When it comes to rock climbing, it’s not surprising that Coloradans would be leaders on the scene. What might be unexpected is that in the typically male-dominated industry, Springs women are reaching the upper echelon of the sport. Meet two of the nation’s—leading climbers.
Climbing Cred: In 2014, Meiris was the second woman ever to rope solo the Nose on El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. She climbed the 3,000-foot wall in a continuous 27 hours, 20 minutes, besting the record set in 2002 by Jacqueline Florine by nearly four days.
Then and Now: After 15 years of serious climbing, Meiris, 34, has been nursing a chronic elbow injury, so her attention is focused on coaching and guiding for Pikes Peak Alpine School and Exum Mountain Guides. You’ll find her at CityRock Climbing Center working with a community kids team. Meiris coached the competitive climbing team for six years at Fountain Valley School and says after a recent visit with her former students, “It was more clear than it ever had been what an impact the team had on me, and the impact I had on them.” And she says the injury hasn’t been all bad: “When you can’t do what you love but pay attention, other opportunities show up.”
Favorite Crag: Shelf Road, 10 miles north of Cañon City
As a former board member and current volunteer for the Pikes Peak Climbers Alliance, Meiris has been a strong advocate for the popular Shelf Road. “It’s a place that’s near and dear to my heart. … I knew that it needed help, and the only way it would step forward was with the Colorado Springs community.”
Favorite Outdoor Route: New Era, Garden of the Gods (rated 5.7, three pitches)
“To have a climb like that that’s moderate, fun, exposed, with easy access and easy descents—within 10, 15 minutes of anywhere in town—is unheard of.”
Best for Newer Climbers: Red Rock Canyon Open Space
“The climbs are relatively easy, and it’s all bolted. So the bolt protection adds an element of safety that Garden of the Gods doesn’t have.”
Climbing Cred: In 2016, Mascarenas claimed her second consecutive International Federation of Sport Climbing Bouldering World Cup victory in Vail. Rock and Ice magazine called it a “nearly perfect performance in the finals.”
Then and Now: Mascarenas started climbing young—really young. She was 2 when her mom married her stepdad, a climber. Hitting the climbing gym became a regular family activity, and now at 19, Megan is still pushing herself to excel. “Last year I did five V12s. I went from no V12s to five in one year,” she says. “That was a big step up in my climbing.” (Bouldering routes are typically rated between V0 and V17. V9 to V12 signifies expert level; V13 and above elite.) This April to August, Mascarenas will compete again in the bouldering World Cup circuit. She currently trains two days on, one day off, for a schedule that includes competitions in Switzerland, China, Japan, Germany and Vail. After that, she says she’ll take a break from competition to pursue a biochemistry degree at UCCS. “I’d like to be a physical therapist. That’s my goal.”
Favorite Outdoor Bouldering Area: Newlin Creek, Florence, in the Wet Mountains
Best Bouldering for Newer Climbers who Want to Travel: Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, Las Vegas
“It’s like a playground. All the landings are flat. The boulders are huge and beautiful. And it’s like a five-minute hike/walk.”
Tips for Beginning Climbers: “The best way to get better is just to climb. So stick with it. Enjoy what you do. … And learn how to fall properly.”
Want to get your climb on? Colorado Springs is home to three locally-owned climbing gyms, each of which offer opportunities for training and competition.
CityRock Climbing Center
Former theater-turned-gym features 43-foot walls with approximately 15,000 square feet of roped climbing; freestanding top-out boulder with 3,500 square feet of bouldering surface area; and 255 feet of artificial cave passages.
21 N. Nevada Ave., 719-634-9099, climbcityrock.com
Pure Bouldering Gym
As its name suggests, Pure Bouldering has a singular focus—but that doesn’t mean there isn’t variation. Here you can safely test your bouldering skills both indoors and outdoors on regularly reset routes.
1401 S. 8th St., 719-633-5511, pureboulderinggym.com
Springs Climbing Center
The gym formerly known as the Sport Climbing Center opened 25 years ago when the concept of indoor climbing was still in its infancy. Today, the facility features 50 top ropes, 25 lead climbs and 160 boulder problems.
4642 Northpark Drive, 719-260-1050, springsclimbingcenter.com