Interview: Heidi Wirtz on Balancing Climbing, Leading Yoga Retreats, and Philanthropy

Pro climber and yoga instructor Heidi Wirtz does it all.
By Johanna Flashman ,

Climber and yoga instructor Heidi Wirtz.

Ryan Dionne

Heidi Wirtz, 45, also known as “Heidi Almighty,” leads guided climbing-yoga trips, manages her own company, helps with philanthropic funding events, and still stays in shape as a professional climber. She’s also the instructor for Climbing’s Yoga for Climbers online course.

Over the past 20 years, Wirtz has done all sorts of climbing, from offwidth to ice climbing to trad climbing. She also co-founded the nonprofit Girls Education International with Lizzy Scully, to help give girls an education all over the world; managed all types of funding events; and studied yoga for 18-plus years. Most recently, she has been co-developing her own company with her friend Yuki Tsuji-Hoening called Earth Play Retreats, which leads transformative outdoor-adventure trips.

Wirtz had dreamed of starting a company to guide climbing/yoga trips for over 15 years before getting the chance to launch Earth Play Retreats. Now that she has, she says, “We’ve been able to fill pretty much all the trips that we’ve offered.” Wirtz has led trips to Moab, Yosemite, Joshua Tree, and Puerto Rico. She also plans to expand the company internationally to lead trips to Cuba and Kalymnos, Greece, in 2018. In a recent interview with Wirtz, she talked about her experience balancing Earth Play Retreats, professional climbing, and her yoga practice.

How did Earth Play Retreats start?

I started drawing logos like 15 years ago. It would be, like, Shiva holding a bunch of cams in one hand. I finally started it because, honestly, I was going off to teach yoga at the Wanderlust festival and I put in my bio that I’d already started this retreat company. Then somebody contacted me from that bio who was a yoga teacher and she was like, “Whoa, you teach retreats? I want to do it with you!” So she and I joined forces and just started doing it. It’s been a fun progression, and it’s still growing.

How do you divide your time between co-managing Earth Play and being a professional rock climber?

It’s a juggling act for sure because it takes a lot of work, but I have a strong desire to do the things I love to do, so I find time. Lately, I’ve been trying to set a schedule for myself because I used to work all the time. On the other hand, it’s also easy to go on a road trip and never open my computer, so it takes dedication on both ends for me because I’m kind of an extreme person.

Besides Earth Play and climbing, what other activities (if any) do you make time for?

I make time for yoga and I make time to relax, which is a big deal for me. Lately, I’ve been learning that incorporating that into my schedule is important. I make time for my friends and family, too.

Do you have any plans or goals for the future, either in your climbing or your business?

In the next year, I want to take my trips international and expand my business so that I’m offering more trips. Eventually, I want to take on employees for the business and get it completely certified, too.

As far as climbing goals, since I’m recovering from shoulder surgery, I’m trying to get back to where I’ve been. I have a pretty big goal for next winter but I might keep that under wraps a bit longer.

What keeps you going with being a philanthropist and a climber?

I like to succeed. For the climbing part, I love feeling really fit.

As far as getting my business going, I want to be financially healthy. I don’t have a whole lot of desire for money, but I would also like to own my own house one day. It’s also not just a meaningless job for me. I’ve had people climbing up a tower and on the last pitch be like, “Oh, my god, this is the most amazing day of my entire life.” And you’re just, like, “OK, that’s why I do this.”

Want to practice yoga with Heidi? Take Climbing's Yoga for Climbers online course. 

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