Published on: 03/31/2023
American rock climbers have recently enjoyed an unprecedented run of success in World Cup and international competitions. One of the best of this new generation is Natalia Grossman, who became the first American since 2002 to win an IFSC Climbing World Cup season championship in the bouldering discipline. She repeated in 2022, ending the season ranked 1st in Bouldering and securing her place as one of America’s best competition climbers of all time.
How did Natalia Grossman reach these heights at such a young age, and can she continue to dominate the top boulderers in the world? Keep reading to find out more about this exciting talent!
Natalia was born in Santa Cruz, California in 2001, and began climbing indoors at the age of six. By the time she was 15, rock climbing had become such an important influence that her family moved to Boulder, Colorado so that Grossman could train with Team ABC.
This elite youth climbing team, led by 4-time World Cup champion Robyn Erbesfield-Rabatou, has also produced incredibly accomplished rock climbers like Shawn and Brooke Raboutou, Margo Hayes, and Colin Duffy.
Climbing Style and Specialties
Natalia Grossman is primarily renowned for her competition climbing in indoor settings, both in bouldering and lead disciplines. Like many of today’s top-ranked comp climbers, she was introduced to the sport in a climbing gym and has done the majority of her rock climbing inside.
And, while Grossman has placed as high as 2nd and has 7 podium tallies in World Cup lead competitions, when it comes to bouldering she’s a genuine comp superstar. She’s the second American woman, after Lisa Rands, to win a bouldering championship on the World Cup circuit. And the second after Robyn Erbesfield to win multiple titles. All of this by the age of 21, with her adult career as a professional climber just starting.
Considering her remarkable results on the bouldering wall, some people might overlook her lead climbing ability. Will Grossman ever break through and defeat Janja Garnbret at the World Cup lead discipline?
According to Natalia (1):
“…I’d say that especially last year, I had so much fun competing in lead that I almost enjoyed it more than bouldering.”
It sounds like she’s ready to take on the challenge of improving her lead climbing and battling for top honors!
Because of her busy schedule on the competition circuit as a young prodigy, Natalia hasn’t spend as much time outside as she would like. However, when she has had an opportunity to test her outdoor skills, she’s crushed a number of difficult problems and hard routes.
Natalia Grossman started her competitive career at a young age, participating in her first IFSC World Youth Championships in 2015 as a 14-year-old. Placing 4th at that event in Arco, Italy, Grossman continued to compete on-and-off in both adult and youth comps at the international level.
Her results were fairly mediocre until she finally made the bouldering podium in 2nd place at the 2019 Youth Championships. With a 6th place Lead finish, she also came in 2nd overall. Was this the confidence boost Natalia needed to take her to the next level?
With the IFSC Climbing World Cup season essentially canceled in 2020 due to COVID precautions, Grossman concentrated on training, her college education, and climbing outdoors for a change. This time off seemed to have a positive effect on Natalia’s next World Cup season.
At the first World Cup of 2021 in Meiringen, Switzerland, Grossman made her first podium at the adult level, finishing 3rd in Bouldering behind Janja Garnbret and Oriane Bertone.
Then, Natalia experienced a huge breakthrough at Salt Lake City, winning gold medals in Bouldering at two consecutive World Cup events. This, along with two silver medals at Innsbruck and Meiringen set the stage for her win at the World Championships in Moscow and the overall season title.
Rise to the Top
In 2022, Garnbret decided to focus on lead climbing and opted out of most bouldering events. Grossman used this opportunity to absolutely destroy her bouldering competitors on the World Cup.
Natalia came in 2nd in the first event of the season at Meiringen, then went on to snatch victory at the next five bouldering events to end 2022 with the #1 ranking in that discipline. Not only that, she managed to finish 3rd in the world in lead climbing, proving that she’s not just a single-discipline specialist.
Grossman is the current reigning IFSC bouldering world champion, seeking to defend her title in 2023.
Notable Feats and Projects
Natalia’s biggest accomplishment to date, in the eyes of many, was her shocking win over Janja Garnbret in the 2021 Bouldering World Cup season and World Championships. She was the first woman since 2018 to best Garnbret, who is considered by some the greatest comp climber of all time. Grossman solidified her crown as boulder World Cup champion in 2022, winning five gold medals and one silver in the six events she competed.
Clearly, Grossman’s most significant climbing feats have occurred during international competitions. But, during a pandemic-related break in 2020, Natalia did find time to send some difficult problems outdoors, most notably four boulders in Rocky Mountain National Park rated V13 (8B Font scale). She also snagged a redpoint ascent of the nearby 5.14b (8c) sport route Positive Vibrations in Clear Creek Canyon.
Natalia Grossman appears not only driven to succeed as a world-class athlete, but in other areas of life. She recently graduated from the University of Colorado in Boulder at the age of 21, adding one more accomplishment to her tick list.
Perhaps this balanced approach to life is part of Grossman’s secret to success. As she reported to Climbing magazine (2):
“I could not ever be solely a climber. I love climbing. But I need something else in my life. I love being at school and having friends who don’t climb… If I’m always thinking about the next competition or always thinking about training, I’ll just get burned out.”
Natalia currently lives in Salt Lake City, Utah, where she trains with the US national team at the USA Climbing Training Center. She is excited about the opportunity to represent her country by competing in the 2024 Olympic games in the new sport climbing combined event, which includes both lead climbing and bouldering.
Natalia Grossman FAQs
Natalia was focusing on school and studying during the run-up to the 2020 Olympics, so she didn’t fully dedicate herself to training for the qualifying events. However, she has already secured a spot on the USA national team in 2023 and seems poised for a shot at Olympic sport climbing glory in the Paris 2024 Games.
Grossman majored in psychology at the University of Colorado and has stated an interest in working as a therapist in the future.
Natalia Grossman was born on June 22, 2001, so she is currently 21 years old.
Grossman started climbing indoors at the age of 6, the minimum age allowed at her local climbing gym.
According to online profiles, Natalia is 5′ 4″ tall (163 cm).
Natalia is sponsored by Five Ten and most frequently wears the Five Ten Hiangle for bouldering and lead climbing.
Sport climbing star Natalia Grossman exclusive: “The biggest thing is to enjoy the moment”
Lorena Encabo Garcia and Chloe Merrell (June 2022)
Olympics.com, International Olympic Committee
Interview: Natalia Grossman is America’s New Comp Superstar
John Burgman (December 2019)
Main photo credit: © Jess Talley