Sooji Clarkson | Climber & Guide

Sooji Clarkson | Climber & Guide

Sooji Clarkson may have started climbing late, but now the mountains and New Zealand’s crags are her happy place. We are delighted to welcome her as our newest Black Diamond Brand Ambassador.

Meet Sooji

Growing up in Lower Hutt, Wellington, the closest I got to the backcountry was the bulldozered firebreak trail up the Eastern Hills behind our house.

After four years of engineering at the University of Canterbury, I moved up to Auckland for work still blissfully unaware that climbing really existed. Then some years later a friend took me along once to try climbing.

And so it was that a sweltering, dusty, indoor gym (boasting at the time rather lackluster setting and practically no bouldering) was the thing that got me immediately hooked. I started to climb all the time. Indoors, but then outdoors. Single but then multi-pitch, sport but then trad, and of course bouldering.

Love Mountaineering

I discovered snow. Then somewhat inevitably I moved back to the South Island and learned to ski.

I learned to climb with ice axes and crampons, rapidly steepening into ice and mixed.

I scrubbed boulders at Flock Hill. And I found the joy of forging into areas less travelled, in seeking and developing unclimbed lines. Not to mention the unique experience of swimming upwards through viscous vertical Fiordland bush.

I found a love of moving fast and light through the mountains – trail runners, microspikes and light alloy axes. But also the satisfaction in hauling heavy packs and good honest uphill hours.

Finding the balance in gear that is light but durable, functional but not over-engineered, has always been a challenge. Even more so when there’s such a variety of adventures to be had, which requires such a variety of gear.

Route Development

Starting in 2024 I will be rock climbing and doing route development, mainly in Fiordland. My focus is on more remote, longer routes – sometimes involving more “big wall” tactics eg hauling and tagging gear, fixing lines, sleeping up on the wall.

Big wall climbing is a space Black Diamond is well known for but NZ definitely isn’t!

With glacial recession and global warming our alpine routes become inaccessible earlier and earlier in the season, and we rely more heavily on helicopters for access. A more sustainable long-term solution is to pivot and use the warmer seasons and less snow cover to head south instead. New route development in the more accessible grades is needed.

I’ve started on a professional pathway as an NZMGA guide, where I have found joy in teaching skills and facilitating journeys in the mountains for others… though still of course leaving time aside for my own.

If I thought I drove my gear hard beforehand, now it gets thrashed day in and out!

I feel inspired to follow in the footsteps of some amazing Kiwi wāhine toa, excited where this path will lead to, and to share my adventures both in work and play with everyone.


Photo Credits:
Banner: Stu Duncan
1st Image, Featured Image: Penzy Dinsdale

2nd Image: Ruari Macfarlane 

Follow Sooji on social: