We are very excited to be a part of the 3rd Annual Canmore Climbing Festival that will take place this weekend on Saturday, August 12, 2017.
One of the speakers this year is American alpinist Josh Wharton. Usually flying under the radar, Josh is one of America’s top all around climbers with a specialty in Alpine climbing including first ascents of the Azeem Ridge on Great Trango Tower and The Flame in Pakistan, as well as a three time winner of the Ouray Ice Festival Mixed Climbing Competition (2009, 2010, 2011) and multiple first ascents in the Black Canyon. As a professional climber, Josh works hard at his craft and has a multi-discipline approach to climbing. We had a chance to chat with Josh before the festival and here is what he had to say.
Hi Josh, first off thanks for chatting with us. Very excited that you are a part of the Canmore Climbing Festival this year!
Let’s get right into it! You are no stranger to the Canadian Rockies and have been back to Canmore over the years. What do you love about this area and what keeps you coming back?
I’ve spent a fair bit of time in Canmore over starting around 2011. It’s an absolutely stunning area and I love the fact that there is serious alpine climbing within an easy drive, and great sport climbing when the weather and conditions are no good for alpine climbing. That’s an unusual combo outside of Europe.
BD athlete Josh Wharton making the first ascent of Two Dragons in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
I wanted to chat a little bit about being a climbing/alpine professional as it is somewhat of a mystery for the general public. What does it mean for you to be a climbing professional?
That’s a good question. I think it’s a little different for everyone. Luckily for me Patagonia (my primary sponsor) has a fairly robust field testing program and I often work on testing new products and fabrics. As an alpine climber, I really enjoy geeking out about gear and clothing, as it can have a very direct impact on performance in the mountains. I also travel to give slideshows and teach clinics, at least a few times throughout the year, if not more, and I recently did a film tour of Patagonia Stores to present a film about climbing on Longs Peak. I also do some writing now and again for the Patagonia catalog, or the various climbing magazines. I also recently starting working with Steve House at Uphill Athlete, as one of their coaches. This might be something I do more of in the future.
What does being a professional look like on a daily basis then?
Lot’s of climbing and training! Also emails, whatever writing project I might be working on, and hopefully playing and hanging with my daughter.
Do you plan the year around certain objectives or do you try to live the climbing lifestyle as much as possible?
I try to do a mix of both. I always write down a list of goals every year, and try to get after them as best I can. I like to make sure I have goals in several genres of climbing; usually alpine, rock, bouldering, and training. This helps keep me psyched, and have workable objectives even when I get injured, or loose energy for one type of climbing. For instance this year I had knee surgery in the spring, which prevented me from going on an alpine trip to Peru. Luckily I have a good list of rock climbing goals that are still possible with a bum knee which have been great for keeping me motivated.
You have taken a bigger role with Patagonia than just an athlete. Can you tell us a bit about that role and what it means to work with a company like Patagonia?
Patagonia has always seen their Ambassador program as a team of field testers first and this really suits me. I would love if this part of my job continued to grow.
Beside some pretty bold alpine and ice ascents, you also enjoy the pleasures of sport climbing (and bouldering?). Is this part of the package for you as an all-around climbing athlete?
Yes, I’ve always loved all types of climbing (except maybe aid climbing) and I’ve really worked hard through the years to grow my climbing in every aspect of the sport. One of the coolest things about climbing, in my opinion, is the incredible breadth of experiences that are out there, and the endless list of skills to learn.
As a professional, you have been able to keep a low profile in terms of social media and self promotion. Has this been a conscious effort on your part or are you part of a generation who just does not have those expectations from the companies you work with?
Many of my mentors as a young climber were not fans of self-promotion, or chest thumping, and with a New England upbringing, and a British father, I think that mindset is somewhat ingrained in me. Fo me self promotion, and social media, just hasn’t felt like a good fit. I realize that may have some negative consequences for my career as a professional climber given the growth of social media, but I hope that I’ve found enough ways to represent my sponsors well while still being true to myself.
There is a story floating around about you bolting in Rifle and having some fixed gear pull on you that left you in the dirt. What the hell happened?
Nothing special, just a dumb mistake while stick clipping up a route to replace some bolts on a sport route. I decked from 30 feet straight onto my ass, and broke my back and both arms. I was alone, but luckily Rifle is relatively roadside, and I dragged myself 100 yards (which I don’t remember at all) out into the middle of the road, and some guys from the fish hatchery found me and called an Ambulance. There’s some good water aerobics comeback footage here.
I have never been to Black Canyon but it sounds like it is not for everyone. What attracted you to that area and why is it so special to you?
It an under appreciated area. There are some really good adventures to be had, and actually some high quality routes as well. I think it gets a bad wrap because the easiest routes are generally the lowest quality. In some ways it’s the best training ground for alpine rock climbing in the lower 48. It doesn’t hurt that you top out within spitting distance of the campground as well!
Shifting gears to your roles outside of climbing. You became a father a number of years ago and it sounds like it has changed how much time you spend away from home. Is it harder to stay focused on your objectives when travelling now more than before or do you still really cherish that time away?
Here are some thoughts on fatherhood and alpinism. kind of covers all questions!
Everyone I know who has kids tends to get better at training and managing time. Is this the same for you and has it made you better at your craft in the long run?
Yes, of course. Time is precious and a kiddo helps you think about the best ways to use it.
Becoming an elite alpine climber must come with a lot of mentorship and learning from those who came before you. Are there a few individuals that stick out for you in terms of their influence on your approach to the mountains?
Yes, I’ve learned a lot from many people from through the years, but Jonny Copp, Bean Bowers, and Mike Pennings stand out.
Finally, what are you looking forward to the most coming back to the Canmore area?
Quick trip, but hoping I can jam in a lot of climbing! I’m hoping to try the Shining on Mount Louise. Really stoked to climb at Acephale, and I still need to check out Lake Louise. It will also be fun to see Sonnie’s son Tatum. He and my daughter Hera are nearly identical in age, and I haven’t seen him since we all did a family trip to Sicily when they were just 6 months old!
Thanks again Josh! Looking forward to the presentation!
Josh will be presenting Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017 at the Canmore Climbing Festival. Tickets available from Vertical Addiction!