Dr. Michaela Kiersch: the only 9a and 8B+ female climber last year

9 June 2022

Michaela Kiersch was #22 in her Boulder World Cup debut in 2010 at age 15 and the next year she was #18 in a Lead World Cup. Her competition career did not take off and instead, she focused on outdoors and University studies. At age 21 she did her first 8c and 8c+. In total, the 27-year-old has done nine 8c+' and last fall she did her first 9a, Dreamcatcher (9a) after just five days of projecting. In April she got her doctoral degree in hand therapy and did directly go for her first extended long trip only focusing on climbing, which began with the Petzl Roc Trip. Switching to bouldering and Magic Wood she has significantly stepped up her game sending two 8B+ and another 12 boulders 8A and harder in just three weeks.

In other words, Michaela's combined route and boulder tick list is one of the most impressive of all time and she is the only female that has sent a 9a as well as an 8B+ during the last year.

How did you start climbing and how were the first years?
I officially began rock climbing around age 7, but I was a climber from a much younger age. Before I could walk, I was climbing out of my baby crib. Soon after, I was climbing trees, fences, buildings - anything I could get my hands on. My parents signed me up for classes at a local climbing gym and I haven’t stopped since. My first competition was within my first few months of climbing and I placed 2nd of 2. I was motivated to keep improving and my love for the sport only grew. I became more serious about my climbing around age 10, when I signed up to train with a competitive team. We had practice 3 days per week and competitions on the weekend. As a teenager, I developed a very tight-knit community within climbing. All of my friends climbed and trained at a high level and we pushed each other to improve. I loved the camaraderie, travelling, and being able to spend time outside.

What were your best competition results and why did you not pursue that career?
I have won nationals for lead and bouldering as a youth competitor and also placed as high as 5th at the youth world championships. I also have competed on the US Team in all three disciplines. Ultimately, competitions are not my passion and I really love climbing outside.

Which were your first hard sends you remember and what did they mean to you?
My first 8b+ was Omaha Beach in the Red River Gorge (at age 17). In the US, climbing 5.14 feels like a benchmark. It was a goal that as a child I couldn’t imagine ever achieving. It pushed me to reevaluate my dreams in a positive way. The Red River Gorge also holds a special place in my heart as it is the area I went to most frequently growing up.

How has your climbing been scheduled during the last seven years when you have been at the university?
It was hard to follow a consistent training routine while studying. My climbing fluctuated heavily depending on my assignments and exams. It forced me to develop excellent time management skills and get the most out of shorter climbing sessions. Each year I was able to perfect the balance a little bit more. It really helps me to have goals or trips that I am looking forward to. My motivation dwindles if I feel like I am just training with no objective in sight. Usually, those trips would take place during my breaks from classes.

Did you follow any structured regime or did you just climb?
My sessions focused on projecting the newest set of boulders at the gym, climbing on the Moonboard, and using training specific tools like hangboards or campus boards. I structured each session depending on my current goals. When my sessions were only an hour-long it was important to plan the training in order to maximize the potential results. I climbed between 3-5 days a week for about 1-3 hours each day.

How is it realizing that you have become one of the best female combined boulder and route climbers in history?
It feels surreal to accomplish goals that I had previously been afraid to admit to myself. I am motivated to continue my growth as a climber and person for the rest of my life.

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