Yo! I'm Emily, a new addition to the Nature's Bakery family, and psyched to be a part of such an awesome and authentic brand! I'm writing this from the San Francisco Airport, where I have a 7 hour layover en route to Barcelona to go sport climbing for a month. I am a professional rockclimber, and I spend a lot of my life in places like this - in transit to climbing destinations around the world, and I have since I was a kid.
I grew up in Boulder, Colorado and started climbing when I was 10 years old. I did gymnastics, dance, soccer, and ski raced before that but when I first climbed I decided that that was all I wanted to do, and I just flat out quit everything else. I guess I knew what I wanted at that age because it stuck. Climbing became my whole life. At first, I was really into competing indoors on artificial walls, where the object is to climb higher on the route than your opponents. I was pretty good right away and won Jr. Nationals twice and then went on to win the US Adult Nationals five times. I started to compete Internationally as well, and placed 2nd at the World Championships in 2005 and placed top 5 on several other occasions.
Youth Nationals 1999
World Cup 2007 Zurich, Switzerland
But eventually I learned that doing competitions indoors wasn't as fulfilling or sustainable as a passion or career, and thanks to several extremely important people in my life (my parents and climbing coaches), I was introduced to climbing outside on real rock. I started to shift my focus from indoor competition to outdoor sport climbing. Sport climbing is a style of climbing that rewards physical and mental strength and endurance. The routes are generally only 40-120 ft or so, and we climb tied into a rope with protection in the form of bolts pre-placed in the rock. This style is different from, say, traditional climbing, where the climber places their own protection. “Trad”, although still physical, requires more tactical knowledge of gear placement and equipment, and tends to be a little bit more intimidating; while sport climbing lets the individual focus only on the physical difficulty of the climb. I gravitated toward sport climbing because it was a natural progression from the indoor gym climbing scene and it complimented the strength and flexibility I had already acquired from my gymnastics background.
Sport climbing in the Red River Gorge, Kentucky
I pushed myself in sport climbing just as I had in competitions, completing routes that were given some of the most elite ratings in the sport. I've climbed eleven routes rated 5.14 (a handful of men in the world have completed 5.15 so far), and it continues to be my main focus in climbing. One of the best places to go sport climbing on the planet is.....maybe you can guess.....SPAIN!!! Where I'll be in less than 24 hours. I really can't wait.
Sport climbing in the Getu Valley, China
I'm more excited about this trip than I have been in a pretty long time because I took a pretty big break from sport climbing in 2012 to pursue an opportunity that was given to me by my main sponsor The North Face. They asked me if I would be interested in climbing Mt. Everest with some of my teammates in partnership with National Geographic, Montana State University, and the MAYO clinic. Our expedition was multifaceted. We were there to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the first American ascent, to gather geological samples for MSU to conduct tests that had never been done before that high up on the mountain, and to be test subjects for cardiovascular disease specialists at MAYO, who were researching the effects of high altitudes on the body and comparing them to cardiovascular and heart disease. Amazing stuff. It was a crazy, wild, and unbelievable experience. One that changed me in countless ways and that I could go on and on about, but I won't! If you want to read more about it, please visit the National Geographic site here: http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/everest
Mt. Everest Summit May 25, 2012
South Face of Everest
Although I had never climbed any mountains before Everest, I had begun to dabble in different styles of climbing in recent years. I've learned over time that the best way to stay balanced and psyched is to do different activities. Climbing is an incredibly multi-dimensional sport, and I believe it would be a shame to not explore it in all it's wonderful and exciting mediums. I've learned how to ice/mixed climb in the last three winters, and surprised myself by placing first for women at the 2012 Ouray Ice Festival ice climbing competition (back to my competition roots...ha). I've also developed a rather strong addiction to traveling and have been trying to go everywhere and anywhere since I was 12 years old, using climbing as that platform. In the past two years, I've visited Nepal, China, Spain, Austria, Switzerland, Slovenia, Germany, France, Thailand, Turkey, and Ukraine. I love experiencing new places, tasting different foods, and seeing how other cultures exist. I believe some of the most valuable and memorable lessons learned in life are acquired while traveling. I recommend that everyone make it a priority to get a passport and try to see a different part of the world as least once in their life, because the experience will change you!
Competing at Ouray
After Everest, I began to develop an affinity for being in the mountains. Not necessarily climbing them, but simply experiencing them. I visited Chamonix, France this past summer and climbed Mt. Blanc (tallest peak in the European Union), which I can honestly say was one of the single coolest days in the mountains I've ever had. I recently motivated to get back into skiing after my 15 year hiatus. I moved to Squaw Valley, CA from Colorado this past summer and have spent all winter skiing both on the resort and in the backcountry (after taking my AIARE level one Avalanche course!). Now I'm totally obsessed and want to go skiing all over the world........but I haven't figured out how to do that one yet, so for right now I'm happy skiing in Tahoe :) So there you have it. That's my life. I'm mostly a climber, but I'd also like to think I'm a skier and overall adventurer.
My next post will most likely be about my trip to Spain. Stay tuned! Also, for more information about me and to read some of my other writing, please visit my personal site: http://emilyaharrington.com -EH