Harry Denanto - The passion for sport climbing

The day before Christmas, we met with Harry Denanto and his family at Klättercentret in Stockholm to talk about climbing.

2022, will mark the 20 year anniversary since Harry was introduced to climbing by a friend in New Zealand. At that time, vaguely knowing what climbing was. He describes the introduction as the scariest experience ever, but still – once the feet were back on solid ground, the feeling of wanting to do it again was born. Today Harry is one of the strongest climbers in Sweden and works as a climbing coach and educator for other coaches.    

What is so great with climbing according to you?

I need to answer this one in two parts. Firstly, the climbing culture is unique. There is a strong sense of friendship and community that you don’t find when you just go to a fitness gym. It’s not just about performance, there is a whole package that involves traveling and quality time with both family and friends. You get to explore places that you would never have seen in case it was not for the climbing.

And secondly, for me, it is still about chasing the same feeling and excitement that I experienced during the first time climbing. It’s just that over time, the grades have increased. The sensation is the same. It’s the feeling of insecurity, ‘am I going to make it or not?’ that is driving me. I am never really satisfied with my climbing and I want to consistently improve. It’s kind of strange addition – chasing a feeling that I don’t want to have!

How do you keep your own motivation when you consistently try to push your limit? You must have experienced dips or not seeing desired results?

Yes for sure, there was a time recently when I had to stop ‘chasing grades’. I spent too much time on just projects and got used to the feeling of failing and it hurt my motivation. So, I had to take a break and then and I just focused on going back to enjoying moves and climbing slightly below my limit. This way I could get back to the feeling to success in my mind and gain confidence and motivation to try harder again.

Picture: Harry pushing hard at Örnberget wearing T-shirt Fern & Helium Pants

How did you get into coaching?

I wanted to be a teacher since I was a kid actually. But the coaching of climbing started randomly at first by being asked to help another climbing coach. I then realized that it was possible to combine my teaching aspirations with my passion for climbing. And on that road it is….

What is your proudest coaching moment?

Oh…. Well, the easiest answer would be to see the people I trained for many years finally reach the podium in competitions. But the proudest achievement is really a different story. This is a story about one of the athletes that I trained. We frequently had disputes and arguments about the training setup and the exercises to do. For me as a coach, training is very much about working on your weaknesses, and this can of course hurt the ego and make you feel like progress is not made. But in my book, if you succeed all the time during training, then I did not do my job well as you were not challenged enough. After a long time of arguing about the methods, this athlete finally decided to trust my way and the progress that was made was really crazy to see. Looking at that person climbing now is so nice! That for sure make me proud and makes me feel that it was worth taking the fight to see the long term results.

What is the most challenging aspect with having climbing as your profession?

I would say having enough time – it’s not always easy to combine trainings, education sessions, competitions and so on with time for family life.

The other challenge I would like to mention is to develop trust with my athletes. They need to believe in my methodology to see results over time which can be difficult. It can be rough mentally to feel like you fail too much and even get worse in the short time and still keep going. This is also the part where I as a coach has developed to better handle the mental ups and down of the athletes and keep them motivated throughout the training journey.

Looking ahead – what is on the radar for the coming year?

Well, we are moving to Melbourne, Australia this summer. We will be there for a year as it looks now. Fatima (wife of Harry) got the opportunity to do a fellowship there and we decided to go for it. I will mostly be exploring the local climbing around Melbourne and the kids will be enrolled in school, so we are all super excited! I will still be involved in the coaching here in Sweden though digital tools even if I am not around physically.

Lastly – if you could go anywhere to climb? Where would that be?

I don’t really have a place in mind, there are so many of them! But I have a route that I want to do one day. It’s called ‘Hotel Supramonte’ and it’s a 500 meter multipitch (8B) in Sardinia.

Thanks for the chat Harry! If you want to be Harrys partner for Hotel Supramonte or show him around in Melbourne, you’ll find him on his Instagram account

Author: Michaela


Harry’s tick list – Places not to miss:

  1. In Sweden – West coast in general. People usually go for trad climbing, but I’m very impressed also with the sport climbing due to the rock quality (granite)
  2. In Europe – Kalymnos in the summer, for the vacation vibe combined with world class climbing. I would also like to say Siurana. For the amazing views and again, world class climbing.
  3. In the world – We have not been around that much outside Europe, but one place that we really enjoyed is Thakhek in Laos. It’s quite remote, but it’s all part of the charm. The community is so great.


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