Due to the pandemic shutting down indoor climbing competitions in 2020, the 2021 climbing season was the biggest of 18-year-old Quinn Mason’s career so far, but as 2022 beckons, the climbing prodigy and Seattleite has her hopes set on even bigger goals.
She kicked off the climbing season with the National Team Trials invitational in March and finished with several significant wins, including first place in lead climbing at the USA Climbing YETI National Championships in November and first Female Jr. Lead at the Youth Nationals in July.
In August, she also competed in her first World Cup in Slovenia and first Senior World Championship in Russia.
After starting on this path at 8 years old, the continued pandemic isn’t slowing her down either. In July 2020, the five-time National Youth Climbing Team member relocated to Salt Lake City to train with the U.S. National Team and work with Josh Larson, the head coach for Team USA. Now, she has her sights set on the 2024 Paris Olympics.
“Quinn was one athlete that I noticed five years ago because of her movement and flow on the wall at such a young age,” said Larson. “When she moved to SLC, I was excited to have the opportunity to work with her.”
This coming March, Mason will compete in the National Team Trials, the results of which will decide the 2022 U.S. National Team. In the summer, she will compete in the Youth Nationals and the Youth World Championships, which will be held in the U.S. for the first time.
Mason has her parents to thank for the introduction to the sport. Climbers themselves, they would take Mason and her sister to the climbing gym when they were little. While their parents climbed, the girls would run around and play.
Eventually, Mason began practicing with the Vertical World climbing team. Vertical World has produced dozens of national team members for USA Climbing, a team with five National Championship wins under its belt.
Mason’s original and longtime coach, Tyson Schoene, has run the program at Vertical World for 20 years and is one of the best climbing coaches in the country. Mason began competing at his encouragement, entering her first nationals at age 8. She was the second youngest competitor by a month.
“At a very early age she showed talent, but more to the point she never gave up on things,” said Schoene. “If she was struggling with certain moves or climbs, she would just keep trying until she got it or had to go home.”
Over the years she has been able to apply skills from climbing — working hard, improving and learning from mistakes — to all aspects of her life.
When she began competing in the adult circuit, she started traveling alone, gaining independence as she was pushed outside her comfort zone.
“As I progress in the sport I become more assured of who I am as a person, in terms of self confidence,” she said. “I went from being a shy kid who didn’t like to go up to anyone and now I’m happy to go up to anyone in the gym.”
Both Schoene and Larson recognize a leader in the young athlete.
At 15, Mason began coaching with Vertical World, wanting to work with younger team members.
“Many of our current young stars have Quinn to thank for their motivation,” said Schoene. “She would come up with drills that hit on things she saw in her own climbing at a young age and put together presentations for the young girls on the team about things for them to think about.
Mason continues to seek out ways she can help other climbers in Salt Lake City as well. She has helped coach a few younger climbers there and enthusiastically jumped in to set routes for a climbing camp when Larson asked.
These days, most of her life revolves around competition and training. Currently, Mason trains two days on, one day off, alternating between double sessions of two to three hours each and one longer workout ranging between four and six hours.
For years, she balanced school with climbing and competition, but took advantage of COVID-19 forcing students out of classrooms and switched to a fully online school program.
She fits in school when she can and finds that the strict routine helps her productivity. “It’s been cool to learn how to balance not just school, but also how to make time for other activities in my life,” she said. “It makes downtime even more special.”
Going to college is definitely a goal for Mason, but she’s decided to focus on climbing and other activities for the moment.
“I have a lot of interests right now and I am lucky to be in a position where I can pursue professional climbing and have parents who are supportive of my decision.”
One passion is clothing design, and thanks to her sponsorship with Seattle-based Outdoor Research, she’s had the opportunity to dabble in the field.
The relationship began after Mason spoke about the future of climbing at a fundraiser for the Access Fund. She caught the attention of board member and retired OR owner and CEO Dan Nordstrom, who later approached her about working together.
“Working with Outdoor Research helped me realize that maybe I don’t need to go to school right away,” she said.
During her partnership with OR, Mason has designed a bucket hat, already releasing two models in the two years she’s worked with them.
“Clothing design is something I’ve always been interested in, but I didn’t realize how much I liked it,” she said. “It’s been super fun to work with them as a brand on my creative side.”
Whether she’s on the wall, designing clothing, or studying, Mason’s commitment to her practice has resulted in her impressive accomplishments. As she grows more confident and skilled, that work ethic and passion for her craft will undoubtedly motivate her to continue to push her limits as she aims for bigger goals.
“Her work ethic is undoubtedly something I noticed,” said Larson. “Quinn stands out. She loves to help people. She’s creative and she pushes herself every single day to be a better human.”