Isabelle Faus, a 25-year-old boulderer, was the fifth woman in the world to climb V14. She climbs exclusively outside, where she has put up first ascents up to V13. On the rare occasion she ropes up, she can send 5.14b. Yet, despite all of this, she remains under the radar compared to many of her contemporaries. In an age of a competition climbing, when climbing sponsorships are becoming the lifeblood of professional climbers, Faus is the exception: She climbs outside, for herself, and doesn’t let the other stuff get in the way.
Faus was born in Wichita, Kansas, but her mother moved her and her twin sister, Emma, to Chicago when they were 5 years old so that she could begin law school. “I lived there until what would have been the end of high school for me,” Faus said. “I dropped out after a year or so of high school because we weren’t able to afford private school anymore and public school would have just been babysitting me.”
She began traveling, spending her winters climbing in Chattanooga, Tennessee and her summers climbing out West. “There were six of us in this two bedroom house. … It was fucking disgusting and amazing,” she remembered, laughing.“I was just this little girl and I worked at this burrito place across from the climbing gym. We had two cars between the six of us in the house and fought over them everyday.” Faus eventually landed in Colorado when she was 17, taking over Daniel Woods’ room while he went climbing in Spain.
When asked about professional climbing, Faus said, “I tried for a long time to get sponsored, but there was no money. In America, there’s basically no one making enough money to survive off their sponsorship alone. Even some of the best are still working at the climbing gym… I don’t really think I’m missing out too much.”
Despite massive growth in the climbing industry, Faus said, “I don’t spend too much time in the gym so I don’t have to be in contact with it all the time. This past summer though, I was climbing in Rocky Mountain [National Park] and i was cleaning a boulder to put up the FA.” She continued, “I was taking broken stuff off of it. I was alone and had hiked like five miles to get there. This group started yelling at me for it, and I was like, ‘Where did they come from?’” She said she has noticed a flood of new outdoor climbers who don’t seem to really understand what’s going on outside.
In the first issue of Gym Climber, former teammate Michaela Kiersch—who Faus called her “sweet little sister”—recalled growing up climbing with Faus, who would sometimes disappear to ride her bike or use public transportation to explore the city by herself. “No one ever knew where she could be or what she was doing,” Kiersch wrote. “She was equally impressive inside the climbing gym, particularly her bouldering. Isabelle started out like most kids, swinging around in her cut-off shorts and Velcro climbing shoes. However, Isabelle did everything with purpose and even at a young age climbing wasn’t an exception.”
True to form, Faus is still hard at work, projecting Memory is Parallax, a V14 in Elkland, Estes Park, Colorado, which she hopes to finish off before she heads back to Rocklands, South Africa for her “sixth or seventh” season.
Faus supports her travels and climbing with her partner, Chad Greedy, through house cleaning and handiwork, and hopes to start a female climber clothing company within the next year.