Interview With Colette Mcinerney: Both on and off the wall, Colette McInerney is shaping the image of climbing. She humbly balances climbing 5.14 (she recently sent China Crisis, 5.14a/8b+) with an incredibly talented and creative eye for capturing the climbing world around her through photography, videos, interviews, and writing. As if we weren’t in love with her already, she also has a kick-ass sense of fashion – totally the kind of girl who we’d want to go grab a beer with after climbing. Lucky for us, we got a chance to talk with Colette about all of the above and share our interview on Crux Crush.
“I’m hoping to run with this mental confidence and continue to progress as a climber”
CXC: You recently sent your first 5.14a!! (Congrats!) What was that experience like? And also, how do you feel now, that you are a “5.14 climber”?
CM: Thanks!!! As you can imagine I’m very, very excited! I wouldn’t say the experience was much unlike any other of my hard red points. By hard I mean hard for me, like not my style, or a route that is taking me a lot of time. I easily can climb on one route for a month!
I climbed on this particular route with little expectations, which I think helped me. It never got too mental, or intense, as some red points can. I made it a priority to climb on other routes while I was working this line. This is not an approach I usually take, but it really worked for me on this trip. Obviously, this method really comes down to time, which I’m fortunate enough to have a lot of, and it’s not a luxury every climber has.
When I did the route, I wouldn’t say I felt any different as a climber. It just seemed like the natural progression. But since then, it’s hard to ignore the praise you get from your community, and in a surface sense, it does feel like some sort of validation for all the time I’ve put into the sport. I’m hoping to run with this mental confidence and continue to progress as a climber.
CXC: Do you draw inspiration from climbing with other women? What’s different (if anything) about when you climb with other women, versus climbing with Joe [Kinder, pro climber and boyfriend]?
CM: I feel really fortunate to have started climbing with women. There are obviously more men in the sport, so it’s definitely more common for girls to start climbing with their boyfriend, or brother, or whatever. I definitely draw a different sort of inspiration from other female climbers. There’s something visually about the way a woman moves or how she decides to do a sequence that I’m always able to relate to more as a female. Obviously, height and those things come into play as well. It’s great to have someone of your stature (and shoulder strength) to work out beta with.
I’d definitely say it’s a different experience when I climb with other women now. But I believe it has more to do with changing climbing partners than whatever sex they are. Having a regular climbing partner, like Joe is for me, is great because you have so much trust in that person, you don’t have to explain yourself, etc. But at the same time when I climb with other people, and women specifically, I find myself making fewer excuses and going for it a little harder. I definitely get a little of that sensation, like, if she can do it, I can do it. And that’s rad.
CXC: In a video you and Joe made, you asked a bunch of climbers “why do you climb?” So, I wanted to ask you the same question. Why do you climb?
CM: Haha! Nice! Geeze, climbing is my whole life at this point. I couldn’t imagine not doing it. Everything in my life is somehow related to climbing, work, my friends, where I live, and where I go. It’s a slightly unhealthy relationship, but I’m willing to deal!
I think at first I loved the physicality of climbing, the workout, and the exhaustion. Then the community was a big aspect to me. Now I love where climbing brings me and all the traveling and experiences I’ve been able to have because I’m a climber.
CXC: Do you have any favorite places you’ve traveled?
CM: We have completely fallen in love with Catalunya, Spain. I think the obsession definitely started from the ample amount of rock climbing here, but it has definitely grown from there. Now we have a community of friends here, our favorite restaurants, an appreciation of the cultural nacks, etc. It’s becoming more like home to me every trip.
CXC: You seem to be a prolific videographer! And you write a ton of interviews with other climbers. It seems like you have found a way to incorporate your creative side with your athletic side. How important is that to you?
CM: For me, this kind of work is absolutely essential to my mental state while being on the road. Anyone who has taken an extended trip knows there are a LOT of downtimes and that you can only fill this space with books and little hobbies for so long before getting bored. I would say all our work with photos, videos, writing, and blogs all came from the need to create something while living a life that was primarily about climbing. I’m definitely multi-faceted and get disillusioned when I only have one focus. Creative work has been the most important asset in creating a healthy balance in my life with traveling and climbing.
“I’m definitely multi-faceted and get disillusioned when I only have one focus.”
CXC: I heard that you wrote a fashion column for Urban Climber when they were still around. Can climbing and fashion be integrated? Also, do you have any fave clothing or brands to wear climbing (or post-climbing)?
CM: When I started climbing I definitely felt like I lost that creative part of my personality for a time, considering I wear climbing clothes like 90% of the time. There are even some climbing communities where if you dress up a little too much you get these looks like “what?” Like you’re not hardcore enough or are trying too hard or something. I felt that way at first in CO, but now there is an awesome crew of super hawt ladies that always like to dress up and go out and push some great fashion boundaries for climbing.
The funny thing about the type of climbing I do, is that yes, it’s about performance like you don’t want to freeze, and you can’t wear some skinny jeans that show your butt crack, or you can’t lift your leg in, or whatever, but as long as you’re not doing crazy hiking and are just bouldering or sport climbing, I feel like I can totally get away with the cute jeans and t-shirt look.
I mean surf and skate companies are definitely closer to creating fashion forward outdoor apparel, but I feel like there are some great companies in those yoga, hiking lines like NAU, Lole or KAVU, even Marmot that are creating really cool designs for high performance gear.
Personally the thrift store is my go to for climbing garb. I like climbing outside in jeans but good climbing jeans are like one the hardest things to come by. They have to fit perfectly for climbing, the right stretch no bunching and shifting in the wrong places. Plus you know they are going to get destroyed so you don’t want to buy actual nice jeans and wear them climbing. My climbing fashion is kinda like my street fashion, match a couple of expensive things (like I just got a rad pair of Prana pants and a sweet Arc’teryx hoody) with some beater wear. Oh and I’ll live in Verve till I die.
CXC: What are your thoughts on the idea of the climbing “image”?
CM: In general, and definitely in the climbing world as well, there seems to be a lot of need for people to put things in boxes and control what they mean or what they are. Climbing is definitely a sport that doesn’t need those confines. You make climbing what you want, sexy, dirty, in a gym, on a mountain, and take from it what you want. All the other stuff really doesn’t matter.
Thanks again Colette, we really appreciate it!!
Can’t get enough Colette? Read the full interview here.
You can find Colette blogging her adventures at http://coletteloc.com/ and follow her on Twitter @etteloc24 Colette is a professional climber sponsored by: Five Ten, Petzl, Sterling Rope, Verve, Gregory, and Eastern Mountain Sports
Photo Credits [in order of appearance]: Joe Kinder, Rainer Eder, Colette McInerney (self-portrait), Colette McInerney, Joe Kinder, Colette McInerney (self-portrait)
-Climb On! Missy