Editors Note: Jess Campbell is a Leavenworth rock climber who works at Riverfront Rock Gym and volunteers at a Firefighting station in Wenatchee. She is an amazing rock climber who has been featured in various climbing magazines. Wenatchee Outdoors (WO) sat down with her for a brief Q/A.
WO: How many years have you been rock climbing, and how did you get into it?
Jess: I have been climbing for 21 years now. I remember reading about it in National Geographic as a kid and thinking how cool that would be! When I was 19, I was working at a restaurant as a cook. We had a new server from California that knew how to climb. I kept asking him if I could go, and finally one day he took me out. I was hooked from the first time. I knew this is what I wanted to spend all my time doing.
WO: What is your favorite rock climbing location based on the locations you have traveled to and why?
Jess: There is so much wonderful rock all around the world. And I feel so fortunate that I have been able to explore as much as I have. But honestly, I would say my favorite place is right here in WA. Index is very nostalgic for me and feels like home. It is where I cut my teeth as a climber and still go to get owned. Index has a quality of climbing that I have yet to find anywhere else.
WO: What is the hardest rated climb(s) that you have done? Tell us about it.
Jess: Hardest rated climb would have to be 5.13. This particular climb really fit my style of movement so it did not feel as tough as I thought it would. It was not the hardest climb for me personally. There have been other climbs in my climbing career that were rated much easier but extremely difficult for me.
WO: We have heard you have been featured in climbing magazines. Which ones? Have you been able to travel the world for climbing magazine shoots?
Jess: Yes I have been featured in ‘Climbing Magazine’ a few times, and have had my art published in the ‘Alpinist’. I also test gear for Patagonia and occasionally do catalog work for other companies. When someone says “ Do you want to go on a climbing trip, all expenses paid and we need to get some photos. Would you like to go?” You say “YES please and thank you!”
WO: What was the most exciting or terrifying climbing experience you have had?
Jess: Sometimes those can be one and the same! An experience that comes to mind is one that happened right here in Leavenworth. We were climbing a popular multi-pitch route. There was a team above us that had some complications. Long story short, someone died and we called in SAR and helped as much as we could.
WO: What is the longest pitch route you have done? Have you done any big wall climbing that included sleeping on a porta ledge?
Jess: I would have to say El Capitan. Anywhere from 20-30 pitches. When I first started climbing I was learning how to aid climb and traveling down to Yosemite to climb big walls. It was a ton of fun! We would sleep out on the walls for days. It was a different chapter of my climbing, but I have always thought it would be fun to revisit the big walls. Lots of good memories up there.
WO: How do you train for rock climbing?
Jess: Depends on what my objectives are. Sometimes I will train for a specific climb, but for basic body maintenance I do finger strength exercises (hang boarding), lots of core workouts, some weight training, and I also like to trail run.
WO: What kind of diet/nutrition do you keep during climbing season, and do you keep that diet/nutrition year round?
Jess: I am mostly a vegetarian, but I do eat meat a couple times a month. I eat lots of fish, eggs, quinoa, kale and yams. I like to snack on nuts, dried fruit and cheese. My diet stays the same year around. Although if I’m really putting in the extra time and attention for climbing, I will up my smoothie and juicing intake.
WO: We have also heard you are currently in a firefighting academy. How did you get into firefighting? What draws you to firefighting?
Jess: It started out as looking for more ways to give back to my community. At first I was volunteering through climbing organizations and teaching people how to climb. Then I started volunteering with the High Angle Ropes & Rescue Team for the Sheriff’s office, which was my first intro to the first responder community. After that, I knew I was on to something awesome. We would often meet up at the fire station, and I started poking around and becoming interested. And then poof! A fire fighter was born! There are so many things I really like about the fire service, but what initially struck my fancy is the shared values and virtues between the fire service culture and the climbing culture. It has all the right components I am passionate about. The driving force being compassion for humanity and the earth.