Bouldering champ Maya Madre is climbing hand over hand to the top of her sport.
By Gretchen M. Sanders, Photo courtesy of Crux Climbing Center
Maya Madere excels at solving problems. She can look at a climbing wall and determine the best way to ascend it. The sport, called bouldering, requires athletes to climb short routes, known as problems, without a rope. Madere is a master.
“Bouldering is more about completing difficult moves than gaining height,” the 19-year-old Madere says.
In 2016, Madere won the Bouldering Youth National Championships in Madison, Wis. Later that year, she placed third in bouldering at the World Youth Championships in Guangzhou, China. Last year, she completed the most difficult climb of her life at Magic Wood in Switzerland, an alpine bouldering paradise. Today, Madere is ranked 39th in the world in the women’s competition.
“The purpose for climbing indoors is to get better at climbing outdoors on real rocks,” says Madere, who loves scrambling up granite structures at Hueco Tanks in El Paso, Texas, and basalt cliffs at Smith Rock State Park in Oregon.
Until recently, Madere trained at Crux Climbing Center, Austin Bouldering Project and Austin Rock Gym. Last month, the Anderson High School graduate left home for California, where she will climb for Stanford University.
Here’s how this rock star keeps moving like a mountain goat.
“I like to eat scrambled eggs in the morning. I’m a big breakfast person.”
“I climb for two to five hours for three days in a row, and I rest on the fourth day. On some days, I’ll climb at Austin Bouldering Project in the morning and at Crux in the afternoon. Climbing requires tremendous upper-body and core strength. Leg strength is not as critical. I do core workouts for six to 30 minutes almost every day, plus drills where I climb hand over hand without using my feet. It’s important to have general overall fitness, finger and forearm strength. I don’t do much cross-training or cardio.”
“I eat whatever I want. If I have too much sugar, bread or artificial food, then I don’t feel or climb well. I love quinoa and anything that grows on a tree. My mom makes a delicious massaged-raw-kale salad. I’m an adventurous eater, so I enjoy trying dishes in other countries. Since I’m super active, I’m used to eating so much food. Sweets are my biggest weakness.”
“I climb in Evolv shoes. They press your toes into a small point and have rubber soles for gripping polyurethane holds. If I’m climbing every day, I can go through a pair in a month; the rubber runs thin fast. Some climbs require quickdraws, carabiners, rope and a belay device to go up and down. I use chalk to keep my hands dry. It reduces friction and helps me grip holds better. When I climb outside, I’ll use a crash pad to cushion falls and a brush to clean holds. Dirt, moss, sweat and hand grease can build up and make them slippery. Stretchy athletic clothes work best for this sport.”
“The first time I went to a climbing gym, I said, ‘This is what I want to do with my life.’ I was 10 years old. Climbing affords me a flow state. It’s gratifying.”
“I try not to think while I’m on the wall. Quitting is not an option. Pain is weakness leaving the body.”
“My training and home life are pretty separate. When I’m at home, I’m a lazy athlete who watches movies. When I’m at the gym, I’m a serious athlete. After a long day of training, I shower, eat and crash.”