Kimberly Ang — the newly minted CEO of KAYA Climb — gives us an inside look at the beta needed to shape the future of the climbing community.
It’s hard to separate climbing from community building. From beta and chalk to stoke and support, the essence of climbing is rooted in sharing the tips needed to get to the top. It’s this collaboration that connects the climber to every other crag-climbing, boulder-bumping problem solver out there.
Climbers are always looking for ways to improve. And as climbers become more socially connected, the use of mobile apps to help them train or strengthen their network is also more apparent.
KAYA is a climbing app that is showing the climbing world big points of potential it has for the future. Here’s all you need to know.
The KAYA Climb App
KAYA was founded in 2019 when a small group of passionate climbers with deep technology expertise joined together to build a platform for climbers to log their climbs, share beta, and become better climbers.
With over $3 million in seed round funding from leading sports venture funds and angel investors, KAYA is poised to take the stage.
The name KAYA comes from the Filipino phrase “kaya mo,” which means “you can” — a proclamation of encouragement. “It’s every person that asks themselves when looking at a climb, ‘Can I do this?’ Everyone behind them says, “‘Yes!’” Ang said.
Recently announced as the new CEO of KAYA, she’s familiar with this spirit of moving forward and pushing the boundaries. This parlays into both the app’s features and its commitment to inclusion.
KAYA Climber’s App: Features
Let’s dive into the features that make KAYA “the climber’s app.”
It’s nice to have a memory bank of all the rad climbs you’ve done. KAYA’s large database allows climbers to record all their attempts and sends, whether you’re climbing at the gym, on a board, or outdoors. Full ascent lists can be broken down to reach your goals.
If you feel like hitting the gym, you’ll be psyched to learn that KAYA is partnered with over 200 climbing gyms in the U.S. where you can use KAYA to explore the climbs on offer and create lists to curate your perfect session.
As you log, KAYA keeps track and delivers you personalized real-time visualizations of your climbing intensity. Based on your max grade sent in KAYA, the app translates your attempts and sends them into three workout zones.
Imagine your top send is V10, everything from V0-V6 is warmup, V7 and V8 are in your “hard” zone, and V9+ is in your “limit” projecting zone. These ranges were built specifically with climbing coaches who want a quick and easy way to assess if you’re reaching target intensity in your sessions. A built-in timer also helps you track rest between attempts and your session overall.
Ang says that logging features appeal both to people who already have this behavior, and to climbers who are looking to understand their climbing better.
“I wasn’t a logger before KAYA,” Ang said. “But I realized that having an actual record of my climbing in each session helped me fine-tune my timing, volume, and intensity. Now that I work with a coach, I have to keep a complete record of each session to share with her for feedback, and KAYA does just that.”
KAYA worked closely with expert climbing coaches to develop personalized session-intensity metrics with the data you log. The app delivers real-time visualizations of your sessions. With this, you can finally know how much of your session you’re spending in warmup, your optimal intensity zone, and limit projecting.
Its Session Intensity Measure helps you climb smarter and more efficiently. A built-in timer helps you stay mindful of your rest between attempts, and your timing overall.
This fall, KAYA will be launching a Premium subscription product with deep enhancements to performance analytics and training, and the ability to use KAYA to work with a climbing coach. Alongside new metrics, coaching integrations will be a cornerstone of the Premium app.
Connecting climbers to climbers is the backbone of KAYA.
“We like to point out that the best climbers in the world didn’t get there by themselves,” Ang said. “Climbing is a sport where mentorship is key. We’re trying to make it find those people that become your crew, your mentors, and with those people, you’ll foster your development and love for the sport.”
KAYA facilitates community connection within your gym, local crag, or an individual climb that you’ve marked as a project. The app serves up climbing videos in personalized reels based on your grade range, locations, climbers, and projects you follow, making it easy to find an organic connection based on interest.
Another way KAYA fosters community is through challenges. The best ones, Ang says, are locally-led. “You can feel the fire coming through when an area is hyped on a Challenge,” she added.
One example is the recent competition hosted by the Southeastern Climbers Coalition, a climbing organization based in the Southeast US. Hundreds of climbers competed virtually over the course of a month, and — with KAYA waiving its fees for nonprofit organizations — the competition tickets and additional fundraising efforts garnered over $20,000 for stewardship efforts. KAYA facilitated over 200 virtual competitions over the last year.
KAYA understands the interconnectivity that is needed for climbers to positively change. This transformative process also requires the climbing community to recognize and work towards resolving societal issues that impact climbers on a deeper level.
Bigger Than Climbing: KAYA’s Commitment to Inclusion
“When the Black Lives Matter movement was in effect last year, we started having conversations amongst the leadership team to reflect on how BLM intersected with climbing. And we began to examine what we could to make KAYA a platform for change,” said Ang.
The folks at Kay are addressing the forces of exclusivity and exclusion that have prevented people from joining this sport and feeling like they belong in 3 ways: fundraising, representation, and using the KAYA product itself to push change.
KAYA’s work began with The Climber’s Pledge, a way for the brand to ask climbers to commit themselves to respect and inclusivity in the sport. Next, it raised funds to support The Brown Ascenders, a nonprofit organization created for and by climbers of color.
Funding The Brown Ascenders’ initiatives helped power clinics, gear libraries, and meetups. Each of these offerings increases the accessibility of outdoor spaces, outdoor-related education, and recreation for Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) adults and youths. This effort continues to cultivate outlets for community, representation, and growth.
After raising almost $40,000 with a donor match and receiving hundreds of signatures on the Pledge, the team turned their focus to how the product and brand could make a lasting impact.
With respect to route names — a heated debate within the climbing community — climbers using the KAYA app have the ability to report offensive climb names. KAYA used an existing offensive climb database called Climb the Gap to obscure flagged names within the app.
This commitment to creating a respectful community shows that KAYA is more than just a digital platform.
The Future Of KAYA
KAYA purports that it’s for anyone who shares their vision of a stronger, more connected, and intentionally driven climbing community. And with that in mind, KAYA just announced the KAYA Collective, a group of coaches, athletes, and community leaders that they’re investing in to shape the future of the sport.
“The [Kaya Collective] stories, their climbing, and their perspectives will be critical to what we do. We’re so excited about this team,” Ang said.
“We’re not building KAYA because we want to build an app. We’re building KAYA because we love the climbing community and we want something that pulls us closer together.”