When I met climber, mother, and physical therapist, Carrie Cooper this year at the Women’s Climbing Festival, I was immediately struck by a few characteristics: a contagious smile, palpable psych, and a clear passion for trying hard.
Carrie is a true lover of climbing, and she’s made it clear that nothing can stop her from pursuing her passion. Not only does Carrie, a 5’1″ climber, put down hard climbs with exquisite grace and confidence—but she’s also made it a priority to climb regularly throughout her multiple pregnancies.
Read on to learn shorty beta, what it’s like to climb pregnant, and a how you can climb and enjoy this sport forever:
How were you introduced to climbing? Tell us about the experiences or mentors that impacted you most.
I was introduced to climbing while I was in high school. I was a dancer and I left to attend a conservatory. 5 years later, I was reintroduced to climbing while studying in Sweden and I learned it was the best way to be introduced to Swedish culture. I think the community and culture of climbing was my first hook more than just the activity itself.
You’ve been climbing for over a decade. What are the biggest changes you’ve recognized over the years in the sport? For women, in particular?
The biggest change is the increase in climbers worldwide, let alone the increase in female climbers. I moved to Flagstaff, AZ in 2002 and I knew one other female climber. Before 2002, there were two female climbers in Flag, but Julie De Jesus moved the same month I moved there. (Of course there were probably 5 but I never met them …)
After that, it was a slow trickle of women entering the boulder field. I did a lot of climbing on my own.
At that time, gyms were definitely not at the level they are at now. They were one step up from garage walls; dusty and dirty and usually not the right temperature no matter what the season. I rarely climbed indoors. When I moved to SLC in 2011, the gyms blew my mind so of course I started climbing inside as well. I think it’s really helped with my fitness while juggling being a mom and a Physical Therapist.
Carrie and JC Hunter taking a climbing mom’s deep water soloing vacation:
You’re 5’1’’, yet haven’t let that slow you down in the slightest. What are a few shorty beta techniques/strategies that you frequently employ?
I like to draw on my strengths as much as possible and train my weaknesses. I have found trying to climb at the extent of my reach has been a great endeavor. If you watch climbers who are trying to reach a hold, it’s rare that you see them actually climbing to the extent of their reach. I try to stand on things with the image of a ballerina pressing onto her toe. Or grab a hold a little more shallowly than others to get the extra reach.
I just started crimping a couple years ago because I found it shortened me. I’m really weak with my crimps closed. I turn my head and press my body as close as I can to gain every possible inch. And I always repeat in my mind when I see others just reach the hold so easily that I am damn strong and I’ve earned ALL my strengths, including my flexibility.
You made it a priority to climb consistently throughout your pregnancies. What were your biggest takeaways from rock climbing while pregnant? Did you face any criticism?
I was pretty vocal about climbing while I was pregnant. I kept a blog through my second pregnancy and I absolutely got criticism. I loved climbing pregnant. I felt like I was doing the right thing. I had a mantra while I was pregnant that helped me to be less results driven,
Be like honey.
I still draw upon those experiences. There are days where I feel like I’m overthinking everything and my climbing feels disjointed. I revert back to those experiences and that mantra and I find I’m calmer, my movement is more flowing, I can relax on my feet, etc. Climbing while pregnant made me a better climber.
Carrie, climbing at 39 weeks pregnant:
You’re now a physical therapist. What advice can you offer climbers to stay injury-free and healthy?
Hydrate, eat good things. Give your body a break when it needs it. Train your weaknesses and try to stay mobile. These things all look different to everybody. Find what works for you. Talk to a professional when something is nagging and don’t let it just spiral out of control to the point that you can’t climb.
In a typical day out climbing, what’s in your pack? Any favorite gear, or any oddities you can’t go climbing without?
I’m usually rushing out the door to go climb so I make myself a protein shake from Gnarly Nutrition ’cause they have soy free delicious blends. I grab my favorite ProBar Bites, water, some kind of snack item to go. I always have my La Sportiva Solutions, which I supplement with one other shoe as well. I bring my brush kit, tape, and an extra layer in case it gets cold. I just started throwing in my flip flops as well due to the warmer weather.
Tell us about one of your proudest moments in your climbing career.
Proudest… hmm. I have loads. I try to have at least small successes every day I go climbing. I like to end with a send, even if it’s v0.
Here are some career highlights:
- Finishing the “Wanker 101,” which is a 101 problem circuit on North Mountain in Hueco Tanks in a day. That was pretty awesome and also exhausting.
- Topping out a 90-foot .12d deep water solo on the Diablo Wall in Mallorca, Spain was a pretty jubilant moment.
- Completing my 2-year project, The Receptionist (V10) in Flagstaff, AZ had me smiling for weeks.
- The day that each of my children sent their first established rock climb on their own fruition filled my heart with butterflies.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
Climbing is an individual endeavor and if you get bogged down in numbers and constantly chasing the next level you will miss the beauty and soul-fulfilling nature of climbing. I think everyone should be reminded of that from time to time.
A huge thanks to Carrie for taking the time to share her story with us! Looking forward to crossing paths in the boulder fields again soon!