Queen of the Mountain

This Spanish phenom is one of the world's best sport climbers—male or female

Josune Bereziartu     Photo: Laurent de Senarclens

Josune Bereziartu, 34, is the only woman to have climbed 5.15—no other has climbed above a 5.14b. But as the San Sebastián, Spain, insurance saleswoman explains, climbing success is about more than training hard. It's about finding balance off the rock as well.

Outside: Was it a surprise to climb Switzerland's Bimbaluna? That's the hardest route ever done by a woman—and most men.
Bereziartu: No, it was an evolution. The route is technical, with small holds, and the foot placements are really bad. Knowing that, I tailored all of my training around this climb.

What's your training like?
I train five days in a row for up to seven hours. But it's more important how many moves you do. I do more than 1,000 moves a day.

How do you mentally prepare for big climbs?
I prepare by doing a lot of warm-up climbs beforehand, to prove to myself that I am doing well. But I also practice yoga and breathing work, to try to be very calm, because naturally I get very nervous and excited.

What is your next big challenge?
I am very motivated to climb routes onsight [making an ascent on the first try with no previous knowledge of the route]. For me, it's the most difficult style of climbing, because you have only one opportunity. You have no information. If you make one mistake, you fall.

What is your advice for women who want to climb better?
Don't get intimidated. As women, we tend to think we're not good enough, out of shyness. But just go and climb—with daring.

What's your biggest fear: falling or failing?
Neither. I'm most afraid of being consumed by the sport and not realizing all the good things in life—family, friends, my job. When you get older, you realize that climbing is not everything.

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