“I had the rare and talented ability to epic on almost anything,” she says of her early days.
brother to the Sportrock Climbing Center in Rockville. While he was unenthused, Miranda took to it immediately. She joined the Sportrock climbing team, and started working at the gym when she was 17 so she could afford the membership. She mostly bouldered and toproped, breaking into 5.10 and V3. Although she placed third in one comp, Miranda never got competitive. For her, climbing was “just for fun.”
MIRANDA LEFT HOME in 2002 for St. Mary’s College of Maryland, where she and I met as two of the only climbers on campus. When she chose St. Mary’s, which was hours from the nearest decent rock, climbing was still a peripheral activity for her. Still, Miranda’s interest in the sport only grew, and she took weekend trips to nearby areas like Coopers Rock and Franklin in West Virginia, Annapolis Rocks and Carderock in Maryland, and Virginia’s Great Falls. Occasionally, she would scrounge up some friends for the eight-hour push to the New River Gorge.
She started a school-sanctioned climbing club, and shortly thereafter, studied abroad in Granada, Spain, pursuing an interest in the Moorish and Spanish culture in Andalucia. In Granada, Miranda blossomed as a climber, frequenting the numerous limestone crags surrounding the city. She began leading sport climbs, and sent her first 5.12 that same semester.
I HAVE A DISTINCT MEMORY of Miranda, bent over a pot of rice next to a desolate gas station in Kansas, siphoning electricity to make a meager dinner for us on our way out west. It was May 2006, Miranda had just graduated (I still had another year), and we were beelining it from Maryland to Yosemite, where Miranda was hoping to land a job. After three years in school together, we were good friends and climbing partners.
“I had, like, $13 in my bank account,” Miranda recalls. “I had a crashpad, rope, draws, a harness, and some clothes. That was it. I had never even touched a cam.”
She found a job that first summer in the high country, washing dishes and cleaning bathrooms at the Tuolumne Lodge. In spite of the drudge work, Miranda was hooked on Yosemite. She came back again the next summer, and then again. In her third season, she started trad climbing. “I had the rare and talented ability to epic on almost anything,” she says of her early days.
She and her friend Mauricio Salmerón took 30 hours to climb the Red Dihedral (5.10) on her first trip to the Sierras’ Incredible Hulk in 2008. Having planned a casual car-to-car day, they instead climbed slower than expected, got lost on the descent, and left half their rack behind as they bailed down the wrong gully. On another occasion, on what is many climbers’ first long Valley route— Royal Arches (5.10b or 5.7 C1)—she was in a party of five, and they were rappelling until 2 a.m. Six years later, she would be guiding the 16-pitch route in cruiser half-day outings.
In the off-season, Miranda climbed in the Valley or Indian Creek, collecting unemployment to afford food and gas. Twice she travelled to China to work as a climbing guide in Yangshuo. She climbed as much as she could afford, stretching her funds until the start of the next season.
IN 2010, I made my annual pilgrimage to Yosemite to visit Miranda. We had been climbing partners
OAKLEY GAZES AT SPRING LAKE WALL IN SEQUOIA NATIONAL PARK, CALIFORNIA.
OAKLEY ON A CASUAL LEAD OF INDIAN CREEK’S POLYGRIP (5.11+).