Known by many for his historic ascent of The Dawn Wall, Kevin Jorgeson had been making climbing history long before that first ascent, and has been hard at work ever since. He is not only dedicated to sending insanely hard routes, but also to sharing his love of the sport and passion for conquering the impossible with others. Kevin is able to accomplish this through his nonprofit 1Climb, speaking opportunities and entrepreneurial focus. In 2019 Kevin and TRUBLUE Climbing kicked off their partnership with a shared commitment to growing the sport of climbing. Recently we had the privilege of sitting down with KJ to learn a little more about what he is up to these days.
TB: How did you get started in rock climbing and how did that shape your passion to get more kids climbing?
Kevin Jorgeson: Climbing is in my DNA and I've been doing it since before I can even remember. When folks ask me when I started climbing, I always say, "I never stopped!" Climbing has totally shaped the trajectory of my life and I feel very fortunate to have found my passion early in life. Recognizing this privilege is what drove me to try and help make the sport more accessible, diverse and inclusive to the next generation.
TB: You’ve had a lot of long term partnerships, how do you assess these opportunities in terms of the gear that you choose to use?
KJ: For the brands I partner with, in almost every case I am a customer before I become an ambassador. Meaning, I believe in the product. That said, I have a lot going on outside of climbing rocks, so it's super important that our values are aligned. That way, whether I'm in Yosemite, working on my gym, or opening a new 1Climb wall, my partners are involved and realizing value. I've been with most of my partners going on 20 years now!
TB: Tell us about the first time you thought about 1Climb and the steps you took to act on it?
KJ: In 2009, I remember asking myself the question: "What would it take to introduce one million kids to climbing?" Instead of "build it and they will come," the idea was, "Let's bring climbing to where kids already are." I chose the Boys and Girls Clubs of America as an initial partner, because they serve over 4.5 million kids per year via 4,000+ locations nationwide. This seemed like the perfect infrastructure. Next, I built a pilot program in Sonoma, CA in 2010 and after the Dawn Wall, decided to focus all of my philanthropic energy on scaling the concept. I couldn't have taken it to the next level, beyond the pilot, without my co-founder Dan Chancellor.
TB: The first wall you built for 1Climb, didn’t have auto belays — when did you realize that this could be a tool that opened up accessibility?
KJ: It didn't take long to realize that keeping trained belay staff on the schedule was limiting how often kids could climb. Ever since that first wall, we've used TRUBLUE Auto Belays and the utilization of each wall has gone through the roof. We want our walls to be a steppingstone into the sport and using auto belays makes it as easy as possible for kids to get on the wall. Because every 1Climb wall has a partner commercial climbing gym, there's endless opportunity for the kids to learn things like belaying, lead climbing and more.
TB: Why did you choose TRUBLUE?
KJ: For me, brand partnerships are all about shared values and an authentic relationship. When I think about new partnerships, I ask myself if I could see us working together 10, even 20 years from now. Because 1Climb is something I will absolutely be working on 20 years from now, TRUBLUE is a really great fit. TRUBLUE made it really clear that our values are aligned and as a result, I am excited to see the positive impact we can create together for years to come.
TB: What piece of advice would you give to new climbers, young or old?
KJ: Keep it fun!
TB: What’s next for you personally and/or professionally?
KJ: Personally, my wife and I are having a blast raising our almost 2-year-old son, Edsel. He's the light of our lives. Professionally, I'm just really looking forward to scaling 1Climb across the country! By the end of 2020, we will have completed 11 projects across the country with a handful more in the pipeline. With any luck, we will also break ground by the end of the year on a ground up climbing gym in my hometown that I've been working on for a few years now. Climbing wise, I'm planning an expedition for Summer 2021 that I hope to be able to share more about soon!
Keep up with what Kevin Jorgeson is up to as he continues to make history as a climber, entrepreneur and advocate. If you believe in the mission of growing the sport with KJ and TRUBLUE head over to www.1Climb.org and learn more about this amazing movement, including how to support it! ! You can also find Kevin on instagram at @kjorgeson and @1climb_official, or on his website www.kevinjorgeson.com. To learn more about TRUBLUE Climbing check us out on Instagram at @trublueclimbing.