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Emily Harrington on her send of Stockboys Revenge 5.14b

The top American climber chats with us about her recent redpoint and travels in 2021

American crusher Emily Harrington recently redpointed the steep Stockboys Revenge 5.14b in Rifle. Harrington has sent other 5.14s over the years, including Waka Flocka 5.14b, Fish Eye 5.14b and El Gran Blau 5.14.

Harrington is also a five-time national champion, won the Ouray Ice Festival in 2012, climbed Everest in 2012, speedily climbed Cho Oyu with Adrian Ballinger in 2016, and sent the El Cap route Golden Gate (a 40-pitch 5.13b) in a day last year with Ballinger and Alex Honnold.

Stockboys Revenge was first climbed by Andy Raether with a suggested grade of 5.14c after a summer working at a Rifle grocery store stocking shelves. The 30-metre route has a lot of big, powerful moves.

We touched base with Harrington shortly after her Stockboys send.

When was your first visit to Rifle, and what was your first climb there? I first climbed in Rifle when I was 11 years old. Growing up in Boulder it was one of the first places I visited to experience real rock outside the gym. I did my first outdoor lead climb there and climbed my first 5.11, 5.12, 5.13, and 5.14 in that canyon. It was a really formative place for me as a climber and for my career. Since moving to California in 2012 and trying to diversify my climbing, I didn’t visit Rifle for several years, but have been going back in recent years because I remembered how special it was for me personally. As well, I feel it’s one of the most unique and amazing sport climbing destinations in the world.

Had you tried Stockboys before? I actually think I had tried it once – maybe around 2010 or 2011 when Jen Vennon (Bisharat) was climbing on it. I didn’t remember anything, though. That’s the funny part about Rife for me. I spent so much time there back in the day, it’s often hard to remember what I have and haven’t climbed on.

What was the mental/physical crux? Once the route steepens about 1/3 of the way up the wall, it’s pretty nonstop power endurance until the end. THe climbing is super complex and intricate – lots of interesting kneebars and body positions that have to be just right in order to execute the moves. It’s quintessential Rifle rockclimbing at its finest. A few days before I fell at the end after what I thought would be a no hands kneebar rest followed by some powerful but manageable 5.12 climbing. I underestimated the amount of fatigue I would feel in my legs and core by the time I reached that point though, and couldn’t really rest properly. My legs were absolutely smoked. I fell getting out of the kneebar that try. When I got back up there on the send I was pretty stressed that I still wouldn’t be able to recover enough to finish the route. I had to summon some real try hard up there – which was probably the mental and physical crux. I think it’s interesting I’ve sort of been climbing the same sport grade or maybe a touch harder now since I was 18 years old (I’m now 35) and I attribute it not to getting physically stronger but learning how to try hard when it counts. I used to beat routes into submission until they felt easy when I was younger. Now I have the ability to use my mind more effectively. Things don’t have to be as perfect. I’m much more intuitive, able to take more risks, and feel more free in my climbing. It’s a really fun progression to feel.

How did it stack up against the other 5.14s that you’ve climbed? I’ve climbed 5.14 at so many phases of my climbing. It’s very hard to compare them. My body and brain have changed so much since I was a teenager. The past year has been maybe the best year in my climbing life however, and I feel like things fell into place after many years of training and dialing in what works for me. I did climb one 5.14 last year in Rifle called Homunculous 5.14a and Stockboys definitely felt harder than that and a similar style as well. I’m fitter than I’ve ever been, extremely adept at kneebarring, and good at finding creative ways to maneuver through the steep blocky terrain that defines Rifle climbing, so I would say it suited my style pretty well. Stockboys has been given a grade range of 5.14a to 5.14c, and I’d probably land in the middle at lower end 14b.

Did you do any specific training for it? Honestly, no. I spent years getting fit enough to free climb Golden Gate in a day last fall, then basically lived around the Vegas area all winter and trained a lot with friends while supporting my partner (Adrian Ballinger) on his project at the VRG. This past summer I went on an expedition to Kyrgyzstan, and it was very epic but awesome, I returned to the States wanting nothing more than to go sport climbing and have climbing feel “simple” – ha! I thought I might be super weak and tired after such a long trip, but had Stockboys in the back of my mind if I felt strong enough. After climbing a 13d called “Let it Burn” fairly fast, I decided to give it a try. I wavered about even sticking around to try and finish it until a few days before I sent even because I wasn’t sure I was close, but in the end found the psyche to get it done.

How was your visit to Kyrgyzstan this year? It was incredible! Such an epic trip for so many reasons, but one of the best as well. I look back on it now with only the best memories.

Did the trip work out as planned? Yes and no. Basically everything went wrong until it truly mattered, and then it was perfect. I can’t give too many details because it was for this film project coming out early next year, but we managed to free a route on the border with Tajikistan, and it was a wild experience.

What was the climbing like? It was pretty comparable to Yosemite – massive sheer granite walls that were super high quality. It’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been to, and I would love to go back someday.

Do you have another project for this fall? I don’t! Adrian and I are getting married in Ecuador in December and are looking forward to some much-needed rest/non-climbing time. I feel like I’ve had a really big year of climbing, and my body and mind feel kinda spent at this point. Stockboys was a great way to cap it all off. I’d love to train hard for the spring though and find something cool to do.

Watch Harrington climbing Stockboys Revenge 5.14b