In memory of Julia Chen


by Kathi Wöhl

pic by Marijus Šmigelskis

Psyched. Adventurous. Kind. Pragmatic. Determined. Generous. Brave. Exuberant. Reliable. Funny.

Her great taste, unforgettable dorky laugh, confidence and authentic nature was infectious and it was impossible for it not to rub off on anyone that she crossed paths with – foodie, climber, noob or nonc. From the first time I met her to the last time I saw her, she was always the same refreshingly humorous, upbeat human that expected nothing, but gave so much. While we sometimes didn’t see each other for weeks, we always picked up right where we left off when we’d find each other over coffee, wine or dinner. There were no conditions with her. This is how I knew we were always going to be friends. She was one of a kind.

Julia loved climbing. It was her happy place – projecting hard stuff or easy, fun bouldering, it didn’t matter. I remember many days, when I first started bouldering, watching in awe at how tenaciously yet calmly she approached her projects. Unlike others I’d experienced, I never saw her get angry when she climbed, despite frustrations. On the contrary, when she had to fight for something, it just made her more determined, and often she’d use her brilliant sarcastic, self-deprecating humour, to make fun of the situation, or she’d blame the last bagel she ate (which by the way was ‘totally worth the fight’).

Julia didn’t take herself too seriously, despite having achieved some significant climbs in the SA climbing scene: in 2012 she sent Elfenlied at Redhill, her first 8A boulder, and only SA female ascent. This was followed by the only SA female ascent of Hypoxia (29) in Montagu. In the same year, she also flew up two hard routes at Kleinmond on the same day: Wings of glory (28) and The Percolator (30) – both on her second try.

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