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On Community Series - Riley Hill

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Riley Hill

Growing up as a competitive gymnast in Calgary, rock climbing was a natural evolution for Riley Hill. A mental and physical challenge, with high risk and an aspect of mindfulness are what drew her in and maintained her focus. Riley recently invited us to tag along for a climbing trip on the scenic BC coast and filled us in on what she’s been up to and provides some tips on how to get started in the nerve racking (yet meditative) sport of rock climbing.

Hi Riley, first of all, thanks for taking us out climbing! Can you tell us, how did you first get into the sport and was there anything that initially inspired you to get out there?

My close friends inspired me to start! Around 2015/2016 everyone around me was getting really into climbing, which made me pretty eager to give it a try. I grew up as a competitive gymnast, so I had a feeling that it would be something I would excel at and enjoy. I started going to a local gym in Calgary recreationally, but it quickly turned into one of my main hobbies/passions. I’ve always been really into fitness, but I hadn’t quite landed on something that was mentally and physically challenging in the way that climbing is.

Where are some of your favourite places to climb both locally as well as abroad?

I mean, it’s hard not to give the very stereotypical answer for my favourite local climbing spot but… Squamish, of course! My other top 2 locations would be Railay Beach (Thailand), and Bishop (California).

While climbing is much higher risk, there appears to be a mindfulness and introspective aspect similar to yoga or meditation. Would you agree? If so, can you elaborate on your perspective of this and how it has affected you?

I agree! I think there’s a natural fear of falling that comes with the sport. As human beings, our basic survival instincts are programmed to avoid situations like scaling up a wall with a small rope (or lack thereof). I find the first few moves on a route can be a little tense and nerve racking, but you eventually find your groove and forget about the risks. It’s almost a euphoric feeling - you know you’re doing something dangerous, yet the only thing you’re focussed on is breathing and making your next move. I find once I’m in that state, it silences the rest of my brain chatter and allows me to feel like I’m truly meditating.
So yeah, I would definitely compare climbing to a yoga flow, but with a little hint of danger. Side note – I fall all the time.

What advice would you give to other women looking at getting into the sport?

Find a local gym and do a drop in! I’d recommend bringing a friend, it helps with the intimidating aspect of trying a new sport. The climbing community is super supportive, we’re always cheering each other on and sharing beta. Don’t be afraid of how you look – we were all a beginner at some point. Also remind yourself that failing is totally okay and a part of the experience. Climbing is basically 90% failing and 10% success, but it’s that 10% that keeps you hooked! Also, checkout the initiative I mention below, as one of their workshops would be another great introduction to climbing!!

What are some of your other creative or physical outlets?

My other physical outlets are hiking, walking my dog, yoga, weight training, and snowboarding! I used to get really obsessed with one specific type of workout (like spin or boxing classes), and I wouldn't do anything but that. Now I tend to listen to how my body is feeling before I choose a movement for the day, whatever it may be!
My creative outlets have always been drawing and painting, which reminds me - I need to make more time for the both of those.

Any exciting plans for the summer?

I think I'm going to keep it pretty low key since we can't travel yet! I have a lot of boulder projects in Squamish to tick off the list, so I’ll likely be making a lot of trips there when I’m not working.

"It's almost a euphoric feeling - you know you're doing something dangerous, yet the only thing you're focused on is breathing and making your next move"

What pair of On shoes are you wearing today and why did you pick this specific pair?

I was wearing the Waterproof Hikers.
I like this shoe not only because I love the look, but they’re exactly what I need for all my BC adventures. I found them super comfortable, durable, and lightweight. They’ll be joining me on all my hiking and climbing adventures from now on. Did I mention they’re waterproof?! (Essential in Vancouver!)

Are there any initiatives, groups or people you would like to shout out?

I wanted to shout out The Bad Academy/Bad Climbers. They’ve created a safe and judgement free environment for women to come together and climb - regardless of skill set. I’ve done a few of their workshops and I would highly recommend!
Instagram: @TheBadAcademy, @BadClimbers

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