Madaleine Sorkin is a leading big wall free climber in North America and an AMGA Certified Rock Guide. She has made several first or early ascents of 5.12/5.13 Grade VI (multi-day) climbs, often in female teams and in remote areas.
At 15, Madaleine was introduced to climbing long routes through an adventure camp in Colorado. She and another camper were guided up their first multi-pitch climb on a 14er (The Prow on Kit Carson Peak). From the butterflies in her stomach the night before, to seeing daybreak in an undisturbed landscape, to exploring a small spire and naming it Macaroni and Cheese, to the sublime exhaustion by the end of the day, it was the range of experiences that drew Madaleine into the art of climbing and exposed her to the value of the guiding profession. Madaleine began guiding at age 20 and instructed at teen adventure programs (Outpost Wilderness Adventure: Women’s Wilderness Institute), a therapeutic high school, and Aspen Expeditions. She completed the AMGA Rock Guide course in 2005.
Big wall free climbing ambitions and professional sponsorships took priority over guiding after she freed her first wall in 2006 (Moonlight Buttress, Grade V, 5.12+, Zion, first female team free ascent). Her career highs include a free ascent of the most difficult route in the Black Canyon of Colorado (Hallucinogen Wall, Grade VI, 5.13R): free ascents of El Capitan in Yosemite (El Corazon, Grade VI, 5.13, and Freerider, Grade VI, 5.12+): difficult first free ascents in remote areas (The Original Route on Mt Proboscis in NW Territories of Canada, Grade V, 5.12; La Fiamma on the Russian Tower in the Ak su Valley of Kyrgyzstan, Grade V, 5.12c R).
Looking back at any achievement, Madaleine notes how attainable a goal becomes once able to understand how to work with the doubts and other emotions that arise while staying committed to the climb. She further adds that those climbs that she didn’t completely free (e.g. Premuir on El Capitan, Grade VI, 5.13+) have at times provided even more experiential depth to understanding why she climbs. At the heart of her climbing is the need for as much time as possible outside and a passion for the partnerships, inspirations, struggle, and humor that make the pursuit meaningful.