Monday, November 24, 2003

Evolution of a climber

Tori Allen is the 15 year old daughter of some missionaries who happens to be one of the best female rock climbers in the world.

So where's she from? There's probably a mountain in her back yard, right? No, actually she lives in Indianapolis, where anything tall is manmade. So how'd she get to be so good at such a young age?

She was featured on a Discovery Channel "More than Human" show this past weekend where they revealed some of her secrets. Not surprisingly, she is very flexible and agile. At 5' 3" and about 120 lbs if I recall, she's no stick, but she has only about 16% body fat. And her grip is very strong - she can chin up using just one finger from each hand and can fall deliberately from one grip to another for a couple of feet and still catch herself using only her hands.

So was she just born gifted? No doubt that was part of it. But then when she was a toddler she lived with her parents in Benin, and they had a pet monkey. And she'd follow the monkey around in trees regularly and, apparently, fearlessly. This of course encouraged some unusual development in terms of strength and might account for her long fingers, long arms (her armspan is a couple of inches greater than her height), very strong tendons and many other characteristics that make her an exceptional climber.

I'm sure we ought to give the monkey some of the credit. (I don't know what kind of monkey her friend was, but it definitely wasn't a bonobo.)

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