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Renowned Climber and Alpinist Brette Harrington ’10 to Speak at Commencement
Greg Kwasnik

Renowned rock climber and alpinist Brette Harrington ’10 will deliver the keynote address at Holderness School’s 145th Commencement on May 25, 2024.
In the 14 years since her own Holderness School Commencement, Harrington has become one the world’s preeminent rock climbers, establishing more than 40 first ascents across the globe. She first grabbed the attention of the climbing world in 2015, when she made the first free solo ascent of Chiaro di Luna, a 2,500-foot climb (5.11.a) on Aguja Saint Exupéry in Patagonia. Forbes magazine named her one of the top women in sports to watch in 2017, and the American Alpine Club awarded her the Prestigious Robert Hicks Bates Award honoring young climbers who show “outstanding promise for future accomplishment.” Past recipients of the award include such climbing luminaries as Alex Honnold, Tommy Caldwell, and Chris Sharma.
“It’s a huge honor to be invited back to Holderness - after fourteen years since my graduation- now as the 2024 commencement speaker,” Harrington said. “Reflecting back on my time at Holderness, prominent memories have floated to the surface as pivotal moments in my life’s trajectory - certain teachers who inspired creative thinking, challenges to look outside the box and introspection to believe in myself.  I’m looking forward to meeting this year's graduating class and to wish them luck as they step into their next phase of life.” 
Harrington, a member of Holderness School’s climbing team while a student, has been featured in major publications, including Outside Online, Climbing Magazine, Rock and Ice, HuffPost, and more. She also appeared in the 2021 Netflix documentary “The Alpinist” and starred in “Brette,” a Reel Rock Film Tour short film. She continues to explore challenging new ascents across the world, and with partner Elliott Bernhagen recently established Ascent Climbing Trips, a luxury travel company that offers professional guiding in Sardinia, Mallorca, and Greece.

The entire Holderness community is eager to welcome Harrington back to campus.
“In the climbing and mountain adventure world, there are generalists and specialists. Brette is firmly in the generalist category, and one of the best in the world at it,” said Director of Outdoor & Climbing Programs Erik Thatcher ’08. “From alpine first ascents to hard sports climbs in Europe and remote first ski descents on Baffin Island, she can do just about anything in the mountains at a world-class level in skill and with exceptional thoughtfulness and creativity.”

But those stunning achievements are only part of the story, Thatcher said. 

“In my eyes, the coolest part of Brette's story for our students is that it started here. She discovered climbing and learned the fundamentals as a student at Holderness,” Thatcher said. “It speaks to the idea that our students are still in a self-discovery phase of life and the things they try and experience while here could shape or change the trajectory of their life. Her story confirms for them that it's not too late to try something new.”
Holderness School’s 144th Commencement will take place at 11 a.m. on Livermore Commons on May 25.

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