I am woman, watch me climb | SteamboatToday.com

I am woman, watch me climb

— Heather Ludwick had a hard time believing that a small pair of shoes with rubber soles was going to keep her from plummeting down a rock outcropping.

She cringed as she put on the harness, and she watched attentively as an instructor taught her how to tie a rope.

She laughed as her younger sister, Ashly — who was just as scared as she was — scaled a 40-foot rock face on Rabbit Ears Pass. She wanted to know Ashly’s technique when it was time for her to climb.

The pair of sisters from Nebraska, who were on vacation in Steamboat Springs with their family, had their first Rocky Mountain rock climbing experience Wednesday night when they decided to take advantage of an ad their mother saw in the newspaper.

The girls were a part of a small group of women who met instructor Jennifer Lowe for an evening of women’s rock climbing. Lowe offers the evening clinics, which are designed for beginner and intermediate female climbers, every Wednesday, depending on interest.

After the girls completed two climbs, they couldn’t help but feel accomplished.

“I thought it was amazing. It was the best experience ever to climb this enormous rock and look over your shoulder and see everything you’ve accomplished,” Heather said.

Ashly said the hardest part was getting started.

“Oh my gosh, when I was clutching that rock, I was breathing so hard,” she said.

Her sister agreed.

“It was really hard for me to trust my feet. (Lowe) kept telling me to trust my feet, but I kept wanting to use my arms and hands,” Heather said.

Those first-time butterflies are feelings Lowe remembers vividly.

“The first time I went climbing I was in seventh grade, and I was petrified. It was seventh grade at the Garden of the Gods (in Colorado Springs),” said Lowe, a Steamboat resident. “It was, like, 1982, and I remember just being absolutely petrified.”

Lowe, a former National Outdoor Leadership School, or NOLS, instructor and expert climber, soon conquered her fears, joined her high school’s climbing group and studied outdoor education in college.

After climbing all over the world, Lowe has brought her talents to Routt County and works as an instructor for Rocky Mountain Ventures.

By offering weekly clinics for women only, Lowe hopes to spur more interest in the sport. She thinks some women may benefit more from learning and practicing climbing with other women.

“As a female climber, I always wanted to see as many female instructors as there were students, but back then there just weren’t that many women who did it,” she said. “I get excited about turning anyone on to climbing, but I think when women feel more comfortable with the group they’re going with, they might try something they otherwise wouldn’t have.”

Wednesday’s motley crew of beginning and intermediate climbers from Routt County and elsewhere headed up Rabbit Ears Pass not knowing what to expect.

The climb was the first for the Ludwick sisters and a woman from Texas.

After reaching the top of their climbs and descending to the ground, each took deep breaths and were ready to go again.

“This is so addicting. I want to do this tomorrow,” Heather Ludwick said. “I would if I didn’t live in stupid Nebraska.”

Heather encouraged other women to take Lowe’s evening clinic.

“I’d say even if you’re afraid of heights, that it’s not a height thing. I’m afraid of heights, too, but when you get to the top, it’s just so beautiful, you can’t be afraid,” she said.

For $10, Lowe provides all gear, including shoes, harnesses, helmets and carabiners. She asks interested women to call by Tuesday evening to confirm their attendance for Wednesday’s clinic. Lowe can be reached at 846-6377.

— To reach Alexis DeLaCruz, call 871-4234

or e-mail adelacruz@steamboatpilot.com

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