Introducing Tanager, a climber with just one name and a ton of adventure packed into her young life thus far. She came up to Cleveland after spending the fall season sport climbing in the Red River Gorge in Kentucky to visit her Grandma here in Ohio for the holidays. As a way to fund her climbing, she is incorporating work as a guest setter wherever possible. She also works remotely as a translator and copyeditor. We at Climb Cleveland were thrilled when her call came in and she helped us set new orange and purple routes this month.

What follows is a gallery of photos from her setting session, along with a short bio based on a discussion I had with her.

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Tanager has always been at home in wilderness. She’s originally from Southern Oregon, where she was born in the woods in a one-room cabin without electricity or running water. The nearest town was Ashland, where she grew up. She started climbing at nine years of age, when her dad took her to a music festival at Mt. Shasta, CA. ­­There was a portable climbing wall, hauled behind a semi-truck. “I had so much fun, and was so proud to have climbed up to the top on all sides!” she recalls. Her dad saw how much she enjoyed the climbing experience, and took her to Joshua Tree that winter where she learned to climb slab and cracks, belay, and rappel. 

Three years later, at 12 years old, Tanager discovered a new gym being constructed in her hometown, and became one of the first kids in a local program for kids from low income families. She climbed twice a week at first, and swiftly dove deeper, climbing four days out of seven for the next several years. She competed from age 12-14 in the ABS circuits. She says she didn’t climb much in high school, or for the first three years after college.

Tanager is well-educated. She has a bachelor’s degree from Willamette University in Salem, OR. She later earned a Master’s Degree in Intercultural Conflict Management from a school in Berlin, Germany. Living abroad from 2012 through 2017, she’s been on the move for quite awhile. She returned to climbing and setting in 2016 and was soon organizing her life around the activity. Her recent growth as a climber came during her time in Turkey, where she spent over a year and reportedly “found her way”.

“It’s beautiful there [Turkey], a really great place to climb and travel. The cost of living is low, I didn’t have to work [as a translator] a lot to be comfortable.” 

Currently visiting family for the holidays, Tanager’s next climbing destination is Southern Tennessee and Georgia, where she will mostly be bouldering. “Zach Tanner gave me a contact there, it’s nice to meet helpful people who can direct you to local climbers.”


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Tanager had been through Cleveland before, but not to Climb Cleveland. This time, she found Climb Cleveland in a Google search, left a voicemail message we were fortunate to receive. “Setting improves your skillset as a climber. It’s highly collaborative and a great way to meet other climbers. When you set with new people, you always learn something” she says. There’s a lot to route-setting, and some things “cannot be taught”, the creative aspects, understanding other bodies and how they’ll move, are interesting sides of setting.

She said that “after setting and forerunning V7s all day, I was really really tired. It’s like working out for eight hours, while choreographing, which is mentally fatiguing.” I asked her what she found interesting at CC, to which she replied “I really like the creativity of the gym overall. Chick is really creative and I see that he loves trying new ideas out. He used the space very efficiently, and it’s really friendly and welcoming.”

Tanager is planning to be back to set with us again during the second week of January. Until then, safe travels!

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