The 27-year-old pro climber shares how she stays calm in tense moments, her favorite cross-training workouts for climbing, and her go-to gear.

By Mary Anderson
October 04, 2019
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Sean McCabe

Brette Harrington, a 27-year-old Arc’teryx athlete based in Lake Tahoe, California, regularly hangs out on the top of the world. Here, she gives you a peek into life as a pro climber, plus the top-notch gear that gets her there.

A Day In the Life

"A typical climb for me lasts one to two days. One of my favorites is the West Face of the Devil’s Paw in Alaska, a route I trail-blazed with a friend. It took 26 hours round-trip with a high grade of technical rock climbing. The descent was an adventure in itself, rappelling the steep 3,280-foot face at night." (Related: 9 Reasons to Try Rock Climbing Right Now)

Keep Calm, and Climb On

"I enjoy the challenges of each ascent, and on the tricky parts, I have learned to move slowly and breathe deeply, which slows my heart rate and lets me assess difficulties with a steady head."

Powering Up

"I do yoga and strengthen my core with Pilates because it is the stronghold to body control. Also, during the Alpine climbing season, I train my fingers on a hang board to maintain their strength for rock climbing." (Also try these strength exercises for rock climbing newbies.)

Going for the Big Ones

"When I started climbing big walls five years ago, my boyfriend and I began using portaledges [hanging tents] to do them. We loved the exposure and novelty of living on a cliff face. In 2016, we even took our portaledge to the Arctic Circle for a climb that lasted 17 days." (Want to go camping, but *not* on a the face of a cliff? Check out HipCamp to search for camping spots near you.)

Brette Harrington's Climbing Essentials

If anyone knows good climbing gear, it's a woman who hangs off walls for a living. Here, her top picks.

Arc'Teryx
Arc'Teryx

Arc’teryx Alpha Backpack 45 L 

Weighing just 23.6 ounces, this durable climbing pack is also weather resistant. “This is the perfect alpine and multi-pitch climbing backpack,” says Harrington. “It has a simple, lightweight design—cylindrical, like a bucket—that holds all my climbing gear and is very durable for hauling.” (Buy It, $259, arcteryx.com)

Arc’teryx AR-385A Climbing Harness

This women’s harness can be used for different types of climbing. “I bring this harness with me everywhere,” she says. “It has adjustable leg loops, so it fits around all my winter layers as well as my thin summer leggings. Plus, it has a super comfortable and sleek design.” (Buy It, $129+, amazon.com) 

La Sportiva
Julbo

La Sportiva TC Pro Climbing Shoe

This climbing shoe was designed to perform on granite. “It’s the most comfortable rock climbing shoe I’ve worn,” says Harrington. “Its stiffness allows for more support for longer climbs, and it’s good for granite climbing, which is what I do most.” (Buy It, $190, sportiva.com)

Julbo Monterosa Sunglasses

These lightweight polycarbonate sunglasses are great for outdoor action. “These are the only glasses that I wear while climbing. The design is so comfortable and simple, I often forget I’m wearing them,” says Harrington. “Plus, in snowy conditions, polarized lenses like these are key to cutting the glare.” (Buy It, $100, julbo.com)

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