Angie Payne: the rock climber with a passion for photography

WE TALK to American rock climber Angie Payne about some of her most inspiring climbs as well as her passion for travel and photography.

Angie Payne

Angie Payne is an American rock climber who is also passionate about travel and photography.


ANGIE PAYNE is an American rock climber who in 2010 became the first woman to climb grade v13, The Automator at Lower Chaos Canyon in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado. She has gone on to have further success in her sport and her achievements have included climbs abroad in countries including Greenland and Italy.


In this exclusive interview Angie talked to us about some of the highlights of her career, her passion for photography and travel and her new role working for USA Climbing.

For more news on Angie and to see her photographs and read her blogs go to www.angiepayne.com.


When did you find your love of climbing and what have been some of your most memorable moments in the sport?

I began climbing in a gym in Cincinnati at the age of 11. My older brother had discovered the gym through a friend, and he took my dad with him. The next time they went, I tagged along, and that’s how it all began.
I’ve had a lot of memorable moments in the sport and it’s hard to pick just a few! A good portion of my climbing career has
been devoted to competition climbing, and I have some fond memories from events that I competed in. I had the opportunity to compete in Central Park on a man-made wall in front of a big crowd and I remember that it all came down to the last boulder problem; I had to do it first try to win. When I did, the crowd was very supportive and excited, and I remember that moment well.
In addition to competing, I have also fallen in love with climbing outside over the years, and I have some very memorable moments that happened in that realm as well. I once worked for four seasons to complete a single boulder problem, and I’ll never forget the moment that I stood on top of it.
There are also a few trips thatI have taken for climbing to crazy, far away places that were quite special. I went to a remote fjord in Greenland in 2012 to climb untouched boulders, and that was the prettiest place I’ve ever been. Then last year, I went to a small island in the South Pacific called Ua Pou to climb a jungle tower, and it was certainly the most challenging adventure of my life. It was also incredibly beautiful there and climbing the tower was very rewarding, so I will never forget that trip!
Angie Payne

Angie lives in Boulder where she has quick access to climbing from her home.


What’s life like in Boulder and how often are you currently climbing?

Life in Boulder is good! When I first moved here back in 2003, it took some getting used to, as it is very different from the Midwest, where I grew up. Now I have made a life here and it is home. My favorite parts of living here are the quick access to the mountains and great climbing, and the weather. The weather is generally great, with 300 days of sunshine on average. Even in the winter, I can usually find somewhere dry to climb when I want to get outside.
Currently, I am climbing four to five days a week – mostly in the gym on weekdays and outside on weekends. The days are getting longer, however, and there are places that I can go after work for a short climbing session on real rock.

Tell us about your passion for travel and where in the world it has taken?

As a kid, I never expected that I would live a life that would lead me to the places it has. I travelled with my family around the US quite a bit, and we visited Colorado a lot, but I didn’t expect that I’d find myself in far away, remote places in the world one day. Honestly, I never even thought I’d move very far away from Ohio.
If I hadn’t found climbing, I don’t think I ever would have discovered the joy, challenge and opportunity that exists in travel. Moving to Colorado was the first step I took out of my comfort zone, and from there I slowly branched out further, thanks to trip opportunities that were presented by climbing. I travelled a lot to Europe to visit climbing areas there and compete in various international competitions. Two of the craziest, most challenging trips I took (mentioned above as well) were to Greenland and a small island in French Polynesia. Those were very different than the trips I had taken to Europe, because in going to Greenland and French Polynesia, I was stepping far outside of my comfort zone and venturing into remote, relatively untouched and uncharted territory. Without climbing, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to see parts of the world like that, in a very up-close-and-personal way.
Angie Payne

Angie has always spent a lot of time training in gyms and on climbing walls.


What have been some of your travel highlights to date and you ever found yourself in facing danger while abroad?

Each trip I have taken is memorable for its own reasons, but I would have to say that the trips that really stand out are definitely those ones to the middle of nowhere. Going to a remote place far from quick rescue or contact with civilisation definitely introduces an aspect of danger to a trip.
In Greenland, we were an eight-hour boat ride or a helicopter rescue away from the nearest small town, and that made things pretty scary, especially since the landscape was very volatile. There was one moment when I was climbing that got very scary very quickly when I broke a piece of rock and fell. I missed my crashpads and fell into some talus. Luckily I walked away with just a badly bruised hip, but that situation could have turned out a lot differently.
Climbing in the jungle was also intimidating because the jungle is full of mud and large spiders and generally and uncomfortable conditions. During the first few minutes that my climbing partner was climbing, his gear pulled out of the wet rock when he fell and he ended up falling all the way to the ground. Luckily, the jungle is relatively soft and forgiving of things like that, and he was unscathed. Moments like those definitely make you realise how far out there you are.
There was also one trip to Europe that stands out, when I ended up travelling alone for a short while, getting stuck in a small town in Italy, and having to figure it out alone. That was the first time I had really been forced to solve a problem like that in a place where I didn’t speak the language, and it was definitely a good learning experience.
Angie Payne

As well as climbing challenges Angie is also currently focussed on a new working role with USA Climbing.


Tell us about your passion for photography and where can we see your pictures?

Yeah! I have gotten more interested in photography over the past few years. It is another great thing that has come out of climbing for me. I liked photography class when I took it in middle school, but didn’t pursue it much after high school, until I found myself spending more time outside and in beautiful places thanks to climbing. At that point, I began snapping photos with my iPhone of some of the things I was seeing. I became pretty addicted to editing the photos and playing with Instagram, and I really loved the challenge of seeing what I could do with just my phone. I have since also bought a real camera, but I still use Instagram as a place to post iPhone only photos.
Taking photos helps me slow down when I’m outside and really appreciate the subtleties of the places around me.
Sometimes it’s actually possible to get so distracted by the climbing objective that I don’t pay as much attention to my surroundings, and that is one thing I love about taking photos.
I have a small collection of photos on my website, www.angiepayne.com, and I am on Instagram as @angelajpayne, and also a new photo-sharing app called Wami, as @angiepayne.

Do you have any exciting projects or challenges planned for the rest of the year and beyond?

Recently I added a job into my schedule, working for USA Climbing (the national governing body for competition climbing in the US), so I feel that one of my biggest challenges in the coming year will be to find a good balance in my life between work, climbing, and everything else.
I am taking a short trip to South Africa in the near future, and hopefully a lot of other short trips around the US this year as well. I’m still planning everything, so I don’t know many more details than those.
Wherever I end up going this year, I would also like to spend more time taking photos and learning more about photography.

Reader Comments

Share This Article