BeWild with Molly Mitchell - An Interview on Being Vulnerable and Battling Anxiety

The Mountaineers and Adidas Terrex are pleased to present climbing phenom Molly Mitchell on May 14 at the Seattle Program Center. An accomplished 5.13+ trad climber and youth coach to aspiring climbers, Molly values fighting hard, trusting the process, and measuring success - even in the smallest of increments. Come learn how she celebrates success while being vulnerable and battling an anxiety disorder.
The Mountaineers The Mountaineers
May 02, 2019

The Mountaineers and Adidas Terrex are pleased to present climbing phenom Molly Mitchell on May 14 at the Seattle Program Center. An accomplished 5.13+ trad climber and youth coach to aspiring climbers, Molly values fighting hard, trusting the process, and measuring success - even in the smallest of increments. Come learn how she celebrates success while being vulnerable and battling an anxiety disorder.

In preparation for her BeWild event, we spoke with Molly about her early climbing career, and how she's developed a climbing philosophy in parallel with growing her athletic prowess.

You made a name for yourself as an elite trad and sport climber. Since starting your climbing career, have your priorities shifted from when you were young and breaking into the climbing world?

I started when I was 16 in the gym, then went out sport climbing. I always loved sport climbing more than bouldering, and wanted to be a competition climber. It’s funny to think how that’s changed over the years. There were so many factors involved in that, and I'm  grateful for it looking back.

When I was 20 I developed a thyroid viral disease right as I was trying to get into competition climbing. I had recently moved to Boulder and was ready to start competing. The thyroid disease lasted a year and left me feeling physically awful, all the time. Because of that, I started climbing outside for the pure joy of it. Having those adventures  inspired me to get into more outdoor climbing, and when I had the opportunity to learn how to trad climb from guides at ABC I took it. I’m so grateful that I did, because I realized what I loved.

I felt like I couldn’t keep up in the gym, it was this constant feeling of being not good enough. For me, that was when a lot of my anxiety issues started to develop as well. I’d go into the gym and have this ingrained thing in my mind that I’m not going to do well, and then I wouldn’t do well and it would reinforce that. It was this negative cycle.

As soon as I started getting outside it broke that cycle. It helped to learn something new, like trad climbing. It was inspiring and I felt like my mind became a lot stronger. 

My first trad lead was this 5.11 route in Eldorado Canyon. I had no idea at the time that you don’t do 5.11 as your first trad climb. Then my second trad lead was this 5.12+ R-rated route in Rincon Wall in Eldorado. I guess I was blessed with some good teachers that were like “Yeah, you got it!”.

How do you manage self-doubt and anxiety on the wall? Is there a difference between indoor and outdoor climbing for you?

When I started going outside I had nerves, but it felt more manageable. I got in this zone of “Well, if you want to do this you have to force anxiety out and be in the moment”. I was never able to get that way in the gym. And I had no idea that 5.11 trad climbing was not normal, because I came from sport climbing and was like “5.11, whatever…” I trusted that the people I was with had my best interest in mind, and that they believed in me. That was the biggest thing - if no one else doubted me, then why would I doubt myself?


How has coaching impacted your competitive climbing?

No matter what the kids are training for, just seeing them and how they approach it without mental barriers is such a cool, inspiring feeling. It motivates me so much. I would stay after practice to do the workouts and climb with them. Especially Team Refuge, a smaller team I coached in Vegas. We all knew each other, we all would climb outside together, and motivate and support each other. It was cool to have kids who are going to be way beyond my level in their older years to support me and get excited about my goals.

I have always connected with kids. With my personality, I like to be goofy and silly. When I’m like that the kids tend to get excited - I can relate to them. We have so many inside jokes and silly things we do. 

What routes inspired you as an early climber? What inspires you now?

I didn’t have any particular routes I loved when I was younger - I wanted to be the top sport climber with single pitch stuff, but I never would've thought of stuff in Yosemite or a big wall. Not even a trad route - I would have been like, "that’s old school”. Now I think it’s cool and epic. I think our community has opened its mind to more things as well, and my progression in the way I found outdoor climbing and trad climbing align with that.


Join us May 14 at the Seattle Program Center to hear the rest of Molly's story:

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