ep·ic

/ˈepik/

noun/adjective

  1. A work portraying heroic deeds and adventures, or covering an extended period of time.
  2. Valiant or grand in scale of character
  3. A  climb, rendered difficult by a dangerous combination of weather, injuries, darkness, lack of preparedness or other adverse factors.

Hannah Lily Hall is your typical epic hunting, globally focused, medically trained, peak soloing chick.

Okay, not so run of the mill.

Hannah grew up in the suburbs of Scottsdale, AZ. Living co-parented by her divorced parents, she found solace in running at age 12.

“I was in 7th grade with a group of girls, and we just wanted to see if we could run a mile and I remember, at the time, it was just the hardest thing in the world, and I really liked that it was so hard. After that, it was the freedom. I could just grab a pair of shoes and leave whenever I needed to. It was the most freeing thing to not need anything else – I could just walk out my door and go.”

At age 14, tired of the weekly back and forth living between her parents’ homes, she did her research and made the appeal that a boarding school in Massachusetts would be just the thing for her. Being a pair of academically minded lawyers, her parents gave their blessings and in no time she was across the country, being groomed for the top schools in the nation. Running continued through boarding school and aptly rowing crew joined her repertoire. She ran competitively for a short while until it was clear that competition wasn’t for her. The stress of competing manifested itself physically, by way of hives so bad she’d have to drop out halfway through repeatedly, so she maintained that the sport was to remain hers as a solely personal experience.

Home, after her 3 years away at boarding school, Hannah finished up her last year of high school and beelined for ASU declaring pre-med. Feeling a little lost, and in an attempt to distance herself from the prevalent party scene at her school, Hannah was inspired to take a queue from her past and the time she had cherished attending a wilderness camp (in the Desolation Wilderness of Tahoe) during her summers off of school.

 

Seeking out ASU’s Outdoors Club was arguably the biggest game changer for Hannah.

 

After an overwhelming first solo trip to a climbing gym packed with a hyped up college crowd, shouting and yelling (trying to nail the cruxes of their projects) and a brand new language of grades and colored tape, Hannah was a little put-off. A couple of weeks later, after her first trip out with the club, canyoneering, the club hosted a group climbing night. Armed with the support of her new crew, she set off to give it another go.

“I partnered up with this guy I didn’t really know but he taught me everything I knew at this point. I remember top roping this 5.7 with big yellow holds. I made it to the top and let out this awesome scream [a victory shout].”

In the afterglow of her new triumphant experience, she approached her new climbing partner’s group of friends and exclaimed, “Who want’s to take me climbing outdoors?!” Her now close friend, Nathan, agreed to the task. That weekend they trekked out to ‘The Pond,’ Nathan gave her a crash-course on leading, walked her through safe clipping, had her take a few practice falls and inadvertently (or maybe not) started a fire in Hannah. After that weekend she spent every day in the gym, climbing, practicing her movement, and clipping. She was all in. The following weekend, back outdoors with Nathan and a group of friends, she gunned up everything she could get her hands on. That night, over maybe one too many beers, she convinced the group to bring her along on their next day’s adventure, a 10d rope stretching spire called ‘Totem Pole’.

“It wasn’t until we got to the base of the climb the next day when I sobered up and thought, oh my God, what am I doing? I just met these people! Do they know what they’re doing? I was so scared I was shaking but I got all the way up to the crux and somehow worked my way through that, finally got to the top, and my mind was blown.”

Only 3 short months after falling head over heels in love with climbing, Hannah had to put it on pause while she spent four months living and working with IAPA in India as a part of her global medicine curriculum.

 

On her dream work-cation, participating in her ideal non-profit sector, she learned a few things about the system she was working to find her way into.

  1. All non-profits aren’t created equal. Although, yes, there are some non-profits that are wonderful and largely, positively impacting, there are some that don’t work as hard as their manifestos would lead you to believe.
  2. Take two steps back before you take one step forward. Wanting to help is awesome, but your impact can be potentially damaging if you don’t assess all of the factors. IE: Some clothing donation drops cause blips in the local economy, putting clothing sellers and tailors out of business because of the drop in demand and excess in surplus.
  3. Beware the savior complex. The path to hell surely is paved with good intentions. Specific to Hannah’s experiences, teaching the local community heads how to properly deal with some of the health crisis that may arise is great. Going out into the community and administering that help first hand, not so great. These small, sometimes struggling communities need to have faith in their own infrastructure and trained professionals. Instilling the idea that their community can’t take care of itself can be damaging.

So with eyes opened, and back home on US soil, Hannah chipped away at her remaining time at ASU, climbed her guts out, and even studied abroad briefly in Australia, honing her trad skills and learning her balancing point between comfortable and careful.

Graduated from ASU with a degree in global medicine, Hannah looked at the game plan that her mother had always lived by working to save up the time, funds, and justification to take a break from the dregs of real life to finally break for the outdoors in short spurts and Hannah wasn’t on board.

“I had this realization that I wanted to be a climber. I didn’t want to do this climb and leave, climb and leave thing anymore. I wanted to dedicate myself to it.”

After completing her WFR training, she was accepted to work on patrol in Mammoth Mountain, the Arizonan would soon learn the limiting factor of snow.

“I thought, this will be great! Yosemite is right next to Mammoth, I’ll go climb in Yosemite every weekend! I told one of my coworkers my plan my first week working and they just looked at me and said, well… you know the pass is closed? And I had no idea what a pass even was.”

With her heart only slightly broken, and her pride sternly averted to bouldering, she discovered the Owen’s River Gorge, where she spent her winter free time, until she was eventually roped into a bouldering day, and fell in love with the Buttermilks – as if anyone could resist their siren song.

Summer rolled around, the passes opened and Hannah’s dreams of granite monsters and setting out to conquer them were realized. Her first summer was spent almost exclusively mountain climbing, epic-ing left and right, up, and overnight on Whitney and all over the Sierras. Every week was getting up something massive and a new challenge pushing herself past her limits. At the end of the following summer, despite having a blast, she’d realized she wasn’t hitting her edge like she had the year before, so she and her best friend, Jane, set off for The Bugaboos, climbing everything they could get their fingers on. Returned from BC, and after a few months rest and injuries from her amped summer on the mend, Hannah set off for Cochamo for six weeks.

The climbing was nothing short of epic, but so were the number of rescues she paid witness to. Being out, away from conventional aide, climbers serve as the first responders for other climbers and with fickle weather and rescues that can take multiple days, Patagonia is not for the ill prepared or under educated. Their trip, however, was nothing but safe and successful and served as a reminder for her that not everyone who claims to know what they’re doing, does.

“Choose your partners wisely.”

Present day, Hannah is still living in Mammoth, rehabbing her knees back to health, and having decided, post Cochamo Rescue Fest, that an integrated life was what she wanted, she’s currently applying and prepping her mind to return to school to finish her nursing degree.

“My family sees me as this thrill seeker, but I don’t agree. For me, climbing is meditative, its a way to be at peace in the outdoors.”

You can follow Hannah’s adventures on instagram @HannahLilyHall