Pro climber Jenn Flemming tackles Devils Tower in National Parks video

Pro climber Jenn Flemming recently conquered Devils Tower for the National Parks Foundation's National Parks Epic Challenge
Pro climber Jenn Flemming recently conquered Devils Tower for the National Parks Foundation's National Parks Epic Challenge. Photo by Andrew Burr

If you find yourself sitting next to professional rock climber Jenn Flemming at the bar, don't ask her is she's climbed Everest—the answer is no. It's not that she doesn't want to, it's just that she's been so busy raising the bar for her sport elsewhere. Like in her home state of Colorado, where she's achieved several first female ascents, and while hopscotching across the globe to foreign rock walls in Iran and China. Or maybe in Wyoming, where her climb of the otherworldly volcanic formation Devils Tower was captured on film for the National Parks Foundation's National Parks Epic Challenge. No, Flemming hasn't been to Everest yet, but just give her some time—not much can stop this tour-de-force athlete (except maybe that forgotten headlamp).

My name is Jenn and I live in Boulder, Colorado. I'm originally from Massachusetts, where I grew up learning to love and respect the outdoors, challenge myself to push boundaries and learn what I am capable of, and be kind and gracious to the people I meet along the way.

In my professional life, I'm a climber for La Sportiva, Camp USA, Sterling Rope, and The North Face. I also work for the American Alpine Club, which means I spend my days doing work to support the people, lifestyle, and environment that are at the heart of the climbing community.

On my own time, you can find me off the deck in Eldorado Canyon, hiking 14ers with my amazing dog, playing the piano, and reading. When I get back to the ocean, I also love to surf and swim.

Photo by Aly Nicklas
Pro climber Jenn Flemming recently conquered Devils Tower for the National Parks Foundation's National Parks Epic Challenge. Photo by Aly Nicklas

The best part about being a pro climber is the incredible places you travel to, and the global community that you are inherently a part of, meaning you have instant friends everywhere you go.

My favorite places to climb are Eldorado Canyon and the South Platte, both of which are in my backyard here in Colorado. My bucket list climb is El Capitan in Yosemite.

The hardest climb I've ever pulled is probably the Evictor, 5.12+ R, in Eldorado Canyon. Grade-wise, I have climbed multiple letter grades harder than this, and a handful of routes much scarier, but the Evictor was the first route I completed that was climbing at my limit above small gear. It was an incredible learning process and certainly more mentally than physically taxing. The Evictor was a bit of a gateway drug, I think, opening the door to harder, scarier climbing and ultimately was the route that got me hooked on the type of climbing that I love most today. The experience of that route is one that has stayed with me to do this day, and just standing under it still makes me smile.

My gear of choice includes my Camp Laser harness, likely the most important piece of gear a climber owns. My lucky cam is a green Alien; it's a go-to piece for Eldorado climbing and has been my "thank God" cam on more routes than I can remember.

The most amazing place I've ever traveled for work is Iran, where I climbed in the beautiful Arborz Mountains, on the steep limestone cliffs north of Tehran, and learned about Persian culture and history. My Iranian climbing partners and friends—incredible climbers in their own right—have blown open the door on any preconceptions I might have had of what life in Iran is like.

If I could only travel to one more place in my life, it would have to be Patagonia.

I'm featured in a new video from the National Park Service, where I tackle climbing Devils Tower. This was a particularly cool opportunity, because it was supported by the National Park Foundation in an effort to emphasize the value of outdoor recreation in the parks, something that I value deeply. My favorite National Park is Yosemite, because it is trad climbing Mecca.

The scariest thing that's ever happened while climbing is, in general, rappelling in the mountains. There is nothing I like less than rapping off a single piece of gear into the unknown.

The funniest was likely getting stuck in the dark on top of the Bastille in Eldorado Canyon.  I had never done the easy, classic route to the top, and so invited an incredibly strong sport-climber friend along for a quick post-work jaunt to the top of the classic formation. We didn't know how to get off, didn't have headlamps, and didn't move particularly quickly.  By the time we found our way off, a group of friends had come to rescue us off of the 5.7. I definitely have not lived that one down yet.

One luxury item I always have with me is coffee. It’s definitely the most important item I bring when traveling (though I should add that I am currently answering this question uncharacteristically coffee-less in remote western China.) My most prized possession is my book collection, but the thing that's most important to me is my amazing dog.

To take care of my hands and feet after climbing, I use ice and an arnica-based moisturizer. Joshua Tree Recovery Lotion is one of my favorites. A lot of the climbing I do most (crack climbing) is incredibly hard on both your hands and feet—think jamming repeatedly into a crack in order to climb upwards—and so I find that icing after climbing is really important.

One thing I'd love to learn how to do is sail! There is something so romantic and simple about traveling by boat, and I so often miss the rhythm and magnitude of the being near the ocean.

Pro climber Jenn Flemming recently conquered Devils Tower for the National Parks Foundation's National Parks Epic Challenge.
Pro climber Jenn Flemming recently conquered Devils Tower for the National Parks Foundation's National Parks Epic Challenge. Photo by Andy Mann

The most challenging outdoor activity I've tried, besides climbing, is mountain running. It seems so simple, but there are no athletes I admire more than ultra-runners. I run the trails near my home to cross-train for climbing, but am nothing close to an endurance athlete. I don't think I have the mental strength either; when I get tired running, I walk.

My weekly training schedule looks something like this: I try to climb outside four days a week, hike or run three days, and do an ab/core workout every day after climbing. Pretty simple. This schedule can be taken anywhere, so whether I'm at home in Boulder or on the road, it is pretty easy to stick to. In addition, if I have a particular climbing goal, I will often train in the gym for four to six weeks prior to trying the route.

My favorite piece of advice for living a healthy lifestyle is to listen to your body! So often active individuals go until they absolutely cannot go anymore. I try to rest when my body tells me to rest, to sleep eight hours a night, and to not stress out if I have to take some time off of climbing and training in order to rest, recover, and stay healthy.

Pro climber Jenn Flemming recently conquered Devils Tower for the National Parks Foundation's National Parks Epic Challenge.
Pro climber Jenn Flemming recently conquered Devils Tower for the National Parks Foundation's National Parks Epic Challenge.

The words of wisdom I live by are: There are things bigger than you are.

One thing that might surprise people to find out about me is I am totally scared of heights. Climbing has been a way to confront that fear, but it certainly still overwhelms me from time to time.

The biggest misconception about pro climbers is that we have or will climb Mount Everest. This is usually the first question the person sitting next to me on an airplane asks when I say I'm a climber. While I deeply love the mountains, it will likely be quite some time until that happens.

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