Climber Bio: Jesse Huey - Copyright: Jesse Huey

"Growing up in the shadow of the Cascade Mountains, adventure and athletics were always at the foreground of my life. While attending the University of Washington, I was introduced to climbing amidst a difficult pursuit of school and the demanding practice schedule of the university’s varsity rowing program. In the same way that I approached the rigors and routine of a full time collegiate athlete, my training and passion to push myself segued into my pursuit as a climber.

Fourteen years later I am constantly training for the most beautiful, difficult, remote, technical faces in the world. Be it rock, ice, or mixed I love them all. In the last several years I have free climbed El Capitan in a single day, mixed climbed M11, put up first ascents all over North America, Asia, and Patagonia and repeated one of Alaska’s most difficult grade 6 routes. For me going climbing is always easy, the biggest challenge is maintaining that symbiotic life balance of work, passion, and relationships.

A few of my favorite climbs to date:

  • The Rumble Strip: Mike Pennings and I established a crazy new first ascent on Mt. Chamberlin in the deep Eastern Sierra taking huge falls for the first time in the super remote alpine. 5.12d, 8 pitches, one of the best experiences of my life just weeks after one of the worst experiences of my life bailing on a Pakistan Expedition due to a horrible terrorist attack.
  • Freerider in a day: Led every pitch in 15 hours with only one fall which was climbed second try with Dave Alfrey following with Jumars (second time to redpoint the route). El Capitan, Yosemite October 2012.
  • The Slovak Direct: Alaska Range, Denali South Face: 80 hour effort with 2 bivouacs climbed with Mark Westman, fifth overall ascent, fourth alpine style ascent.
  • The Shadow: 5.13, 50m, full ledge-to-ledge free ascent: The Chief, Squamish B.C., August 2010
  • The Moonlight Buttress: 5.12d, 400m, led and freed every pitch in a continuous one-day ascent: Zion National Park, UT.
  • Free ascent of the Dru Couliour Direct on the North face of the Dru in Chamonix France.
  • “The Squamish Triple Crown:” 26 hour Linkup of University Wall 5.12b, Roman Chimneys 5.11a, The Northern Lights 5.12a, Freeway 5.11d, 35 pitches no falls: Squamish B.C.
  • Tague Yer Time: 5.12, 600m 2 day free ascent: Black Canyon of the Gunnison CO.
  • One day ascent of "The Linkup" combining the Regular NW Face of Half Dome & The Nose of El Capitan
  • The Real Big Drip: M7, WI6, 400m, Ghost Valley, Canadian Rockies, Alberta
  • T2 (mixed start to The Terminator): M7, WI6++, 200m, Mt. Rundle Banff.
  • New route on Celestial Peak, Southeast Ridge: Sichuan China, Siguniang National Park, 5.11- 40+ pitches
  • First Ascent of “Gringo’s Perdidos,” North Pillar of Fitz Roy, Established a 9 Pitch 5.11 variation to the Kearney Knight Route on the “Cassarotto Pillar” Patagonia, Argentina.
  • First Ascent of "Last Gringo’s Standing” on Aguja St. Exupery Fitz Roy Massif: Established a 14 pitch new 5.11 route on the Eastern side of St. Exupery Patagonia Argentina."
Ready to get inspired? Watch Jesse Huey in 'Desert Ice'.

A 3 Strings Productions film by Arc'teryx.

Screen grab - Film: Desert Ice - Courtesy of Andy Mann

Screen grab of Jesse Huey - Film: Desert Ice - Courtesy of Andy Mann.

On the Cover: Jesse Huey

Cover Date: December 3rd, 2014

An Interview with Jesse Huey

Editor: Let’s talk about the video ‘Desert Ice’, a beautifully written, edited and filmed video. It must have been really amazing to see ice walls in the desert! You seemed so inspired by the beauty and remoteness of the location, Jesse.

Jesse Huey: Zion is a place I have traveled to many times for great adventurous and athletic rock climbing. When we talked about trying to ice climb there, I was immediately really interested. I have climbed tons of ice in the mountains but never have I tried to climb ice in a place like Zion.

It was a super unique experience in that we were climbing ice in that setting, but also in the fact the conditions lined up just right for all of us in the time that we all set aside (climbers and filmers.)

Editor: Those walls really were amazing! So, who found this fantastic location?

Jesse Huey: One of the areas that we climbed and shot in, had been explored before and was actually a known ice climb. In that we took the climbs a bit further, and did a few extra pitches that were likely never explored in the winter. The other areas Scott had set out to explore on his own with his girlfriend Angela in the week proceeding.

Scott actually found a ton more ice out there probably ended up being the best ice of his entire trip but that wasn’t in the video. We did get a bunch of information though from the local summer canyoneering guides as to where they had seen wet streaks in the summer which would be ice in the winter. That was really Scott starting point for where to look first and then we just also got lucky.

Editor: The routes looked fabulous but time was of the essence. Things looked very precarious in some areas of the gigantic ice wall, even though the climb was truly classic. What was your opinion of the conditions you were working with?

Jesse Huey: I had never seen ice form and melt so quickly. It was a new one for me. In that the ice would melt and freeze every day making for the formations we were climbing to be very thin and usually poorly bonded to the smooth sand stone. Ice likes to adhere to the imperfections in the rock, or to moss, or to something that it can really bond to.

In the desert this just isn’t there and the ice with just a few degree temperature difference can fall of in small and large sections. We were very careful around this. On one day, Scott and I climbed a first ascent in the morning that literally was 100% not climbable an hour after we did it. It made things seem pretty delicate when we actually went in to do another route and realized that if we couldn’t climb them anymore because the ice was so thin and had turned to mush.

This made the experience of climbing in these canyons fairly committing. Each of these canyons have walls that once you enter them, they really don’t have a way out unless you go for many miles down stream to a place where you can exit. So when we pulled our ropes after we rappelled in, we were committed to climbing the ice to get out.

This was something fairly new that we hadn’t experienced much in climbing.
In most scenarios, you approach ice, rock, mountains, what have you from the bottom and then you rappel down to descend. By descending first and not having a viable option to ascend to get out except the route you want to climb, it made the climbing seem much more committing than just another day out.

Editor: Would you like to head out there again at some point and climb some more? The area sure is tempting! Thanks for chatting with us and sharing this totally amazing journey with us, Jesse.

Jesse Huey: I would love to go back. That was actually my first time getting to climb with Scott too, so the thought of being able to hang out with him and his girlfriend Angela more would be really fun. In Colorado, it is hard to find ice that is untraveled and difficult. It certainly exists, but once you have climbed enough ice in your life, it needs to be special to make you want to walk for 6 hours to climb something that may or may not be quite “in.” 

It is also less attractive when it has been climbed my hundreds of other parties in that the pick placements from others makes the climbing easier and more of a hooking excise. I think ice climbing is special because it is so unique and so ephemeral in so many ways. Finding difficult ice in the most wild of places to me is what it is about, so yes, I would love to go back!

Interview conducted by Vera Kaikobad L. Ac. 
Editor of the Facebook Page: 'An Interview With'.
Editor-in-Chief of
Interview © Vera Kaikobad L. Ac.
All screen grabs © of Andy Mann and used with Andy's written permission.