It began long before she was born. My husband Zak has been climbing for over 20 years. He’s well seasoned as a competitive climber and is also a beast when it comes to speed climbing and dynoing. He has most notably taken first place at the Teva (now GoPro) Mountain Games numerous years in a row, snagged the win at the George Games up in the northwest and was a strong competitor back in the Professional Climbers Association (PCA) days. He got me into competition climbing. I’ve been climbing for over 14 years and am actively competing in competitions across the nation. I love it and I find that I can’t give it up. My first major competition was back in 2004 at the Phoenix Boulder Blast down in Queen Creek, AZ. I was 16 years old and despite my age at the time, I was dynoing exceptionally well amongst a number of top name climbers. I remember snagging the winning jug on a difficult dyno, turning around to the crowd of over 700 plus raging drunk spectators and hearing their roar of excitement as pure adrenaline pumped through my veins. Knowing at that moment that I just won, I raised my hand to the crowd and smiled with satisfaction. Later that evening I joined my husband on the podium where we were both awarded first place for men’s and women’s open respectively. Since that time I have also competed in my fair share of Teva Mountain Games where I took 1st place in their speed-climbing event in 2007. I also dabbled in the PCA circuit as it came to a close and participated in the Mammut Bouldering Championships and Unified Bouldering Circuit over the years. I have been and plan to continue competing in the USA Climbing Nationals.
All right, enough about us and more about this little rock prodigy. It was January 2013 and I was in the midst of training for USA Climbing Nationals. Training was on my mind but I also had another focus… I wanted a baby. Just one. I had wanted one for years. I wanted a tiny human in hopes that it would make our little family complete, to introduce him or her to climbing and to have this new addition travel the world with us. The timing never seemed right. This year however, I was convinced that it was the right time to make it happen. I had it all planned out. I was going to get pregnant just a few weeks before Nationals so that I could compete before the morning sickness set in, deliver in the fall and get my butt back in shape for Nationals 2014 without missing too much in-between. So there I was, competing at Nationals in 2013, so weak that I could hardly stand up straight, puking my brains out and five weeks pregnant. Oh snap, I guess I miscalculated how early morning sickness can set in. Throughout my pregnancy I was terrified of losing my strength so I ran, I climbed and I did some light weight lifting. I won a local climbing competition at 3 months pregnant. After that, I backed off of the bouldering in fear of falling while pregnant and switched over to exclusive rope climbing. I threw on the full body harness without shame and I flashed 5.12 with a beast of a belly at 33 weeks pregnant. I climbed up until 3 days before I delivered. People within the community had been calling her “the rock prodigy”. I delivered at term on October 28th, 2013 and we named her “Ellie Amaya Farmer”.
Naturally, her first outing was to the climbing gym and over the first few months of her life, she grew accustomed to watching climbers scale the walls. As she got older, we rigged a baby swing to the rock rings or threw out a blanket on the crash pad beneath the campus board. People in the climbing community accepted her presence right away. The swing would start to slow down and without hesitation someone would give her another push as I was off on the other end of the gym throwing down my latest project. At 4 months old, she traveled with us to Colorado Springs and cheered me on as I competed at Nationals. On training days, I would put her in the baby carrier and do weighted pull-ups with her on my back. She was imbedded in the climbing community form the start. The moment she was old enough to start grabbing holds we had her exploring the wall and before she was walking we got her climbing on a slab at the gym. At 8 months old she completed the slab from bottom to top without assist. She started walking at the later part of 10 months and was walking solid by 11 months. My husband built a wall for her in the nursery. It is vertical and about 8 feet tall. She was crushing it on her own shortly after her first birthday and now, at 20 months old we consider it her warm up wall. If you put her up on a pull-up bar, she can hang there, on her own for a solid 30 seconds.
Just this past month, on Saturday June 25th 2015 we were at the gym for a casual climbing session. I was winding down from my workout and decided to pull out my phone and film her climbing. Not because I thought she was impressive but simply so that I could add the footage to our personal collection at home. I started filming her on a part of the wall that was new to her. At first it looked like she was going to down climb and back off the route… but I kept filming anyways and before I knew it, she was working her way through the crux and topping it out. I told her that she had some strong lock off strength and that it was a nice send. She responded back with some non-coherent baby babble and I threw my phone aside as we kept climbing. Eventually, I packed her up in the bike and we rode home. Later that night, I was breast-feeding away and flipping through my phone while sitting in the rocking chair with her. I replayed the video and decided to upload it to my personal page on Facebook. I had not uploaded a video of her in a while and I figured that a few friends and family members would enjoy seeing her climb. I almost didn’t upload it. The next morning I woke up and it had over a million views and thousands of shares. People liked it. Really? I’ve never had more than 2 or 3 shares on any one given post. A bit puzzled about the number of views it had, I re-watched the video and began to slowly realize that her climb was quite impressive. You could see her thought process, her determination to figure out the moves and the strength she had during the crux when she did a mix of high stepping and locking off to progress up the wall. She celebrates half way through the climb and then keeps chugging along. When she gets to the top she spends a significant amount of time looking for her foot placement before mantling up and over. She never asked for help, fussed or backed down. I guess that was somewhat impressive for a 19-month-old. Perhaps I overlooked it at first because I’m a climber myself and I knew that she had the strength and capacity inside her to do the route. Were my expectations too high or is it true that babies are simply that amazing when you facilitate their climbing? The more I watched it, the more amazed I became. I was proud of her. By the end of the week, the video had over a half million shares and over 20 million views. Yes, 20 MILLION views. National and international reporters were calling my phone for interviews and I ended up posting this to my Facebook page in explanation to friends and family:
Here’s a little overview of what has happened in the last 7 days:
1. I took a video of Ellie climbing. I thought it was somewhat cute so I posted it on my Facebook to share with a few friends and family members. It went viral and now has over 20 million views collectively. If I have ever felt in the past that something was out of my control OMG I had no idea.
2. I created a Facebook page for my child… because her popularity stole my own Facebook page and I wanted it back. I also felt as powerful as the emperor when I turned my public Facebook page to a private one and declined a few thousand friend requests from the viral paparazzi. Ellie's page, The Little Zen Monkey is quickly approaching 30 thousand followers in just a few short hours.
3. Ellie took a 4 hour long nap and I along with her. This is a new record for the both of us.
4. Our family will be signing on as an ambassador for a new outdoor company whose products we believe in and love (I’ll share more details next week). Additionally, Ellie has a gigantic box of Momo Baby shoes being delivered to our front door. We made their shoes popular too.
5. One of our interviews made the FRONT PAGE of CNN and international news companies have contacted us for Q&A’s. I typed “The Little Zen Monkey” or “baby rock climbing” into Google’s search engine and found over 20 online articles and blog write-ups about me and my child. I half expect to be on one of those awful pop magazines that they have in the grocery stores near the checkout lines. Please, above all else, not that.
6. I realized that you can receive 3000 positive comments alongside 5 negative ones and the negative ones still hurt just as bad. …regardless of the fact that I am confident I’m an amazing mother to my child.
7. I found who my true friends are during this process. To those of you, I can’t thank you enough for and checking in on us and realizing that this has been a lot to take in. It is my 19-month-old after all.
8. Today, Ellie turns 20 months and she’s going to have one heck of a scrapbook page in her baby book.
9. You have choices in life. My choice is to make the best of this and run with it. Or, maybe I should say “walk with it”. I plan on taking it slow, not selling my child out to the contracts I’ve declined, continuing to keep the progression of her popularity as an organic process, putting our family first and using this as an opportunity to support some companies that we believe in… as a family.
Since that post, her Facebook page “The Little Zen Monkey” has over 41 thousand followers, she made a “celebrity appearance” on Inside Edition and we are currently in the works of accepting and declining invitations to appear on a few of our nation’s major talk-shows. I just got done chatting with reporters from Tokyo where apparently her video and story is blowing up across their news channels. I never thought CNN’s national headquarters would call me and say, “So I saw your baby’s climbing video… and apparently everyone else in the world has too. Do you mind doing an interview?”
It was a wild experiencing having her video go viral and getting a small taste of the Hollywood spotlight. It certainly is not our cup of tea but in some ways it was a neat experience. I welcome the media frenzy coming to a close and I might go off the grid for a bit to recover but, when I get back, I plan to make her one epic scrapbook so that one day we can laugh together and reminisce about the various headlines including “Mum Divides Facebook with Video of Toddler Free Climbing Without Harness” and “Your Kid Will Never Be as Cool as This”.
My goals from here are simple; keep her active, healthy and happy. I have shared climbing with her because it is my passion and our lifestyle as a family. When I was a child I dreamed of someone sharing their passion with me, giving me some wings with which to fly and opening up opportunities. Perhaps climbing will also become her passion. If not, my husband and I plan to support her in whatever path she chooses.
Here's a link to THE video that started all of this:
Here is a link to the rest of the videos:
Here is a link to the FB page:
Here are some photos: