Elite Climber Interview: Paige Claassen
By Calvin Landrus
On a day in May, when I arrived at the birth-place of sport climbing in North America (and my home crag; a.k.a. Smith Rock), the word was that Jonathan Siegrist and Paige Claassen were there from Colorado. Having heard that Paige was a Christian and having exchanged a few emails with her, I was motivated to meet her in person.
Arriving at their location, I found Paige cruising “Full-Heinous,” a 5.12c with 30 foot run-outs. Upon reaching the ground after her send, she tells me that she loves Smith’s technical, vertical, endurance routes. (During her visit, she does flash ascents of Kings of Rap (5.12d) and Darkness at Noon (5.13a) and gets a redpoint of White Wedding (5.13d).) Introductions were made and over the next couple of weeks, we had a several chances to hang out. And during that time, I had an opportunity to interview her.
What are some of your background basics? I was born in Oklahoma in 1990 and eventually ended up in Estes Park, CO. I’m very close to both of my parents, and my entire family spends a lot of time together. I have a younger brother, Sam, who is my best friend. Currently, I’m a business-marketing student at the University of Colorado in Boulder with plans to graduate in 2012.
How did you get started in climbing? I was pretty bad at all other sports I’d tried, so my Dad took me to the climbing gym, hoping to find a niche for me, and it just clicked! That was 10 years ago.
When did you realize you were pretty good at climbing? I began competing in comps almost immediately after I began climbing and found I did well there. I used to climb only in the gym in Estes but when I began to train in Boulder and climb outside with other young, strong, motivated individuals, I realized I still had a lot of space to grow and learn before I reached my limit.
Describe your top performances in the competition scene? I like to compete and I put a lot of pressure on myself to meet my expectations. I won the Continental Championships at age fifteen. My first time out of the country I went to China for my first Youth World Championships. I’ve been to Austria, France and Spain. . . all for World Cups.
What are your memorable performances outside? My favorite crag changes each time I visit a new area. My favorite route is Angel Dust (7a+, Ceuse). Last summer, I sent Zulu (5.14a, Rifle) after 5 weekends of effort. (Also, it has been reported that Paige did Motley Crux (5.14a, Deep Creek, Spokane). Jonathan wrote on his blog, “She exhibited her exceptional fitness with the first female ascent of this ultra-pumpy climb. Her rapid redpoint on such unique stone was super inspirational. Excellent work, Paige!”)
What are your future goals in climbing? I want to keep traveling and visiting new areas. I want to always challenge myself and continue to push my limits. Through my experience, I’ve found numerical goals to be unhealthy.
Tell me about your family? I’m very close with my family and credit them for all my success and happiness in life. My whole family has gone on every big trip and we always have a lot of fun traveling and adventuring together.
How did you become a Christ-follower? Tell me about your Christian walk? I grew up attending church my whole life. I prayed to receive Christ in the 4th grade with my mom and dad by my side. When my family moved to Estes, we moved in next door to our current pastor and his family - we’re now really close friends and I love my church in Estes. I also go to a church in Boulder that has a college night - it’s very lively, a lot of fun and I met one of my best friends there!
What’s it like being a Christian in the climbing scene? I don’t meet other Christian climbers very often. However, everyone in the climbing community is aware of my faith and supportive of my beliefs. Not once have I been harassed for being a Christian, and if anything, people are interested and ask questions. I’ll openly speak to anyone who asks about my faith, although I don’t want to push my beliefs on anyone. I believe Christ has to speak to that person through me. It can’t be just my own desire.