Climber Story: Ann Raber

January 04, 2023 5 min read

Climber Story: Ann Raber - Dynamite Starfish

To start, tell us a little bit about yourself

I’m Ann, I’m 43, I started climbing when I was about 26 in Austin, Texas. I spent 13 years focused on bouldering for performance. I’ve climbed all over the world, and for many years I was devoted to climbing out the seasons in Hueco Tanks. I think I might still be among the oldest women to have climbed v13, which I am very proud to have done when I was 37.

In 2018, I decided to completely change my focus to sport climbing. I was inspired by Chris Sharma and his path, to see what would happen if I took my passion for the hardest moves and long term projects a little higher off the ground. I took a few years off from training and pushing myself, so I could create the best life situation in which to pursue sport climbing.

I settled down, finally, in the south of France, where I live now, surrounded by the best sport climbing with a motivated community of lifelong climbers of all ages.

I’m really into working on my attitude and refining my approach to climbing. I’m curious to find this state of being where I’m simultaneously pushing myself in climbing performance and also radically self-accepting and happy. It’s a very tricky alchemy!

How did you start climbing?

I had gone on my first ever camping and backpacking trip for work, and I loved it, so I was interested in getting into hiking at home. I was looking for a local hiking club in Austin so I could learn about local trails. I couldn’t find one, but there was a women's climbing group that invited newbies once a month for a workshop. I figured the climbing would be in a natural area where I could find some good hiking!

I actually lead a route that day, at Dead Cats Wall at Reimers Ranch, and the group invited me back the next week. I remember my hands stung so badly when I was trying to wash my hair that night because I’d worn them down to blisters on all the jugs. I was like, "how am I going to manage this pain every time I shower?" I was all in. I immediately bought a harness, like, the next day haha.

What impact has climbing had on your life?

I made a decision in 2009 that climbing would be my central pursuit for the rest of my life. Since then, I make every decision based on the goal of expanding my climbing access and developing my ability. During a very painful period around age 30, I took a sort of solo retreat for four days in silence and isolation to confront all the shame and loss I was feeling. I asked God to show me as specifically as possible what I was suppose to be doing, because all of my ideas were blowing up in my face. During that experience, I had a vivid dream about climbing, and I guess I took the message very literally. It was the only clue I received!

Whenever I’m facing a problem or a feeling of stagnation in my life, I go back to those questions. What will bring me closer to the best climbing and opportunities to develop my climbing? When I pose that question the answer is always clear.

What are some other things you do that you find most fulfilling?

I practice classical Pilates — that’s the other huge part of my physical body/sports life. I always have a handful of interesting jobs going on to sustain my lifestyle, and I’m close to my family.

Since moving to France, learning to live in a second language has been super satisfying and exciting, if not always pleasurable (much crying). We speak French at home and in most all of my daily life experiences, and that’s something that I thought would be impossible for me. I also love reading tarot cards, cooking, and repairing clothes.

If you could tell the world one thing, what would it be?

I would encourage people to let go of the desire to be respected, admired, understood or adored. Wanting or needing these 4 things has always led me to make decisions that were not in line with my values or my nature, and forced me to make painful course corrections later on.

I want everyone to know that you don’t need anyone’s respect, or anyone’s admiration, ever. Those things are worthless at best, and can be dangerous if you take them personally. Other people understanding you offers you nothing durable, and someone else’s adoration, just like their poor opinion, is none of your business.

Favorite thing about Dynamite Starfish?

The contrast of dark, smart humor and playful images. I have always been touched by Leslie’s clarity of vision, and how boldly she puts her perspective out into the world. We are lucky to have her in climbing, to put her eye to climber humor and culture. I’m proud to have been a fan from early on, and to have some vintage pieces in my collection!

Is there something you're working on that you'd like to tell our community about? We love a good story.

This year I’ve been working on dismantling my ingrained fatphobia and anti-fat bias. I’m reading a lot from authors like Aubrey Gordon, and recognize so much bias and prejudice in myself. I’ve always just accepted the idea that thinness equals good health and good choice making. I’m learning how wrong those associations are and how harmful they are to people in large bodies. This prejudice has colored how I’ve looked at fat people, and I’m committed to stepping away from that way of thinking internally, and not hiding behind my “thin sporty white lady-ness” and ignoring harmful actions and words towards others.

I’m also working on a book about my years of bouldering in Hueco Tanks. I’m looking forward to self-publishing it in Fall, 2023. It’s gonna be super embarrassing and full of beta, cake, and hilarious mistake making. I’ll keep you posted!





You can find Ann on Instagram at @annncamp.

Want to get to know more of the climbers in the amazing Dynamite Starfish community? Check out our archive of Climber Stories here.

We hope you have enjoyed these sneak peeks into climbers' lives. We're on a mission to share diverse stories about rock climbing. Let's push the boundaries of who we know as climbers. Let's use our energy and passion for the outdoors to love our environment and inspire one another.

Have someone you think we should feature? Send us a message and let us know!

Until next time!

Dynamite Starfish
Dynamite Starfish

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