Episode 29: Chelsea Rude — The Reinvention

So, get this. Chelsea Rude, at the urging of her father, walked into a climbing gym for the first time at age 11. Two weeks later she entered a competition, having never really competed in any sporting event before. She took first place. That, obviously, is an auspicious start to a career in climbing.

Chelsea began racking up victories so quickly and steadily that she dove into the JCCA (Junior Competition Climbing Association, formerly the American Sport Climber’s Federation, and which shortly became USA Climbing). Soon, she was a full-fledged member of the USA Climbing Team, a distinction she held for an astonishing 13 years.

Chelsea paid her dues outdoors, as well, with multiple ascents of 5.14b and V11. She summited the Nose at age 15, sunk axes into ice and glacier, and plugged gear all around the American West.

Perhaps the most appealing facet of Chelsea’s career, however, is the patience and thoughtfulness she’s taken in investigating her chosen path. As age, injury, and tenacity saw Chelsea bow out of comp climbing, she had some big decisions to make. What to choose as a career? How would climbing fit into her adult life? Who is Chelsea Rude, former World Cup competitor and still sponsored Adidas/Five Ten athlete? How could she give back to the sport which has given so much to her?

The answer to that is the forthcoming She Sends Collective, Chelsea’s brainchild and passion project. The Collective, which kicks into motion this March, will focus on empowering women through coaching (Chelsea has coached the USAC youth team and still holds coaching clinics around the country), as well as an emphasis on nutrition (she suffered through an eating disorder in her competition days) and mental health/therapy. It’s an ambitious undertaking.

Have a question, pitch, criticism, or bad and unsolicited advice? You can drop us a line at thunderclingpodcast@gmail.com or find us on Instagram @thethundercling.

Thanks as always to Ryne Doughty for the rad tunes!


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