If you’ve been watching the new HBO Max series, The Climb, you already know Maiza Lima by name. She’s a featured contestant in the reality competition show, produced and co-hosted by acting star Jason Momoa alongside climbing legend Chris Sharma. If you haven’t watched (or binged) the series yet, each of the eight episodes pit the contestants in elimination climbing challenges for a chance $100,000 and a brand endorsement deal. But given the show’s highly produced nature, viewers might overlook the truly unique and inspiring journey that led Lima to professional rock climbing—and now out to over 70 million streaming screens across the world.
Lima (she/her) grew up in a tiny village on the eastern edge of the Amazon basin and fled from northern Brazil to the U.S. with her mother when she was 17. At that time, she had zero knowledge of English and had never heard of climbing. Sure, she used to walk miles to the river to do laundry, but that definitely was not for fun. When she discovered the sport at age 26, she fell in love with it. Lima spent the next few years teaching herself to climb and getting her guiding credentials—all while cleaning houses full-time in Seattle.
Now based in Montana, Lima is a full-time guide and sponsored climber—and a little bit of a celebrity after her film debut on The Climb. Throughout it all, she’s maintained a rock-solid sense of self and perspective on the world. It’s easy to draw motivation from this climbing pro who’s equal parts humble and driven. And the uplifting story of how she’s charted such an improbable rise is one that’s best told by Lima herself.
PUBLIC LANDS: At first, you didn’t want to apply for The Climb. What changed your mind?
MAIZA LIMA: Honestly, I was going through a hard time in my life then. I had a lot of work going on, and climbing wasn’t a priority. When the casting person reached out and sent me the link, I was laughing—like, this is not for me. But I’m a believer that you just have to go for things, and if the answer is yes, then you’re meant to be in that space.
Have you always been like that?
I have, and it’s been true in many situations in my life: Moving from Brazil to the U.S. and leaving behind everything I knew, even my language and family. Transitioning from cleaning houses to climbing and making that my source of income. If an opportunity arises, I take it. I think that if people invite me to do something, then they’re confident in me, and I just have to trust that. That said, I’ve never been that confident in myself.