NAU freshman Suzu Jeffery had planned to celebrate her 18th birthday in Flagstaff, but instead found herself enjoying Scottish pudding cake 5,000 miles away.
Yet her birthday was only one reason this spunky Californian celebrated. She also had clinched a spot in the semifinals on her route to becoming one of the world’s best indoor climbers.
“What a great birthday present to be out climbing and competing for your country,” Jeffery said about competing at the International Federation of Sport Climbing’s World Youth Championship Sept. 9-12 in Edinburgh, Scotland.
The strong, agile Jeffery strategically raced her way up the crimps, jugs and slopers to 14th place in junior female speed climbers. She is modest about her rank and scaling rock walls up to 70 feet above the ground and using holds that can be no more than a 1/8 inch wide.
“It’s satisfactory to complete a climb,” she said with a big smile. “You have a real feel of accomplishment when you’re at the top.”
After ascending to the peak of climbing, Jeffery leaves behind the competitive sport to focus on higher education. Back in Flagstaff, she is settling into the residence halls, an exercise science major and the college lifestyle.
However, she still has a climbing itch and NAU’s reputable climbing community is an attractive addition to its academic opportunities, small campus and mountain-town charm.
“I’m entering a new type of climbing, climbing outdoors, and its going to be a lot more fun,” she said. “Climbing here is very different. The community is so wide and big. Anyone you talk to goes climbing or at least knows what it is. And I’ve already been able to go climbing in between classes. It’s great to have access to close climbing and go whenever.”
During her preparations for Scotland she met with professors and Art Farmer, associate dean of Student Life. She was surprised by their support and enthusiasm about her trip. “I found out that Art climbs, too.”
Jeffery’s ascent to the top was a long adventure. Inspired by her mother, Jordan Jeffery, to take her first climb at 5, she learned technical skills as well as confidence and trust in her ability throughout a competitive climbing career begun at age 11.
With expertise in both speed and difficulty sport climbing, Jeffery took ninth in difficulty at the United States national competition and fifth in speed, which propelled her on to the world competition. (The top five climbers from each county are invited to world.)
Jeffery thanks her family, friends and hometown community of Manhattan Beach, Calif., for their support in her every climbing endeavor and for raising money to give her the best birthday present – a climbing trip to Scotland.