INTERVIEW: Claire Buhrfeind on Embracing Herself as a Strong Female Climber, Her Transition to College, and Climbing for Team Texas

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“The most important thing I’ve learned is that strength is beauty.”–Claire Buhrfeind. Photo by USA climbing and courtesy of Claire.
Claire Buhrfeind began climbing for Team Texas eight years ago and since then has become one of the country’s top female competition climbers, most recently taking silver for her combined lead, bouldering, and speed scores at the IFSC World Championships in Paris, France, last month. This fall, she began her first semester at the University of Washington and talked with Coffee.Tape.Climb. about the transition to college life, growing up on Team Texas, learning to accept and love her strength, and her plans for the future, including making an effort to climb outside more. 
How did you start climbing?  

I was first exposed to climbing at summer camps and birthday parties when I was about 7 years old. However, my first real experiences with the sport began when I joined Team Texas in 2008.

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Claire and Team Texas coach Kyle Clinkscales. Photo by Sophia Wolk and courtesy of Claire.

What was it like growing up on Team Texas?

Being on Team Texas and coached by Kyle Clinkscales was an intense eight-year journey for me, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything–Cliché, I know, but seriously. The [team] environment, although very competitive, was full of love. Under the mentorship of coaches and older team members, I was encouraged to push my limits, to put in full, consistent effort, to invest in my relationships, and to give back to the team.

I owe so much of my success to Kyle and to the team as a whole. I already miss everybody like crazy, but I’m looking forward to meeting new people and getting settled in Seattle.

How do you balance climbing outside with training for competitions?
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Claire sending Les Colonnettes (8a) in Céüse, France. Photo by Savannah Cummins and courtesy of Claire.

Balancing training for comps and climbing outdoors isn’t easy, or, at least, it hasn’t been. This summer was especially crazy. I competed in three IFSC World Cups, climbed outdoors in Céüse–my new favorite area–trained with Roman Krajnik in Slovenia, and, finally, competed in the IFSC World Championships in Paris. [Editor’s Note: Winning silver in the Combined.] Although I was able to get on real rock for a few weeks, I’m hoping to get outside more now that I’m living in Washington.

How do you see climbing changing for you as you tackle your first semester at the University of Washington?

I’ll be training with Tyson Schoene of Vertical World and many of my friends on that team, but I don’t see climbing changing too much for me. It remains a constant in my life. The transition into college life has been a bit overwhelming, but it’s comforting to know that I’ll always have climbing.

What have you learned as a female growing up in the climbing community?  
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Longtime friends Claire and Margo Hayes hug at the 2016 IFSC World Championships in Paris, France. Photo by Eddie Fowke and courtesy of Claire.

The most important thing I’ve learned is that strength is beauty. At some point, whether by the words of my peers or by things I saw in media, I learned to feel ashamed of being strong and muscular. I struggled a lot with this insecurity and was constantly jealous of the tiny girls at school.

As time went on, I began to see how comparing myself to others was self-destructive. I looked to my friends in the climbing community for guidance: Meagan Martin, Delaney Miller, and Margo Hayes are just a few examples of women I am inspired by, but there are so many more. I feel extremely grateful to be surrounded by such empowering and driven individuals. The way [they] carry themselves inspires me to look at myself in a new light. We are strong because we work hard, and we get to work hard for what we love.

What’s next?

Right now my focus is on the IFSC World Youth Championships in Guangzhou, China, this November. However, [my] long-term goals are less about specific routes or comp results than they are about my attitude and approach to climbing in general. I want to continue to challenge myself and enjoy the process of climbing in success and in failure. As [Team Texas] coach Kyle Clinkscales says: “Have fun; work hard; get better.”

A huge thank you to Claire for taking the time out of her crazy busy schedule for this interview. You can follow her on Instagram to keep up with her continued crushing.
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2 Comments Add yours

  1. Diana Buhrfeind says:

    I loved the article about my Granddaughter, Claire. She is a wonderful climber to watch and she makes it look easy, even though it isn’t.

    Liked by 1 person

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