This article appeared in Rock and Ice issue 241 (April 2017).
Welcome to Tijuana (5.14b) in Rodellar, Spain, barrels around from about 60 degrees overhanging, to 45, then 20. The first boulder move is crimpy, the second (and hardest) uses a sloping pocket and core tension; the third is a huck to a rounded flake. In summer of 2012, Shawn Raboutou told his sister, then age 11, that he thought she’d like the route. Brooke, then 4’5”-ish feet tall, spent a week on it: solid on the first two cruxes and falling off the last, big move six times. Her body was completely extended: “And it’s a lot of work to get up there,” she says. Shawn “was helping me out” on sequences. The family’s rental cottage, which overlooks the canyon, was situated just above the route, and made a convenient base between climbing sessions. “Well, one day I was with my brother, and we were eating lunch, and I went back down, and I just finally did it.” Her brother, now 18, had made headlines when he sent the climb the year before, at 13. Her mother did the climb the next year. Brooke, who lives in Boulder, Colorado, is the daughter of two World Cup champions: Didier Raboutou of France and Robyn Erbesfield-Raboutou, founder of the Team ABC climbing program. The 15-year-old has grown up in a world of ability and reciprocity, with a brother and mother also on fire for climbing. (Didier long ago switched to biking, but has lately begun climbing again.) Brooke, who is bilingual, is a junior at Fairview High School. She is good-natured, known as kind to other kids, and a hard worker, who says, “I don’t like giving up.”
Q&A with Brooke Raboutou
How would you describe yourself as a climber?
I’m pretty all around, I’d say. One of my strengths is crimps ’cause I’m smaller and have really good finger strength. I really love climbing dynamically, jumping and letting go and catching other holds. As a small person I have to climb big. There’s a lot of info out about your bouldering and redpoints.
What about onsighting?
I don’t onsight too often. I’m more of a second- or third-try person. I onsighted this climb near where we live [summers] in France. It’s called … um, let me think of the name. It’s a .13a, 7c+ [Phenomene de Roger]. Usually I ask for beta, and so I blow the onsight … It makes the climbing a lot smoother. I love to project hard climbs. When you project a climb you get to know it and get the rhythm of it, and then the whole thing comes together, and you say, “Hey, that wasn’t that bad.” How do you cope if you get frustrated? I don’t get too angry ever. In the moment, if I’m falling close to the top, I feel like, Get over it. I think, It’s just a climb, I’ll get it, I just have to work harder.
What if there’s time pressure, on a trip?
I don’t put time pressure on myself. I know I can always come back, whether in two weeks or a year or three years. My mom is a big part of that. She’s never pressured me or anythingB. She says, “There’s more where that came from,” which is usually about food [laughs], but it’s related to climbs, too.
What do you talk about at the dinner table?
We just talk like a normal family. Sometimes what was going on at practice today, how are the climbs. Sometimes my brother sets those climbs at the gym, so I ask him which ones he set.
What do you like in school?
I’m more of a math/ science person. I like the difficulty of math. It reminds me of climbing or sports in general: You have to figure it out. There’s one solution, and you have to find it. In other subjects there can be more, and it’s kind of annoying.
You placed first in the combined at Worlds. Does that create a good position looking toward the Olympics?
Olympics, that’d be cool but I’m not, like, set on it. Whatever happens, happens. If I get the chance to try out, of course I’d take it. I don’t actually know that much about it. They’re working it out.
Is your mother your coach on the team, or do you try to work with others?
My mom is one of my coaches. [Laughs] It can be annoying but she’s a really good coach.
Full Service (V10) and Focus (V10), same day, Hueco Tanks, TX, 2017, age 15.
Cosi fan tutte (5.14c), Rodellar, Spain, 2016, age 15.
Southern Smoke (5.14c), Red River Gorge, KY, 2016, age 14.
Barefoot on Sacred Ground (V12) and Dark Age (V11), same day, Hueco, 2015, age 14.
Fragile Steps (V13), Rocklands, South Africa, 2014, age 13.
Youngest American/youngest female to climb 5.14a, God’s Own Stone, Red River Gorge, 2012, age 10.
Sunshine (V11) and Crimping Christ on the Cross (V10), same day, Hueco, 2011, age 10.
Your Brain’s on Drugs (V9), Hueco, 2009, age 8.
SECOND in lead, THIRD in bouldering, FIRST in combined (bouldering, lead, speed), World Youth Championships, Guangzhou, China, 2016.