The migration pattern favored by most North American outdoor enthusiasts is to head ever westward. But climber and author Majka Burhardt moved from Boulder, Colorado to Conway, New Hampshire this winter. We caught up with her to talk geography, climbing, and how rollerblading—that icon of 90s zeitgeist—became part of her training routine.
The thing that makes mountain communities similar is just the thirst to be outside—whatever the conditions are. In Boulder you can pretty much be outside in fair weather every day. In New England, you have to get burlier than that. I love that there’s this tough attitude.
It’s not all bliss. It’s been raining for the past four days.
There’s a level of pride in the East when you live in a mountain community. If you don’t get it, you’re not supposed to get it. I don’t have to explain how Mount Washington is really badass or that the Adirondacks have amazing climbing. I’m not going to waste my breath. You should know this already.
I will go to fisticuffs with anyone arguing that the ice climbing here is the best in the U.S. The rain, the sleet, and the warming—all the things that make the East Coast miserable for people in the winter make it the best place to be an ice climber. Things form, then melt and re-form. It’s this amazing vertical winter wonderland.
I was here long enough in the winters for people to say, “You’ve got to stick around for the summer. You’re going to be so excited when it’s rock season.” Then you’re snowshoeing to go rock climbing because it’s finally sunny enough, transitioning out of boots to rock shoes in four feet of snow and launching yourself at the wall.
I was skate skiing all winter. I can skin up Mount Washington. I don’t want to live and breathe vertical, technical climbing every day. I want to be able to train in other ways. That’s what I think makes a place a true mountain town, being able to do all that.
I had two successive back surgeries. Then my physical therapist told me to start rollerblading. I grew up in Minneapolis, the rollerblading Mecca. It was like someone gave me the license to be the geek that I am.
I realized how much ego we carry, even when we pretend it’s not there. When you’re a professional athlete—whatever that means as a climber—you have the right gear. And as a rollerblader, even if you have the right gear, you look like a dork anyways. It’s good to throw yourself down a couple of notches. —Olivia Dwyer
Follow Majka Burhardt’s summer adventures through Europe and Africa at her website, majkaburhardt.com.