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Robyn Erbesfield-Raboutou: What I’ve Learned

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This interview with Robyn Erbesfield-Raboutou appeared in Rock and Ice issue 241 (April 2017).


Robyn Erbesfield-Raboutou
Robyn Erbesfield-Raboutou. Photo: Caroline Treadway.

I began climbing in traditional style, and I believe that style slowed me down yet helped me get strong in a safe way. I had to hold on to put in gear rather than clip a bolt and move on or pull on the draw to work moves. I could only do the climb if I was physically strong enough to move on.

***

I Iike to put in my time and effort, so as soon as I learned a little bit more about climbing—that you could train specific things—we made a training wall at home on the ceiling of our garage, and made our own hangboards out of wooden squares. We basically tried to create what we have so abundantly today, climbing gyms, in the garage.

***

I learned a lot from moving to France in the late 1980s. Living and training with Lynn [Hill] was awesome socially, mentally and physically. It was such a progressive scene. We had, and still have, a very supportive relationship and one that lifts each other up instead of putting each other down.

***

Climbing often is one thing I learned from the French. A lot of mileage, both indoors and outdoors, helps a lot. And, of course, I learned about wine, bread and cheese: the good stuff.

***

In competing I realized those that have the strongest minds inevitably come out ahead.

***

Now I train and coach people, primarily kids, but I’ve really been doing that since I initially started climbing. The biggest lesson I preach is that sometimes you win, and sometimes you learn, and it’s all part of the process. It’s very similar to what I learned being almost on the podium. I ask the kids, “Did you give everything?” Because that’s the only thing they can control. If you put it all out there, you can walk off or drop down saying, “I had a great day.”

***

What I’ve learned is that these kids don’t have limits, and it’s a beautiful thing. As adults we always have a response: I’m too old, I’m too small, my fingers hurt, it’s too hot or cold. But with the kids, they’re just doing it and loving it.

I’ve found that kids don’t actually need that much advice. Those kids are passionate and motivated, and what they’re really looking for is a place and a scenario where they can push themselves under the guidance of the best.

***

I’ve learned to say no. I get calls, emails, texts every day from friends saying let’s go hiking, running, climbing, and if I was to say yes to every phone call, I wouldn’t get any work done, and I wouldn’t have gotten professionally where I am.

***

The reason I continue to persevere at this level goes back to what I learned during my competition days, which goes back to my mental strength: Do I believe I can do it? I realized that when I was both physically and mentally ready, that was when I finally made it to the top.

For me the aging process is whatever you want it to be. I feel the same as I always have; I never use age as an excuse. And now I’m over 50, and I’ve never even thought about being old.

***

What I’ve learned from my [own two] kiddos is patience and persistence. They make fun of me if I don’t climb well, especially on dynos and run-and-jumps. I’ve also learned to stay out of their brains. Both Shawn and Brooke have proved they can send on the last go at the end of the day, even if I think they are tired.

Really the greatest gift that I’ve been given is that my kids truly love climbing.


Watch Robyn Erbesfield-Raboutou Climb V11


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