I’ve Moved!

www.beyond-comfort-zones.com  is my new website! I was able to get my own site to continue my blog in the right direction!

I’m leaving this blog up because all of my first blog posts are still here and I want to continue to reference them.

Thank you for reading this!

Forever Battling Comfort Zones

When I started this blog I was fresh out of the nest. I was 23, had lived at home my entire life, and had just graduated college. The thought of moving almost 300 miles away from home seemed terrifying. The blog about that is linked here. Needless to say, I was comfortable.

There’s a book by Jeremy Collins called Drawn: The Art of Ascent and on one of the first pages there is this drawing of comfort zones in the form of a landscape. If you search it you’ll find the image pretty quick. (I’m not adding the picture because I honestly don’t completely understand copyright laws and don’t want to get in trouble!) Basically the picture starts with the “comfort zone,” then it shows your “perceived boundaries.” The mountains past that are called the “unknown” and the “known.” Then you’re right back into a comfort zone, although the comfort zone is now farther out than the original one. The landscape continues on like this until it ends at the horizon.

I think what Collins is illustrating to us is we all start out right here in our current comfort zone. We make up these perceived boundaries, as he calls them, which limits how much we can  see ourselves doing. Anything past our perceived boundaries is the unknown. Once we move through this unknown territory it becomes known territory which eventually becomes comfortable and you can look farther into the future towards a new unknown. Collins’ map shows mountains because it’s an alpinism book. But it can be translated into any boundary; whether it is moving out for the first time, deciding to quit your job to pursue a dream, or to climb a literal mountain. The boundary is that little voice that speaks into your head telling you that you can’t do something. It’s the doubt that crosses your mind and pollutes it with “what ifs.”

My comfort zone was Hawthorne, CA. I had an awesome job, great friends and family. I had a set schedule and a cool climbing gym. But there was this part of me that felt kind of dead inside. So even though I was terrified, I stepped out of my comfort zone into the unknown. I thought Yosemite would be an easy transition into the adult world of fending for myself. I was right. My perceived boundaries were that I would live here for about a year and then be ready for my next adventure. My unknown was what would happen to me in the Valley. Yosemite quickly became my new comfort zone and here I am almost 2 years later! Now, if you look at the map I’m in a comfort zone again but I’m not back at the beginning of the map, I’ve taken all of the experiences along my journey with me.

My point in all of this is that no matter where you are in life you are going to run into comfort zones. You’re going to feel afraid to fully take another step out and follow dreams. I was a suburban city girl that loved the outdoors but was too afraid to give up traditional life to be in the mountains! I pushed myself out of that comfort zone. My next comfort zone was being a top rope queen. I never wanted to lead because it was too scary. I would follow anyone on anything or be a belay b*tch but I never wanted to be on the sharp end. Now I can lead 5.8 trad climbs.  I went from SoCal city (only ever climbing in the gym) girl to a 5.8 trad climber living in Yosemite National Park! It’s easy to overlook the accomplishments when you’re getting ready for the next adventure! Take some time and reflect on how far you’ve come!

File Feb 19, 4 59 12 PM

What is your current comfort zone?

Mind Games: Jamcrack vs. Zee Tree

I led the first pitch of Jamcrack a few weeks ago. I was gripped. I thought I would be confident because I was leading consistently and felt strong. But I was so afraid. This was the first true crack I was leading–no ledges to rest on if my feet started to hurt.

It’s only 5.7. But I got up, placed my first piece, moved above it and immediately came back to the ground to regain composure. I was scared. Cam is always so patient with me in these moments, but I could tell his patience was running thin. It’s understandable, all I do is freak out. It’s been ingrained in me since I was a child. I know when it’s coming. I can feel it swelling in my chest. I haven’t learned how to master it. When I think I have, I lead again and I’m right back to square one. This spills over into other aspects of life. It beats down my confidence and makes me feel weak and incapable of controlling my mind.

A couple weeks after Jamcrack I led Zee Tree on Pywiack Dome. 5.7 sport in Tuolumne. The crux is getting off the first anchor to the first bolt. I partnered with Daniel and it was three groups of two. Nathan and Cam went first. Nathan did an amazing job but was noticeably nervous. This made me afraid. After they crushed the first pitch, I got up the fourth class slab to the first anchor and got ready to lead. I already had Elvis leg and I kept telling Daniel I was scared. But it got to the point where there was nothing else to say or do but climb up. 

I got on the route. Took my first step up onto a knob. There were really no hands, just feet and palming down to keep balance. I started to panic. It was more vertical than I expected. I started to feel the fear welling up in my chest. But instead of coming back down or crying I made another move upward. Then I felt the fear again, so I made another move upward. Before I knew it the first bolt was within reach! I was actually able to focus on the climb in front of me one move at a time. I didn’t think about falling and I didn’t let the panic I felt inhibit my climbing.

After the first two bolts it got even easier, the angle lessened and I was able to control my head even more. The bolts were still at least 20 feet apart but it stopped mattering. I was able to move up quickly. I got to the first anchor and felt extremely excited!


Daniel and I at the second belay!

The next pitch only had 3 bolts  but at 5.0 slab I wasn’t phased after that previous pitch. I got up it quickly with ease.

That’s when the storm hit.  We had been expecting rain all day. We almost bailed a few hours earlier because of a cloud that sprinkled on us for a couple mintues. But then we decided to go for it. On the very  last pitch it started to downpour. The wind was crazy strong. We wanted to bail. I even suggested it. But Cam and Nathan needed two ropes to rappel. So if Daniel and I bailed they would be stuck. Instead of waiting it out to see if it was going to let up, Daniel took the lead. His first lead ever! 5.4 slab with two bolts in the rain. He killed it! We got to the top and the rain let up. We were able to rappel down and head to The Mobil for dinner. 

Cam and I at the summit.


Nathan on the rappel down

What I took away from these two experiences is that you are always training your head. It’s a conscious decision to make yourself ignore the fearful voice in your head. It’s a climb-to-climb process not something that will ever completely go away. All I can do is remain calm and be understanding with myself. When I get scared of leading I usually beat myself up for it. I call myself stupid or tell myself that I’m not good enough to lead this climb. Once even a spark of that is in your mind the calm you had is gone and that nagging voice telling you to quit gets louder and louder. 

Stay calm and have fun!

Clouds Rest

Since I moved here Clouds Rest has been on my to-do list. It’s only right that it was my first proper backpacking trip. I carried a pack that was maybe 30 pounds and full of sleeping gear and food.

My awesome friend Nathan was going to Merced Lake so he hiked out with us and took the long way around. We started at Tenaya Lake.


Saying bye to Nathan at the Merced Lake turn off!

We got to the first uphill portion and I wanted to die. It was like I couldn’t breathe because of the extra weight and altitude. But the more you tell yourself that you have to do this the easier it gets.  

We got up to Clouds Rest. The views! We could see Mathis Crest and Star King and the view of Half Dome is one of a kind. Walking up the fin can give you vertigo if you are tired but what a cool experience!

acting scared on the fin


we made it!

We stopped about half way down to spend the night (with permits, of course) and we found a super cool spot to set up our hammocks and start a fire.


hammock gang



The next day we finished the hike down to the valley. It was a great first backpacking trip and I highly recommend it.

I don’t want to sound as though I’m trying to sell you anything. But I have to say the thing that I found completely changed this trip for me was my Osprey pack. It’s the Aura 65 liter with the new antigravity support. It’s amazing. All of the weight sits on my hips. It was totally adjustable to accommodate the unpacking and repacking I did. And I didn’t get the typical sweaty back because it was allowed to evaporate.  I love it. 


Learning to Laugh

When I’m scared on a climb I usually start crying. I start freaking out and the worst possible scenarios go through my mind.

Recently I led Pine Line, a 5.7 crack at the base of The Nose on El Cap. We got to the base of the climb. I chugged a beer and geared up hoping a light head-buzz would help kill my nerves. 

It didn’t.

I got up a few feet and placed my first piece. I moved above it and got scared. I started to cry. I started to question whether I could actually do it or not. I started to panic and think I should come down. So what I did was place 3 very solid pieces within the two feet above me that I could reach. Talk about over kill. 

I then struggled to get up. I constantly asked for Cam to talk to me. Hoping something he would say would help me up the climb. Of course there is nothing anyone can say once you are alone on a climb. I felt weak. I felt as though I was going to fall off of easy moves. I didn’t fall once or even slip but my brain kept telling me I’m going to fall. 

I got to the top and set up a top rope. When I came down everyone told me I should be proud of myself for doing it. But I sat there and pouted for a good half hour. 

I couldn’t stop thinking about how ashamed I was to cry and struggle on the climb. I had no reason to be as afraid as I was. I didn’t feel proud, I felt like I wanted to just go home and stare at the wall of my tent for the rest of my life (dramatic, I know). It wasn’t about impressing my friends. It was about achieving it for myself. Climbing something new for myself and conquering fear for myself. So when I start throwing a fit and crying I’m ashamed of myself not because other people might think I suck but because I think that I suck.

We climbed the 10d next to Pine Line and I crushed it. I fell a couple times but I moved through the cruxes with ease once I figured the sequence out. I needed that boost to remember I’m really strong. I just need to put my brain where my muscles are. 

 Before we left I had this strong feeling in my chest that I needed to lead Pine Line again and prove to myself that I actually want to be doing this. 

Right before we left I geared up again. But this time we were all joking and having a good time. The situation felt less serious. Before I left the ground Cam told me to pretend I was Alex Honnold going for a speed record and that really helped my head. 

As I climbed up, I climbed with speed and accuracy stopping only to place 3 cams instead of the 10 I placed the previous time. I climbed without fear of falling. In my mind I just kept saying ” go go go go” and it actually helped I didn’t give myself the time to feel the fear creep in and inhibit my climbing.

What I learned from this is that going into a lead with a clear head is key. Make some jokes laugh a bit and have fun! 


My Poor Neglected Blog

I stopped writing for a while because I started to become unsure of the direction this blog should go. I also got into a slump where all I did was work and sleep. I wasn’t having any adventures to write about. But life is an adventure, even on a daily basis. Or at least it should be.
This started out as a blog where I would explain my adventures and how I overcome comfort zones. But that doesn’t mean I have to jump out of a plane in order to break out of a comfort zone. Changing a lifestyle choice can be breaking out of  the comfort of eating bad food or watching 5 hours of TV each day.

From here on out I am going to use this blog to post about my adventures living and working in Yosemite as well as the other choices and life experiences I have on a daily basis that might not seem like a huge deal but have changed my perspective on living.

Beautiful Mt. Star King



Fly Free, Stone Monkey.

“Holy s%&t, it’s Dean Potter,” I said mid sentence on the phone with Erika. It was my second week in the valley. I was standing out back of the deli. He was walking Whisper down the back loading area of Degnan’s straight towards me. Forgetting what I was talking about with Erika completely, I couldn’t manage to do anything but stare. I was that typical star struck girl with no shame. That was my first pro climber, stone monkey experience in the valley.

A few weeks later, I was hiking up the the Grack to lead trad for the first time ever. I was so nervous. A few people were hiking down and passed us, they said hi. I was looking at my feet, clanking with gear on my harness and said hi, as you do when you pass a stranger on the street. I then looked up to see that it was Dean Potter walking down and said “oh s%&t, HI” He looked amused and said “have fun” and we kept hiking up. I was super stoked and inspired to lead after that brief meeting.

The morning of the 17th I was riding my bike to work through the meadow. There was a helicopter hovering over the meadow trying to land. I laughed to myself thinking YOSAR must be trying to find some tourist that got heat stroke on the lower falls trail. Little did I know what they were really doing. When I read that Dean Potter and Graham Hunt had died, I scoured the internet hoping to find some source that prove it was a joke. But the more articles I read, the more the sad truth sunk in. The mood of the rest of the day changed. The loss felt more real because we have interacted with him. It wasn’t some celebrity that had died. He was a real human being. He was the leader of the Stone Monkeys. He was the master of fear. He was the king of crushing comfort zones. He inspires all of us to be the most badass version of ourselves that we could be.

Recently on Facebook, Alex Honnold posted his thoughts on all of this. I think he had it right. No matter when you die your loved ones are going to hurt. Whether you are 43 or 93, you will be missed. But at least Dean lived each day to the absolute fullest. He died doing what he loved and he had a life filled with many more accomplishments and exciting adventures than someone who lived twice as long. Dean Potter only wanted freedom. He wanted to fly with the birds and not be held down by the laws. He is definitely missed by those who actually knew him and loved him. He is missed by hundreds of people who have never met him. But we shouldn’t let his ideas die. When we have been unsure about doing something outside our comfort zone lately we have been saying “Do it for Dean.” He wouldn’t want the stoke to be lost. He is flying free now and we shouldn’t let it be a waste.

His death makes us feel mortal. We seem to live day to day and forget this. We get so caught up in our routine and the petty things that we forget how quickly life changes or ends. We forget how quickly the thing you were upset about stops mattering. We plan for next week or say “I’ll do it later” because we assume we will have time. What I take away from this situation is to stop treating each day as though you have years of life left. Stop putting off things to next week because you might not have a next week. Stop fighting about small things or being stressed and upset about things that you can’t change or that don’t really matter in the grand scheme of things. Do something that completely terrifies you!

Do it for Dean.

Fear and Free Soloing

I’m terrified of free soloing. Absolutely afraid. No matter how hard or easy it is rated, I shake like a cold chihuahua when I do it.

Recently Cam, Jimmy and I climbed Sunnyside Bench. The hardest thing on the route is maybe 5.4. Maybe. It’s 3 pitches, almost 400 feet and then we walked up to Middle Earth–the place between Upper Yosemite Falls and Lower Yosemite Falls.

We started up the gully and came to the first pitch. It looked pretty doable without roping up so I said we should just free solo it. Jimmy went first. I went second–well sort of.

I started up and with the first move up across a rock, I was super afraid. I looked down and saw Cam watching me. I was maybe 15 feet above him but it felt like he was so far away. I started to freak out. Cam finally talked me into trying the move and I did it. I got up higher, close to the end of the pitch. I was in this weird chimney. I was standing on loose rocks. I had to get high feet and reach over the top of the rock to a sloper and then I could reach the jug. When you are new at free soloing or even leading anything less than a jug can feel as though you can’t hold it. I had Cam come up to join me and he went first.

I’m a solid 5.10b/c climber on top rope. I’ve lead up to 5.8 on trad. Sunnyside Bench is 5.4. That being said, I had them throw the rope down to me and belay me up the last 15 feet of the first pitch. Talk about being humbled and demoralized. Oh and did I mention that I was crying the entire way up? Not just crying, but yelling and cursing too. I sound pretty cool, right?

I got up to the top and just sat there super disappointed in myself. I was supposed to lead the entire thing because come on, it’s 5.4 and I’m still trying to break into leading.

I told my wonderful boyfriend Cam that he should lead everything because I wasn’t in a good mental place to do it. To which he replied, that is exactly why I should lead it. Begrudgingly, I agreed.

I got on the sharp end and was ready to go on pitch 2. Jimmy soloed it yet again. I lead it and didn’t place a single piece. It was so chill. Even the “tricky boulder problem” was a snap. I felt better. Not placing on lead is soloing. But knowing I could place at anytime made me feel a lot mentally stronger.

Until the last pitch. You can do the 5.4 face or the 5.5 gully thing. I did neither. I was so afraid and obsessed with placing that if I looked up 10 feet and didn’t see a crack I would freak out and start crying. I would yell down to Cam that I was scared and he kept telling me that there was nothing anyone could do for me, I’d have to figure it out for myself. Which I already knew of course. But sometimes just having someone talk to you when your scared really helps. It helped me not bail.

So I went this weird way where I had to traverse a couple times. Talk about rope drag. It was so bad that it felt as though there were two people swinging on the rope trying to pull me down. With the moral support of Jimmy above me (he free soloed it; making his first ever multi pitch completely ropeless), I somehow made it to the top. Once we got to the top I felt better. Even though it was a less than perfect situation I still got up it and didn’t bail.

We got to Middle Earth and it was beautiful. So worth the tears and fear to get up there.

Cam above Lower Falls

Cam above Lower Falls

View of Half Dome from the top of Sunnyside Bench.

View of Half Dome from the top of Sunnyside Bench.

Recently, I’ve been reading a couple books. One of which is The Rock Warrior’s Way by Arno Ilgner. In the book, he talks about your ego. He talks about how your ego can limit your climbing because you don’t want to fail and have your reputation injured. He also talks about breaking the habits of telling yourself you can’t do something or finding excuses to say “If I had better footwork I could climb harder.” That is mentally limiting because now all you can think about is how much your feet suck. So even if you are totally capable, you have already convinced yourself that you can’t climb it.

I do this so much. I have a bit of an ego. I want to climb hard because I’m a loser if I don’t. I feel as though I would be judged for being scared on Sunnyside Bench, because come on 5.4, really Brenna? But these are the exact thoughts that poison your mind and suck the fun right out of climbing. Instead of laughing and having a good time and being scared but screaming it out and moving on, I was stuck deep in my ego that entire morning.

Another point in Ilgner’s book is if you climb 5.14 it doesn’t necessarily make you a better person than a 5.7 climber. I have fallen victim to this and this is why I get intimidated by better climbers. I feel as though they are cooler or I’m liked less because I can’t climb as hard. But this is completely the ego playing into my emotions and it’s hard to see past it sometimes.

I’m sharing this because this isn’t an experience anyone really wants to admit. But I don’t want my ego to control me. I want to climb to have fun and whether that means that I rope up every time I do Sunnyside Bench or not, I’m not going to climb unless I’m having fun. No more taking myself seriously.

Middle Earth

Middle Earth

Weekend Warrior

I feel like I’m starting to become a weekend warrior–someone who does fun things only on their weekends. I find myself dreaming about the plans I have made for my next weekend on the first day of my work week. It wasn’t always this way. When I first started working here I didn’t mind work. It was easy to do things before work because I worked evenings. We would climb all day until work and then have a night climbing session after work. Weekends were a bonus. Today I realized that I stand around when it is slow at work and dream of what I will be doing on my days off. I mentally try to escape work as much as possible. As I was making salads today at work, I started questioning what I’m doing here. Why am I stressing over this job that I really don’t care about? Then I remembered that line from 180° South where Jeff Johnson said he has been a dish washer, a lifeguard…..whatever paid for the next trip. Those jobs don’t define Jeff. They allowed him to live a nomadic dirtbag beach bum life. That’s the life I want.

So I am reminding myself daily that this job doesnt define me. It isn’t worth stressing over. This job is a means to an end and that most current end is backpacking in Thailand in January 2016.



Tent Life

I live in a tent… Okay, it’s actually a tent cabin. That means it’s a glorified tent with wood beams holding it up into a house shape. When I was having my first interview with DNC they asked me if I would be okay with the limited living situations. I almost had to hold back enthusiasm for living in a tent. No bathroom, no kitchen just a single room for a roommate and me.

My tent in Boys Town.

My first two weeks in the valley I lived in temporary housing, which was dorm style. There were so many new hires that I had to wait to be placed into a permanent living spot. When I finally got placed, it was nothing liked I had dreamed. I was placed into another dorm style room in a housing area called Tecoya. Many would say I’m lucky for getting placed there because not many new hires actually get in there. But there was never anyone around. It was always quiet and very lonely. I asked around at work and was hooked up with my current roommate, Teresa. She is what I expected Yosemite to be.

She let me move into her tent in a housing area called Boys Town. It was a big tent, usually meant for three people but it was just the two of us. The tents are so thin you hear everything around you. It takes some getting used to if you have lived in any type of house in the real world.

Right now I live in a housing area called Huff. It is the biggest housing area and definitely the loudest. But the community vibe is great. There is always someone to hang out with. It can be loud if you are trying to sleep but that is something I will trade for the community vibe. Friends come and go into your tent or in the kitchen. It’s a very fluid community. Whether you like it or not you are forced to interact with other people constantly.

Coming from Los Angeles, being able to pass someone and talk to them took some getting used to. I was used to people avoiding eye contact with me. But this place is full of people that want to know my story. This got me out of my shell and really helped me build confidence in myself. Being around such like-minded people is truly refreshing.

My bed!

                              My bed!

This buck was outside my tent every morning.