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Madaleine Sorkin is a badass. She’s an elite big wall free climber with first ascents from Canada to Kyrgyzstan and a growing 5.13+ traditional route tick list from El Cap to the Diamond. She’s also a certified AMGA Rock Guide and mental climbing coach, who will be hosting her Mental Madness Clinic during EVO’s Anniversary Party. Now to let her talk:

When did you realize the importance of mental training for climbing?

I began climbing as a teenager and immediately experienced the movement as a means to self development.  In the past 20 years, the mental and emotional sides of my climbing have always been more of the source of limiting or limitless power than my physical body.

What scares you the most when you’re climbing?

Fear of failure and future suffering.

Is there anything that “should” scare you that doesn’t?

Physically risky situations have not always scared me as much as the consequence “should.”

Many training plans only address physical training. Do you believe they should also incorporate mental training, or should individuals have a separate mental training plan?

I think mental, emotional, spiritual and physical training should be included in every climber’s life.  However, I don’t have strong opinions on which way climbers choose to participate with these parts of themselves as long as they are included.  

How do you incorporate all four aspects of training in your own plan?

I’ve done 80 percent spiritual “training” this winter and 20 percent physical and mental training. I’ve been in a sticky, grief-stricken, highly unmotivated place with my personal climbing this fall and winter. I took an intentional month off from climbing and participated with that grief in ways that connected me to my wholeness. I am excited to reclaim a wild and playful spirit in climbing. I’m now motivated to move efficiently over longer routes and tackle endurance goals.

Do you have any endurance goals for the next year that you can share with us?

I’ve begun training for several link-up free climbing goals in Zion and possibly the Black Canyon. My mental and physical training for these goals can be done simultaneously in the gym or at the crag. For example, I’ve chosen a small goal in Eldo as a building block: I want to lead the Naked Edge in one continuous pitch—in the guidebook it’s 5 pitches—as fast as I can within an appropriate amount of risk according to my ability and attachment to being alive. I like this goal because it connects me to my current deeper motivations to move efficiently over rock and be up high in a phenomenal natural landscape. Mentally and emotionally I must work with my doubts and fears, while simultaneously getting a cardiovascular and ARC-training-type of physical workout that will build my endurance for Zion.

What is one mental exercise you’d recommend every climber do as part of their training?

Express gratitude every time you climb—while standing below the route, at the rest on your redpoint, after you do something that was hard for you.  Recognize and celebrate.

Who would you recommend your Mental Madness clinic to?

Any climbers looking to push their comfort zones who want to connect with their motivation for climbing and gain skills to practice engaging their edge of comfort.

Editor’s Notes:

Madaleine’s Mental Madness Clinic at EVO
April 7 // 9-11a // $65 per participant // Max 8 participants*
*Climbers must be cleared to lead in EVO before the clinic. Signups available soon.

If you’re interested in working with Madaleline outside of her Mental Madness clinic, please contact her at Madaline also partners with EVO climbing coach Justen Sjong, “the Sensei,” for Mad Sensei Performance Camps, designed for climbers looking to gain further confidence in their redpoint and onsight abilities.  

Featured Photo Credit: Henna Taylor

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