Ava Hearn: Climbing pushes up her confidence level

Ava Hearn climbing basalt columns.

Age: 22
Year at CHC: Senior
Major: Neuroscience
Hometown: Ashland, Ore.

Ava Hearn embraces her fears through outdoor climbing. It started out as a way to spend time with her older sister. Now, she uses it to push herself out of her comfort zone and develop confidence. Hearn’s first outdoor climb was at Eagle’s Rest, a popular destination near Eugene. It was higher and harder than anything she had climbed before. But with her friends’ encouragement, she reached the top. Once she overcame her fear, she was hooked. She continues to challenge herself through the difficulty and risk of outdoor climbing.

The history: “I used to take the public bus for an hour to get to the climbing gym. I had done soccer growing up, but your safety’s at risk when you climb in a very different way than … when you’re running or playing soccer, and there are a lot more mental barriers to get over compared to other sports. It wasn’t until I started at UO that I started regularly climbing more. I feel lucky to have people who were willing to teach me. A lot of times you need a mentor to walk you through it. Outdoor climbing really gets me so jazzed. I think bouldering’s fun, but it’s the adrenaline of being able to go outside that gets me really excited about the sport.”

Favorite moment: “The first time I did Smith Rock was really exciting, because it was the first time I did outdoor lead climbing, and going to Smith is something I always wanted to do. More recently though, when I was in Ecuador I went to a climbing gym and there was only one other exchange student with me, so I really didn’t know anyone. I met this guy that was on the climbing team there, and I got to go outdoors with him. It was really cool because it showcased how strong the climbing community is and how much it’s taking off across the world. In that moment, too, it made me recognize the value in a sport that has such kind, accepting community to it.”

How it helps with school: “Burnout is super real and I think that when you’re surrounded by a bunch of high achieving, academic people it can be really easy to fall into a grind culture and feel really competitive. You always want to be one-upping the people around you. I try to prioritize being a well-rounded person. I love school, but I also want to make time to focus on other things that bring me joy.”

- Story and photo by Ilka Sankari, Clark Honors College Communications