Last January, the 30-year-old outdoorsman accomplished what no man had done before: he and climbing partner Tommy Caldwell free-climbed the Dawn Wall, a death-defying 3,000-foot-high vertical cliff face on El Capitan mountain in Yosemite National Park. Here, he talks to T+L about where his adventures take him.

By Lindsey Olander
June 15, 2015
Kevin Jorgeson

You’ve climbed your way around the world. Do you have any favorite spots?

My favorite places to climb have at least one of the following elements: quality of stone, variety of climbing, beauty of landscape, and historical significance. Yosemite, California, is the most majestic, awe-inspiring landscape I’ve ever seen. It also has every type of climbing you could want—all on perfect granite. Fontainebleau, France, is the most historic bouldering area in the world, set in a magical forest with the highest quality of sandstone you’ll probably ever climb. I also love Céüse, also in France, for its perfect limestone sport climbs perched high on a hill overlooking the countryside.

Why is it so important to bring the right backpack while traveling outdoors?

There are no lockers in the outdoors. Everything you bring climbs with you— which is why it’s so important to bring only the essentials. Equally important is finding a pack that is tough enough to withstand rough climates and rough climbs, and that doesn't add any more weight. My go-to is the Bullet 16 Pack by Black Diamond. It’s small compared to most backpacks on the market, which helps you move faster and forces you to take only what you absolutely need.

The all-condition jacket you never leave home without:

The Terrex Stockhorn Fleece Hoodie from Adidas. A fleece mid-layer is super important—the hood on mine adds an extra component of warmth and the material is extra durable and therefore appropriate for all kinds of activities.

What makes for a great indoor climbing wall?

The communities that form around them. I’d recommend that you find the one nearest you and start climbing! You’re likely to meet a ton of super nice, enthusiastic people who will be more than happy to share tips. Also, ask around to find the gyms that have the reputation for the highest quality “setting” (i.e. the quality and creativity of the climbs on the wall).

What is your dream vacation?

I’m lucky enough to consider most of my climbing trips vacation. But I’ve always wanted to learn how to surf, so my dream trip would involve world-class climbing over the ocean, plus a great place to learn how to ride the waves.

Where will your next adventure take you?

I’m still searching for my next big project. Just give me a strong rope, a fresh pack of Duracell Quantums for my headlamp, and I’ll be good to go!

Lindsey Olander covers adventure at Travel + Leisure. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter at @lindseytravels.