Whitney did 14 years of gymnastics—the last half competitive—before starting to climb while in college in Ohio. Her brother introduced her to the sport, and it changed her life. That was in 2001. Since then, Whitney has moved all over the country and traveled through the US, Canada, Mexico and Europe bouldering, sport climbing and trad climbing. It is her lifeblood. It fuels her, as crazy as that sounds. Whitney climbs for the movement, the challenge, the constant discovery. It’s a path through which she can compute her life and where she can experience her life, her friend’s lives and this world to the fullest. Currently, Whitney lives in the Gunks—absorbing the history of it like a sponge—and works as a freelance copywriter. She travel as much as she can, which is really never enough.
Discipline: Rock climbing—bouldering, sport, trad
Hometown: Boca Raton, FL; I grew up in Paducah, KY
Currently Living: New Paltz, NY
Height: 5’ ½”
Career Highlights: Perhaps not my hardest climbs, but the ones that stick out in my mind the most: Onsighting the 7-pitch 5.12d in Sicily, La Lingua Pura. I climbed the route with Brittany Griffith—one of my very favorite people to climb and travel with—and it had this funny horizontal pitch with tufas that hung from the ceiling like little bulbous light fixtures. Totally nuts upside down, knee-barring, toe-hooking, heel-hooking, sometimes feet first dead horizontal climbing, all five pitches in the air. Wild! Others would be sending Clairvoyance (5.13b), Survival (5.13a) and Happiness is a 110 Degree Wall (5.12b) in the Gunks on lead, and sending True Love (5.13d) in the Red River Gorge. Again, not my hardest, but I worked really hard on this finicky route. Also, sending Maxi Pista in Lion’s Head, a 5.13c, which I sent on my last day, last attempt of our trip (I’m often not able to pull it off like that). Oh, and how can I forget: sending 32 pitches of 5.10 in the Gunks for my 32nd birthday challenge—it took me about 10 hours. That was a pretty rad day.
When did you first start climbing?
I first started climbing while in college. It was about 2001. My brother worked at the climbing gym and invited me in to come climbing with him. I never stopped.
What do you most enjoy about your sport?
The constant change—it’s an amazing way to see a lot of different places, countries, landscapes—the constant challenge, the medium for pushing yourself beyond your own imposed limits and, of course, the most amazing community. I’m privileged to have found such a stellar group of passionate people.
How do you define success?
By not letting it define you; it’s about measuring yourself against yourself and seeing where you can improve, get stronger or be better. It applies to climbing and in life—being successful is trying hard. There was a quote I liked that said something like, success is measured by how many times you failed. Is that how it goes? I’m constantly reminded I need to embrace that.
Who are your heroes?
Lynn Hill, Russ Clune, my brother, Sean Patrick—anyone out there pushing it, defying belief. That’s why the Dawn Wall was so amazing. Tommy and Kevin were incredibly inspiring.
What inspires you?
Undying optimism, for sure (see Dawn Wall comment above). Compassion.
What are your hobbies outside of your sport?
Cooking, yoga, writing—not writing for work, which I do, but writing for writing’s sake.
What’s your guilty pleasure?
French fries and watching Sex in the City—I know, it’s heinous.
What are your hidden talents?
I did competitive gymnastics when I was younger—I still have a few of those tricks up my sleeve, like standing on my hands, back handsprings, those kinds of things.
Tell us about your most favorite place in the world:
I do love the Red River Gorge. The climbing is amazing, yes. But this is also where I first started climbing. The community has grown and shifted and spread out—but some of my best friends are from there. If not there…starting on an empty beach somewhere. I was born in Florida and lived there until I was seven. While I never got into surfing, I imagine I would love it—I’m a water baby, at heart. I love the vastness of it. It really puts you in your place.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Cirque du Soleil performer
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be, and why?
Less thinking, more doing…I overanalyze things to death. Sometimes I just want to turn my brain off—I am my own worst critic.
Tell us about a time in your life when you have been scared:
Being in a car wreck from icy roads. The fear came from being out of control. I was only going about 30 mph, but I remember I got hyper focused as I started sliding, and I remember that heinous fear of not being able to do anything but just watching and waiting for impact. Heinous!
Describe your perfect day:
A really long day with some friends that starts in the wee hours of the morning, involves loads of climbing, a bit of getting scared, a lot of try-hard, a mix of both success and failure, and ends with food at night and maybe some drinks. Somewhere beautiful, of course, but as climbers we’re often in those places already.
How would your friends describe you?