High Riser Natalie Duranon
When Natalie Duran began college, she was warned of the awful “Freshman 15.” With the temptation of junk food and endless dining hall buffets at every corner, she knew she needed a way to stay fit. Otherwise, the Freshman 15 would get the best of her. But Duran didn’t devote her energy to the traditional weight-lifting or treadmill-running regimen of most college students. She decided to rock climb.
“One day I was given a free day pass to a local rock climbing gym. I brought five of my closest friends, and spent a whopping two hours attempting to scale a wall that seemed like a skyscraper,” said Duran.
Duran quickly learned that rock climbing was no easy feat.
She said, “I exited their doors with peeled skin, sore forearms and a sore butt. Later that night I couldn’t eat hot food or brush my teeth. This was due to my lack of pinch strength to open up the microwave, or squeeze toothpaste on my toothbrush. I was so sore, but I liked it.”
Soon enough, Duran’s day trip with friends developed into a passion that allowed her to meet new people and create new memories. Duran has been rock climbing for over four years now, and shares her experiences in both an online blog and successful YouTube channel . Most recently, Duran competed on NBC’s American Ninja Warrior.
“When we climb on a boulder, or summit a mountain we have a temporary escape from the modern pressures of our world. For a brief moment, we are allowed to break free of any tunneled path we are designated to take,” Duran said. “I love this sport because it allows me to be a part of the natural landscape. I get to experience the wilderness in ways I never knew possible”.
“I love you climbing, you’re the best non-human boyfriend ever,” says Duran.
Some of Duran’s climbing projects include topping out on a climb called John Bachar Face Memorial Project located in Joshua Tree National Park. Duran recalled the difficulty of this particular climb, describing how the sharpness of the holds sliced her finger tips until they bled.
“I tried to finish this boulder on 7 separate occasions each involving 10 or so attempts. Even though this boulder caused my physical pain, I still went back for more. Finally one Wednesday afternoon I drove straight to Joshua Tree after my Neurocognitive class,” she said. “I drove alone and carried three crashpads with me. I was so proud that I was able to accomplish this boulder project all on my own without any help or support.”
Duran finds inspiration from climbing legends such as Royal Robbins and John Long. Robbins developed environmentally-friendly climbing methods. Robbins discouraged the use of pitons,
which are hammered into cracks in the side of the mountain in order to prevent climbers from falling. He created the nut, an easily-removable medal wedge that served the same function as a piton, but did not harm did not harm the integrity of the landscape.
“I always think we are a guest when we step into nature. It is important to preserve it in every way possible,” she said.
As Duran climbs her way to the top, Rise Bar is incredibly excited to play a role in her journey. Her favorite bar? The Crunchy Cashew Almond, because of its moist texture and crunchiness.
“I will eat this bar during the morning, afternoon, or night. Any time is a crunchy cashew almond bar time,” she said.
These days, Duran is back in college as a research assistant at the University of California, Los Angeles. She aspires to attend medical school one day. But at least this time around, Duran doesn’t have to worry about the Freshman 15, because it looks like she’s got her health in check.
She said, “My daily routine is work, study, then climb time! No matter how stress introduces its ugly face, climbing is always there to help me get back into a balanced happy life. Active mind and active body is my goal to euphoria!”
Natalie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.