Sending “Black Angel”, a Chicks’ first 5.10 trad route

Rock Chicks is a South African website dedicated to all the women and girls in South Africa who are climbing alongside the men and boys. They say “We may be a minority at present in the sport of rock climbing but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t climb up and get noticed (or have a website dedicated to just us). After all, everyone knows girls just look better climbing than guys do.”

Chicks alumna Almine Barton has a special connection to the South African climbing scene not just through her family but with her ongoing pursuit of empowering women & girls to climb. Almine writes “Delaney [of Rock Chicks] & I have spoken several times, and we both have the same dream: to heal racial differences, and to empower young South African girls through climbing. My dream is to work with her in the future, via a non-profit I’m working on spear-heading to get gear (harnesses, shoes, etc.) to underprivileged girls in South Africa. Delaney & I are both of the belief that climbing can be a neutral “playing field” for racial issues. When you have a black girl belaying a white girl, there is an automatic friendship & bond that becomes established between climber & belayer. This relationship can prove beneficial, with far-reaching implications. This is where climbing can become bigger than all of us. Nature is the neutral playing field. It does not see race or income. Climbing will be the way Delaney & I make a difference together in Africa. ♥”

Rock Chicks recently interviewed Almine on her first 5.10a trad route lead of “Black Angel” in Smith Rock. Check it out below to see how Almine mentally HTFU to lead this project that last fall she took a major whipper on (bloody picture below!).

“I began moving away from sport to trad climbing about six months back,” Almine begins. “The last time I was able to jump on Black Angel due to the weather (it’s been snowing until recently here) was last year. So, I’ve been a bit “stuck” with it. I had that big fall on it, wanted to get back on it immediately, but couldn’t, because it started to snow several days after, until recently. Outdoor climbing season has now arrived here, so I could work the route again.”

Fortunately it was a fair-weather day, being about 60 degrees and along for support were Liz Coleman, Stewart Mills and Julie Ziedman.

So, what was the hardest part of the route? “The route itself isn’t extremely difficult,” Almine tells us, “Except for the roof section. It’s a lie-back (or you could stem it, but then you’re face-climbing it more than crack climbing). It’s where I took my big fall on it last year. It was my first time trying to lead it and I fell off the roof. It’s a very thin section, that’s a finger-crack sized ‘crux’. It’s a bit tricky to place small gear in this section, because the crack is irregular (the rock is volcanic tuft) and very small.”

And did Black Angel do you an injury? “Really just bled a lot when I fell on it last year. ‘Cheese-grated’ all the way down, almost to the bottom of the route (volcanic tuft is very sharp) from the top of the ‘crux’. Knocked the ‘wind’ out of myself a bit. It was a ‘decent’ fall!”

We can only imagine how Almine must have felt after sending her ‘nemesis’ but we are wrong. Almine admits to feeling: “Just ‘okay’. I didn’t send it as smoothly as I would’ve liked the first time I lead it. I hung out at the ‘crux’, paralyzed with fear, to be honest. I had to wrestle with a lot of ‘mental demons’ at the roof section. I was doing everything I could to calm my breathing and mind, but all I could think about was my fall from the year prior. It was one of my more scary leads. And it wasn’t the difficulty rating of the route, per say, just the psychological ‘story’ in my head about how I fell, the sound of my body against the rock, the blood that stained the rock (that I could see out of the corner of my eye), etc. I would like to lead it with more finesse, less fear, more elegance. That will happen this climbing season. I feel like my first lead on Black Angel was a bit ‘choppy’ due to how mentally strenuous it was for me.”

Nevertheless, Almine sees the best in nearly everything and her send of Black Angel was no exception. “I like the challenge of a ‘worthy opponent’,” Almine says. “This route has everything I like in a route. Wide sections (for perfect ‘fist-jams’), lie-backing, a nice roof section, stemming at the beginning of the route. It’s all there.”

Well done for facing your ‘demons’ and conquering “Black Angel.”

We at Chicks also want to congratulate Almine for sending “Black Angel”!!!! 🙂

Almine Barton is a licensed acupuncturist and certified personal trainer and “CrossFit” coach. She runs two sports medicine clinics in Bend, OR., and Portland, OR.  She works closely with climbers, olympians, and competing “CrossFit” athletes in her practice, and enjoys seeing her patients achieve their fitness and wellness goals. Almine lives near “Smith Rock,” thoroughly enjoying the immense climbing opportunities that Central OR. has to offer. She is an avid sport and trad climber, “CrossFitter,” mountain biker, trail-runner and Adventure Racer. She has two Malamutes named Tallon and Anok, who keep her running trails all winter long. Learn more about Almine at her new website