Anna Pfaff has loved climbing since the moment she first tried it during an impromptu weekend getaway from nursing school at Denver’s Colorado University. She and a few friends went to Indian Creek, Utah, a famous crack-climbing area in Bear’s Ear’s National Monument.
“I came back from Utah and went to the nearest gear store and bought a full rack of gear,” she says. “I’ve been a climber ever since.”
Pfaff is a leading alpinist, and one of the most seasoned expedition climbers of her generation, with self-funded alpine-climbing trips to various corners of the Himalaya, Patagonia, and Peru. Pfaff has spent more than a decade working as a travel emergency room nurse and is now based in Oakland, California. In the past, she would frequently take on short-term nursing contracts near well-known climbing areas during good climbing seasons. She’d work long shifts in order to fund her adventure itch.
“I remember my coworkers betting how many days I would work in a row before I had to call in sick,” she says. “I did 21 night shifts in a row in the ICU. Basically I took all that money to go climb a mountain.”
“This could be the expedition of my lifetime,” Pfaff says. “I don’t know how many nursing shifts I would need to do to pay for an Antarctica trip, but it would’ve been a lot.”
- Age: 36
- Years climbing: 16
- Number of expeditions: 20+
- Nat Geo Expeditions