Professional mixed climber Dawn Glanc is the quintessential Midwest child turned-
professional athlete. She grew up in suburban Ohio, where softball and rollerskating were
her primary pastimes and mountains not yet a part of her worldview. When a 13day
motorcycle tour with her dad introduced her to Colorado, Montana and Wyoming as a 20
year old, Glanc took a medium sized step towards living in the mountains that had
captivated her upon their first meeting. She landed in South Dakota for college, where a
new friend took her climbing mere days after she arrived. She was hooked, and began
pursuing a climbing career with everything she had. 20 years later, she’s one of the best
female mixed climbers in the world, and is working on a new film, Mixtress, that intends to
highlight the immense leaps made by North American women in the mixed climbing
world. The trailer for Mixtress will be shown at this year’s Ice Fest, where Glanc will be
speaking and instructing.
On her childhood:
Growing up, I was always doing things I shouldn’t have been doing. That being said, I
think when I found climbing, it was the thing that I was seeking — I was seeking
adventure, I was seeking being on the edge, being 100 percent focused on something
and not getting in trouble for it. It was a more positive thing to do than all the other stuff I
was goofing around with when I was a kid. So I think climbing was the thing that I had
never experienced — an activity where you have to use all of your brain and all of your
body and all of your focus to do it.
On her first taste of climbing:
I moved to South Dakota in 1996 to go to college at Black Hills State, and within my first
week I met Mike Niebuhr, who worked at the local climbing shop. We went climbing, and
he showed me what sport climbing was because I’d never seen that, I had only toproped.
He gave me gear and showed me what I needed for gear. That same winter, the same
guy said ‘hey Dawn, we’re going ice climbing.’ And I was like ‘yeah I’ll go climbing.’ And it
was awesome, I loved it the very first time I’d ever done it. So I have been climbing both
rock and ice since 1996.
On growing up in suburban Ohio:
I didn’t really have many outlets as a girl in Ohio. The only mountains I’d ever seen were
on TV or the Appalachians, and no offense to the people in the Appalachians, they are
mountains, but they aren’t comparable to the Rockies and the Alps and the Sierras.
I grew up seeing this stuff on TV. And it never occurred to me that somebody would go
climbing, it never occurred to me that someone would want to stand on top of a mountain.
I’m from a suburb in Ohio, and no one in my family really did anything outdoors other than
a truck club we were in as a family where we would go out in a four wheel drive truck. We
didn’t go on family hiking or backpacking trips, and it really wouldn’t have occurred to
anyone to carry a backpack and go hiking. So when I first moved to the mountains when I
was 20, I figured I was leaving, this is where I needed to be.’
On moving away from Ohio:
Once I came to South Dakota, my world was so opened in such a way that I’d never
seen. I saw people who were 40 years old riding bicycles — I’d never seen that in Ohio.
I’d never seen an adult ride a bicycle without a child nearby. I didn’t see adults jogging,
and all this stuff that I saw in South Dakota just blew me away, and the more I got
involved with this stuff the more I just needed to be involved with it. I immersed myself in
the situation and didn’t allow myself to deviate from this path. I wanted to be a climber, so
I wasn’t going to spend my time playing tennis. I wanted to climb. And then I wanted to be
a guide, so I wasn’t going to take a job where I wasn’t guiding. I just kept going in that
On finding inspiration:
I get jealous when people do cool stuff around me. I don’t really read magazines for that
reason. If I met someone that said “I’m going to India tomorrow to go do this ice climb!” I’d be like ‘ooh I want to go to India!’ So my inspiration does come from everyone around me, but it’s also making these choices to never deviate from this path.
Advice to new climbers:
Take some sort of course with a professional instructor. Your learning curve is going to be
so fast, and you’ll learn the right things and techniques right away. You’re not going to
learn some of this bullshit urban legend stuff and things that you “have to do” but which
are nonsensical or perhaps even unsafe. If you take a course, right away you will feel
empowered and you’ll have the knowledge to be able to do this stuff and you won’t have
to rely on people as much. You’ll have something that you want to do, and you’ll be able
to do it because you won’t be relying on others other than to belay you. With all this
equipment and all that we do and all the knowledge and engineering that goes into this
stuff, you really want a professional to teach you. And if you’re a woman, there is so much
opportunity for you to learn how to ice climb right now.
On climbing in Munising:
When it’s cold your strategy has to change because the ice is changing. I think Munising
is a good place to prepare you for other crazier and bigger places. Here in Colorado you
can ice climb when it’s 40 degrees and sunny and wear a softshell jacket. Then if you go
to Munising and you have dull tools and a Colorado lightweight jacket on, you’d freeze
your ass off and probably never get off the ground because your tools wouldn’t penetrate
the ice. It’s a pretty cool place.
On her new film, Mixtress:
Mixtress is a film about North American female mixed climbers. There’s been some real
progress that’s happened over the last ten years in mixed climbing in terms of the
standards of routes that have gone up in North America, and what women have done in
the last five years has been incredible. The grade has been pushed so quickly. It’s pretty
incredible. When I went to Munising to help shoot the Michigan Ice Film, I was thinking about other film ideas since I’d always wanted to make one. And I was never inspired by the right idea. And then it came to me that there were all these great things happening in the mixed climbing world by women. And you weren’t hearing about it or reading about it,
most people didn’t a.) know what mixed climbing even was or b.) know that these women
were fricking crushing it. The only ones you see in the news are the male athletes, over
and over, even though women are doing all these amazing things. So I was sick of it, and
I figured that if I don’t tell this story, if we don’t tell this story, then no one will. And I have
so much passion for mixed climbing that I don’t expect anyone else to com along and
have that much passion and want to tell this story, so that’s where this comes from.
Plus, the ladies in the film are super inspiring and I love them all. I just wanted to tell their
story and hang out with them. This is my excuse to get to go climbing with them.
On her goals in creating this film:
My goal is to inspire people to go climbing, to try this crazy sport of mixed climbing.
Everyone needs a hobby, everyone needs something that helps to relieve stress and get
away from whatever it is that you need to get away from. Climbing is a healthy, positive
way to do that. I think that when you go climbing, you learn so much about yourself,
become connected to the environment and you have to relate to people — you can’t text
message your partner, you have to be present with each other. Females are also kind of
the head of household, so if they find ice climbing to be important within their own
household and their lives, then that spreads — that spreads to their kids, their husbands,
Glanc will be joined in her new film by professional climbers Jen Olson, Sarah Hueniken
and Kendra Stritch. As of now, Glanc and the rest of the Mixtress team have raised nearly
$15,000 for their film, with a goal of $30,000 by March to assist in production costs. Glanc
plans to show the trailer for the film at the 2016 Michigan Ice Fest, while the entire short
film will be finalized by May.
Amanda Monthei is a freelance writer and an employee at Down Wind Sports in Marquette, Michigan. Whether by writing or selling gear, she enjoys making action sports more accessible for those who wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity or desire to try them. More of her writing can be found at www.amandamonthei.com.