Denise Miller: The Tenacious Teacher

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Denise Miller, a 36 year old school teacher in Forest Hill outside of Auburn, has been climbing for the past 9 years. A long time Sacramento Pipeworks climber, Miller’s tenacity is well known in the climbing community. With a strong work ethic, Miller has successfully climbed many difficult rock climbs in California.

“Friends of mine thought I’d be interested in climbing,” said Miller about her first time climbing at Sacramento Pipeworks. “I was hooked the first day I went. I thought of myself as pretty good at athletics. I got my butt kicked and got a membership.”

Denise on Electric Chair (5.12d) at Jailhouse Photo by Ben Ditto

Miller and her husband, Rick have traveled abroad to Kalymnos in Greece but spend a significant amount of time at Jailhouse, the steep sport climbing crag in Sonora. It’s so athletic and challenging. Some of our best friends are there. It feels like home there.”

Miller has become a permanent fixture at Jailhouse, climbing every weekend from September to June. “The style of climbing is so unique even though it’s beta intensive and hard to read. It’s really cool when you put something together.”

Miller has dispatched a number of difficult 5.12s at the crag as well Cell Block 5.13- and Fugitive 5.13-. Miller has been trying Alcatraz, a classic 13b at Jailhouse involving technical refrigerator wrestling. She’s progressed from hanging on every draw to two hangs on the route and solid redpoint burns. Denise likes projecting because of the mental aspects involved. “I like believing that you can do it- really pushing yourself and not knowing how far you can push yourself. It’s about overcoming all those mental challenges. There’s a few tears shed here and there but it’s great once you can link all the moves.”

Denise working her summer project Warp Factor 5.13a at Star Wall Donner Summit Photo from the Denise Miller collection

“I visual the moves daily. I’m a lil obsessive but it’s pretty fun,” said Miller about projecting. “I don’t climb for two days before going out there to make sure I’m not over training.” Talking about the core strength needed at the steep crag and getting stronger, Miller said, “It’s exciting to find a weakness because if you train it you climb so much better.”

One of Miller’s greatest strengths is her tenacity. Rock climbing is scary for many of us but Miller faces her fears well. She gets over her fears, “Just by taking falls, by facing phantom fears- the things I shouldn’t be afraid of. The more I fall the more comfortable I get out there.”

Miller has appeared in a recent issue of Rock and Ice, climbing Electric Chair a 5.12d at Jailhouse. Keep an eye out for her and her hard climbing husband at Sacramento Pipeworks and your local crag.