Published12 November, 2020
Photo credit Tae Hoon Kim
World-class climber leads CapURec’s active health program.
There is a misconception out there that rock climbers don’t experience fear. They do, but what allows them to continue reaching up toward breathtakingly steep heights is that they have learned to keep moving despite the fear.
“Breath is key. You have to talk to yourself through it, and slow down your breath,” said Ali Funk, CapU’s active health programmer, a world-class climber who has competed for Canada on the national stage.
And that stage is expanding as the sport of climbing will debut at the next Summer Olympics in Tokyo. Rock climbing, which continues to gain followers year-over-year, is defined by three different disciplines: speed, bouldering and lead.
Speed is where two climbers secure themselves to safety ropes and attempt to scale a 12-metre-high wall, angled at 95-degrees. In bouldering, athletes climb as many short dynamic routes as they can within four minutes on a four-metre-high wall, equipped with safety mats. Lead involves athletes climbing as high as they can within six minutes on a wall measuring more than 12 metres (about four-storeys high) in height. Many elite climbers specialize in one of these disciplines.
Gripped by Climbing
Funk’s specialty is lead climbing, meaning she chases height and speed. Funk first took to the wall when she was 10 after trying it at a birthday party. The naturally athletic young soccer player caught the climbing fever immediately, finding appeal in the mental and physical challenge of reaching new heights. By 12, she joined the University of Alberta youth program and was in her first climbing competition.
“The physical distance makes you feel far away from the world. It gives you a sense of perspective and a flow of movement that is unique,” Funk said.
Rising Through the Ranks
A driven competitor, Funk started on a personal journey to the top. For six years, she fought for a spot on the national team, hovering just outside top placement and the chance to compete for her country at the international level.
“It was quite a journey for me,” Funk said. “I first competed at Nationals at age 14, which was the year my friends got to go to the Worlds in Austria.”
Her most significant hurdle was mental — overcoming the sense that she couldn’t break through to the top heap of female national contenders in her age group.
Ready. Sweat. Go.
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Here and Now
Her love of physical fitness carried Funk through her recreation and health education degree at the University of Victoria. Since starting as CapU’s inaugural active health programmer, she has brought her brand of wellness to students and staff, organizing fitness classes, including Zumba, spin, intramurals, drop-in sports, and even unique recreation events like glow-in-the-dark yoga.
She still climbs recreationally. You can find Funk working her way up the wall at The Hive on the North Shore, still being part of the “amazing” community that she found in climbing. And to share the sport that taught her so much about tenacity, determination and how to push through fear, Funk helped launch a climbing club for CapU students.