Learning Work-Life Balance From A 5.13 Climber

For most of us, work takes up the bulk of our time with climbing or other sports existing on the fringes. But Regan Kennedy decided, instead of giving up her climbing dreams—or giving up her career—to divide her life in two and do both. And this year, her priorities are really paying off, as she’s figuring out the final move of her project, Ojas, which would be the first 15.4a sent by a woman in Alberta’s Bow Valley.

We chatted with Regan about how she makes the time to climb so hard, and how it’s different to climb as a woman. Here’s what she said:

I’ve literally divided my activity in half—I work, and I climb. I think climbing is part of my life, and working is also part of my life. So I climb full time, minus all the glamorous road trips.

Sometimes being super motivated in climbing can feel like a bit of a drag. I do want to move forward with my career, but I keep working in jobs that are great, but where I can’t really go forward because I want a lot of flexibility for climbing. It’s kind of bittersweet, but those are the decisions we make when we want this kind of lifestyle.

I find that with my limited time, it is nice to have a clear goal. A focus. And I know everything I need to get there. I have half my gear stashed up at the cliff, so when I head out after work I’m not carrying a big pack up there, and I can get up there really quickly and make the most of the daylight hours I have left.

My partner and I both are motivated to climb and push hard, and just love being at the cliff. It takes a lot of organization and a lot of sacrifice to make that happen. We don’t go out on Friday nights for drinks after work. We’re packing the van for the weekend. It’s making little sacrifices. And honestly, it will come. If people put in the effort, it totally pays off. I think that’s what keeps us coming back for more.

My process is really quite slow—I don’t have tons of gumption, I’m not fearless on a rope—I like moving slowly and really figuring things out perfectly. So my plan for this is probably mid-September. I should know if I can’t do this one move within a couple weeks, and I’ll reassess what I want to do this summer. But I definitely won’t regret spending time on it.
 

My project is called Ojas, which means “vigor,” which is really symbolic of the route—and the quality I need to accomplish the goals. There are a couple of really specific moves that I actually trained for in the gym. For me, it’s quite sustained. There were two cruxes I needed to figure out. So now I’ve got one, and there’s just one more move I haven’t been able to do.

My process is really quite slow—I don’t’ have tons of gumption, I’m not fearless on a rope—I like moving slowly and really figuring things out perfectly. So my plan for this is probably mid-September. I should know if I can’t do this one move within a couple weeks, and I’ll reassess what I want to do this summer. But I definitely won’t regret spending time on it.

I feel like climbing pushes me a bit harder than almost anything as far as the downs. I don’t experience that many downs in my work or personal life. It adds to the challenge of climbing—weathering those storms. And the great thing is you always have this great community that will listen to you complain about it and support you through it. 

Women have a lot to offer other women in climbing. Because truly men and women don’t move the same, and I don’t think we always approach things the same way, either.

The other day we were hiking out of the cliff with our friends Matt and Lauren. Lauren and I were chatting about the emotional, financial and physical struggles of climbing, how we feel, how we get scared of falling and what we've done to overcome those fears and push through our boundaries. We just looked at the guys 20 feet ahead and said, I guarantee you the guys are talking about beta, not about their emotions. And, of course, they were.