Though Kim is often spotted crushing routes in The Cliffs at Valhalla's lead arch, turns out that there's so much more to her than just badass climbing skills. We caught up with Kim and found out that she's a classically-trained ballet dancer who loves motorcycles as much as she loves trad climbing.
When + why did you start climbing? What’s your origin story?
I started climbing about 8 years ago, when my boyfriend (now husband) brought me on a date to The Cliffs. I had no idea that climbing was a real thing. I climbed a lot of trees when I was a kid, but not rocks. In fact, I went to Vegas with my family and went hiking around Red Rocks. I had no idea what a huge climbing area it is. After my first climb, I was hooked.
What’s your favorite discipline of climbing?
My favorite discipline in climbing is trad. I come from a family of electrical engineers and spent most of my time growing up at my family’s shop. My grandfather spent a lot time explaining the mechanics behind the products and machinery. He taught me to ‘think outside the box’ and essentially how to think creatively when approaching a new project. Placing trad gear into the cracks and crevices of the rock is exciting because it challenges my thinking and physical abilities, and allows me to put into practice what my grandfather taught me so many years ago. It also forces me to slow my mind down and focus on each moment of the climb. Life in general is so fast-paced, I welcome the ‘climbing meditation’ and freedom trad leading offers.
Another weird but true thing I enjoy about trad is getting jammed pieces out of the rock. True story . . . Last summer, a bunch of guys were working on a #1 cam (my favorite piece) they managed to over-cam in a horizontal crack. All the people in their party tried to get it out, but finally just gave up. They jokingly said to my group of climbers ‘If you get it out, it’s yours. That #@!% is a waste of time.” Needless to say, I walked out with another piece on my rack that day!
What else do you do? For work, for fun? How do they overlap with climbing?
I am a classically trained ballet dancer. When I started climbing, I didn't even know I was using technique learned in dance classes until my climbing crew pointed it out! After that, I saw the connection between climbing and ballet. Like Lynn Hill says in her book Climbing Free, “The beauty of climbing is that each person is free to choreograph his or her own way of adapting to the rock.” This quote truly sums up the interdependence of climbing and dance in my life.
What else do I do besides climbing? Well, if you open the trunk of my car, you will always find a yoga mat for Bikram yoga and Pilates, kick boxing gear (including boxing gloves), my ballet bag and climbing gear (of course). Now that it is getting warmer, I will also have my motorcycle helmet and riding boots.
Similar to climbing, motorcycles are a big part of my life. The first time I got on a bike, it was frightening. I kept pushing myself into the fear because I knew there would be positive rewards if I stuck with it (just like climbing). Riding is also how I met my amazing husband. I wandered into his motorcycle shop in Ossining and, well, you know how it ends! He was the one who got me into climbing. I owe my husband for opening my world up to the amazing climbing community.
How has being a teacher impacted your climbing and vice versa?
I am a first grade teacher in Ossining, NY. It's a tough job because I am responsible for 20 children who depend on me for literally everything. Climbing has helped me with teaching because it’s a reminder of how it is to be a student. When I get on a challenging route, I have to focus and have patience with myself, knowing I will make mistakes before I unlock the route’s sequence. My students experience that every day: they are confronted with new challenges that will be frustrating. I try to teach my students the valuable lesson climbing has taught me: making mistakes ultimately leads to new learning. I have actually brought climbing into my teaching by taking my students to the gym! It was an opportunity for them to engage in a hands-on learning experience about teamwork while building positive social skills!
Being a teacher has also impacted my climbing. I tell my students every day to take risks in their learning, even though it might mean they may make a mistake. They inspire me to always push myself past my personal climbing limits and to achieve the goals that I have set for myself.
What’s your favorite outdoor climb and why?
I have to say it’s Welcome to the Gunks. This climb was the first serious overhanging route that I was ‘volunteered’ to clean during one of my very first outdoor experiences. It was so challenging, scary, and exciting the whole way. Every time I get on Welcome to the Gunks, it brings me back to why I love climbing so much.
Do you have any climbing stories? Any moment where the sport or the community inspired you?
I was climbing on the Edge of Time in Jurassic Park in Colorado. It was my first 9+ sport lead and a storm rolled in and it started to rain. I was ¾ of the way to the top and the rock started to become slippery. Inspired by Lynn Hill, I followed the advice she offered in her book: take a deep breath, envision the moves and quiet the mind by pushing out the fear. This immediately refocused me and I relaxed into the climb again. When I got to the top, I couldn’t believe that I did it. It really reinforced the power of the mind over matter.
What’s your favorite part about the climbing community at The Cliffs?
Everyone, no matter what your climbing experience, is so welcoming. I meet people from all walks of life and we all get to share a really cool sport together. I have met my climbing family there: Tony, Dave, Joe, Jay, JB, and Classic, who I have had numerous adventures with. In fact, they gave me the nickname ‘Burly’ because I usually am too stubborn to come down from a climb until I finish it. I also get to share the sport with one of my best friends Lina (aka Gunz). She pushes me and when I’m about to give up, she yells ‘Burly!’ and I know I better step my game up. Without the Cliffs Community in my life, I would have never connected with the amazing people who have influenced my life more than they will ever know.
Do you have any climbing-related goals for 2016?
My goal is to lead a 12 in the gym and a 10 outside (Welcome to the Gunks perhaps?) I have been getting into bouldering to build strength and technique. I hope to participate in my first bouldering comp this coming year as well.
Dream climbing destination?
I love Boulder, Colorado and have been climbing there during the summer for a few years. This year I hope to spend some time in Eldorado Canyon. Zion is my next destination in the future for sure.
Anything else you’d like to impart?
I am totally blown away that The Cliffs has chosen me to spotlight. I hope to inspire others, especially women, to step out of their comfort zone and try something they think is out of reach (didn’t Lynn Hill say that it's never a height issue, just a strength issue?) Seriously, life is short, so climb hard.
Thank you to Kim for participating in this! (And for patiently waiting for this to come out while the spring bouldering season was kicking hard!) Feeling inspired to go pick up Lynn Hill's book and give my entire climbing family a high five.
Photos by Mike McGuinn