A League of Her Own


Climbing - - THE CLIMB PORTRAIT - By Chris Kal­man

AU­GUST 5, 2016. Yosemite Val­ley, Cal­i­for­nia. The ther­mome­ter pushes triple dig­its. The so­lar oven of El Cap­i­tan ra­di­ates sun­shine while a small dot races up the Nose (VI 5.9 C2), pass­ing Texas Flake, cruis­ing the Boot, nail­ing the King Swing, and head­ing through the Gray Bands. Up a pitch, down the same pitch, then back up again, the soloist cov­ers three times the ver­ti­cal ter­rain a part­nered climber would.

Au­gust 6, 2016. Fort Collins, Colorado. I scan Face­book. The glow­ing screen of­fers the typ­i­cal scroll­bait. Then, a post from Ge­orge Oakley, the fa­ther of my col­lege buddy Mi­randa Oakley: “I just found out that Mi­randa did a solo climb of El Cap in 21 hours, 50 min­utes. This broke her old time of just un­der 27. Way to go, Mi­randa. I hope you don’t have to work to­day.”

For the past 27 years, Val­ley speed climbers have ropesoloed the Nose in a day, but no fe­male had bro­ken the 24hour mark, de­spite at­tempts by vet­er­ans Jes Meiris, Josie McKee, and Chantel As­torga. Un­til Mi­randa.

ON JUNE 21, 1984, Mi­randa Negla Oakley was born to mother, Ar­ju­nia, a spe­cial ed teacher and Pales­tinian im­mi­grant to the United States, and fa­ther, Ge­orge, a mu­sic teacher and Amer­i­can. Liv­ing in Mary­land, the cou­ple had al­ways en­gaged in so­cial jus­tice is­sues, and that didn’t stop with the ar­rival of their first child.

“Mi­randa went to her first anti- war rally be­fore she could walk,” says Ar­ju­nia, who is now an Amer­i­can cit­i­zen. “And I took her with me to meet­ings of the Pales­tine Aid So­ci­ety, [ which pro­vides] hu­man­i­tar­ian aid for Pales­tini­ans.”

For mid­dle and high school, Mi­randa at­tended a Quaker Friends School, where she learned the fun­da­men­tal tenets of Quak­erism: paci­fism and com­pas­sion. Her par­ents wanted to in­still strong val­ues in Mi­randa. “If you can say that Quak­ers had a dogma, it would be, ‘Live sim­ply so that oth­ers may sim­ply live,’” Ar­ju­nia ex­plains.

In 1999, Ar­ju­nia took Mi­randa and her younger

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