The City Magazine Since 1975

Rock Star

Rock Star
October 2014
Meet Cherie Blackburn, the 52-year-old attorney scaling crags around the country

See her in a business suit, and you’d never guess that petite, professional Cherie Blackburn, attorney and partner at Nexsen Pruet, is a thrill-seeker. But the truth is, this 52-year-old (that’s right!) spends her off-hours dangling from rock faces: either the colorful walls at downtown’s Coastal Climbing (where she trains four days a week) or crags around the country, such as in Kentucky’s Red River Gorge; Moab, Utah; and Red Rock Canyon, Nevada. Find out about the hobby that’s had this Greenville-raised gal seeking adventure for the last dozen years.

CM: How did you get into rock climbing?
CB: About 12 years ago, I wanted to do something adventurous, so I signed up for an Outward Bound nine-day women’s rock climbing course in Joshua Tree, California. I learned the basics of rock climbing, saw a beautiful part of the country, and did things I had never done before—like going nine days without a shower.

CM: What type of climbing do you do?
CB: I do two types—traditional (known as “trad”), where you place gear [into the rock features] for protection, and sport, where you clip the rope into bolts that are in the rock. I learned trad first, though, and it’s my favorite. I also ice climb some in the winter.

CM: When did you know you were hooked on the sport?
CB: I got serious about rock climbing about five years ago. When I found myself going over routes in my head in the middle of the night, I knew I was hooked.

CM: Why do you find it so rewarding?
CB: Rock climbing is both physically and mentally challenging. It teaches you to manage risk and overcome fear. It allows you to be outside doing something that is very physical in a beautiful setting.

CM: How do you make time for climbing?
CB: I have a full-time law practice, but I’ve been able to find time to train and get away to climb outside by working nights and weekends. I have a MacBook Air that fits in my climbing pack and a mobile hot spot so that I can connect with clients no matter where I am. I’ve had conference calls in some very interesting locations.

CM: Why do you encourage others, especially women, to get into the sport?
CB: I’m a strong believer in trying things outside of your comfort zone, because once you do, that zone expands. Before you know it, you’ll be doing all these amazing things you couldn’t do before. That makes a person stronger and more confident in everything he or she does.


Lives: Mount Pleasant
Climbing partner: Boyfriend Ken Johnstone
Highest rock climb: The Kor-Ingalls Route on the 6,656-foot Castleton Tower near Moab, Utah
On her calendar: This month, climbing and camping in Indian Creek, Utah; in December, a five-day camping trip out West; and in winter 2015, ice climbing in Ouray, Colorado
Creative outlets: “I play the piano. I’ve been trying to do more with photography but haven’t quite found the time yet.”