By confronting the challenges of climbing, we expose our hidden nature, and we learn to be completely honest with ourselves.
Where it all began
My name is Josh, I was born and grew up in Gladstone, Queensland with no local crags and few climbers. Although I was always active growing up and would drag my parents to any climbing gym when we visited Brisbane - it was not until I was 19 and travelling through Thailand that I got my first real taste of rock climbing. In a trip of many firsts, those two days climbing at a limestone formation known as 'Crazy Horse Buttress' were my favourite and I was irrefutably hooked.
taking the next step
In 2013 whilst backpacking through Europe I wanted to spend a couple of days climbing while I was in the Interlaken valley, Switzerland. I met and climbed with an IFMGA guide who suggested I go for a day of ice climbing as well. There was a moment whilst climbing on a glacier where I could see people rock climbing below me, as two wingsuit jumpers flew overhead. That same week I climbed my first alpine route on the Wetterhorn. During that week amongst the mountains I realised I was experiencing an awakening, a sense of fulfilment and freedom that I am yet to encounter through any other means. Upon returning to my day job as an engineer I contemplated for several months whether I wanted to pursue the mountains in a more serious and committed manner. I knew it would mean incurring significant expense, time, travel and compromise in other areas of my life, however I could not deny my passion.
following my passion
I immediately undertook a 10 day Alpine Expeditions course with the world renowned company, Adventure Consultants in New Zealand. Being immersed in the mountains and learning the foundation skills of my craft was immensely powerful for me. I started constantly planning trips and have now climbed on three seperate occasions in New Zealand's Southern Alps with ascents including a solo traverse of the Remarkables Range above Queenstown and Mt Aspiring. I have also travelled twice to Europe's Western Alps and summited several 4000m peaks including the Dent Blanche, Zinalrothorn and Weisshorn via the north ridge. I moved to Brisbane in 2015 to be around a more active climbing community and now climb two nights a week at the city's urban crag, Kangaroo Point and spend more weekends at local crags than in Brisbane.
After my last overseas trip I thought that maybe I was ready to start planning something bigger, something bolder; something that would really push me as an individual and as a climber. The time to start planning had arrived...
The birth of the vertical year
Climbing for me has never been about being the best. I will never be the strongest climber at the crag (I dog my way up 25/5.12 sport climbs), I won't be setting any speed records in the mountains anytime soon and I don't have the desire to push the limit of ice or aid climbing as this often means increasing the likelihood of death consequences. I do however enjoy the varying nature, skills and complexities that each climbing discipline offers. As I started to research and play around with different ideas for this trip I realised that by spending a good amount of time in areas which are renowned for different climbing styles, it would enable me to immerse myself, be challenged and grow both as a climber and as a person. There are seldom times in life when an opportunity like this presents itself and as solo adventurer Mike Libecki loves to say, "life is sweet! The time is now! Why ration the passion?" I realised he is right, the time is now.
Climbing is largely a selfish pursuit. No-one else directly benefits when you reach the summit or finally stick the crux on your project. I am extremely privileged to even consider climbing non-stop for a year and pursue my passion. This drove me to look for ways in which I could give something back, to take something selfish and create some benefit for the wider community. I decided that the best way for me to do this was by raising funds for a charity. When I started to think about which charity my thoughts constantly revolved around two themes; conserving the amazing environments I love and promoting how they can have such a positive impact on our personal development and mental health. I researched and partnered with two Australian charities (Climate Council and ReachOut), set myself a goal of raising $100,000 and boom - the Vertical Year was born.