For some of you that have been following me for a while you may know that I have previously had a series called Fearless Women. I began this series on the premise that women should spend as much time as possible lifting each other up.
Let me introduce to you Alex Johnson professional climber (a.k.a gravity defier). Alex is a KIND Snacks athlete and she and I had the privilege of attending the GoPro Games in Vail with our friends at KIND Snacks.
I love getting to sit down and talk with accomplished women about what drives them, so Alex was kind of enough to share some time with me in a little Q&A. I hope this provides you with some inspiration to go out and be a little extra badass!
Where are you from?
I live in Las Vegas. I moved here a year and a half ago for the abundance of climbing, and the desert lifestyle. I grew up in Hudson, WI. (A mountainous region booming with rock climbing potential…)
How did you get started with climbing?
While there IS actually a little bit of climbing in the midwest, my above answer is in strong sarcasm. I didn’t really start climbing outside until I moved to Colorado when I was 18. I grew up climbing indoors, in a facility in St. Paul, MN called Vertical Endeavors. After years of climbing trees, playground sets, and blocky buildings with external architecture that screams, “climb me!” my mom brought me into the climbing gym when I was eight, and we were going three nights a week ever since.
What is your most memorable climbing experience?
Establishing the first ascent of “The Swoop,” a new climb in Red Rock, Nevada. This past year I was dealing with a pretty heartbreaking public failure, and really needed something to focus on as a sort of pick-me-up. When you pour your soul into something, regardless of what it is, it’s all-encompassing. It’s hard when you don’t come out successful, so you feel apprehensive to try it again. Putting up new climbs takes vision, and a multitude of work. You’re envisioning that something could be possible that’s never been done before, and that’s a crazy feeling! It took days of work to create a safe landing zone and clean the boulder to make it climb-able, and days more to actually do the moves. It proved to me more difficult than I expected… but it was so gratifying when I was finally sitting on top, and it feels humbling to have left something for the world to try.
You have been climbing for years, do you ever get nervous anymore? If so how do you deal with those nerves?
I’ve been climbing and competing for the better part of my life, but the nerves almost always creep back in at some point. If it happens during isolation at a competition, I usually deal with it by making jokes and being sarcastic to distract me from the freak-out in my head that I’m trying to ignore. Something about making someone else laugh or joking around with a friend is a great way to deflect the nerves, I highly recommend it!
As I watched the climbers at the GoPro Games in Vail, I was impressed with how it is a sport where you have to learn to fall and be prepared for it. What is the most challenging aspect of your sport for you?
Climbing can really be broken down to three parts: mental, physical and technical. Every climber struggles with one or all of these aspects at one time or another. For me, the mental aspect is what gets me. I can be in incredible shape and climbing well, but if my head goes somewhere dark, or I’m distracted, or begin to doubt myself, then I might as well pack up and go home. It’s hard to stay on top of the game these days. There’s more and more young and talented climbers appearing on the scene every day. The fear of failure, regardless of how big or small, can be crippling if you let it.
Whats next for you? What are you currently working towards?
This spring I had my first bigwall adventure with my teammate at The North Face, Heidi Wirtz. She pretty much dragged me up this thousand foot cliff face called “The Rainbow Wall,” it took, like, fourteen hours, and it was one of the most exhausting experiences of my life. Being on a climb like that requires continuous focus which can be draining. Not only are you trying to complete the climb itself, but it’s a race against the day and the fatigue, which means you’re trying to climb, belay, drink water, and crush a KIND bar before the sun goes down. It was amazing. And I’ve found myself craving that again and again. For predominantly a boulderer, it’s a pretty strange leap to multi-pitch trad, but I think it could be something I could really get into. It’s adventurous and full-on, with long involved days. And I’m not saying bouldering isn’t; it’s just different. I think it’ll make me grow as a climber, an athlete, and a person.
Who is your female role model?
Ronda Rousey (UFC). She absolutely dominates in her sport, she works undeniably hard, and has a “take no shi*t” attitude.
How do you show the world you are fearless?
Ideally for me, this answer has nothing to do with climbing. Of course there’s aspects of getting out of your comfort zone, and physically pushing yourself through things that scare you. But ultimately, I hope that by using my platform to stand up and speak for things I believe in inspires people to be brave and find their own voice, even with controversial things that could have backlash.
Do you have any advice for other women who are aiming to be fearless with their passions or in the world?
It’s scary to put yourself out there, and it takes a huge amount of vulnerability to admit to your failures. I think being open with your goals and aspirations, and documenting your process along the way, knowing you could fail in the public eye, takes more courage than if you were to just quietly go do something badass and noteworthy. It makes your story have longevity, especially if you fail, and people will rally behind you, rooting for your success next time. I think it’s important to build a community around you that understands and agrees with this approach. I’ve been privileged to work with many companies over the years like The North Face and KIND Snacks as well as many others, who have been some of my biggest supporters and allowed me to go through my journey in an authentic way.