Withdrawal: you can’t really understand what it means until you’ve felt the symptoms first-hand. For me, these symptoms include the unfortunate softening of the skin on my hands, the disappearance of the bruises on my legs, and an absolutely uncontrollable need to climb everything in sight, including the siding of my house. I suffer these withdrawal symptoms because I have an addiction: Hello, my name is Nathalie, and I’m a rock-climber.

I am as much a rock-climber as I am a photographer, and anthropologist, a woman, and a human being. I may have discovered the climbing facet of myself later in life, but it is as much a part of who and what I am as anything else.

I’ve always known rather well that I was never going to be much of a conventional athlete. My hand-eye (or foot-eye) coordination when it comes to rapid movement is decidedly sub-par. Throw in a ball, racket or a stick into the mix and you will have the finest display of flailing and squealing you’ve ever witnessed.

However, three years ago I was introduced to rock-climbing, and I promptly fell in love. Suffering from a paralyzing fear of heights since I was a little girl, I figured that the only way to combat it was to face it head-on. Once I began climbing, I found that there is something remarkably beautiful about using nothing but your own power to pull you up a rock face – it’s completely natural (as you can see in any child and animal that can’t help but climb everything in sight).

I say all this in full awareness of the fact that I am not nor will I ever be a world-classed climber. I don’t care; I’ve found a little part of me that I hadn’t discovered before. While I am a climber, I am also part snow-boarder, a sometimes-surfer, a hiker, and a full-time explorer. I’m quite the athletic mutt, if you will.

I see all too sadly at my climbing gym how underrepresented women are in the realm of extreme/mountain sports. Indeed, there are so many reasons why not to dive into these activities: lack of time, lack of initial strength and ability, or simple fear. Edmund Hilary, the first person to climb Mt. Everest, once answered the question of why with this: “We climb for the hell of it.” Yes, many people do sports to get in shape or to meet new friends. The truth of the matter is, we climb, bike, ride or what-have-you for the same reason we first crossed oceans, domesticated dogs, and climbed Mt. Everest: Because it’s there, because we can, because frankly, why the hell not?

Happiness is contagious. As a sports and travel photographer, as well as a climbing instructor, my profession is to share what makes me happy with everyone around me. My Go Girl contributions will be no exception. As an athlete, photographer, and explorer, I want to present every Go Girl with possibilities: where to discover mountain sports (there are few places on Earth where this isn’t possible), how to improve in your sport of choice (here’s hoping there will be more than one), introduce you to the dynamic community of explorer athletes, and inspire you to fall in love with all of it. I want you to fall in love with the vastness of the outdoors, with the movements, and most of all, fall in love with your own strength, even if you haven’t discovered it yet.