5x5 Revelations with Alex Johnson

Like 4x4s in climbing … except not.

Little introduction is necessary for professional female crusher, Alex Johnson: a 2-time World Cup Gold Medalist, 5-time National Champion, and accomplished outdoor boulderer with dozens of female first ascents under her belt. While you likely know these facts about this inspiring climber, in this 5×5 Revelations feature, Alex shares some lesser-known insights about herself.


1. Leonidas Jacket by The North Face

It’s the only rain jacket I’ve ever seen that has 4 WAY STRETCH. It’s super lightweight, so it isn’t a burden to pack around, and it’s the perfect windbreaker to climb in, because of its stretch capabilities.

2. Evolv Nexxos

My go-to shoe for all angles of climbing; bouldering and sport. They’re amazing on sandstone.

3. Gnarly Nutrition Whey

I bring some out with me every day. A mini packet of the chocolate whey shaken up in some water seriously lengthens my day when I’m crashing. I drank a shake right before finals at ABS Nationals this year, and pounded one right before I sent The Swoop (V10) project.


Related: Gear Review: Gnarly Nutrition Whey & Vegan Protein Powder

4. Nail clippers

5. Sanding file

For getting rid of peeling, loose chunks of skin or “rollies” so they don’t catch on a hold and rip open into a flapper.

Bonus: Fritz. Of course Fritz.


1. I’m obsessed with lilac scented candles

If I see one I have to buy it. And lilac hand soap. And lilac stinky bathroom spray. I love the smell of lilacs. I think they’re my favorite flower …

2. The bills in my wallet are organized by crispness

The oldest junkiest bills go in the front so they get spent first, and the nice, crisp bills are in the back of the pack and get to stick around a while longer. Part of my little OCD tendencies.

3. When my roommate is out of town

I watch animated Disney movies before I go to bed so I don’t get scared being home alone.

4. I hate showering …

I’m a bath girl. Standing up in the shower isn’t relaxing, it’s work!

5. I am a 2007 Wisconsin Track and Field State Champ for Pole Vaulting

I got a scholarship to Minnesota State University, tried it out for a year, and ended up leaving and moving to Fort Collins to “pursue climbing” more seriously. But I still hold my high school record!


1. The Mandala (V12), Bishop

I totally blacked out. I tried that first sequence for like six days in a row, and when I finally stuck that second crimp you bump to, no way was I letting go. I honestly don’t even remember climbing it, but I’ll never forget how I felt standing on top of one of the most iconic boulders in history, in complete disbelief that I’d actually done it. I was in shock, I felt ecstatic. This is the feeling we all chase in this sport. This is why we climb.

2. On the Lamb, Tuolumne

I think this thing is like 5.8? It’s a multi-pitch trad route that I ended up simul-climbing. It’s the craziest thing … this long horizontal crack that runs along the face of a huge dome. Being able to simul-climb it was awesome, because there was no stopping, just continuous movement from start to finish, hand over hand in this crack.

3. Luminance (V10ish), Bishop

I remember walking past it multiple times, and thinking it was one of the most stunning lines I’d ever seen anywhere, and wondering when I was going to put my big girl pants on and try it. The day I finally did was one of those “surreal, magical days where everything just comes together and you find yourself sticking moves and flowing through the sequence until you’re on the top.” (Or something equally as profound.

4. Body Karate (V9), Southern Illinois

My first project—It was my first bouldering trip outside, I think I was sixteen, and I went down to So Ill with some older friends on my spring break. I’d hardly bouldered outside before, and had no idea the impact this trip would have on me, or how different bouldering outside was from the plastic I grew up pulling. This thing was my anti-style, though unbeknownst to me at the time. It’s a steep, technical compression roof, with squeezing heel hooks. I worked Body Karate almost every day of the trip, and finally pulled it off on our last day. It was my first real, hard outdoor boulder problem.

5. My final choice was between Rowley Birkin (E6 6c), in The Peak District, and, of course, The Swoop.

Rowley was my first hard trad climb, and it happened to be on the Gritstone in England. It was terrifying; I honestly had no idea how solid any of my very few gear placements were, and if you’ve ever been to England, you know that the best conditions you experience there are “damp.” I remember screaming as I finally crawled over the top of the cliff to safety. And I was belayed by Johnny Dawes … Pretty legendary. The Swoop is one of my most memorable climbs, period, if not solely because of all the work I put into putting it up. But this one seemed a little biased.


1. Thailand

It’s so beautiful. I think I’d love the lifestyle and tropical climate. And climbing those crazy stalactite caves looks like a big kid’s playground. I’m planning a trip there for the end of this year, and I can’t wait.

2. South Africa

It’s a boulderer’s dream, it’s the mecca, sandstone is my favorite type of rock, the list of reasons goes on and on, yet I still haven’t been able to put it together.

3. Pakistan

Maybe a slightly unorthodox place for a boulderer … but it would be out of my comfort zone and filled with world-famous climbing.

4. Brazil

Another underrated, relatively unknown area with tons of great climbing.

5. Greece


1. Fritz, obviously

Getting Fritz was the most spontaneous thing I’ve ever done in my life, and now I’ve had her for six years. I’ve had a dog for six years! It’s crazy. I have to be responsible for something other than myself, and that happens to be a completely helpless little thing that brings me more entertainment and happiness and pride than anything in the world.

2. Moving to Las Vegas

I’ve traveled so much, spending months in different little climbing cities around the country. I lived in Fort Collins for a few years, signed a year lease in Boulder, I’ve spent tons of time in Bishop, Chattanooga, and I think throughout my travels I was always sort of looking for that home base, that one place that I really felt connected to, and I found that in Vegas. I feel light, happy, and welcomed here. The community is amazing and warm. It’s my city; it’s home.

3. Joining The North Face Team

The experiences I’ve had, the people I’ve met and worked with, and the growth and knowledge I’ve collected as an athlete in the last few years on this prestigious team have been incalculable.

4. Krista Geiken

It was 2008, and I was a freshman in college running track at Minnesota State. Krista was my next door neighbor in our dorm building. I hadn’t climbed in over half a year, and was pretty obviously not in a good way. I heard about the IFSC World Cup coming back to the US for the first time in twenty years, and wanted to return to climbing and compete at Vail. The closest climbing gym was my home gym, Vertical Endeavors, and it was a two hour drive, one-way. We had class from 8-3, and track practice from 3-6. Krista wasn’t a climber at all, but she knew how important it was to me, and how badly I wanted to do well at the event. So after track, she would drive me and my little Subaru to the gym while I did homework. I’d climb and train, and Krista would do homework, until the gym closed. Then we’d drive back to school. Rinse and repeat. She knew this thing was my dream, and she not only helped me back into climbing, but ultimately became one of the most important factors in pushing me to win gold at the 2008 Vail World Cup.

5. Not doing The Swarm

Basically the whole Swarm experience was me learning how to market my failures as well as successes, and engage the climbing community with my mini journeys and projects.


Related: On Projects, Training, and the Future of Climbing: An Interview With Alex Johnson

Have more questions for Alex? Leave them in the comments below.