Climbing Through Pregnancy

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Over Thanksgiving weekend, Lyn Barraza made the arduous hike to the Druid Boulders in Bishop, California. After warming up with a highly attentive spot from her husband Paul, Lyn fired Brother Law, an aethestic V3 arête near the Skye Stone. The technical problem required hours of effort from the other climbers at the boulders… and no one else was 7 months pregnant.

Over the years, I have seen a number of women climb hard during their pregnancies. In Squamish, Thomasina Pidgeon danced up 5.10+ slab routes while very pregnant with her daughter. In Rifle Colorado, Lauren Lee hiked my 5.12+ sport project on toprope while 7 months pregnant. 


Lyn crushing v7 3 months pregnant

“Climbing while pregnant is a fantastic way to keep moving even when you are so sick and tired and grumpy that you can’t imagine exercising,” said Lyn, who advocated climbing at gyms. “If you’re at the gym, you have easy access to a bathroom, which is key for pregnant ladies. It’s also kind of fun to challenge yourself on the same boulder problems week after week, because every week that passes, you’re a different climber – really.”

There are definite concerns with climbing while pregnant. “Each person’s pregnancy is different so she should listen to her body and comfort level,” said Siemay Lee, a internal medicine physician in Reno and active climber. “I think it’s healthy to stay active as long as you are cautious at the same time.”

Additional challenges present themselves with pregnancy. “I think the biggest difficulty for me was changing my expectations about climbing,” said Shannon Moore, a Bishop local and long time climber. “I’m not a superstar, but I do like to push myself and try to send things that are hard for me. It was tough to let go of that desire and just try to enjoy being outside and climbing regardless of the difficulty.” Lyn also talked about some of the challenges. “You lose your core, your stomach gets in the way of getting close to the wall, you gain a lot of ‘training weight.’ Ok, that might just be me…”

Many women switch from bouldering to top rope climbing, but even top roping can be hard as pregnancy harnesses are far from ideal. “The full body harness was AWFUL, so uncomfortable, and I almost stopped climbing after I started wearing it because it was really that heinous – it’s just webbing and buckles,” said Shannon. Lyn reiterated the point, “Pregnancy harnesses suck and are uncomfortable to wear and weird to belay.” “I hear there is a pregnancy harness in the works from Mad Rock and Mountain Mama,” added Shannon, “which would be a great product.”

Most women start climbing soon after they give birth. “I started climbing again 6 weeks postpartum which is the usual recommendation for any exercise after delivery to allow the uterus to get back to normal and avoid postpartum bleeding,” said Siemay, who was cranking hard V7 shortly after climbing again. “Not being able to try really hard or get on certain boulders was challenging but totally worth it, since being pregnant was an exciting experience and the end results- Zun [her son] is amazing!”

In January, Berkeley Ironworks will be helping new mothers and families out by providing day care. Climbing is a life time pursuit and can be enjoyed regardless of age or body type. Keep climbing!

A great source for more first hand information is Aimee Roseborrough, a physical therapist and 5.13 Smith Rocks climber. Her blog MamaClimbs offers great tips. Also see a fantastic article by Climbing magazine about pregnant climbers.