Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Guide Like Liz Scholarship Winner: Vladka Behrova

Vladka Behrova is one of American Alpine Institute’s inspiring and motivated Guide Like Liz Scholarship winners for 2018. Her background, her future goals and what the outdoors mean to her are all extraordinary and it is my pleasure to share them with you!

Vladka grew up in Czechoslovakia and started climbing after “a magical date with this guy from the mountains”.

“This guy wanted me to see the night sky because I love the stars, but it was raining so he took me to this super tall building,” Vladka explained. “I was curious.” She followed him up a ladder into a dark room. He turned to her: “stay here”. He walked away and then suddenly the lights came on, but only the lights behind a climbing wall. “He had turned on the night sky,” Vladka said. The lights shone through the bolt holes and that night Vladka started climbing. “It was a really fun way to be introduced to climbing,” Vladka laughed.

Vladka practicing placing gear in Leavenworth. 

A month after that magical date, she went climbing outside and was instantly hooked. She climbed in the Czech Republic and used knots for protection. “I moved to bolts and draws later, but I had no idea what cams where back then,” she giggled.

A year later, Vladka was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer. “Doctors had no treatment for me in Slovakia so I decided to search for treatment on my own.” In the meantime, she kept climbing.

“You can’t really plan on when you are going to have a terminal illness...climbing took my thoughts away from thinking, ‘I am going to die tomorrow’. The only way I could keep fighting and face the truth was climbing.”

Vladka climbing Cunning Stunt at Index.

Vladka started to approach life like she did a climb, being more present and focusing on day to day like focusing on a hard route, bolt to bolt. She experienced excruciating pain, but she tried her best to be healthy, stay active and meditate.

“I found treatment in the US,” Vladka said thankfully. “It was very lucky how I ended up in the US too. While in college, I worked in a climbing shop and a good friend offered me a job in Alaska and long story short, here I am...I have to thank many people for this journey who lent me the money to come here. I was poor as a mouse.”

Since moving to Seattle in 2008 and getting treatment, Vladka has pursued many other outdoor endeavors and her pain has subsided for the most part. She still feels unpredictable pain doing activities at times, but she said, “I just override the pain with different methods and enjoy my time.” She has climbed all over Washington, in Squamish, Utah, and Oregon and has summitted Mt. Adams, Mt. Saint Helens and summitted Mt. Rainer then skied down. She is earning her bachelor degree in logistics now and loves skiing, surfing and playing with her dog, Roxi.

Climbing in Mazama. 
When we talked about her long-term goals and what her vision is for using the scholarship towards the Alpine Mountaineering and Technical Leadership Part 1 course, Vladka explained, “the climbing and mountain culture back home was not very supportive to me as a woman. You had to be very man-like in the climbing community. I was looked down as a young woman because I hung out with the climbers. Even the girls were not friendly and were competitive and bossy to each other. They were territorial. 

Skiing Mount St. Helens in 2018.
“I do not know if the culture or community has changed back home. But I would love to show ladies in Slovakia and the Czech Republic what they can do. My dream is to help more women who are eager to go into the mountains. I think education is very important. I would love to help educate women through courses and teach them how to be confident in themselves. Being in the mountains can do that in a special way.”

Congratulations, Vladka! We are honored to be a part of your inspiring journey. Keep crushing!

Vladka and "her one and only", Roxi.
All photos provided by Vladka Behrova.

--Sara Jung, AAI Vocational School Certifying Officer and Guide

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