Beyond Gold: Two Months Following the Paraclimbing World Cup

“Life doesn’t always have to be about just the gold medal or just the send. It really is everything in between.” 

That’s climber Rachel Maia’s hot take on the sport she loves. Rachel, a New Zealand-based competitive paraclimber, public speaker, and mom of three kids, connected with fellow climber and photographer Katie Myers on Instagram during the pandemic days. And last May, Rachel and Katie set off to follow the IFSC Paraclimbing World Cup Circuit. Here are some of the highs (and lows) from their incredible trip.  

 Rachel climbing in the Salt Lake World Cup finals

Salt Lake to Switzerland 

This 2022 IFSC Paraclimbing adventure took Rachel and Katie from Salt Lake City, Utah, to Innsbruck, Austria, to Villars, Switzerland and many places between. From May through July, they chased big goals, earned some gold medals, sent 5.14 routes, and filmed a documentary about their journey. 


Strangers to Send Friends 

Since they’d met on Instagram, Rachel and Katie had never met in person until they rendezvoused at the Salt Lake City airport. “We both had a few nerves about traveling with someone we’d just met, but more than anything, we were so excited,” Katie says. “Just two 39-year-old women headed out to climb hard, chase their dreams, and take on the world!”  

Rachel on the podium

The pair spent a couple weeks climbing in Utah to get in shape for the trip. Then Rachel competed in the first World Cup, where Rachel took home a silver medal. In so doing, she became New Zealand’s first-ever IFSC medal winner (including men, women, and climbers of all abilities). 



Accepting the Challenges 

For the remainder of their trip, anything that could go wrong, basically did. A fateful bout of Covid sent things on a tailspin: illness, quarantine, nagging injuries, multiple ER visits, and rain for weeks on end.

“We watched through rain-streaked windows as most of our climbing goals washed away,” Katie recalls, “but you have to accept that challenges are part of the journey, too, so we tried to laugh our way through it, and embrace all the detours and misadventures.”  

But do true adventures ever really go as planned? “This trip definitely taught us that life really isn’t about those gold medals or hard sends,” Katie says. “It’s appreciating every challenging, soaking wet, laugh-out-loud moment in between.” 

Onto the Next One 

“Two strangers, two months, three competitions, four ER visits, six countries, and eight crags … this summer was one for the record books,” Katie says. Setbacks and all, both Rachel and Katie had an amazing trip and are already planning for next year’s IFSC Paraclimbing World Cup Circuit. 


All photographs and video by Katie Myers. Follow along @katiejo.myers