Handsome Profiles

Feb 6, 2014

Rock Climber
Chuquicamata, Chile

Maca Mora lives to climb. Her fascination began ten years ago when she started working in ecotourism in her home country of Chile. Since then, she’s climbed her way across some pretty impressive pieces of rock in Australia, New Zealand, China, Nepal, India, and Thailand.

I caught up with Maca in the hills of Chiang Rai, Thailand, where we were both taking a 12-day Thai massage course. She talked about the parallels between the two uses of the body.

“Posture is important for preventing injury,” she says.

It’s almost laughable to compare the foreseeable risks of each activity. Approach your client at the wrong angle and you might wind up with undue tension in your lower back. Approach the next boulder at the wrong angle and you could die.

“I have lost many friends,” she tells me very matter-of-factly.

Rock climbing is not for the faint of heart. Maca’s most daring climb, her favorite, was the totem pole in Tasmania. One look at that and I know exactly how serious this lady is about her rocks.

Maca tells me that there are some preventive measures that climbers can take to protect their hands. Tape acts as an extra layer of skin. This is welcome support for even the most callused hands, especially when working on sandstone. Climbers can also use chalk for absorbing moisture to create a confident grip and to avoid a fall. Falling can mean grasping for rock, which tends to be pretty unforgiving and often scrapes calluses right off. This leaves a bloody mess and no natural defense for the next climb.

Maca’s worst injury left her with a broken coccyx. She was on bed rest for one month. To keep her hands busy, she took up a serious knitting habit. The injury didn’t keep her down, but instead had the benefit of making her face her own limits.

“You must try challenges you know you cannot do. It is the only way to know what you can do.”

The sport has become a sort of meditation for Maca. She has faced plenty of personal challenges in the last ten years, but they’ve only served to improve her abilities. Her mentality has become so strong that she claims she can control whether and where she will fall.

“There are some places where I know I cannot fall, and so I don’t fall there.” Instead, she falls where she knows she can afford to, sometimes to avoid a later fall that might have had dire consequences.

It had been ten days since her last climb when I photographed Maca. The skin on her hands has relieved itself of active duty. Her next climb will be a painful one. Even so, she will climb because she must.