Free Shipping over $50


Natalie Afonina

Grivel Beal

Hometown: Seattle, WA

Activities: Ice Climbing, Big Wall Climbing, Skiing, & Biking


Grivel, Beal, Arcteryx, NW Alpine Gear


It's a magical world, let's go exploring.

Natalie grew up competitively ballroom dancing but secretly wishing she was an arctic explorer. Inspired by stories of her Soviet mountaineer dad, she booked a one way ticket to the Himalayas when she was 18, where she saw her first ice climbers scaling the frozen waterfalls of the Khumbu Valley. Inspired, she hitchhiked from Seattle to Bozeman with a pair of donated ice tools and crampons she found in her dad's old gear. Since then she's been chasing ice and alpine adventures around the world while working on autonomous robots and engaging in citizen science projects. She believes it's all about the journey, surrounded by friends, and loves the feelings of discomfort that come with exploring a place she's never been before. Long approaches, distant lands, pushing personal boundaries, learning new skills (big walling and backcountry skiing have been the latest additions), and adventuring with a purpose are all things she looks for when planning her next trip, whether it's a quick trip to Cody to run up Broken Hearts, tagging sharks in South Africa, riding camels in the Sahara or a larger expedition to Kamchatka, Russia. She has a fondness for longer, aesthetic ice routes, singing along to Beyonce playlists and sharing behind-the-scene stories to inspire all the weekend warriors out there. She believes everyone is human and aims to show both the highs and the lows, the challenges and the rewards that come with balancing an engineering job with exploration.

Her three rules are:
#1 Don't forget to laugh
#2 We are all beginners once, be nice
#3 Getting down is often the hardest part

Natalie believes every climb has a memory attached to it. The below are her all-time favorite climbs. Some are aesthetically beautiful, some required an adventure to get to, and others forged lifetime partnerships.

All-Time Favorite Ice Climbs:

  • Polar Circus - V, WI5 - Alberta, Canada
  • Omega - IV, WI5+ - New Hampshire, USA
  • Mindbender - WI5+ - Vermont, USA
  • Drop, Swim, or Die - WI5- - Adirondacks, New York, USA
  • Repentance & Remission - WI5+, M5 - New Hampshire, USA
  • Broken Hearts - WI5+ - Cody, Wyoming, USA

Most Memorable Climbs:

  • Goldfinger - Trad, Alpine 5.11a Grade IV, 2000' - Ruth Gorge, AK
  • Leaning Tower - Big Wall Grade V, 1000' - Yosemite, CA
  • Qui L'eut Cru - Adventure Climb, 1800' - Todra Gorge, Morocco
  • Unnamed Climb - Chossiest/Scariest - Yemen
  • Mt. Rainier with her father - Washington

Blog Posts

The Ice-Mitt Project

The Ice-Mitt tour is a project being undertaken by a group of Polar Engineers from Dartmouth College's Thayer School of Engineering. They study the microstructure of arctic and antarctic sea ice, specifically the characteristics of the brine channels and air pockets in sea ice that make it so porous and permeable. They aim to observe the differences between the structures of first year sea ice and multi-year sea ice, and therefore the differences between the structures their permeability to substances moving from the ocean into the atmosphere through the ice. This research is becoming more necessary for climate models as the volume of multi-year sea ice in the polar regions is decreasing more and more each year with increased summer melt, and is being replaced by first year seas ice the next winter.

Uber Advanced Technologies

"I'm drawn to challenges. I'm draw to big ideas. I'm drawn to things where people say, 'That's nearly impossible.' or 'How are you going to get around that constraint?' And I think everything's possible. We're going to solve the problem, we just need to find the right combination of creative approaches. What's feasible, cost-effective, gets us to the end goal, and actually contributes to the world in some way? That's one of the main reasons I chose to come to Mapbox, because of the opportunity to think big and have the support to implement."

Let It Go: Ruth Gorge Edition

In addition to being a huge Beyonce fan, she's been known to lip-sync to Disney songs. Bored out of her mind, tentbound waiting for a week of horrific weather to pass to be able to climb in the Ruth Gorge of Alaska, she decided to make a video for her little sister. Enjoy the embarassing entertainment of a rendition of Let it Go from Frozen.

Favorite Gear Picks

Grivel Trail Three Poles

"These poles come with me on the approach, up the climb and for the descent. They're SUPER light and pack down into a small footprint, so they easily fit in my pack when I'm climbing and I don't have to MacGyver some weird way to attach them to my pack. I used to always have to think about where to stash my poles on the approach and if I was going to come by that same way on the descent, and I'd often end up leaving them at the car because I wanted flexibility on choosing alternative descent routes. Now I don't think about it. Poles always come with me, and my knees thank me when scree-skiing down."

Grivel G20+

"I have been a dual-point climber ever since I started ice climbing way back when. I thought that two points would make me feel more stable on the ice. These crampons proved me wrong and are the reason I'm a mono-convert! Mixed climbing used to be, let's just say... way less secure feeling in dualies when I could feel my feet skating with the slightest rotation. The G20's feel like an extension of my boot and give me the confidence to get on thin mixed sections and trust my feet. I also discovered that on thinner ice, when you want to minimize bashing and risk fracturing the little ice you have to work with, monos work well to reuse ice tool holes."

Beal Gully Unicore Ropes

"Has a more perfect combo of Half Ropes been made? These are my go-to ropes for everything ice climbing and alpine related. My preferred length is 70m which gets me up and down pretty much everything and they're so light at 36g/m that I don't mind carrying the two ropes up on alpine trad routes (instead of using a single beefier rope). Their Golden Dry treatment hasn't failed me after a full season of use, even towards spring time when most routes on the rappel had liquid water running down them, when ropes typically get iced up."

Plume K3N Locking Carabiners

"I'm not a large human. At 5'1" I look for weight savings where I can get them because most climbing gear doesn't scale down in size (unlike the way clothing does). These carabiners weigh only 28 grams, making them some of the lightest locking biners on the market. They're small, but they're robust and rated to 23kN! I don't go anywhere without a couple of these on my harness for everything from hanging a pack to quickly setting up an anchor. Pair one of these with a Grivel Lambda HMS Twin Gate carabiner for my favorite go-to top-belay setup."