FAIRBANKS (AP) — When a young gymnast named Emily Mengershausen fell from the balance beam in Kansas City, dislocating her elbow, her life’s trajectory took a turn.
Then 17, Mengershausen began physical therapy at a clinic with a climbing wall, reported the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.
“It looked like a lot of fun,” Mengershausen said of watching the climbers. “It looked laid back, and at that point, my heart just wasn’t in gymnastics anymore. After four weeks of therapy, I climbed and people suggested I compete.”
Mengershausen taught herself to climb and started competing.
At 36, climbing permeates every facet of Mengershausen’s life and she is one of Fairbanks’ premier climbing instructors at Ascension Rock Club.
Her specialty is bouldering, a style of climbing with no ropes, on rock features that are generally smaller than 20 feet. Bouldering requires the climber to get on the roof of the rock feature. Crash pads are often used in bouldering to cushion the climber’s fall.
At Ascension Rock Club, Menger-shausen teaches teens and children who compete on state and regional levels.
Recently, Mengershausen was in Portland, Oregon, for a regional competition with her teams.
“We train really hard,” she said.
Mengershausen met her husband, Greg, in 2005 at the Anchorage Rock Gym when they were spotting each other on the rock wall.
“We were bouldering together but we hadn’t introduced ourselves, and someone asked, ‘Are you guys married?’” Mengershausen said. “So then we were both like, ‘What’s your name?’”
“I think we started climbing there every day just so we could run into each other, and then we got each other’s numbers,” she said.
Bouldering has continued to be a part of Emily and Greg’s relationship.
Since moving to Fairbanks in 2012, the Mengershausens have enjoyed exploring the Interior for boulders to climb. Emily said they’ve helped map a few bouldering spots in Alaska while climbing with Tom Ellis, who writes for the National Bouldering Project, a climbing website.
Mengershausen wouldn’t say who is better at climbing, her or her husband.
“There’s a lot of facets to climbing. I’ve been climbing a lot longer, so I have more tools and I can find routes with my technique,” Mengershausen said. “He’s a lot bigger and powerful, so there’s things that go into his climbing that I might not be able to do.”
With two children, Mengershausen said it’s more difficult to get outside on long climbing excursions. But the children climb as well.
“My kids are really climbers also. In the last competition, Gideon (7) made it to the finals and competed with the 10-year-olds,” Mengershausen said. “Rory (5) is not too shabby, and she is actually quite a little monkey.”
When she is not climbing, Mengershausen homeschools her children and she is involved at Friends Church. She works in the youth groups and the meals ministry.
To express her artistic side, Mengershausen designs chalk bags for climbers, under the name Vivid Designs.
She said she isn’t as busy as she seems, though.
“I sleep a lot. It’s not as much as it sounds like,” she said. “My husband helps out with a lot of things.”