September’s girl crush epitomizes not only the climber we desire to become, but also the character of person we aspire to emulate. She is none other than 5.14 climber and kindergarden teacher, Jen Vennon. Climbing since 2000, the 30-year-old has stamped her mark on the Colorado Rifle climbing scene, claiming the first female ascent of Stockboy’s Revenge (5.14b/c) and being only the second female to send the 7PM Show (5.14a). DPM reported Stockboy’s Revenge to be the hardest route sent by a woman at Rifle. (If she’s starting to sound a bit more familiar, you may have also seen her on the cover of Rock and Ice last year). What makes Jen stand out from the rest is her modesty. Implicit in climbing as hard as Jen does while also teaching kindergarden, is a sense of humility. She accepts no sympathy and refuses to let her height (5’3″), reach (she has a negative ape index), or being surrounded by Rifle guy beta be an excuse. Friends acknowledge her refusal to back down from anything and Jen confirms her determination to meet a goal once she’s set it.
Yet even more than her determination at climbing, we admire her well-rounded character. Jen somehow balances teaching, climbing, creating origami earrings, and homemade journals, with room to still be silly and dress up in a chicken costume. Rather than being defined only as one of the strongest female climbers out there, Jen welcomes the openness that new opportunities can bring, “For me, balance doesn’t look the same from season to season. It’s constantly shifting and changing to accommodate all of the pieces of who I am.” At her core, she is first and foremost a dedicated teacher, and one of the few climbers out there who will admit the selfishness inherent in projecting a route. Yet, in both teaching and climbing, Jen gives it her all, always striving to be better. As a Prana climbing ambassador, she admitted,
“I don’t think I’ll ever be perfectly content. I think contentment is something I’ll spend the rest of my life striving for. I’ll always want to be a better climber, friend, wife, teacher, daughter, skier, biker, cook, swimmer, thinker, trainer, PERSON. But just because I’ll never be completely content, doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty of happiness and joy to be found along my path and in the moments I spend striving.”
- Sometimes girls cry…but leave the tears on the route.
- You are not too short and you cannot use that as an excuse.
- Learn how to politely tune-out beta from the tall, although well meaning, men around you.
- Sometimes it’s best to be upfront and direct about the grade of routes you want to climb on.
- Being a good climber does not make someone any better/or worse of a person.
Thanks for inspiring us Jen, reminding us of the importance of balance, while striving with joy to be better climbers and people.
Climb on! ~Cate