Empowerment through climbing

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To most of us, climbing is more than just a sport.

It’s our passion, our release, our whole life. Our minds are constantly searching for the next great line, while we forever chase that fleeting feeling of accomplishment knowing that once it’s reached we have yet another more challenging route ahead of ourselves. As a Mesa Rim Climbing & Fitness Center team member I’ve seen all different types of people come through our doors. They are tall, short, young, grown, but there was a certain type of person missing. The person who needs to create innovative ways to accomplish the most simple daily tasks that we often do without thinking. Therein lied the inspiration to create an adaptive climbing program at Mesa Rim. This kind of program would allow adults and children with varying types of physical and neurological disabilities the opportunity to share in our passion of climbing. A brief three A.M. email to Mesa Rim’s Owner and General Manager, Ian McIntosh, planted the seed to usher in California’s first weekly adaptive climbing program.

After weeks of planning the logistics of how to begin a fairly unprecedented program, Mesa Rim teamed up with The Challenged Athletes Foundation and hosted our first adaptive climbing clinic. We had seven participants with varying types of amputations step up to be the pioneers of our program. Unsure of exactly what to expect, myself and wonderful volunteers Daton Morris, Taylor Bukoski, and Brandon Forcier began harnessing up our apprehensive climbers. We set out into the gym to see just what the human spirit was capable of. Our climbers face unparalleled struggles in their lives, and our mission for the day was to allow them have three hours of fun without having to think about doctors, medical bills, or the challenges that come along with being an amputee. What we never considered was just how transformative this day would be. One by one each climber’s apprehensiveness melted into pure happiness as they reached the top of our fifty-five foot wall with the only aide being the encouraging shouts of the onlookers below and one of us side climbing next to them guiding them through each crux.

“I never realized what this program meant to our participants until two weeks later when our most enthusiastic climber came down from his first 5.8 in tears.”

He explained to me that since his amputation he had lost almost everything that made him who he was, but that climbing gave him back his feeling of self. Since then, we started to realize just how important this program is to people. It allows them to push past their disabilities and really test their physical limits, the same way everyone at Mesa lives to do. Thanks to the endless support from Ian McIntosh, and the never ending help from Mark Sortino and Travis Ricks at The Challenged Athletes Foundation.