Girl Scout and Paraclimbing World Champion
Maureen Beck grew up in Maine scrambling and playing in the dirt. She did her first roped up climb at age 12 at Girl Scout Camp Natarswi. Born without a left hand and forearm, Maureen says when something feels ‘impossible,’ she just keeps trying.
The climb featured in this photo, Maureen describes as her first ‘hard’ climb.
“That was the first ‘hard’ climb that I ever did, where the first time I tried it, it felt impossible;” she says, “but I didn’t give up, kept trying, and with the support of friends I was able to get to the top!”
The support of friends is something she credits for a lot of her success.
“Keeping a circle of friends that believes in me more than I believe in myself has contributed to my success,” she says. “And when I fail, they encourage me to get right back after it.”
She has had plenty of opportunities to get right back after it throughout her career. As a competitive climber, she has won five national titles, a gold medal at the 2014 Paraclimbing World Championships in Spain, and defended that title with a gold medal at the 2016 World Championships in Paris. In 2017, Maureen became the chair of the USAC Paraclimbing Committee. After an expedition to the Northwest Territories Cirque of the Unclimbables, she was named one of National Geographic’s 2019 Adventurers of the Year.
Maureen, who lives in Boulder, equates taking the lead with taking risks, even if it’s scary.
“Don’t be afraid to go first,” she says is her advice to girls and women. “I hear from a lot of people who didn’t know they could climb because they didn’t see anyone who looked like them (with a physical disability), so they didn’t know that it was an option.
“Representation is amazing, but someone needs to take the plunge first – it can be weird, awkward and scary, but let it be you to lead the way!”
Maureen went back to that same Girl Scout camp where she first climbed to work as a camp counselor and says that experience helped to shape who she is.
“I couldn’t possibly pick a single favorite memory, but I do think that spending all summer under the stars, on the flanks of the greatest mountain in Maine, helped grow my strength and confidence in a way I wouldn’t have known otherwise,” she says.