3 summers finally ending, a week later I had the pleasure of belying Ben for his ascent. We went back for the shot.

I relaxed a little.

I went to the Hulk a few times. I climbed Airstream, and got in some good double-rope practice on Red Dihedral.


A public climbing gym opened in Bishop.

I unwrapped a new project and set it aside until next summer.


I started practicing 1-3-5-7.



I led the Rostrum in 6 mega pitches.

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Hannah Hall pic during our link-up.

I achieved 1-3-5-7.

We opened Bishop Cowork.

Ben immediately began remodeling the living space.


A group of us climbed The North Ridge of Half Dome.


I climbed Astroman and the Rostrum with Hannah.


I went met up with Nina in the Valley again. She sent the wall project in great style.

Julie got the shot.


Early Winter

Conditions arrived and bouldering season started with a bang.

img_7549Sandra and I raged in the climbing gym; Peter Croft said he didn’t even feel like a climber compared to us.


Julie should have been there for that shot.

I got really sore abs from doing Iron Dragons, I adapted after a week.

I climbed a bunch of grainy, no-star, but really good boulder problems.

We had a White Elephant Christmas party. Enemas, Trump, and weed were involved.


Friends came with their kids. We bouldered, marveled at the minds of children, endured some bitter cold, sent some things, tried some others and ended the year living the best way we know how.





Portaledge Life on Lurking Fear, El Cap. 

Do I live to climb or climb to live, someone asked me once. In years past I would without hesitation have to say I live to climb but as the years move on and other life choices happen that answer isn’t so obvious anymore.

Growing up as a climber in Louisiana all I ever wanted was to live in place where I could climb year-round. When I lived to climb I made every choice centered around prioritizing climbing and as luck would have it I settled in Bishop. It’s been 12 years since I moved to California and 8 since we started calling Bishop home.


To Kill Ya Corner Sit, V9. Buttermilks

This year, my 38thyear has been perhaps the busiest ever.  My husband and I bought some property in Bishop, CA last summer and we’ve spent close to the whole year tearing it apart and rebuilding. The idea is that this investment is our retirement plan; you know for when we’re so old and arthritic that working as professional climbers just doesn’t cut it anymore. Knobby fingers crossed that isn’t for a long time coming. In addition to that mega art-project I’m still training, working as a nutritionist, writing a column for Climbing Magazine, working with Sacred Rok and climbing. It’s not that climbing has taken a back-seat, far from it, it’s more that climbing has become my respite.


Blow Hard, 12d. Incredible Hulk

Despite the busy schedule I’ve had one of my best climbing years. I’ve stayed in California all year rather than venturing to Europe; something that hasn’t happened in quite some time. It allowed me to spend the Fall in Yosemite Valley, the winter bouldering in Bishop, the spring projecting in Pine Creek and the start of summer moving from one home crag to another. The abundance of different styles and rock has kept me entertained beyond what I could have imagined.


A not so oft-climbed classic. Blind Faith, Yosemite. 


In the long days when I’ve been cutting wood, scraping cement, rebuilding walls, endlessly painting, giving nutrition talks, working with youth and hammering out words on the computer I go to bed with excitement for the next climbing day. I live for those moments where rock bites into skin, where that hyperawareness comes into play when on the sharp end, where the wind chaps my skin and the smell of the atmosphere permeates the air.

Screen Shot 2018-05-25 at 9.51.11 PM

One of the many amazing crags of Pine Creek. Shart Attack, 5.14. 

These days I would have to say I climb to live and I feel quite fortunate in that regard. Each year has been better than the previous, every experience building upon the next.

I know that one day bouldering double digits, climbing 5.14, and big wall climbing will be harder and harder and that’s ok because climbing has given me so much more than numbers and goals.  My foundation in life has largely come from climbing, those 10,000 hours of practice my guide for the future.



Foray into Legend

Locker vom Hocker: A Foray into Legend


The streets of Pottenstein, Bavaria. Benjamin B Ditto photo

All good stories contain legendary characters and this one is no different.

Once upon time there were two influences in the world of climbing known as Kurt Albert and Wolfgang Gullich, unique to the times they pushed the limits of possibility. Influenced by the style of climbing going on in Saxony, Germany, Albert ushered in a new era of climbing in his home region of the Frankenjura known as Rotpunkt (point of red). He would paint a red X on a fixed pin so that he could avoid using it for a foot- or handhold. Once he was able to free climb (using only his hands and feet to advance upwards) the entire route, he would put a red dot at the base of the route. This was the origin of the free climbing movement that led to the development of sport climbing in the following decade.

Katie Lambert climbs one of the classics in the Frankenjura.

One of the classics in the Frankenjura – Benjamin B Ditto photo

Gullich, also a young Bavarian whippersnapper, was driven by the desire to conquer new terrain and push the physical realm of possibility and was one of the best climbers of the time. He added several grades to the grading system and invented the modern training technique of campus boarding in order to climb the world’s first 9a, Action Directe in the Frankenjura.

The two made quite the partnership with their greatest legacy being the myriad of routes they opened together, taking their experience and strength far beyond the local cliffs and into the mountains and alpine, leaving a legacy of routes for the rest of us to follow.

These routes became just as legendary as their developers with many of them cloaked in tales of hardship, triumph, and heroism adding to the allure and curiosity of following in their footsteps.

So, on that winter day in early 2016 , as I rummaged through a box of old climbing media from the 90’s I was delighted to come across an image of Heinz Zak climbing a beautiful line of alpine limestone titled, “Locker vom Hocker.” The image itself spoke to me and as I delved into the internet seeking any information I could about the line my stoke for it increased exponentially when I discovered it had been developed by Albert and Gullich, making it the first German grade VIII in the Wetterstein, limestone alps, of Austria. Everything in my being told me that I needed to go there, to climb that line and see what they saw.

In preparation for the route I asked around to my German and Austrian friends for any information on the area and the line and much to my surprise not much beta was gleaned. Rather than deter me, my intrigue only grew and with tickets booked I figured we would be finding out for ourselves in due time.


Rainy days in Bavaria. Benjamin B Ditto photo

We arrived in early October to a rainy forecast in Munich and with three weeks scheduled for the trip we wanted to get into the alps sooner than later. But, the bad weather continued forcing us to change plans and go with the flow. It did, however, afford us the opportunity to climb in the Frankenjura, get our fill of Bavarian beer, goulash and pretzels. We ventured over to the impressive crag of Schlierwasserfal and as the days wore on, the rain and snow continued to fall and our affinity of sport climbing threatened to take over the entire trip. With our love affair of steep sport routes, we wondered if our trip into the Wetterstein would ever happen and then, with 48 hours left before we were to board a plane to Greece we received a weather window.

We climbed stellar rock in the famous Austrian cliff:  Schleierwasserfall.

The incredible rock at Schleierwasserfall. Benjamin B Ditto photo

Leaving some unfinished business behind at the Schlierwasserfal we jumped on our one and only opportunity to finally get into the Alps. We would have to nail it perfectly to pull it off, but we were going for it, because darn it, we were following in the footsteps of legends. We made the few hour drive to the valley where we would need to access the Wetterstein and packed our gear in the car park before making the 2 hour hike up to the Wettersteinhutte. I couldn’t believe we were finally going and the anticipation was palatable. However, it was all still such a mystery as we had no real topo, no real beta and only a picture of the route from the early 90’s to go off of.


The Wetterstein.

Arriving at the hutte in the early evening we situated ourselves on the porch to get as good a view of the wall as we could and we speculated about which feature it could be. Not too long thereafter a group of climbers arrived and ordered beers to celebrate their day in the mountains. We made our move to their table in search of perhaps a guidebook or any beta they could have. We were met with wide eyes and wonder as we told them what we were there to climb; the response, “You must be very good climbers if you’re doing that,” was said so much that we started to feel like we must be badass. No one that we spoke with had ever climbed the route, being swayed away by it’s reputation of boldness. We were sure to get into some adventuring the next day and the stoke was high that night as we nestled into our bunk in the hutte.

Waking at dawn on our last full day in Austria Ben and I rose to a valley blanketed in fog. We ate breakfast and made the hour-long hike to the base of the wall. It was just as beautiful as the picture had portrayed; the smooth blue-grey rock swept its way 1,000 feet up towards an etched orange ridge-line with the cumulous filled sky peeking through at the summits edge. A quick round of rock-paper-scissors had me on the sharp end first, getting the pleasure of leading the first crux of the route and a pitch that I will not soon forget. We climbed the 300m encountering a bit of everything from heady run outs on tough climbing, finicky gear, beautiful rock, horrible choss, brilliant sun, heinous cold and a plethora of spectacular views. We topped out in some of the last light and proceeded in true Alpine fashion to pick our way through snow, ice, choss gulleys and various rappels before we hit terra firma again. With no light to spare, sleeping bags in tow and no real place to sleep we opted to bivy under some boulders along the descent. As I watched the star filled sky and drifted off to sleep, I wondered if anyone had ever slept there before; Had prehistoric peoples made camp here, had sheepherders taken shelter from a storm here, had Wolfgang fondled the edges of the rock dreaming of how to climb it? A few hours later we woke at 3:30am, had a most civilized breakfast of boiled eggs and the last of our German bread and made the rest of the walk back down to the car. With 4 hours to go we hurriedly packed our junkshow in duffel bags and made the two-hour drive to the Munch airport. Feeling weary, a little worn bt filled with so much stoke we boarded our plane to Greece having made it perfectly on time.

I, like so many others, find great inspiration in the legacy of our climbing heroes. Their stories give me the strength, courage and purpose to seek out these places of legends and to get a taste of the history of climbing because it’s as the author Peter Forbes so eloquently wrote,

“Stories create community, enable us to see through the eyes of other people, and open us to the claims of others.”

Inspired by a photograph we had gone to seek an adventure and what we found was the stuff legends are made of.

Arriving at the WettersteinHutte.




Bird’s Perspective

Last spring Ben and I took a trip to Slovenia. We trained for 2 months, super amped to send all the 5.14s. A few days before we headed out I sprained my ankle very badly bouldering. And while this was such a minor and petty problem, I was devastated, and unable to walk much less climb. Another season of not finding my highest physical potential was underway. He filmed the whole thing, and while there are some embarrassing moments of me in tears like a damn baby there are also some nice moments and pretty scenery. Take a look, he put a lot of work into this and I’m proud of his efforts.

One Season ends as Another begins


The low, incessant beat of the rave droned on in El Chorro as the end of 2016 faded into the heat of the the late morning hours. Party-goers stood like zombies, bleary-eyed and drunk praying for the music to the end so they could crawl back to their tents and sleep the start of 2017 away.

Having opted for sleep instead of the seemingly endless revelries I awoke in the pine forest, surrounded by the chirps of birds and dew covered grasses. We would be climbing this day, my favorite way to celebrate anything. The morning was slow as we sipped tea and Nescafé and hoped that we would be joined by a cool breeze at the crag.

El Chorro is a beautiful place and like many beautiful things it’s also a bit of a tease. Loads of climbers come here from the UK, Norway, Denmark and other rainy and cold loathsome locales, opting for the sun and break from the bleak winter days. As a California climber I am prone to avoiding the sun as mush as possible and searching for the cold and crisp, perfect sending conditions. In this regard I find myself unable to understand how these people can throw themselves at slick and polished limestone routes, sun cooked and desperate over and over again.


I’ve been searching for a hard project but have been faced with a few obstacles. With no car we are committed to staying local and going to the crags we can walk to with the fortune of every so often catching a ride to other areas. What this means, however, is that we are destined to climb on the south facing walls and true to it’s reputation, El Chorro is amazingly hot. Like any good tease,it lures you in and then spits you out with seared minds, chapped tips and swollen feet. And if it isn’t the sun keeping me struggling harder than necessary it’s the endless battle of the 5′ 00″ climber – the one where that next hold really is ages away and unfortunately there is no way around it. So, I’ve swallowed my pride and decided that I’ll just keep climbing for the sake of climbing – onsighting, and trying things that look good.

On the first day of  2017 I rung it in with a good and fair onsight of a really nice, albeit a bit choosy, 8a. With 12 more climbing days here there is plenty to do and perhaps in the end I will have tamed the tease a little bit.


With curiosity for what else happens in the next 363 days I look back on what transpired in the last 365 days. It was all so varied and interesting and I realize again and again how fortunate I am to have the freedom and flexibility to make the choices I make.

2016 started with a serious and almost too instense training in Chattanooga, perhaps being a bit over-trained  but I feeling stronger than ever we booked tickets to Slovenia. Misja Pec was on our minds and all systems were a go until… a depressing and demoralizing sprained ankle set me back. Unwilling to let go of my desire I went on the trip anyway and had one of the best experiences ever. (Link here for write-up <;).


Spring was in full force when we returned from Europe and this had me in preparation for Yosemite season. I trained in Bishop for El Cap, lifting weights, hangboarding, campusing, biking and doing route link-ups in Pine Creek. My goal was to send the Gecko Wall in Pine Creek in a day – the most stacked granite wall in our area going from left to right as: 5.12c/d, 5.12c, 5.13a, 5.12b, 5.10, 5.13b, 5.11, 5.12c, 5.12a, 5.12b, 5.13c, 5.12a, 5.12c. I didn’t quite send them all in a day missing it  by the last two 5.12s. But, it was a good time and a nice random objective and I was feeling pretty damn fit.

I arrived in Yosemite psyched and ready to give El Cap a good fight and alas Alix Morris and I were well on our way up Freerider. The heat was almost unbearable, but we forged on climbing at dawn and dusk. I came within a few feet of making a free ascent of the route, getting thwarted by the notorious exit of the “Boulder Problem” and having to come up with some techy alternative beta but still no send in the bag. It was  bit heartbreaking but an enjoyable time and left me hungrier than ever for trying to free El Cap.


Rest was in order and I took some time off of personal climbing goals and focused on guiding in the Sierra and completing my Masters in Nutrition. With some time off and a renewed psyche for projects Tuolumne Season arrived in July with much anticipation. Always psyched for the high country I found myself there a few days a week, escaping the heat of Bishop and checking some boxes on things I wanted to accomplish.

In the late summer of 2015 Ben established a new route on Drug Dome called High Times – a four pitch 5.13 that ascends some cracks and dihedrals before exiting out of a steep bulge on dime-size knobs. I tried it with him then and had found the last crux pitch to be almost too reachy and quiet bouldery, however he convinced me I was capable and so it was first on my list of things to do. In mid-July I was really psyched to have led all the pitches free, surprising myself with a fairly quick send of something I thought I might not really be able to do.


After this I did a fair amount of bouldering,  building the power and ticking a few lines in Tuolumne that I had my eye on from the year prior. The heat was still pretty intense through July and early August and I occupied myself with road biking, Sacred Rok work, and a bit more guiding helping a client achieve a big goal of hers before the summers end.



Once September arrived I started to try Top Gun; a route that had gone undone in Tuolumne for over twenty years until Eric Bissell made a first free ascent in early June. This route had kept many at bay and had gained a reputation if being elusive, finicky and a bit of a mind f*ck. I gave myself over to this route,m having to learn it’s subtleties, it’s movements and the complex beta that literally took me over 4 sessions to unlock. Once I had the sequences, placements and understanding of the movement I was one-hanging the route over and over. Finding a dedicated partner was also really tricky, as not many people have interest in this route and I was subject to the schedules and availability of anyone who was willing to trade belays on other things. I came close a few times, overlapping the crux and climbing to the top but didn’t walk away with a send. In the process, however, good friend and climbing ninja, Keenan Takahashi nabbed the second ascent, making really quick work of perhaps what is Tuolumne’s first 5.14. It was inspiring, exciting and has me with my eyes on the prize for this summer.


October had me in Germany where I met Ben who was there presenting at the European Outdoor Film Tour. We spent a few weeks touring around the Frankenjura, Schielerwasserfal and the Geisterschmiedwand and enjoyed numerous Pretzels, local beers and goulash. We met up with some friends we made a few years back in Oliana  and waited patiently for a weather window for the main objective we had traveled to Bavaria for – The Wetterstein.




The Wetterstein came onto my radar early in the year when I found an old climbing calander from the 90’s with a picture of Heinz Zac on a route called Locker vom Hocker. He was run-out, in the mountains on some beautiful, smooth, blue limestone route. I didn’t know what it was but I knew I wanted to go there. Finding information on this area and climb had some challenges, as it was quite limited and mostly in German. But with some persistance and the help of some European friends we were able to piece together the basics and decided in early September that we were going to go for it.

When we arrived in Munich the weather was quite bad and snow graced the limestone alps without giving much of a hope of us getting into the mountains. However, our patience paid off when on our last two days in the area we received a perfect window to head into the region and get it done. Locker vom Hocker had been established in the lates 80’s by Kurt Albert and Wolfgang Gullich and held a big reputation among the local climbers of Bavaria as being runout, stout and a bit of a sandbag. We arrived at the hut without a topo or much of a clue as to where the route was exactly and proceeded to ask some climbers who were having beers if they could tell us where it was. They looked at us with surprise and amazement as we told them what we were up to and proceeded to offer their guide books. With not much more than 24 hours left before we would be boarding a plane to Kalymnos we set off to see what we could do and lo and behold Locker vom Hocker became a highlight of 2016.


We sent the route with style, stuck the alpine descent, slept under a boulder and made it on time to our flight. In no time we were in Kalymnos, donning sport shoes and logging some serious airtime.

We spent six weeks there snorkeling, climbing and eating our fair share of fish and feta. The island life is serene and the vibe is really quite good – needless to say I became a bit enamored with things there and found it to be a really special place with many lovely people. I onsighted a few 5.13s, ticked some hard projects and left there with a good pyramid of routes to see me into the next year.



2016 was full and fun and ended on quite a high note built was also filled with some expectations. 2017  started off with a slight change in attitude –  a lesson that I seem to learn over and over again.  Perhaps this year will be the time it sticks. Regardless though, I’m psyched for all that is to come and wherever it is I may go.




An Interview with ClimbIstria

Interview with Katie Lambert about climbing in Istria

Least Expected


Misja Pec

For my third birthday, all I wanted was a chocolate cake. My mom promised me one, so I was excited for this grand delivery of layer upon layer of creamy chocolate covered in ribbons of icing. My whole family would be there with presents and kisses, singing “Happy Birthday” amid the streamers and balloons filling the air. I would finally feel like the princess I was destined to be. When the big day came, my mom plopped down a brown loaf with three tiny candles in front of me with a thud. There was no multi-tiered chocolate cake with towers of icing; there were no balloons, no streamers, no piles of gifts, and no one else in my family except my parents. In my three-year-old mind, everything was ruined.

Flash-forward 33 years later, and I’m sitting in my van with tears running down my face while I ice my ankle and lament my situation: It’s two days before my husband, Ben, and I are supposed to leave for a five-week climbing trip to Slovenia. My feet were about six feet off the ground on Change of Heart, a V6 in Bishop’s Buttermilks, when I jumped down and landed perfectly on the pads in a crouched position. A split second later, I lost my balance and tipped forward, my left foot twisting ever so slightly in an awkward direction. I felt a pop on the inside of my ankle and immediately grabbed it in pain. I quickly tried to walk it off only to realize that something was definitely wrong. Shock set in slowly, then mourning, denial, and grave disappointment, a similar process the mind goes through when someone dies. This was happening almost two years to the day after I broke my ankle (also bouldering in the Buttermilks) when my foot struck the ground between the pads, an injury that took me nearly three months to recover from.

To add insult to injury (pun fully intended), this round of ankle problems happened when I wasn’t even supposed to be climbing hard. I was in taper mode following a life-consuming, 6-hours-a-day training regimen. For the past two months, Ben and I had been visiting family in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and training at the local gym. Every Monday through Thursday we devoted ourselves to training like it was our job. Wake up, yoga, breakfast, then head to the gym for cardio, weightlifting, climbing, hundreds of pull-ups, campusing, hangboarding, Frenchies, circuits, TRX, leg exercises, 4×4’s—and that’s all in a single session. We were sacrificing prime Southern conditions at the half-dozen world-class crags near Chattanooga to toil away inside. I had even trained through a nasty weeklong flu that had me otherwise bedridden with soup and hot tea.


Training for power

Our goal to dispatch projects quickly on fantastic Slovenian limestone seemed like it was slipping away. My ankle turned into a large purple onion while my mind filled with doubt. What if it’s broken? Will I be able to push off the notoriously glassy feet of Misja Pec? What would I do with my strongest body ever and a bum ankle? Should I stay in Bishop in our van, just limping along and waiting? Waiting for what exactly, I wasn’t sure.

Two days later I was being escorted via wheelchair through three different airports (surprisingly the smoothest travel experience of my life), and we were on our way. I was nervous for what lay ahead. I wanted to be supportive of Ben because he had put in just as much training effort and was looking really strong, but I was feeling sorry for myself. We arrived to consistent rain, but the thatched-roof villages mixed with pastures of sheep and rolling hills covered in fog were overwhelmingly enchanting. I tried to do some physical therapy and keep busy with yoga, writing, movies, and cooking, but things were moving so slowly that after a week there I was disappointed in everything. I wanted to be climbing, but I could barely walk to the base of the wall.

All those weeks of training, the anticipation, the excitement; it had all been for nothing. I thought about the missed opportunities and the what if’s, digging myself a great dark hole of emptiness and gloom. I crawled in that hole, piled all my grief on top, and sat there, alone. I felt like a fool, like a child, like a brat. I felt like that 3-year-old who denied her mom’s homemade bread.

A chance meeting between Ben and a shoulder surgeon at the crag one day led me to Slovenia’s top physiotherapist, who happened to live right down the street. I was doubtful—what on earth would make him so great, but I would do anything to get out of this hell hole.

A rather large man examined my underwear-clad body while I walked around his office. Yanking on my inflamed ankle, he pressed and poked the most painful places with all of his might, telling me to focus on my breathing, always on my breathing. “Just breathe,” he said. “Look at your breathing, calm your breathing.” Then he sat down in a chair across from me and said, “Tell me, what is it that is causing you stress? I can see it in your eyes when you first came in. Something has you unsatisfied that is beyond this injury.” Taking a deep breath and deciding to trust him not just with my physical body but my emotional one as well I told him about the trials and tribulations of my marriage and the stresses I felt from it. He went on to say that as an athlete my whole being needed to be 100% focused on climbing, that any slight irritation, any emotional trouble, anything that could wobble me is harmful to my climbing and my health. With this kind of trouble a small injury can blow up into a big thing. Taking my hands in his, he told me I could climb as much as I want but warned me it would be painful. “Don’t worry, though,” he said, “because it is only the mind and the mind lives in the past.” As I walked out, he called after me, “Do not live in fear and enjoy your life.”

I walked out of his office a little bit looser both in my body and in my mind. He had helped to break up some of the stagnation in my ankle and he helped me to breath deeper, and to  take responsibility for my feelings. I was being healed both physically and emotionally, something that you just don’t find with your typical doc in the States. Getting an ok from him also helped me to relax; his reassurance that it wasn’t broken, that it would heal were really all I needed. I was going to be ok, I just needed time, I just needed to let go of the preconceived ideas I had about performance and red-points and onsights. I just needed to relax and enjoy.


Taking it all in and waiting for the shade.

Expectations set you up for failure. If you do not achieve the one thing you desire, life can feel like a disaster, and it means you miss a larger piece of the puzzle: the greatness of the unexpected. Expectations make you rigid and closed off to other opportunities. They force you to demand a lot of yourself, of others, and of the universe at large. My expectations for this climbing trip, for all the glorious routes I would climb and prove my fitness to kept me blind to the path I was actually on.

I’ve always heard the saying “there is no success like failure,” and I’ve come to understand that it is in failure that we see ourselves for who we really are and what we’re made of. If I hadn’t hurt my ankle, I never would have gone to see the Slovenian physiotherapist Alan Lilic, I never would have come to understand myself that much more, and I never would have gotten a grasp on the things in my relationship that needed to be ironed out. I  learned the difference between having a goal and having an expectation. Goals are things that I strive for, work for, and build myself for and it has always been that with enough preparation and enough will power to keep pushing through the ups and downs they can be met. My expectation was thinking that the goal would be met with ease, that just because I had trained I was guaranteed great victory in my climbing, that I was untouchable by obstacle. Having goals is great—it drives, motivates, and pushes you, but by expecting to always meet or exceed my goals, I’ve set myself up to be unhappy. When our expectations aren’t met, we’re left with a sort of self-imposed suffering called disappointment, and life is too short and too precious for such frivolity. My Technicolor foot barely fits into my climbing shoe now, and the pain of pulling on polished feet is subsiding more and more, but my climbing goals are still there, as well as my relationship that requires care and nurturing. For years I demanded that my mom admit she made a loaf of bread instead of a cake. Eventually she confessed it was a chocolate spice bread. We laughed over the silliness of it all, and she said, “That was probably the best bread I’ve ever made, which is too bad for you because I lost the recipe.” It’s unfortunate for me that I never tasted it, but unlike the fleetingness of a homemade pastry, climbing and life continue to offer up opportunities for new experiences, new goals, new processes and endless lessons. I’m fortunate beyond belief with the opportunities and accomplishments in my life. Some things have come with ease and some things have been a battle, leaving me bruised and scarred and questioning  how bad I want it but I keep getting up and going back. 


That sweet taste of sending a beautiful route. Pticja Perspektiva (8a+/13c)

all photos by

a version of this story was published in the May 2016 edition of Climbing Magazine.


Are you interested in improving your climbing, learning new skills, or looking for a Sierra mountain experience? Then, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. I am offering pre-determined trips as well as custom, please check out my Guiding page:

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Broken Arrow Video

This past summer I was happy to make an ascent of one of Tuolumne’s hardest and most striking lines first put up by Ron Kauk some decades ago. Owen Bissell and Ben Ditto did an amazing job capturing the route, give it a gander if you like: