Meet Whitney Boland: The Golden-Hearted, Bullet-Hard, Everyday Gunks Crusher

Whitney on Ozone, one of the hardest lines at the Gunks. Photo: Christian Fracchia via Gunks Apps

Whitney on Ozone, one of the hardest lines at the Gunks. Photo: Christian Fracchia via Gunks Apps


Whitney is tough as nails. She’s a world-class, bad-ass pro climber and writer currently residing in New York’s favorite home-crag, the Gunks. Some of her favorite sends include the Red River Gorge test piece Omaha Beach 5.14a, and Clairvoyance 5.13b in Lost City. At heart, she’s a caring, passionate, and endlessly psyched climber who spends her time off the rock pondering and writing about those who came before.


The life of a pro climber eludes many. Being strong and photogenic (heyo!) aren’t the only two things that make Whitney fit for the job. “It’s a lot of sacrifices…. Andy [Whitney’s boyfriend] and I are both the same way: we both wanna go climbing all the time…. we think a beach vacation sounds cool for like an hour…. We make decisions based around climbing rather than climbing fitting into our decisions. Like where we live, the jobs we work, in some sense the people we hang out with.”


But as demanding as climbing is, it gives a lot back: “It’s the whole package, the places it takes you, the people you meet. That instant bond. You could be sleeping in a friend of a friend’s yard across the world, just because you’re a climber.”

Photo: Randi Alegre

Photo: Randi Alegre


I asked Whitney how her experience has changed her climbing over the last dozen years, and she answered me in epic terms: “Basically everything has changed. I don't take myself as seriously. I try not to wrap any self worth into my climbing ability because it changes -- rises and falls -- and is transitory. I’ve never really trained (on a schedule), though I have done a few sessions all willy nilly here and there, but I think now I am more interested in entertaining the idea. Maybe I'll start this fall?!?

I actually climb in a gym more now than I ever have, which is still not that often. But honestly I love coming into the city to climb at The Cliffs, not only because the routes are super fun, but because the people and the community are great.

I do experience fear differently than before. When you expose yourself to something scary or difficult situations, it lessens the impact of other slightly less scary situations. It's a mind lesson in adaptation.  It's almost like getting into a bathtub that's super hot. It seems heinous at first, but you slowly adapt to it, thus making the range of what you can endure greater.

I love climbing--it's a huge part of my life. And because of that, the biggest change is my psych to climb on absolutely anything and to always have fun. It doesn't matter if it's a 5.4 at the Gunks or a 5.13 in Rumney, it's all climbing, it's all a sweet experience in some way, and thus it should all be treasured. It doesn't matter how hard a send or if you send at all. What matters is that you're constantly trying to push yourself a little, expose yourself to something new and find the lesson in the moments that you wish had a different outcome. There's always a position to find a lesson to learn, and that's been the biggest change for me -- embracing that.”

Whit and the crew at Feats of Strength IX at the Cliffs at Valhalla. Photo: Hillary Guzik.

Whit and the crew at Feats of Strength IX at the Cliffs at Valhalla. Photo: Hillary Guzik.


What did you eat for breakfast?

Yogurt with some fruit, nuts and seeds.

Where were you when you felt the most at peace in the world?

In the woods somewhere on at the top of a cliff overlooking the view below.

If you could eliminate one fear that you have, what would it be and why?

Fear of failure, holds me back.

Does danger thrill you or scare you?

Depends on the danger. I enjoy getting scared on climbs to an extent, but if there were a snarling dog running towards me I'd probably have a meltdown.

Why should someone not trust you to pet sit their cat?

Not trust me...I sometimes forget to water the plants, and last winter when our pipes froze when we were in Spain in February, all of them died. Buuuuuuut, for all those people that I pet sit for, I am really good with animals!

Who sets the best routes in the gym?

BIG CHRIS! And, actually, I really believe that every single route setter is great at LIC. I have loved a problem or route set by every single one. The setting can make or break a gym, and luckily at LIC--it's always great. The attention to detail and the psyche of the route setters really comes through in how creative and stellar the routes and boulders are.

Climbing without a shirt on?

No way. As Andy says, I'm too much of a prude.

Bubble baths?

We don't have a bath at our house (shower only), but oh my god! Is that an offer? Yes, I'll take it!

List three things you couldn’t live without.

There's a ton of everyday conveniences that I love, but in reality I could live without them. But for the sake of the question: my foam roller/lacrosse ball kit for muscle recovery, my friends,  and my beau, Andy Salo!!

Want more Whit? Check out her website here. And a big thank you to Gunks Apps for the beautiful photos!