It’s Time to Get Real Connections to Everything from People to Nature

In this life, we all need connections. Whether it be social connections like friendships or contact with nature and surroundings, connecting with the world around us is super important.

Few people connect as well as climber Colette McInerney – and she believes climbing is a great instrument for humans to connect with one another.

Climber Colette McInerney
Bouldering in Kraft Las Vegas, NV. Photo credit: Todd Bukowski

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

I am Colette McInerney. I am a pro climber, photographer and I make movies mainly about climbing, but I’m getting into other areas of the outdoor industry. Right now, I’m based in Umea Sweden, but tomorrow I leave for my home town of Nashville, TN, before heading to Salt Lake City, UT for the bi-annual outdoor retailer trade show, then to Canada for a month, then Mallorca for a month, then… you get the idea.

As far as other activities; climbing, photos and filming really take almost all my time. If I had endless energy and stoke I would learn more languages, read more, write, do yoga, run longer, learning to surf, have a mega garden and become a better cook.

How and why did you get into climbing?

I started climbing my second year in University. My roommate took me to a local gym and I was pretty hooked from the beginning. I did gymnastics from age 8-11 and was totally obsessed, but I started kind of late and grew to my current height 5’5” when I was 11. Climbing was the first thing I tried after gymnastics that I totally feel in love with. I didn’t take climbing very seriously until about a year later when I met another student at Fordham, Jackie Moore. She was really focused and taught me a lot about other sides of climbing. We started climbing outside a lot going to competitions and meeting a lot of climbers in the pro climbing scene. After I took my first road trip out west in 2002, I realized there was this whole other side of being a climber than what I had experienced in NYC. From there I was completely committed to all sides of the climbing lifestyle.

Why is climbing important for you?

Climbing is really my connection to everything, where I live, where I work, who I hang out with. It’s been the centerpiece of my life for the last 15 years and I don’t see that changing any time soon. It’s what some climbers call being a “lifer.”

It has definitely changed the way I view my health, environment and over all lifestyle. I eat more consciously, think long term about my body’s well being. I’m also way more conscious about outdoor spaces how we use them, how precious they are and how much I need them for my over all well being.

Climber Colette McInerney
Hanging and filming in Siurana Spain Self Portrait

What have been the best and most difficult parts of climbing?

Oh, too many things to name. Probably, community I really think climbers are the best people out there. Then travel, climbing has taken me all over the world; Spain, China, South Africa, Sweden, Brazil, just amazing. Last but not least: Wellness! I love doing something everyday that’s positive for my body and climbing makes me care about my body now and in the future.

I mean, I think climbing is physically and mentally challenging. I can’t say whether it’s more so than other sports. But at the same time an as athlete, that’s what we love about what we do so I can’t really call it the most difficult part. I guess finding a balance between the sport and my work was tricky some years ago. I think I’m closer to that balance every day though.

I’ve organized my life around climbing for the last 10 years so the planning/funding part has kind of become second nature. Of course with freelance, there is always a stress about where you’re next job is coming from. In a way, I feel like I had way more anxiety about getting injuries before I was working more with photo and video and living on the road full time. I felt like if I got injured “what am I going to do?!” Now, I think I’m less worried about time off from climbing because I have another passion in my life.

How do you eat and sleep?

I don’t do anything too specific. I have a sweet tooth so I try to manage how much sugar I eat but usually fail! Other than that, I just try to eat balanced and regular. I don’t eat a ton of meat but I try to listen to my body and eat what it’s craving. I try to eat some kind of salad every day and I’m on an oatmeal kick in the morning, mixed with fruit, nuts, egg whites and nut butters. It seems to really last a lot longer than some sugary breakfasts I used to eat.

Climber Colette McInerney
Colette climbing in Montsant, Spain. Photo credit: James Lucas

How do you handle injuries and recovery?

My main approach is prevention. I usually try to just stop climbing or training if I feel small pains. I find with climbing, most injures are from over use and not resting enough. Luckily, I don’t have a problem with taking a little time off.

What is your best advice people new to climbing?

Probably to rest when you feel pain. There are a lot of people starting out climbing in the gym and they are getting a hold of serious training facilities really early on. On one hand, this is great and can teach people a ton and really expedite their learning experience with climbing. But at the same time, there aren’t really that many facilitators for this stuff, and I’m not sure if people are learning enough about potential chronic injuries like fingers and elbows that can end someone’s climbing much too early.

Also, I feel like with the explosion of gyms, there is more lack of mentorship. People are progressing physically in the gym but often without a lot of the knowledge about outdoor ethics and gear.

Starting in the gym is great! When you decide to get outside go with an someone responsible and knowledgeable. Leave ego at the door and ask questions.

How do you prepare for events and races?

I don’t really compete, but I prep for outdoor goals by training and you guessed it — climbing a TON.

I like to run and do yoga to complement my climbing. I’ve been lifting weights and doing more stabilizing body work with my recent training. But over all, it depends on my climbing goals and what those objectives entail. Is it powerful? Is it endurance? Is there hiking and trekking involved? All these things affect how you train for a climbing goal.

Climber Colette McInerney
Broken filter photo by Caroline Treadway

How do you finance your sport?

I work with Back Diamond Equipment and Five Ten as a sponsored athlete. But I pay my bills as a creative in the outdoor industry making films and shooting photos for outdoor brands. Over the years, I’ve worked several different jobs to make my “lifestyle” work.

I get most of my gear from my sponsors, which is great, though actually compared to many sports climbing is relatively low cost. The rest of my money goes to camera gear and travel, definitely.

How do you balance normal life with training?

Luckily, training for climbing can be done with relatively minimal time dedication. If you’re very focused you can have decent training results with two hours of effort, four times a week. Of course, more time is good and when it comes to projecting outside I can never get enough time.

Climbing in itself is a time consuming sport. I used to live on the road full time and had lots of time for climbing. These days I chose to take chunks of time that are dedicated for a climbing trip.

What has been your best sport purchase below $100, and what other favorite gear do you have?

Probably belay glasses, I have the Belay Goggles and they are sturdy! I’m a chalk addict so I LOVE the new Friction Labs Chalk. That’s equally as important as skin maintenance, Rhino Skin Performance is my jam. Next to that, I always like to have Leukotape, Lapis Brush, and sand paper on hand. All crag essentials!

As far as climbing gear, right now I’m in love with the Five Ten Hiangle Climbing Shoes and Black Diamond’s Solution Harness.

Climber Colette McInerney
Colette shooting in at the bouldering area Ena in Japan. Photo credit: Mark Mecklenburg

What will the future bring?

Who knows! I have a new production company I’m working with, Never Not Collective, and a climbing trip to Canmore, CA the Bow Valley set up for August. The future is wide open.

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