January 9, 2017

Mayan Smith-Gobat is a badass climber.  She is well known for having the first female ascent of Punks in the Gym and for holding the female speed record on The Nose.  Mayan has joined us at the Coop a few times for Beer and Bouldering and it’s always great to have her here.  She is an inspiration to many female (and male) climbers.

When did you start climbing and what made you start?

I was born at the base of Mt Cook/Aotearoa – the highest mountain in NZ, so a love for the mountains and climbing was always within me. However, I didn’t start climbing myself until I was 16, when I got a summer job working in the cafe for Alpine Guides in Mt Cook and took a mountaineering course and instantly loved it. I pursued alpine climbing that year, then got into rock climbing the year after – instantly loving the mental and physical challenge.

How was your trip to China? Tell us about some experiences you had there.

China was an incredible experience – it was amazing to walk into a totally untouched valley and full freedom to choose whatever lines we wanted. To always be climbing ground-up into the unknown and to be the first people to stand on any of these beautiful towers.

Smith-GobatPhoto: Dan Holz

How does it feel to hold the female speed record for The Nose?

I am super happy to made the female record a time we can be proud of; however, doing the speed record for me was more about understanding how it is possible to climb these huge walls so quickly!

What are you most interested in right now with climbing? Speed records? New lines? Something completely different?

Free climbing big walls. First ascents or first free ascents and taking my knowledge of free climbing into more harsh environments – the mountains!

Tell us about an epic adventure you’ve had on or off the rock.

Smith-GobatPhoto: John Dickey

My trip to climb Riders on the Storm in Patagonia early this year with Ines Papert and Thomas Senf was the most epic adventure I’ve had. It is extremely remote, a huge wall with very difficult climbing and the weather is terrible. It is impossible to stand up to the winds there – we threw ourselves on the ground to avoid being blown down the hill. And climbing there forced me to compile all my previous experience. The intensity of the entire trip was incredible.

Do you have any accomplishments that you value more than others?  What is their significance?

The Salathe (free) – because it was always a dream of mine to free climb El Capitan and this was my first free route on that amazing wall.

Punks in the Gym – because it was the first 5.14 in the world and first climbed by Wolfgang Güllich (a hero of mine) and in one of my home crags and I got the first female ascent.

Riders on the Storm – because of the alpine environment and difficulty of the climbing – it required me to draw on all my knowledge.

Smith-GobatPhoto: Thomas Senf

What keeps you climbing?

I simply love it! I find it difficult to imagine life without climbing.

If you could have a drink with any famous person, dead or alive, who would it be with and what would you drink?

Wolfgang Güllich or Kurt Albert and my choice would be a good whiskey, but I would be open to drinking whatever they wanted.

Tell us about the craziest thing you’ve seen/experienced outdoors.

Smith-GobatPhoto: Thomas Senf

A rock ripping Ines and my portaledge open while we were sleeping in it. It was terrifying to hear rocks impacting all around us and being totally helpless – all we could do was hope

Would you rather be a giant mouse or a tiny elephant?

Tiny elephant – I like elephants much better than mice, and size doesn’t really matter.

What is your favorite type of climbing, why?

I love all types of climbing, but big wall free climbing is my main focus. I love the complexity of solving hard movements and also love the exposure of being up high on a wall.

Smith-GobatPhoto: Rich Crowder

Cover Photo: Frank Kretschmann