WCW- Claire Mutch

Welcome to Women Crush Wednesday, a VertiGals spotlight series written and edited by Paige Orcutt.

Meet Claire Mutch

Claire moved to Duluth last spring, and works at Essentia Health as a Supply Chain Informatics Specialist. She moonlights as the VertiGals’ Facebook Events Coordinator and is on the subcommittee for events. We check in with her to see how she got into climbing, why she moved to Duluth, what keeps her motivated, and how she is staying active these days…


How’d you get into climbing?

My first time climbing was almost five years ago at Shovel Point.  I was working my first summer at Sawbill Canoe Outfitters in the Boundary Waters. A couple of the other crew members were climbers and would use their free time to climb at nearby Carlton Peak and Shovel Point.

I was interested in trying and joined them on their outing to Shovel Point one day. I will never forget the complete gripping fear I felt when I had to scoot my butt off the edge of the cliff to lower down! I climbed with them a couple more times that summer, loved it despite (maybe because?) of the fear and adrenaline I initially felt, and then started climbing at the gym at the U of M after the summer ended, and outdoors whenever I was able!

Why climbing?

In a lot of ways to me climbing is another way to experience the outdoors and connect with people. I think climbing can lead to a unique connection with others through shared goals and the sense of camaraderie you have when

you are encouraging each other and trusting someone with your safety. I also love how climbing combines physical and mental strength. There is always something to work and improve on, but at the end of the day for me it is about enjoying myself and spending quality time with others outdoors.

A climbing experience I am proud of….

was a trip to Horseshoe Canyon Ranch in Arkansas that a close friend and I planned and prepared for. I had been on several climbing trips before it, but always with climbers who were much more experienced than me and would set up the top rope anchors/would lead all pitches and I would follow. The trip to Horseshoe Canyon Ranch was my first trip where I was of equal experience and skill with the other person I was climbing with, and we equally took turns who was leading/anchor building and following/cleaning. My friend and I started preparing months in advance, pushing each other to become stronger sport climbers and practicing our anchor set up and cleaning. The climbs we did were not the most difficult I’ve done in terms of rating or most dramatic location, but experiencing that preparation together and then the feeling of independence during our trip was the most satisfying climbing I’ve ever done!

Let’s talk #gains…what are some things you are working on in your climbing?

There is so much I want to learn! From a technical perspective, one of my main goals is to gain the competence and confidence to safely set up top rope anchors unassisted. I am also trying to increase my confidence as a sport climber– working through the fear that is often present for me, practicing taking safe falls, etc.  Someday down the road, I would be interested in dipping a toe into trad climbing– not because it seems fun (it seems mostly terrifying), but because I like how it aligns with Leave No Trace ethics.

You are a new Duluthian and we heard you love it here. When did you move here?

After going to college in Minneapolis and growing up in the Twin Cities, I knew I wanted to live somewhere with better access to the outdoors after graduation. After working at Sawbill Canoe Outfitters for three summers, I had spent lots of time exploring the BWCA and the north shore and fell in love with the area. Duluth has pretty much everything I could ever want– great proximity to the BWCA/outdoor activities, stunning scenery right in town, interesting character, tons of beautiful old houses and architecture….The past year in Duluth has confirmed to me that there is nowhere better!

How did you hear about VertiGals?

I moved to Duluth last spring, and had seen VertiGal posters around. I thought it would be a great way to get involved with the climbing community up here and to find some people to climb with!

And have you had a chance to climb locally since moving to Duluth?

I’ve been out to Sandstone and Palisade so far since moving to Duluth, but have been climbed at Shovel Point, Carlton Peak, Ely’s Peak and Whoopee Wall over the past few years.

I’m looking forward to getting to know the local crags better in the future!

How are you staying active these days?

Trying to plant my first ever vegetable garden, working out in the “home fitness center” aka my yoga mat and 2 sets of dumbbells, writing letters and reading books!

After the stay-at-home is lifted, are you looking for climbing partners at all?

Yes! Hit me up if you want to climb sometime, post-pandemic.

Photo Credits: Anja Holtz and Kevin Taralseth.
Dates Unknown.
Used with permission of #WCW Claire Mutch.

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