Profession: Barista/ Climbing Coach
Location: Atlanta, GA
Flash Foxy: Your blog tells me you’re a university student. What are you studying and where?
Alma Baste: I’m studying at Georgia State University. For a long time I was trying to studying environmental science because I’d like to contribute to some environmental conservation effort, but after a lot of stress and poor communication around the unformed nature of the interdisciplinary program, I switched this summer to creative writing with a minor in public policy.
FF: Tell us a little bit about your blog. What inspired you to start it, and what is the focus of the site?
AB: I started my blog, Cherry Blossoms and Pines, for a few reasons. My friend Olivia does a lot of non-climbing travel, and I’ve always loved writing. I wanted to share both our adventures. I also was beginning to feel the lack of a certain voice in climbing–the climber who’s still trying to figure out how to make everything work together. There were very few blogs that I felt I could relate to as someone who has only just recently started to feel like I’m breaking into harder climbing grades while also trying to manage school and work. I wanted to try and let others in my position know that you can be a full time student and work a busy job and go to the Ouray Ice Fest for a few days, or Indian Creek for spring break, or fit in time for training and hanging out with other lady climbers. Basically you don’t have to be a professional or a dirtbag (even if I do sometimes daydream about living out of a van) in order to do all this awesome stuff.
FF: How did you discover rock climbing?
AB: I got into rock climbing, like seriously hooked on it, during my last semester in community college in Maryland almost four years ago. My mom’s friend had found some sort of deal and invited my mom, her boyfriend, and me to join her at Earth Treks for a day. My mom and I both became totally obsessed. When I moved down to Atlanta my mom was nice enough to buy my gym membership as my neverending christmas/birthday gift. Eventually I got more involved in the climbing scene down here and now I have a ton of amazing people to go climbing with!
FF: I read that you are a community ambassador for Sisu Girls. Tell us more!
AB: I discovered Sisu Girls through a friend of mine who became an ambassador for them last year. The word “sisu” is Finnish and means determination, bravery, confidence and resilience. The organization itself is a group of amazing ladies who work to encourage young women and girls across the globe to pursue more adventure sports that are not typically promoted as something girls can do. I’m all about that so when I saw they were looking for ambassadors I sent them an email. Earlier this spring I organized a trail building day at a local state park and while there wasn’t a huge turn out, it was still a lot of fun and I’m looking forward to doing more like that when it’s not close to 90 degrees outside.
FF: Ah I know all about the nature of the interdisciplinary programs. I envy your quick decision-making skills and ability to change majors! How do you feel about your decision so far? How’s Creative Writing?
AB: I definitely wouldn’t call it quick. Took me four years of college already and two years of just working before I realized my mom was right the whole time. All my indecisiveness and goofing off aside, I absolutely love being a Creative Writing major, it feels kind of like coming home after an extended trip around the world. I’m not always totally psyched on it, sometimes I feel like I’m giving up on my dream of being a scientist that saves all the animals, but now I can just focus on trying to write amazing articles about other environmental topics like the PLI dispute in Utah, climbing access, preservation and conservation, and anything else I feel passionate about, all while having a healthy side task of trying to write a young adult fantasy book because I’ll always be a nerd at heart.
FF: How was the Ice Fest? Had you done any ice climbing before?
AB: The Ice Fest was both amazing and terrifying. I had never gone ice climbing before being from the south east (although once in a blue moon I hear North Carolina gets some frozen trickles). My boyfriend bought me plane tickets for Christmas and that’s a pretty hard gift to turn down. When my friend lowered me into the canyon for the first time, I was totally petrified and once I started hacking with the picks, it immediately sent blocks of ice onto my face, resulting in a bloody upper lip. After very slowly working my way up, and thinking about how wounded my pride would be if I asked to be hauled the rest of way, I spent the remainder of the few days drinking a lot of hot chocolate with schnapps and collecting all the free things I could find. Facial injuries and petrifying fear aside, I would absolutely go back and recommend it to anyone trying to experience ice climbing for the first time- you can rent gear.
FF: I think there’s actually a lot of space right now for exactly that type of voice–that’s where the “Weekend Warrior” term popped up, right? I grew up with a Weekend Warrior dad–my dad grew up climbing in Yosemite Valley and knew early on that he wasn’t going to be the dirtbag type who lived and breathed climbing–he needed more intellectual stimulation and craved other forms of accomplishment and success in life. So it was sort of instilled in me young that it was possible, and I STILL struggle finding the balance. All too often I go seven, eight months, even a year without being in the mountains. It sucks. What’s your best trick for making sure you get out there?
AB: Honestly, I’m pretty lucky. Ever since I moved to the southeast my bosses have been incredibly supportive of my drive to be outside so I’ve been able to designate one day a week to driving to Chattanooga or Horse Pens 40 in Alabama. Aside from that I’ve got a handful of pretty consistently stoked climbing partners. On the weekends I’ve now managed to collect a group of really amazing lady crushers to go wrestle pebbles and for bigger trips my boyfriend always has some destination in mind (how I’ve ended up in a lot of places). Essentially, no matter what the situation I’ve always got someone to play on rocks with, I don’t really care where I just care that I have some really incredible people to spend that time with, away from the stress of work and class and dishes.
FF: Is your mom still climbing? Have you two gone on any trips together?
AB: She is! The few times I go back up to Maryland we almost always go to my home gym but other than that for the past three years we’ve met up at the New River Gorge for the Craggin Classic- one of my favorite climbing events of the year!
FF: Any upcoming trips?
AB: A lot of things that are sort of up in the air. I’m trying to convince my mom and boyfriend to go to Indian Creek for Thanksgiving, but if that doesn’t work out I might head over to Hueco Tanks with some of my favorite ladies (and their lovely menfolk). There’s been talk of an Idaho trip, and I’d probably cry my head off if I managed to get myself to the Flash Foxy Women’s Climbing Festival in Bishop. Basically I’m going to dream big and keep saving up my tip money and then figure it out. Until then, night bouldering in an attempt to hide from the humidity.