Mary Catherine Eden is a crack climber, photographer, painter but mainly a nice person with a good sense of humour. We were talking about climbing community in Utah, photography, first ascents, Tendon ropes of course and much more...
▪️Where did you get your first experience with crag climbing?
My first experience with crag climbing was when I first moved to Moab, Utah. I drove down highway 279 and saw rock climbers climbing on Wall Street. I was instantly curious about the sport of rock climbing which at that time I knew little about. I purchased a book about rock climbing, some basic gear, and started going outside with anyone I could.
My first experience with crag climbing was when I first moved to Moab, Utah. I drove down highway 279 and saw rock climbers climbing on Wall Street.
▪️Who taught you the basics crack climbing techniques?
I was going to learn the sport of rock climbing come hell or high water. I was teaching myself and honestly that was a very unsafe situation. Luckily, after a season I met a local certified AMGA Rock Guide who became my mentor and friend, Matt Pesce. Matt introduced me to Mia Tucholke, another certified AMGA Rock Guide who taught me the art of off-width climbing and how to climb big multi-pitch objectives. I was super lucky that I became the mentee of not only two AMGA certified Rock Guides but also lucky in the fact that they are amazing athletes and friends.
▪️Do you spend some time in the climbing gym as well? Or you don't need to spend time indoor because of the perfect climbing conditions in your area. I meant perfect weather and destination for climbing.
I do not spend a lot of time climbing in the gym. I lived in Moab, Utah for many years and that area does not have a climbing gym. Recently, I moved to Flagstaff, Arizona and have been going to the gym for the first time. I am lucky that I train with Lattice Training aka Tom Paul Randall and he has adapted most of my training to be done from home or in the outdoors.
On this route Mary used Master PRO 9.2
▪️What can you tell us about the climbing community in Utah.
The climbing community in Moab, Utah is pretty transient. People are constantly moving to and from Moab. It can be difficult to build a solid community year round, season after season. Recently, I moved to Flagstaff, Arizona and I am stoked on how much more permanent and involved the Arizona climbing community is.
▪️How long have you known Tendon ropes? And I'm curious, how did you get know about Tendon brand…
I have known about Tendon ropes for several years, and was originally introduced to them by my friend Rob Warden. He owned a Tendon rope and we climbed on it for a whole week in Vegas, Nevada. I was very impressed with the ropes durability and handling while climbing in Red Rock.
"Separate Reality" / Yosemite
▪️What's your favorite Tendon rope and why?’
TENDON MASTER PRO 9.2 - RED is my favorite Tendon rope. It is my favorite because it is light, yet durable. It handles amazingly and I LOVE the red color. I call it my little red corvette every time I climb with it.
▪️Are you interested in first ascents? I mean setting the new trad climbing routes?
I occasionally seak out first ascents, and am slowly developing a crag in Moab, Utah called East Berlin. Right now however, my priority is pursuing hard grades in the White Rim of canyonlands, Vedauwoo, Wy, and in Indian Creek, Utah. I will devote more time to FA’s when I accomplish my other goals.
On this route Mary used Master 9.7 TeFIX
▪️What ascents do you appreciate the most? You can distinguish between valuable ascents according to the grading system or valuable ascents from different reasons as mentally skills, technique, long-time projects etc.
I honestly do not understand why certain ascents mean more to me than others. For example I do not feel that my flash of Lucille, a legendary 12+ offwidth was that important to me personally. It didn’t feel particularly challenging physically or mentally. Whereas, when I sent the CrackHouse a 5.13 boulder originally put up by Dean Potter and repeated by Moab legend Steph Davis, I felt very accomplished. The CrackHouse takes loads of technique, power endurance, and a tolerance of pain whereas the other route although rated technically hard took much less. I guess for me if the routes take more commitment and I can learn something from it then I value it higher than routes with similar grades.
▪️I often can see that in the USA, you have the special climbing technique for the offwidth cracks - your legs are ahead than your body. I've never seen this technique in the Czech Republic. When do you prefer this technique? What are the advantages?
The technique of climbing feet first is useful if the route becomes over vertical and wider than fists. It becomes much more difficult to climb wide sizes as soon as the route becomes overhanging if you do not climb feet first. Climbing feet first is actually easier and allows you to gain more ground with less effort(your feet are larger than your stacks and you can hang from them). I prefer this technique when it makes a boulder or route easier.
▪️What is total weight of your climbing rack for long crack offwidth routes?
That depends! It might be very light with a couple of cams or a huge monster rack of 12lbs. The weight does add up because I weigh on average 100 lbs. For context, when the Danny Parker sent the century crack his rack weighed 13.3 lbs! That’s over 10% of my body weight! I think the largest offwidth rack I’ve carried was one #4, three #5s, five #6s, and one #7.
▪️I think that you would love the cracks in Chamonix or Val Di Mello. Have you ever visited different Europeans climbing areas? Where did you like the most?
I have had the pleasure of climbing in Sheffield England, San Vito Lo Capa Italy, La Pedriza Spain, Barcelona Spain, Costa Blanca Spain and Mallorca Spain. My favorite of those areas was La Pedriza, Spain and Mallorca, Spain. I love beach side sport climbing and the awesome granite cracks and slabs in La Pedriza.
▪️Apart from the great ropes we have a lot of crack climbing areas in the Czech Republic. Even it's sandstone as in Zion just much more softer. It's forbiden to use friends, nuts stoppers. You can use only knots and slings. Have you ever heard about the Czech sandstone?
I have heard about Czech sandstone and the practice of using knots and slings. I would one day love to visit and climb the style for the experience!
▪️What's your favorite climbing area inside of the USA? Why?
It’s hard for me to choose a favorite climbing area. I just absolutely LOVE climbing. At the moment my favorite climbing areas are; Indian Creek Utah, The Superstitions Mountains, Arizona, and The Black Canyon of the Gunnison.
▪️What's your attitude to the winter climbing and mountaineering? Do you have any interest in that kind of climbing?
I like the idea of being a casual Ice climber. I am not super into mountaineering but I do enjoy going ice climbing on occasion. I have some alpine objectives that i’d like to do in my lifetime but at the moment it is not my main focus.
▪️If'we are talking about the crack climbing, a lot of climbers come to mind Tom Randall And Pete Whittaker also called Wide Boyz. How did you meet with them?
I met Tom Randall and Pete Whittaker in Moab, Utah because they needed a place to stay and a mutual friend put us in touch. Over a couple of years the Wide Boyz pretty much lived at my house for a couple months at a time. I loved it! They are super nice houseguests and are amazing friends.
▪️That's great that you and Tom are in our Tendon team! I can imagine a nice project with you and Tom under the Tendon brand...
I cannot wait for Tom to be able and travel to the U.S. again. We have a WideBoyz themed crack camp planned for as soon as the borders open. I also cannot wait to be able to climb with them again soon.
▪️Tendon supports your project Rock Climbing Clinic with Tom and Pete. What's going on in that project?
Our Crack climbing clinic has been postponed due to travel restrictions from COVID-19. We are hoping to be able to do one spring of 2022.
▪️Besides your amazing climbing skills I can see you are a awesome photographer. What was your first really good photo?
I don’t feel like I had a first really good photo. I feel like I had a first really good photo season. I’d say that season started for me in 2017 when Mercadi Carlson and I teamed up to photograph Indian Creek routed for Karl Kelly’s Creek Freak book. He ended up not using them but that season was a season of creativity and growth.
▪️Did you start taking pictures because of climbing? And what kind of camera do you use?
I have always been an artist. I started painting as a teenager and eventually added photography as one of my disciplines. I still paint but I love the dynamic style of sport photography. Currently, I photograph/film with a SONY A7IIIR and a GoPro Hero 9.
▪️But anyway, you are a very creative person. You are also a painter. How often do you paint/draw? What are your painting topics?
I mostly paint when the climber weather is bad! Painting takes a lot longer and is less dynamic than my photography. My photography feels like a collaborative effort between me and the climber whereas painting is much more personal to me. I enjoy photography because of the joy the climber gets from being photographed and capturing the beauty of the route and the climbing movement. Painting to me is something that is personal and a lot more introspective.
▪️I've read that you were pulling up the haulbag full of photographic equipment to the walls. Is it true? That time your climbing partner was Mercadi Carlson.
Everytime i photograph I carry my Sony camera and my GoPro 9 up the cliff with me. I will usually have a haul bag with the bottom half of my static rope(to keep it out of the shot) and anything I might need for my camera equipment.
The technique of climbing feet first is useful if the route becomes over vertical and wider than fists
▪️You climbed a lot with Mercadi. How do you remember for that time? Your photos and hard ascents made you famous all around the climbing world.
I love climbing with Mercadi! She is one of the funniest humans I’ve had the pleasure of climbing with and I’m stoked to have more adventures with her in the future.
▪️How did you meet with Mercadi?
I met Mercadi at Gearheads in Moab, Utah. She worked retail there and I had trouble reaching the quickdraws I wanted to buy(because I am so short). She got them don for me and the rest is history!
▪️After some time I can imagine that you were pretty tired. I read your expression: “We felt kind of pressured into pushing harder grades than we were ready to at a certain point,” Eden added. “It becomes this horrible stressful monster.”
It’s easy to let a cacophony of voices be overwhelming in the beginning. Mercadi and I were very shy and to us it felt stressful to have people expect things from you when nobody used to care about what grades we climbed. Luckily, I want to climb certain routes and grades for myself and learned to ignore that “stress monster”.
▪️Two beautiful girls, hard routes, great climbing pics. You've become very popular. But there are not just positives with fame. Especially I'm pointing to the climbing community full of men. Is it truth, you experienced bullying on sicial media? How did you cope with that?
I have experienced bullying on social media but to me that bullying felt very minor compared to the bullying I received from certain offwidth athletes. Originally, I did not cope very well with it and became depressed. I eventually learned how to cope with it and now I try and speak out against it so other women can exist in the space without going through what Mercadi and I went through.
▪️I think you've inspired a lot of womens to the crack climbing. Do you feel it?
If I have inspired women to learn how to crack climb then I am very happy. I hope that more women feel inspired to pursue their stoke and try nw things.
▪️What's your climbing plans for future?
I hope to climb The Hulk this summer in the Sierras, some offwidths in Vedauwoo WY, and I am hoping to redpoint Necronomicon 5.14a trad in the White Rim. Wish me luck!
Text: Jan Haráč
Photo: archive of Mary Eden