Hailing from Lake Tahoe, California, born in 1992, Brette Harrington has carved a name for herself as a distinguished professional rock climber and alpinist. Currently residing in British Columbia, Canada, her unwavering passion for the mountains has led her to chase her dreams of ascending remote big walls and forging new paths. Consequently, Brette has pioneered first ascents in Canada, the United States, and Patagonia. She is fueled by a spirit of adventure and innovation that continually propels her to climb to new heights.
Her impressive accomplishments and dedication to the sport earned Brette a place in the 2021 documentary film The Alpinist. There, she appeared alongside her late partner, Marc-André Leclerc.
Brette’s accolades include the first free solo of the 760-meter (2,500-foot) Chiaro di Luna (5.11a) in Patagonia, her trailblazing work in developing new alpine climbing routes, and her starring role in Brette, a short film showcased in the Reel Rock Film Tour.
With an unrelenting drive to hone her climbing expertise, Brette aspires to conceive increasingly demanding and captivating routes in her pursuit of mountaineering perfection.
Early life and introduction to climbing
The daughter of two avid skiers, Brette Harrington, grew up amidst the snowy landscape of Lake Tahoe. Embarking on her skiing journey at just two years old, she went on to compete in slalom skiing from the age of five. During her teenage years, she attended Holderness School, a boarding school nestled beside the White Mountains of New Hampshire. While training in slopestyle skiing during high school, Harrington’s curiosity for rock climbing was piqued, leading her to join the school’s club.
Harrington’s rock climbing pursuits revolved around moderate outdoor climbing routes at renowned New Hampshire spots such as Rumney, Cathedral Ledges, and White Horse. The club refrained from participating in climbing competitions, as its members found climbing to be “intrinsically special,” embracing its challenges for personal fulfilment.
Upon relocating to Vancouver, Canada, to attend the University of British Columbia, Harrington initially continued her slopestyle skiing endeavours. However, a series of severe injuries, including a broken neck at 20, forced her to reconsider her focus. Consequently, Harrington shifted her attention to backcountry ski touring and climbing in and around Squamish, British Columbia.
An impressive climbing career so far
Brette Harrington has established herself as a skilled traditional climber, conquering routes such as Grand Illusion (5.13c) in Lake Tahoe on Sugarloaf, and The Free Muir (5.13c), in Yosemite California, on El Capitan. Her expertise in multi-pitch technique and talent for developing new lines have garnered recognition and admiration within the climbing community.
Brette Harrington’s Chiaro di Luna
Upon completing her studies in December 2014, Brette embarked on her maiden journey to Patagonia. In February 2015, at the young age of 23, she catapulted into climbing stardom by achieving the first-ever free solo of the 760-meter 5.11a route Chiaro de Luna, in the Fitz Roy Massif, on Saint Exupery.
Brette climbed the route’s 20 pitches in just three hours after a single ascent with her late partner, Marc-André Leclerc. This feat made her the first woman to solo any route on the Fitz Roy Massif. It also brought her international acclaim as a climber.
Though Alex Huber had previously ascended the route in 2011, Brette became the first climber, irrespective of gender, to conquer it without the use of any equipment or protection. This extraordinary feat has been ranked among history’s top ten most legendary free solos.
According to fellow free soloist Austin Howell, Brette’s accomplishment is undoubtedly one of the most impressive free solos to date, particularly noteworthy because it is one of the rare instances of a free solo being completed on a large mountain in Patagonia.
Other notable first ascents
Beginning around 2013, Brette Harrington and her partner, the late Marc-André Leclerc, embarked on a series of explorations and first ascents in the mountains of western Canada.
Harrington noted, “Many climbs around our home remain unexplored.” In 2014, the pair completed the first ascent of Straight No Chaser. It’s a 1500m route (5.11/A1) in Canada’s Waddington Range. In 2016, Harrington, Leclerc, and Johnson achieved the first ascent of the Northwest Turret (5.13a, A2) on Baffin Island’s Great Sail Peak.
In May 2018, Harrington and mountaineer Rose Pearson established Life Compass. This new route on Mount Blane’s west face is in the Canadian Rockies. It is lauded as “a rare large-scale, high-grade climb established by an all-women team.”
In April 2019, Harrington teamed up with Ines Papert and Luka Lindič. They completed the first ascent of The Sound of Silence on Mt. Fay’s East Face in Alberta’s Rockies. The trio finished the 1100m route quickly and lightly, spending just one night 75m below the summit.
Other notable climbs
In summer 2016, Brette Harrington, Marc-André Leclerc, and Joshua Lavigne went to Baffin Island’s eastern fjords. They spent thirty days there. They created two new lines on Great Sail Peak. One was Northwest Turret (5.13a A2, 22 pitches). The other was the West Buttress of Great Sail Peak (5.12 C1).
Later that year, Brette and Leclerc worked on another project for eight days. They created Hidden Dragon (5.12b, 11 pitches) on the Chinese Puzzle Wall in Nesakwatch River Valley, British Columbia. The next year, they set up Aurorophobia (5.13+) in Wiaparous River Valley, Alberta.
In February 2017, Brette Harrington and Mayan Smith-Gobat embarked on an ambitious Patagonian project, aiming to complete the first free ascent of the formidable big wall route, Riders of the Storm, on the Central Paine Tower.
During this 2017 expedition, Brette and Mayan confronted the challenging elements of the Riders on the Storm route. Although they made progress on some crucial crux pitches, the climbers were compelled to abandon their summit attempt due to unfavourable weather conditions. Adapting to the circumstances, Brette recounted, “We had to employ every technique in our arsenal to navigate the ice-covered and often run-out sections. Our goal shifted to simply completing the first half of ‘Riders on the Storm’ using any possible style.”
In June 2018, Brette ventured to Alaska with Swiss alpinist Caro North, establishing two routes and a ski descent. The duo had previously climbed together in the U.S. and Patagonia. Their accomplishments included a 500-meter 5.10b M5+ route on Southern Duke Tower in the Juneau Ice Field and a five-pitch 5.10+ on the west face of the Taku Towers.
A few months later, Brette returned to Juneau with Gabe Hayden to make the first ascent of a line she had spotted during her June trip with North on the West Face of the Devil’s Paw. The pair named the 1300-meter 5.11a route Shaa Téix’i, meaning Heart of the Mountain.
Scaling Winter Peaks: Brette Harrington’s Impressive Climbs in British Columbia
Brette Harrington’s winter climbing prowess is equally as impressive as her rock climbing achievements. Together with Marc-André Leclerc, they accomplished numerous challenging ascents in British Columbia. They include the first winter ascent of Ledge Mountain’s north face via the Walter/Zenger summer line. In early February 2018, Brette participated in the second ascent of The Theft (M7 WI6+, 240m) in the Bridge River area, alongside Steve Janes.
In the same month, Brette completed her winter project by leading every pitch during a four-day first ascent of Jupiter Shift, a 200-meter M5+ on the north face of Station-D, near Mount Slesse in British Columbia, once again partnering with Leclerc.
Brette Harrington’s Award and press coverage
Brette Harrington’s remarkable achievements in crack and alpine climbing have earned her recognition as one of the world’s leading climbers, as noted by Gripped Magazine in 2016. Her skill in managing physical and emotional control during tough climbs has won fans. Her climbing spirit is “burning bright,” and her joy is evident like a dazzling firecracker.
In 2016, Harrington was the focus of a Reel Rock Film Tour short film titled Brette. The film captured her first year of full-time climbing, showcasing her potential to become a climbing legend in the footsteps of Steph Davis.
Forbes Magazine recognized Harrington as a top woman in sports in 2017. In 2018, two of her routes were nominated for the esteemed Piolets d’Or prize. She completed Devil’s Paw with Gabe Hayden in Alaska and Mount Blane with Rose Pearson in the Canadian Rockies.
Harrington appeared in the 2021 film The Alpinist. It follows her late partner, Marc-André Leclerc’s climbing career. She agreed to more filming after the tragedy. This shows her strength and resilience as a climber and person.
Brette Harrington’s partner, alpinist Marc-André Leclerc, died tragically in March 2018. He went missing on a Juneau, Alaska expedition. After his death, Harrington spent two years focusing on alpine routes. She used the first year to cope with her loss and find solace in the mountains.
To honor Leclerc, Harrington named her May 2018 Mount Blane route Life Compass. She dedicated it to her mentor, partner, and love. She also dedicated her 2019 first ascent of The Sound of Silence to Leclerc. Luka Lindič joined her, and Leclerc had been working on the route earlier.
It’s worth noting that Brette Harrington is not related to climber Emily Harrington.
Brette Harrington has established herself as a leading figure in the world of rock climbing and alpinism. She has been pushing boundaries and achieving impressive feats in her pursuit of mountaineering excellence. Her accomplishments span continents and include notable first ascents, free solo climbs, and groundbreaking expeditions.
Despite the tragic loss of her partner, Marc-André Leclerc, Harrington inspires and amazes the climbing community with her passion, perseverance, and dedication to the sport.