A few weeks ago some of New England’s strongest lady climbers gathered at MetroRock in Everett, MA for the second annual Iron Maiden bouldering competition. The competition series began in 2014, with Angie Payne taking home the first ever title of Iron Maiden (check out last year’s video here). As we see it, the competition is a celebration of the strength and camaraderie of the female climbing community. This year we got in on the action by competing and chatting up some of the finalists. Today we’ve got a report on the event from Boston area climber, and 1st place winner of the Iron Maiden advanced category, Ann Pham.
In comparison with your average competition, there is undeniably something different about the Iron Maiden. The obvious difference is that it’s a female only bouldering competition. Yet, even the camaraderie between climbers feels different. Top female climbers in the world compete alongside local lady climbers, all vying to earn the title of Iron Maiden, yet equally supportive of one another performing at their best. I was given an opportunity to sit down with a few of the local climbers at MetroRock during the isolation period to discuss everything from preparation rituals to what makes all-female comps special.
“Iron Maiden is a fun, closed environment competition. Everyone knows each other and helps out even knowing they are competing against each other,” shared Adriana Jacobsen, a team MetroRock and elite climber. This perspective was shared by several competitors and was in part due to the fact in only allowing females to compete, you had half the amount of climbers fighting to get on the wall. Adriana explained, “The competition is less crowded in comparison to Dark Horse.” I’ve been a runner for 13 years (all through high school and college), and started climbing in 2013. From my cross-country and track and field events, I understand what it’s like to compete against each other. Yet, Iron Maiden was a testament to great sportsmanship that came out of the competitors.
Don’t get me wrong, this was a competition and climbers were there to win! First place winner, Lily Canavan, one of MetroRock’s elite climbers and team members is not shy to competing. “I love to compete,” expressed Lily, “Especially since this is the last competition of the season that is hosted by my home gym MetroRock.” Lily’s training with coach Josh Larson has definitely paid off throughout the comp season. Lily was just one of the many young guns in the finals round who was not afraid of a challenge and knows what she wants when competing.
Climbing has taken the Boston area by storm with more and more gyms opening each season and appears to only be getting more popular, especially among women. Sixteen-year-old, Bimini Horstmann, is no stranger to the podium; she took second at Iron Maiden and has placed in many elite competitions in bouldering as well as sport climbing. According to Bimini, “Women are getting stronger and can climb more elegantly than men.” Iron Maiden exhibited female competitors strength, technique, and elegance – along with their raw power. So what’s Bimini and Lily’s secret to winning all those competitions? Bimini and Lily let me in on their secret ritual: “We paint each other’s nails with our team color.” I wish I could be as cute, but painting my nails would never stand a chance with a mixture of chalk and rock climbing holds. As for me? My ritual is having coffee in the morning, taking a shower, and shaving my legs. Yes, I shower and shave my legs before a bouldering competition. It’s my ritual and I stand by it.
The ladies competing at Iron Maiden demonstrated strength and grace, refusing to be the underdog in the athletic world. While I enjoyed climbing in Iron Maiden, I also loved watching the Finals round when the women have 5 minutes to execute a problem. I not only watch the women climb, but also observe the audience. I must admit, I honestly love watching the men in the audience when their jaws drop as they witness how powerful these ladies are. Iron Maiden’s second season was a success, showcasing the future for female climbers. Whether you are a novice, advanced, or elite climber, this competition is for all the ladies. Competitions like Iron Maiden give us a chance to show that our strength comes from willpower and knowing that giving up is never an option.
Thanks Ann for sharing your experience at Iron Maiden! Clearly your ritual is working! Congrats on the 1st place finish in Advanced. And congrats to all of the female competitors and winners!
Climb on! ~Mary
About Ann: Ann was born in Boston but grew up in Watertown. Growing up she was always competitive and wanted to rock climb, but her parents didn’t want to pay for her to do something dangerous. Instead, she ran cross country and did track and field. After running for 13 years and graduating from college, she decided to add rock climbing to her life. Working, she was able to afford a rock climbing membership. Conveniently, Central Rock Gym Watertown opened up and she started climbing in June 2013. Ann is excited to push her limits to another level: “I hope my sheer determination helps other new climbers, especially women push their limits as well.”