Switchbackr Spotlight: Climber Favia Dubyk
Updated: Mar 25
In this Spotlight, we sat down with amazing climber and full time physician, Favia Dubyk, to talk about her journey into climbing and upcoming projects!
When did you start climbing?
The first time I set foot in a climbing gym was probably around August 2009. I had just googled things to do while in Nashville, TN, because my parents had recently moved to a town where I didn’t have many friends. I had one friend and we had already gone to the mall a billion times, seen every movie in the theater, and even seen some twice. It was time to figure out some new activity.
We were total newbies: we didn’t understand belaying, didn’t even understand bouldering. We were like, why doesn't that area have ropes! I started grad school at Columbia a month later. My roommate had gone climbing a few times before and said that the gym had a discount for an annual membership. I signed up and we went a few times, but then I didn't really like it so I stopped. I just enjoyed being single and young in Manhattan until it was about time for me to move away for med school in the summer of 2010.
Before leaving, I calculated how many times I had to go climbing to break even for my annual membership. I used rental shoes, I wasn’t serious at all. During that time of making myself go I absolutely fell in love with the sport. I had no clue outdoor climbing even existed, I thought it was solely in a gym.
I then moved to Cleveland for med school and the next day I was at the rock gym. Someone asked if I climb outside, I said what do you mean, plastic holds on trees? Finally, someone said let me just show you what outdoor climbing is. I went and was like wow, this is weird, there are no foot holds, how do you know where to climb? I took a trip to Coopers Rock in West Virginia and that is where it started to kind of click. I liked the whole idea of going on a trip with friends, bonding, and the trust you have to put into your spotters. That makes a deeper connection between people. After that trip I was hooked.
What is your favorite part of the sport?
Toe hooks! That might be my actual answer.
I like how climbing connects people. It’s not a ubiquitous sport so when you meet someone who loves it just as much as you do it’s a great way to connect. Outside of the people, I enjoy just feeling strong and the creativity that comes with that: you have to use your body and your mind to figure out how to solve a puzzle. There’s still nothing better than a good toe hook.
Do you have a climb you’re most proud of?
Probably my send of Chung Lee V11, local to Albuquerque. I did a billion toe hooks on it. I had been working it for a solid 8 months or so before finishing in December 2019. I pretty much went there at least once a week for months, sometimes twice a week, sometimes Saturday and Sunday. I kept falling on a move past the crux, which was super frustrating. One day, I watched video of Ben Hanna on it and saw he was full crimping on the hold I kept falling on. After that, I sent it immediately!
Who are your role models?
When I started out I didn’t know anything about Instagram, had never heard of it. I knew only local people at our gym, like I really looked up to a woman named Lena. She was a super strong petite woman which is similar to my body type. I started learning about Instagram and there was a whole world of pro climbers–I didn’t know that there were pro climbers out there. Once I discovered that, Allison Vest, Kyra Condie, Molly Thompson Smith and Akiyo Noguchi became my inspiration.
What impact would you like to leave on climbing?
My goal is for people to see that you can achieve your goals if you work hard towards them. You can have hiccups along the way but just being determined can get you a long way. I had made the assumption that if you’re a pro climber, things come easy, you’re naturally good at dynoing/technique. I want to show that as someone who has no natural technique and is afraid of everything, you can still climb.
How do you balance training with your job?
I’m a full time physician and I’m a pathologist just now finishing fellowship. I did 4 years of medical school, 4 years of residency, 1 year of fellowship. Some weeks I worked over 100 hours. Good time management skills and sacrifices are necessary to balance everything. I can't do all the fun things I want to now. After I go to work, then my training starts immediately until 10:30 or 11pm. I go to bed and start all over again. I don’t have a lot of time to just hang out.
What are your goals for climbing?
My goal for this year is to climb V12 and learn to dyno. I set resolutions every year, but more generally I'm hoping to learn trad this year and get more comfortable on lead.
What surprised you the most about your journey into professional climbing?
I was surprised that I love outdoor climbing! I was never in the outdoors growing up–my first hike was as a senior in college. I was in upstate NY and my friends had to hold my hand because I was so terrified of being in nature. On my first overnight climbing trip for climbing a friend had to hold my hand while I peed in the dark because I was scared to go off for myself. I went from being absolutely terrified to walk in the woods in the daytime to climbing by myself at night.
If you could change something about climbing culture what would it be?
I would have it so everyone was accepting of people no matter their sex, race, gender, sexual orientation. As a Black woman, it’s difficult in the climbing world. Growing up doing outdoor sports was considered to be a white activity. Having more Black climbers out there in the public eye shows to future young climbers, that everyone can enjoy the outside.
All photos courtesy of Favia Dubyk.