It's amazing what some send temps can do. Claire Buhrfeind, former member of Summit's resident youth competitive climbing team, just had a heck of a trip to the Red River Gorge. She sent two 14cs and a 14a within two days of each other. Her very first send was Lucifer, a 14c. Considering that her previous hardest send was 13d, making the jump all the way to 14c was ... let's just say ... CRAY. It's like running a marathon before even registering for a 10k. Except more impressive. I managed to snag a moment with Claire towards the end of her trip to talk to her about her sends. Way to rep Texas, Claire!
So tell me about your recent sends?
"So I just sent my first 5.14, which was Lucifer, 5.14c in the Red River Gorge. I definitely didn't expect my first 5.14 to be that one for sure. I went to climb with some friends at the Red, and there were some people that were trying Lucifer. I was encouraged to get on it, and I immediately was really inspired by the climbing. I got super excited about it and wanted to work on it some more."
What was the projecting process like?
"I did all the moves pretty quickly and figured them out, and honestly, I just really enjoyed the climbing. I wanted to try and send it, it felt possible. I got really inspired by the movement and it was fun to climb with people who are stronger than you. So I was just motivated by the people around me who were also trying it when I decided I wanted to go for it."
How did it feel to send?
"I felt really excited. I was smiling basically the whole day ... I was kind of in disbelief. It just felt so good, I had never felt as smooth on the route as I did on that attempt. I had a moment to be really happy and then I wanted to go climb."
She sent Lucifer on her sixth try. It takes me six tries to even finish my beer ... But her send train was not done yet. She had a brief lunch, then jumped on Omaha Beach, 14a and sent it first go of the trip. Omaha had been a huge mental block for Claire, as a route she has been projecting for years. All of her previous trips to the Red have been during the summer - the hot, humid, sticky summer. So all of her attempts of Omaha had felt very, very difficult.
What's the history between you and Omaha?
"I mean ... I had probably started working that route four years ago. But I had only worked it in the summer. I just kind of thought I was not going to do 5.14, because this route is so hard and I just fall on it all the time, so that grade is just not for me. And then I got on Lucifer this fall and I felt really excited - like I had a whole new perspective, like I don’t really know actually what I can do. I want to keep exploring that. Sending Omaha was one of those long-term emotional journeys for me."
After talking to Kyle Clinkscales, Claire's former coach since she joined Team Texas in 2009, it's clear that Claire is just starting to realize her potential.
"I think Claire has no idea how hard she climbs," Kyle said. "She has never gone to an area and just projected or just like, sat underneath a route and seen how had she can climb. I think she is finally getting an idea of how hard she can climb."
The day after she rampaged on Lucifer and Omaha, she sent Southern Smoke, 14c on her fourth go. That's three 14s ... in two days. She put in some solid goes on the Golden Ticket, 14c before the end of her trip.
What's next for you?
"I think I might try to just climb what looks cool and what movement inspires me. It did not matter to me what grade Lucifer was when I climbed it. I just really enjoyed it and I felt the same thing with Omaha. Like, I would go get on Omaha again tomorrow, that route is kind of special for me because I've spent so much time on it. It’s bittersweet, because it’s such a good rock climb, and then you send it and you’re like, oh ... I’m done."
Regardless of how hard you climb, I think we all know that feeling. I think this is just the beginning for Claire - I am so excited to see what she'll be crushing in the future. Coach Kyle is optimistic, too.
"I think that she is going to take her rightful place as one of the best female climbers in the world," Kyle said. "And also her rightful place as one of the best all-around climbers in the world. Claire is maybe not the hardest rope climber, or hardest female speed climbers, or boulderer, but she is the best at all three. She has a bright, bright future, and I think people like her are going to take the sport to a new level — she is a person that enjoys the sport for all the right reasons."
So congrats to Claire! We are so excited to see what is in her future!