Rock Roots highlights the every day female climber who inspires us in our every day climbing. Today Crux Crush contributor, Lily He, highlights Tiffany Skogstrom.
“My friend Tiffany Skogstrom has been climbing for over a decade and has been an inspiration to many women over the years. Besides being an accomplished New England climber, she’s taught many women’s trad climbing clinics and even gets a nod from Arno Ilgner in his sequel to Rock Warrior’s Way. What sets Tiffany apart from other climbing partners is her incredible support of women in the sport. When we first met and chatted about sharing a rope, she said that climbing with women “is really inspriring” to her. And although her husband is an incredibly strong climber and willing belayer, she most often seeks out female partners. With her, I found myself trying and succeeding on tough trad lines I would never have attempted without her encouragement.” – Alissa Doherty, Tiffany’s nominator
LH: How did you get addicted to trad climbing? How do you try and progress?
TS: I love long routes, which is a big reason why I love trad climbing. My pivotal trad experience was probably when I went to Squamish for the first time. It’s this great area with kiteboarding and sport climbing and bouldering and most of all, trad. In that trip, I was able to push my limits because the style of climbing was familiar (similar to New England) while having these great cracks that were very easy to protect.
I also keep a climbing journal. I keep track of what I’ve fallen on, so that I can remember that next time I need to keep the purple cam on my left side because I can’t place it with my right hand. I’m a planner by nature, so I love taking a picture of a long multi-pitch climb and planning out everything before we get to the crag. That way, we can also address what everyone’s goals for the day are.
LH: Alicia sees you as a mentor because you seem to have an “intuitive sense of what women need to hear when climbing gets heady or tough” – where did you develop this?
TS: First, I don’t see myself as a mentor, because I feel like I’m being mentored just as much from my partners. But, I guess I’m aware of what goes on in my head. When I first started climbing, I used to repeat, “Oh my god, I’m going to fall, I can’t do this.” At some point I changed the conversation to say “GO!” instead of “No!” Reading The Rock Warrior’s Way is really what helped me change the self talk. These negative horrible things I was saying to myself were holding me back; I certainly wouldn’t let anyone else get away with saying these same things to me! I think this is the biggest mental technique that has helped me succeed in trad.
And what’s important to realize is that fear isn’t gendered. There’s all these stereotypes of people in climbing, but I know that women can be just as fearless as men.
TS: I have a pretty calm head, and you have to know that things out of your control will happen around you. One time, I was climbing at the Gunks on this route that was at my limit. I put my hand on this hold and thought, “hmm that’s kind of squishy.” It was this really cool lizard with a jet blue tail – and if I were a different person, I might have fallen there.
I think other than having a calm demeanor, you try and plan as much as you can before getting on the rock. You look at the route, read the guidebooks that tell you what kind of cams to bring, and make sure your rope is long enough for the route!
LH: You’re seen as this great female climber who also breeds confidence in other women. But you’re also responsible for getting your husband into climbing, and climb frequently with men. How do you think about gender and climbing partners?
TS: I turned 40 in May this year, but I’m climbing harder (and definitely smarter) on trad this past season than I ever have in my life. Twice within the last year, my partners and I have had other women climbers come up and say “wow – you really inspire me. I hope that I am climbing as well when I am your age. I never see women climbing as hard as you, never mind two women climbing together.”
While it is flattering to hear this, and I love the idea that I may inspire other women, it makes me realize that no one is saying this to my husband who climbs harder and is three years older than I am. The last time he and I were at the Gunks, some men came up and remarked how hard I climb, but didn’t note that my husband is climbing harder than me. Sometimes this type of attention feels weird, even when it is meant to be flattering.
The number one thing I look for in a climbing partner is the same level of motivation, not skill. It is so easy to find routes for your skill level as long as you’re willing to move at the same pace and wake up at the same time. With any partner, I want them to respect me and treat me as their equal. I want my opportunity to do the crux pitch!
Tiffany, you are so conscious – of yourself, of your climbing partners, of those climbers around you. You remind us to give credit to those who have helped us get to where we are today, and those who have worked just as hard as us but may not be in the limelight. We love your rock roots!
If there’s someone who you would like to nominate for Rock Roots, email us at cruxcrush at gmail dot com.
Climb on! ~Lily