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Feb 4, 2024 by Megan Michelson
Photograph Tara Kerzhner

Meet an Athlete: Emily Harrington

Home Base / Tahoe City, California.

Activities / Rock climbing, backcountry skiing, trail running, Nordic skiing.

Why Emily

A five-time U.S. National Sport Climbing Champion in her youth, Emily Harrington grew up a competitive gym climber in Boulder, Colorado. In her 20s, she discovered big-wall and expedition climbing, and she’s since tackled some of the hardest routes in the world, from Yosemite to the Himalaya.

Emily joined The North Face's athlete team in 2008. Photo: Tara Kerzhner

Climbing was a part of my childhood, but I knew if I wanted climbing to be a part of my life moving forward, I needed to understand more about it and expand my horizons,” says Emily. “I’m a professional rock climber, but I strive to experience the mountains in all different mediums.

Specialized Skills

Emily is renowned as a climber, but she’s also an exceptional skier (she set a speed record for climbing and skiing 26,864-foot Cho Oyu, on the border of Tibet and Nepal, in 2016). She’s also an experienced public speaker, and films and produces for her own YouTube channel.

Photo: Tara Kerzhner

Emily has this adaptability to different styles, environments, and aspects of climbing. I consider her one of the best all-around climbers in the world. She’s been at the top of the game in nearly every aspect of climbing—sport climbing, big wall climbing, climbing to the top of the highest point in the world. Her skill set is vast and her ability to endure sets her apart. She sets big goals and isn’t afraid to fail.

Michelle Parker Professional skier
There's dry-tooling. And then there's dry-tooling. Photo: Boone Speed
Emily's career has progressed from indoor climbing to sport climbing to big walls and now mountaineering. Photo: Boone Speed

What's Next

Emily is currently at work on a documentary film—due out in 2024—about free climbing a 40-pitch, 5.13b route called Golden Gate on Yosemite’s El Capitan in a day. (In 2020, she became the first woman to free climb Golden Gate in under 24 hours.)

Emily is a free climber, which means she places gear for protection, not aid. Photo: Tara Kerzhner