Pro Climber Will Stanhope Shares His Best Climbing Advice and Favorite Gear

Rock Climber Will Stanhope
Photo credit: Kyle Berkompas

I’m Will Stanhope – a professional rock climber and ACMG guide based out of Squamish BC, Canada.

I got into climbing with my Dad when I was about 8 or 9. My Dad and his best buddy, Brad Forster, started climbing in the local climbing gym in North Vancouver. Their interest waned after a few years but I took to the sport and never really stopped climbing. I was never very good at team sports but took to climbing like a duck to water.

In fact, once in a while I still get my Dad out on the rock though he doesn’t do it much anymore. My parents encouraged me to follow my passion for climbing, though I’m sure they’d have preferred I’d gone to University, haha.

As for my personality, I think I’m an introvert at heart though I can be outgoing too.

Rock Climber Will Stanhope
Photo credit: Tom Evans

Why is your sport important for you?

Climbing has shown me how truly awe-inspiring the world can be. Take visiting Yosemite National Park as an example: If you stick to the paved trails and roads, you’ll only see a sliver of what’s to see. If you get on the walls and into the mountains, a limitless wild playground presents itself. Climbing has also taught me that if you try hard enough, and have a positive outlook, what initially seems impossible becomes feasible. That lesson can be brought to other realms of life.

What have been the best and most difficult parts of your sport?

Trying my very best, with a good friend, in the most “mind-swimming” landscapes on planet earth. Doesn’t get any better than that.

It’s been hard losing friends to the mountains. Also, I’ve missed out on lots of weddings and birthdays of close friends, because I’ve been on trips.

How do you eat and sleep?

My girlfriend is a vegetarian so I’m mostly on that program. Better for the body, better for the planet. I do eat meat occasionally, mostly on trips.

As for my recovery snacks and drinks after a serious training, often I’ll add Skratch Labs Exercise Hydration Mix to water to replenish electrolytes. On the wall, I like to bring real food like a tasty sandwich and an apple, though I’ve eaten my fair share of Cliff Bars over the years too.

How do you handle injuries and recovery?

Really try to do the proper physio after an injury. Drink loads of water. Go easy after an injury. Slow and steady wins the race (a cliché, but true).

Rock Climber Will Stanhope
Photo credit: Mike Doyle

What is your best advice people new to the sport?

In climbing at least, the biggest mistake I see is that people are obsessed with getting stronger and neglecting the technique/movement side of things. I can’t overestimate the importance of mileage on easy terrain. Be very careful with campus boarding and weighted hangs. Only do it when you’re body is ready, and you’re warmed up. Don’t overdo it.

How do you finance your sport?

I’m a sponsored climber and get paid to climb but I also guide climbing and do rigging/safety jobs. I’m not sure I’d want to be a 100 percent professional climber. I think the pressure would get to me a bit.

How do you balance normal life with training?

I’m sure I’ve missed lots. But gained a tonne in other realms.

Rock Climber Will Stanhope
Photo credit: Andrew Burr

How do you prepare for events/races?

Lots of cardio. I keep the fingers tuned up with hangboarding and climbing. The biggest shift before a trip is a mental one. Essentially screwing my head on tight to really try hard and accept risks.

I don’t follow a strict training regime. Generally speaking, I train for climbing by actually climbing. But before a big, demanding trip, I’ll make sure I hit the hang board and do some strengthening exercises for my fingers. It all depends on the objective really. If I’m about to go to Patagonia, I’ll be sure to be getting lots of cardio in, because of all the hiking I’ll be doing. I think a mistake people often make is that they get tunnel vision in “flavour of the week” training regimes and neglect to actually climb. Climbing, at the core of it, is a movement-based sport. Don’t forget to actually go out and climb. Lots.

I tape my fingers very rarely. Some folks have elaborate finger taping methods for hard crack climbing. I never got on board with that, mostly because I don’t like the feel of tape on the rock. I found it desensitized my fingers and I couldn’t feel the holds as well. But I will occasionally tape the backs of my hands before a big day day on rough stone.

Rock Climber Will Stanhope
Photo credit: Kyle Berkompas

How do you bring your things with you?

When I’m big wall climbing, I use Metolius haul bags. My recommendation to other climbers would be to consider using a size bigger than you think you’ll need. There’s few more things more irritating than struggling to fit everything into a haul bag, especially on a wall where movement in drastically compromised.

When I’m alpine climbing, I really like the Arcteryx Alpha FL 45 pack. I’ve never used anything that climbs and fits so well.

What has been your best sport purchase below $100, and what other favorite gear do you have?

A Thera Cane! Really sweet massaging device to work out the kinks in my back and neck and very portable. A staple on every trip I go on. Other favorites are:

Photo credit: Mike Doyle

What will the future bring?

I’m tentatively getting into skydiving and would love to combine that with climbing somewhere down the road. Who knows? The air sports scare me. Baby steps…

Follow Will Stanhope on his website and Instagram


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