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Rock Solid

Though she’s done the majority of her climbing in gyms, Hannah Mosier has forged her passion on rock where the puzzle aspect of ascension has led to a peaceful and very grounding life and passion.

John Tranchina
Marc Rains
July 28, 2019

To the uninitiated, it looks scary and dangerous, but really, it’s quite safe, and getting involved in rock climbing has changed Hannah Mosier’s life in the three-plus years since she started.

The Tulsan has found a welcoming and supportive community, and climbing has helped her push herself both mentally and physically into places she never thought she’d be able to go. It’s a fun activity as well as an excellent form of exercise.

And believe it or not, the seed for what is now her life’s passion was planted by a random movie she saw as a kid.

“I’ve always wanted to climb, ever since I saw The Princess Diaries [starring Julie Andrews and Anne Hathaway] when I was 6 years old,” says Mosier, who’s now 23. “There’s one scene in there when she’s climbing with her mom, it’s like a 30-second scene, but when I saw that, I said, ‘I want to do that.’ And it just stuck with me.”

There has been a growing wave of popularity for the sport of rock climbing, particularly in the Tulsa area. Mosier is a member, as well as a full-time employee, at the Climb Tulsa gym that accommodates a growing climbing population that couldn’t exist at the previous facility.

Climbing has exploded in popularity in the past decade. The number of indoor climbing gyms has steadily risen (up 68 percent since 2010), and participation in youth competitions has soared (up 144 percent). Climbing enjoys widespread exposure via social media, and it was even shortlisted for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

Hannah Mosier likes technical climbing, where it’s not so much about your power or your strength; it’s more about your footwork and your technique. (Photo: Marc Rains)
Hannah Mosier likes technical climbing, where it’s not so much about your power or your strength; it’s more about your footwork and your technique. (Photo: Marc Rains)

As much as Mosier enjoys the facilities at Climb Tulsa, though, she enjoys climbing outdoors more, primarily because of the enhanced strategies required.

“I love the puzzle aspect of climbing, because, especially when you climb outside, there’s no way to make it easier for anybody,” the 2013 Lincoln Christian graduate says. “Everyone’s adapting to rock. I like technical climbing, where it’s not so much about your power or your strength; it’s more about your footwork and your technique and all that. You have to look at it and kind of plan, and figure out where your feet need to go and where your arm’s going to be and what angle you need to be at. But then also, it can be very spur-of-the-moment change, because you may try to reach for what looks like a good hold, but it’s bad, so you have to come back and re-plan. I love that aspect of it. I feel like it’s a very thoughtful sport as well as a very physical sport.”

Being outside in the elements also increases the challenge.

Rock climbing is a full-body workout — requiring agility, balance, flexibility, and strength — that incorporates a wide array of muscle groups at the same time, from athletes’ back and arm muscles, to their abdominals, calves, deltoids, fingers, obliques, and quads. And the sport is just as mentally demanding as it is physically challenging.

“There’s a lot of different variables,” Mosier says of climbing outdoors. “Climbing is never safe, even if you’re indoors, which can be very odd because it feels a lot safer inside, but it’s not necessarily. But outside, you have weather, you have rock quality, you have the possibility of a rock crumbling off, and you’re not able to hold it anymore. You have different animals. There are so many different variables.”

Climbing outside has also forced Mosier to become stronger mentally, something she has worked on a lot since she started doing it.

“I feel like there’s a different mental space you have to go into when you go outside,” Mosier says. “Indoors, the holds are all bright and colorful; you know the path you’re supposed to take. They change them, but at this point, I’ve used almost every hold we have, so I have an idea of how it will feel and how I need to pull on it. But outside, especially with something I’ve never been on before, I have no idea.

“I’m a lot more emotionally healthy and can think through things a lot better because of climbing. There are a lot of times, on the wall outside, when I start to get scared. Danger, the fear of it is so invasive, so I may feel calm going up, but then all of a sudden, I’ll remember that I’m in a dangerous position. I have this mental talk, ‘Breathe a little bit,’ and then I remind myself, ‘I am strong enough to do this. I’ve done this before. I trust my systems. I trust my belayer. And if I fall, I believe that I’m going to be OK.’ Things like that. I had to learn that.”

She’s had to use similar mental tactics for one particular outdoor scenario, but Mosier has come a long way in managing those situations.

“I used to feel freaked out by exposure, where you’re on the wall and there’s nothing around you,” she says. “Like two years ago, I was climbing outside and I was really exposed and I remember just having to sit there for a while and go through that mental process again. Then in January, when I did my first multi-pitch climb, we were out at Red Rocks in Nevada, and we were like 200-plus feet up, and I was super-exposed. The only thing holding me there were these little bolts on the wall with my anchor system that I had set up, and I felt so comfortable. It was cool.”  

While there aren’t a lot of places to climb outdoors nearby, Mosier listed a few options.

“There are the Wichita mountains, which is about an hour and a half away from Oklahoma City,” she said. “There’s Quartz Mountain, which is in southwest Oklahoma. I’ve only been there once. And then, for the most part, there’s the Buffalo River area in Arkansas.

“But the closest one to us would be Chandler Park, in west Tulsa, where a lot of people go to boulder. It’s really small, but there’s bouldering out there.”

And yes, rock climbing can be quite a commitment of time, money and energy, but Mosier feels like the hundreds of dollars she has spent on the sport, not including trips out of state to climb more challenging outdoor walls, is well worth it.

“I love climbing,” she says, smiling. “It’s very peaceful and very grounding for me. It’s the best. I could do it all the time, and I love it. It’s a great activity. It’s a great life.