Renowned rock climber Beth Rodden will travel to Maine to share a film and tell stories over dinner at the University of Maine in Orono. The event, 6-9 p.m. April 13, will benefit the new Bangor Y Outdoor Adventure Club. Ticket prices and the exact location will be announced soon on her Facebook page. Find it by visiting Facebook and searching for “Dinner and a Movie with Beth Rodden.”
“[Rodden] is about as well known as you can get in the climbing community,” said Jeremy Robichaud, leader of the outdoor club’s rock climbing program. “There are the bigtime legends who almost everyone has heard about — like you may have heard of Lynn Hill. But Beth is right up there, maybe just a minor notch below that … She broke a lot of standards for females as far as climbing difficulty. If she’s not the queen, she’s the princess.”
Established by the Bangor Y and University of Maine in February, the outdoor club will provide low-cost outdoor recreation training and trips to area residents. The current programs, rock climbing and paddling, have already proved to be popular programs and in high demand in the community. In fact, the club is working to form a third rock climbing group to satisfy a growing waiting list.
“We run in the gamut — we have kids as young as 11 and folks that are senior citizens,” Robichaud said of the rock climbing program. “The median age is 36. We have total greenhorns, who have never seen a climbing rope to a one particular guy who has been climbing for 30 years and moved up to Maine.”
All proceeds from the upcoming event with Rodden will go toward purchasing club equipment and travel expenses for the paddling and climbing tracks, as well as other programs, such as mountain biking, that club organizers hope to add in the near future.
Rodden, now 31, made climbing history in 1998, when she became the youngest woman to climb a 5.14a grade route, “To Bolt or Not to Be” in Oregon, the first of its grade established in the United States. Since then, she has completed numerous 5.13 and 5.14 ascents.
Rock climbing grades accurately describe the degree of difficulty and danger for specific routes, although the grading system can be confusing and differs from country to country. In the US, climbs are rated from 5.1 to 5.15a, with 5.1 being the easiest. Difficulty also increases from “a” to “d.”
She was a part of the first all-women team to ascend Tsaranro Massif in Madagascar. She was also the first woman to free climb two El Capitan routes in Yosemite Valley. And just four years ago, she redpointed the first ascent of Meltdown in Yosemite Valley (5.14c), the hardest traditional route led or established by a woman as of 2008.
On March 14, Rodden called from her home in the California Bay Area for a phone interview.
Sarnacki: In the climbing world, what would you say you’re best known for?
Rodden: I’m probably best known for crack climbing, I would say — and climbing in Yosemite.
S: How did you first started climbing?
R: I was 13 or 14 when I started climbing. I just went to a climbing gym one day actually, and I was hooked. So I started doing competitions a couple months after that and I just got completely hooked on the sport. (She was living in Sacramento, Calif. at the time, and the gym she’s referring to is The Rocknasium in Davis, Calif.)
S: What are you doing today in your career?
R: I’m still climbing a ton, traveling a lot, working with my sponsors on product development and doing clinics and stuff for them — pretty much the same old, same old, which is kind of awesome.
S: Have you ever visited Maine before?
R: Yes, but not for a really long time — probably like 10 or 15 years. I was visiting friends who lived in Portland. (She has never climbed in Maine and hopes to check out some local routes after the event.)
S: So far, what has been the most meaningful route for you?
R: The nose of El Cap is probably one of the most meaningful, I’d say. It was first free climbed by Lynn Hill (in 1994), who is kind of a legend in climbing. She climbed it the year I started climbing, so it was always this kind of idealistic accomplishment that I’d love to try some day. Finally, I did it, about 10 years later (2005). It was great.
S: Do you have any advice for people who are looking to become better climbers and try more challenging routes? What has always helped you be successful?
R: Probably a few things. Honestly, one is just climbing as much as you can. I know it sounds kind of obvious, but the more you climb, the more you learn. Also, surround yourself with people you can always learn from. When I was a kid, I’d always climb with the owners of the gym and adults … Ask a ton of questions, especially when you go outside and there’s a lot more logistics involved. I still do that when I go climbing with people. That’s probably my biggest piece of advice … And obviously, as with anything, it’s good to be able to work on your weaknesses. I personally think the gym is a great place to improve. It doesn’t directly correspond with outdoor climbing, but it’s a good, convenient place to learn.
S: As an athlete, what is the most appealing aspect of your sport? What do you look forward to most?
R: I think I look forward to spending time with friends in a new place, honestly. That’s one of the best things about climbing — you get to travel a lot with your friends to pretty cool places and do something that you all really like to do.
S: Do you have any advice specific to women who are looking to get into climbing or become better climbers?
R: I think it’s a great sport for women to do because I think there’s a big misconception that it’s all about arm strength, but I’d say it’s equally about technique and balance, which I think women are inherently better at. And I also think it’s a great way to go do something with your girlfriends. I go climbing all the time with a group of ladies and it’s a really fun way to interact. It may seem like a really macho sport, but a lot of women out there are doing stuff right alongside the men.
S: A less serious question: For the event, do you have any favorite food you hope will be served for dinner?
R: I don’t even know what’s being offered. I love food. I dunno, maybe some seasonal Maine things. That would be awesome. I love to cook, but I wouldn’t say I’m very good at it.
S: I noticed your blog ( blog.bethrodden.com) is about cooking and climbing. When and why did you start that up?
R: I started that about a year ago. I think I had a few friends that had blogs about food and their kids and other friends of mine that had blogs about their climbing, so I thought it would be a cool thing to do, and I definitely enjoy writing. I find it a big challenge for myself and I really like that. I’m trying to learn how to become a better writer.
S: For these types of events, when you tell people your stories and show your film, do you consider yourself to be a very talkative person?
R: I think I’m inherently kind of a shy person, but I do really good with questions. I really like sharing my experiences because I know when I first started climbing, and still to this day I go to as many slideshows as I can. I am really inspired by people’s travels and their stories.
Sponsors for the Orono event with Rodden are Cadillac Mountain Sports, Acadia Mountain Guides, Alpenglow, NH Bragg and Thrive Climbing team.