Beth Rodden proved that women could climb just as hard—if not harder—than men. She was the youngest woman to ever climb 5.14, climbing To Bolt or Not to Be (5.14a, 8b+) at Oregon’s Smith Rock in 1998. She went on to co-establish the first free ascent of Lurking Fear (5.10 A3) on Yosemite’s El Capitan in 2000, establish the first free ascent of Smith Rock’s The Optimist (5.14b) in 2005, and redpoint Yosemite’s Meltdown (proposed 5.14c) in 2008. At a proposed grade of 5.14c, Meltdown is considered the hardest climb in Yosemite and the hardest trad pitch in the United States. Beth’s ascent of Meltdown was the most difficult ascent of any route by an American woman, and it remains the hardest trad route ascent
established by a woman anywhere.
In June of 2009, Beth tore the labrum in her right shoulder while bouldering in Yosemite and subsequently reinjured the shoulder twice. For this elite climber, it was the most serious in a series of untimely and debilitating injuries including a broken ankle and a torn collateral ligament in both index fingers. In the end, Beth decided her best bet for a full recovery was surgery to repair the tear.
Forced to dial back the intensity and difficulty of her climbing as she heals, Beth says the time recovering from her injuries and subsequent surgery has allowed her to reconnect with the basic joys of rock climbing that first drew her to the sport. Says Beth, “Climbing outside with friends in some of the most beautiful places I can image—This is all I need.”
“But I have to admit,” she continues, “I definitely think about some of my unfinished projects.”
At Outdoor Research, where Beth is now working with our design team to produce world-class rock climbing apparel and gear, we’re all wishing her a quick return to the elite level she pioneered.
And if we know Beth like we think we do, we’re sure she’ll get there soon.