Mary Eden and Mercadi Carlson live for climbing in the Moab area they’ve made their home. Following their passion for climbing photography, the duo has racked up thousands of social media followers while documenting their adventures, and now they’re sharing what they’ve learned with others.
“I love being a part of someone’s first experience in climbing or ‘trad’ climbing,” Carlson said. Trad climbing is a method that uses camming devices that can open and close in rock cracks, thereby helping to prevent a fall. “When they’ve never done anything like that before it’s really exciting, really exhilarating. It’s cool to have them say that you’re the one who taught them how to do it.”
Carlson has been climbing in Moab for four years now, and Eden entered the sport in 2011. “I was lucky to be taken under Matt Pesce’s wing, and so I learned a lot from him,” Eden explained. When the two became climbing partners just over a year ago, things escalated quickly. When they’re not guiding for Red River Adventures, they’re constantly on the walls and towers. “If we’re not climbing it’s because our bodies hurt so bad we can’t even move,” Eden said.
The passion has grown beyond simply climbing for the two, and their notoriety in the climbing world has grown through social media (find them on Instagram as @tradprincess and @mersendyclimberson, where each has more than 20,000 followers) and climbing and adventure publications. “Oh, it just snuck up on us,” Eden explained. “We sold a photo to a magazine that made the front cover.”
“We started having to designate days to do photo work for certain companies,” Carlson added. “We realized we don’t really have days off, because we have to take photos, but is taking photos even a job?”
As their photography pursuits gain traction, their skills continue to improve. “We started getting into first ascents,” Eden added. “Mainly boulders, but we’re dipping our toes into bolting routes.”
It was during a 2017 winter climbing road trip to Joshua Tree that Eden and Carlson dreamed up the idea to host a climbing clinic. “We spent hours in a Starbucks in Joshua Tree planning everything we possibly could have needed,” Carlson explained. They pitched their idea to Red River owner Carl Dec who quickly accepted their proposal, and planning began immediately.
After months of planning, the two hosted their first clinic in Indian Creek. The three-day clinic took place May 18 to 20 and was attended by 11 amateur climbers from afar. “We had people from all over, we had a variety of ages, and we didn’t have just women,” Eden said. Throughout the weekend, Eden and Carlson instructed attendees in safety issues, anchor building, multi-pitch, and led them through more than 30 climbs that spanned a variety of skill levels and types of crack climbing that Indian Creek is known for. “We had 5.11 finger cracks, we had hand cracks, we had awkward roof bulges, we had hard off-widths, we had double twin cracks, we had sporty 5.9 cracks, we had the whole thing. There wasn’t one style or one size. Everybody had a crack for them,” Eden explained.
“By the end, everyone kind of stopped climbing because they were so tired and we finally felt like we did it,” Carlson added. Eden continued, “We had one girl who didn’t know how to heel-toe jam at the beginning of the clinic, and by the end of it, she was doing sit-ups on heel-toes, on an inverted off-width boulder.”
The clinic provided not only climbing instruction and improvement, but also the sense of community Eden and Carlson believe is a necessity in the sport. “The group was stoked on each other. By the end they were all best friends,” Eden said.
She continued, “Everyone’s invited. Everyone crushes. We respect everyone equally. Everyone has something to give,” “Everyone has a unique perspective. Let’s work together as a team, and let’s support each other as a team.”
After a successful first clinic, Eden and Carlson are already planning future events. “I only think we’re going to be doing more things as time goes on,” Eden said. “Once you start, it’s really hard to imagine doing anything else.”