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On a chilly spring evening in early April, Amity Warme and Brent Barghahn scrambled onto the summit of El Capitan, exhausted and overjoyed. They had just topped out Freerider (VI 5.13a; 32 pitches) in a truly enviable style: In a little over 18 hours, without support, rap rehearsal, or stashed gear, they both free climbed the route, making Warme only the fifth woman to free the Big Stone in a day, and likely the first to do so in this self-reliant style.
Maybe you’ve seen Warme before. She has rippled, wide shoulders and even wider eyes—and constantly strives to climb in a pure, ground-up style. For the second spring season in a row she’s turned heads in the Valley, with ticks of El Corazon (5.13b; 32 pitches), Mark of the Beast (5.13b; six pitches), Cosmic Debris (5.13b), Border Country (5.12c), America’s Cup (5.12b), and Steck-Salathé (5.10; 15 pitches) before taking down the Freerider in a day with Barghahn.
On the afternoon of April 9, just hours before they were set to start up the route at midnight, Barghahn was in his tent, making final preparations and trying to get some sleep. He’d spent hours brainstorming ways the team could move fast without compromising safety, including toprope soloing certain pitches, and simul-climbing with progress capture devices. He later wrote about this meticulous preparation: every calorie, piece of gear, and article of clothing was refined to a tee.
Warme, meanwhile, was out climbing.
“Amity doesn’t seem to take rest days,” Barghahn said with a small laugh. “That’s probably the biggest influence on her impressive ticklist. The day before [the Freerider], she went and did a photoshoot on Mark of the Beast. It wasn’t a concern to her to go reclimb some of the hardest pitches literally 8-10 hours before we were going to take off.”
Barghahn had tried Freerider in a day back in November of 2021, but Warme, who climbed it big-wall style the year before, had serious doubts about her success. “She was unsure from the beginning, but it didn’t stop her from going all in every pitch. She was just refusing to let go of the holds,” Barghahn said.
The mood remained lighthearted throughout the climb, and though each climber fell off the infamous Boulder Problem crux pitch, both managed to send within 45 minutes of “sky-cragging.” They topped out at 6:18 p.m.
“I think I wanted it for him more than I wanted it for me,” Warme said, a trademark grin lighting up her face. “I wanted to rise to the challenge to make his dream come true, and making that happen, seeing how important that was to him, that was a huge honor.”
As we sat talking in Loveland’s sunbathed FeelLove Coffee, it became clear that, like Freerider in a day, Warme has always sought out lofty and demanding goals. She dedicated 11 years to competitive gymnastics while growing up in Loveland, quitting only after fracturing her back during her junior year of high school.
“The end of gymnastics was abrupt and unexpected,” Warme said. “That was my entire world for 11 years. It felt like I lost my sense of identity; I didn’t know who I was without gymnastics.”
Although her gym encouraged healthy eating habits, Warme believes that nutritional deficiencies, not poor technique or bad luck, caused her career-ending injuries. “I was definitely underfueling, but unintentionally. I just didn’t realize how much fuel my body needed.”
Warme’s experience in gymnastics, and new-found interest in nutrition, led her to study exercise physiology at Baylor University in Texas. She began working at the climbing wall on campus, and it was there that she met Connor, a kind and thoughtful coworker. The two hit it off at a basketball game with a group of friends, and Amity convinced Connor to take a dance class with her, despite the fact that “neither of us can dance … at all.” They began climbing together on Enchanted Rock’s pink granite shortly after.
“We like to say it was love at first sight … with the climbing!” Amity said with a laugh. She described a night in which she and Connor were sitting on a large rock formation watching the sun set. As the two sat talking after a long day of climbing, surrounded by cacti and the Texas desert silence, they realized they were falling in love. Connor and Amity married two years later.
At the end of 2017, the Warmes built out a van and spent a year traveling and climbing before Amity went back to school to pursue an M.S. in sports nutrition. Now loosely based in Loveland, she splits her time between climbing and studying as she finishes supervised practice hours for a dietetic internship, the last step before she becomes a registered dietician. She hopes to one day have her own practice catering specifically to climbers.
Warme’s main goal is to combat the idea that a low body weight is the secret to climbing hard. In her blog post about Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport (RED-S), Warme writes about how many athletes prioritize leanness at the expense of their long-term health. She wants to teach people that progress comes through eating properly and focusing on a variety of training techniques. Calorie restriction, she says, isn’t the only answer.
“It’s really easy to latch on to things like, ‘if I lose five pounds, my project will be easier,’ or, ‘if I don’t eat that cookie, I’ll be able to send tomorrow,’” Warme says. “It’s easy to perseverate on these quick-fix ideas, but in the end that does a major disservice to your long-term health and progression as a climber. Fixating on weight can become a chronic, years-long energy deficit that will end up hurting both performance and health.”
Warme says establishing her own practice will take some time, so for now she’s focusing on balancing her studies with climbing. She plans to do group and individual nutrition counseling for the next few years, working remotely so she can continue pursuing her climbing career. Warme, along with many others, is eager to see what she is capable of achieving as an athlete.
“I have a lot to learn from bouldering and hard sport climbing in terms of power, but I love trad climbing and the mega adventures it enables,” Warme said. She looks forward to challenging herself in every discipline, but her main climbing goals center around big walls and alpine expeditions.
“Amity embraces tenacity,” Connor Warme wrote to me. “When she’s on the go, she never gives up. Too pumped? Fatigued from the massive adventure? Scared of the whip? Questing above sketchy gear? Any of us mere mortals (myself included) would mail it in, folding under the pressure. Amity, meanwhile, embraces those moments, wholly undeterred. She presses on, flirting with failure, emptying the tank and refusing to let go. I’ve seen more than a few sends that can only be explained by sheer willpower.”
Chloe Anderson is currently studying film and media production and journalism at the University of Kansas. She plans to pursue a photojournalism career in the outdoor industry (and move out of Kansas) after graduating in December.