In this week’s Climber Spotlight, we hear from the multi-talented jack of all trades, Colette McInerney. Colette is a climber, photographer, filmmaker, and lover of the climbing life. Read on to hear her story:
How did you get into climbing? Tell us about the early days of your climbing career.
I started climbing while in college at Fordham University in the Bronx, NY. It was kind of an unlikely hobby since most of my focus was on city stuff—I was working at a radio station, majoring in Urban Studies and I loved going out and living the city life.
But when I tried climbing I think I was really needing a physical outlet, and probably mental outlet too, so I was instantly hooked. Climbing definitely changed the path of my life big time. It changed a lot of things for me and definitely for the better.
What about the climbing life is so attractive to you? Do you have a home base or are you constantly traveling?
I don’t have a home base at the moment, though I’m living in Tokyo, Japan for the next year because of my boyfriend’s job. I normally stay in one location for 1-3 months at a time, whether that’s in Spain focused on climbing and filming, at my parent’s house in Nashville, or camping in the van at a climbing area. I get little fixes at places and often frequent the same spots over and over, so they all kind of feel like “returning home” or mini home bases.
In terms of why I love that lifestyle so much, it’s definitely not for everyone, but at this point I’ve been doing it so long it doesn’t feel “different or strange” or anything. People are really adaptable in general. I think anyone could live like this if they really wanted to.
There are a lot of elements to why I’m attracted to the kind of mobile living that the road brings. Some of it is definitely a bit of escapism—like alluding to real life stuff, and all the kinds of pressures and implied necessities we should be after in order to be happy.
As a creative, I also crave the newness of a place. There’s always so much excitement and fresh perspective when you arrive somewhere totally different. I’ve been attracted to that since I was child—it’s totally contagious. Then there’s the simplicity of climbing itself. I really feel more balanced, happy, and sure about the way the world should work after a day out climbing and hanging with friends. Just makes stuff right.
Get to know Colette in this footage from her latest trip to Ceuse:
Do you find it hard to balance your love for climbing with real life responsibilities?
I definitely struggled harder with that in the past; through my mid and late 20’s. These days I’ve molded my life more around climbing with a healthier balance. That being said, doing the self-employeed/freelance thing can be a little stressful for sure.
I think most people would agree that working in your field of passion is a little more insecure and a kind of financial struggle, but in the end that’s not really why you do it.
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How did you get into photography/film making?
I started shooting photos in 2010 when I really started traveling abroad a lot. It began as a way to document all the cool things I was seeing and experiencing for my family. I would write these super long group emails so my family could hear about where I was going. Then of course blogs and social media came around, so it created a better “space” for that content. I don’t think it was for many more years that I considered selling photos or being a photographer.
I’m definitely one of those climber first, creative second types. As for video, I actually never really liked it much. My boyfriend at the time was a pro climber and he kinda just handed me the camera and was like
Okay, get on that rope we’re gonna film this shit!
Haha! I’ve definitely grown to love video more and more. Both mediums—photos and video—are endlessly challenging, which is super motivating and constantly humbling at the same time … kinda like climbing!
What do you hope to portray or inspire with the media you produce?
Overall I don’t really like to stage a lot of stuff. I guess I feel more like a documentary-type. I like to tell the story of what’s really happening, show how peoples’ struggles are kind of the same across the board—even the most talented ones out there.
But I especially like shooting with women. I think they are really diverse characters that are difficult to portray. I think in mainstream media we often see women put into this box so they fit some mold to be more easily understood. It would be awesome to make something that shows how complex women are and doesn’t simplify us.
You are one of the few women making climbing films. Has this created any challenges?
No I wouldn’t say so. If anything it’s probably opened up opportunities because it’s still considered unique.
I have heard of photographers that hire guys as second shooters, mostly because those jobs mean a lot of heavy grunt work and carrying crazy loads. And it’s assumed that’s going to be easier for the 24 year-old dude who’s 160 pounds than the 100 pound chick.
But really there’s not much of that. I think there just aren’t as many female creatives in our industry, but that’s changing at a really rapid pace and there are some crazy talented chicas out there! In the meantime I always carry too much stuff for training, so I can get those assistant jobs.
But probably what’s most challenging is just still wanting to climb so much. It’s definitely a struggle deciding between the two and they both take plenty of time and focus to be the best and really excel. But overall, I’m kind of a jack of all trades and like keeping diversity in my life. I feel really fortunate to be able to pursue two things I really love, that are so compatible.
Tell us about one of the proudest moments of your climbing career.
When I think of my most memorable moments, they aren’t necessarily my hardest sends but more of mental breakthroughs, or doing something really out of my climbing character that had a positive affect.
I remember falling on this route at the end of the day maybe my 4th attempt. I was so angry when I got to the ground, I just pulled the rope through and tied right back in and sent it. I never did stuff like that, it was so cool when it worked!
Tell us about a not-so-proud moment in your climbing career.
Hummm, good one! Well those can happen everyday! Haha, no really, I’m still a scared-y cat climber. I don’t really like anything high for bouldering and still can get totally freaked out on run-outs on sport routes, and that’s not even mentioning trad climbing!
I’m definitely not a fearless climber or crazy strong, not that I ever claimed to be, but there are definitely moments when you’re at an event or clinic or something and you’re thinking to yourself …
geez, I’m a total wuss.
If I had a superpower, it would be to not get paralyzed by fear and climb better instead! Hah!
Thanks for sharing your story with us, Colette! We appreciate all of the badass media you’re putting out into the climbing world and we can’t wait to see what’s next! Colette is sponsored by Five Ten, Black Diamond, and Sterling Rope.