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Member Spotlight: The Climbing Art Teacher

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Meet Alison Crofton-MacDonald

"The nice thing about teaching art is you always have something in your hands," says Alison Crofton-MacDonald. Alison is a twenty-seven year old middle school art teacher in the Saco school system. When she discovered climbing four and a half years ago, she was immediately hooked, and in short order her passion for the sport translated into serious sends, including routes like Ginseng (5.12b) at Shagg Crag.

Around Salt Pump, Alison is known for her infectious energy, try-hard attitude, and generous nature - as evidenced this spring when she volunteered her Saturday to belay for the USAC youth competition hosted by Team Salt Pump. "I like hanging with the kids, they're my size so I can relate," Alison jokes. In fact, she likes the kids so much she agreed to help coach Team Salt Pump this fall.

We caught up with her to learn more about the glamorous life of a public school art teacher.

1. Where is “home”?

Wherever my pillow is. My family has moved several times so "home" to me is more about where my family and I currently live. When I am at my parents house it feels like home, sleeping in a tent at Rumney feels like home, and so does my bed in my apartment.

2. What’s the best thing about living in Maine?

Definitely the varied seasons and living close to the coast. It is so easy to access nature in Maine which is really important to me.

3. What’s the worst thing about living in Maine?

Humidity in the summer. I think the summer is my least favorite season.

4. How long have you been climbing for?

About 4 1/2 I started climbing at CRG in Worcester when I graduated from college and once I entered the gym I never left.

5. What makes climbing unique and/or different from other forms of physical activity?

I have never had so much fun "working out" as I do when I am climbing. It is also the most relaxing sport I have ever done, especially rope climbing. Yes it is hard work, but I find that I climb my best when I am able to relax and get lost in the movement and feeling of climbing. I love those moments when I can "zen out" on a long sport climb especially after a long day at work. Something about being on a wall only connected by a rope helps me let go of the million things going through my mind.

6. What is your biggest climbing goal for the next year?

I have a lot of climbing goals. I have been trying to focus a lot on improving my weaknesses in the past year. As a smaller climber I lack general physical strength, control of dynamic movements, and power. I have put in a lot of effort into those particular things this past year which I think is paying off. The goal making process really never ends for me. As soon as I make progress I make a new goal. I guess I always have a goal of "climb harder" but that looks like a lot of very different smaller goals along the way.

7. What is your biggest non-climbing goal for the next year?

I bought a surf board last fall but I have not successfully been able to stand up on it. So that would be nice to be able to just stand up one time. I also have a lot of goals at work. As a teacher I am constantly trying to improve what I teach to find ways to make things more fun and interesting to the kids.

8. If you were completely immobilized in a hospital bed for a year, what hobby would you do?

Watch climbing videos and knit. Oh wait, does immobilized mean totally paralyzed where my hands don't work either? I guess just watch climbing videos and blink at people then.

9. What’s the hardest you’ve tried recently?

In climbing? Last weekend on Ginseng and I sent it! Yeah! or that blue dyno boulder problem in the cave. In life definitely trying to get middle school students to fill out reflections about their artwork.

10. What’s the hardest you’ve laughed recently?

I have a 6th grade student who walked up to me and said "zombie pizza's" the other day.

11. Who inspires you to try hard?

I am a big self motivator when it comes to climbing and in general. I just decide that I want to do something so I do it. Cavan is probably my biggest outside motivator. He has really helped me push myself outside of my comfort zone with dynamic moves, building power, and getting on climbs I didn't think I was strong enough to work on. He has helped me write out workouts and held me accountable for actually doing them. I also get really inspired by the kids who climb. They remind me every day to have fun and be creative with their approach to climbing. It also really helps that Robbie, Aaron, Jill, Lilly and Addie are all the same size as me.

12. What’s your greatest strength?

Enthusiasm and finding joy in the sport. I just love climbing. Outside, Inside, Sport, Boulder it doesn't matter to me. It is all fun to me. Being excited about and in love with what you are doing I think will always be the greatest strength in anything you do.

13. What’s your biggest weakness?

Mindset. As a 5'3" climber it is so easy to fall into a pattern of "I can't reach it". The number of times I have watched someone stand up and reach a hold that I feel like I am hurtling my entire body into the air and still falling short can be heartbreaking. I have really been working on having more of a growth mindset. Great I am short, I better learn to jump. I also wouldn't change being small I have matched tiny crimps that other climbers can't get all four fingers on, and watching big guys carry all that body up a long over hung sport climb reminds me how lucky I am to be small. Climbing is a sport where short or tall might change an individual climbs moves but there is always a way.

14. Why do you climb?

I think it links back to things I have said earlier. I just love every aspect of it, being outside all day, being physically fit, being able to "zen out", and working towards goals that are bettering me. I think the other aspect is the community. If you stick around long enough you get pulled into this comical, light hearted, health and earth conscience group of people that makes you want to come back and climb some more.

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