Written by: Ronnie Dickson
Climbing has played a pivotal role in my life over the past four years. After I lost my leg above the knee almost six years ago I decided to leave my previous passion, soccer, as a part of my past. By chance I discovered climbing and found a new passion that grew deeper by the day and has helped me push my limits and do things I thought were never possible.
It has always been my belief that climbing is an accessible sport for people with disabilities, so it has been my goal over the past two years to introduce as many people with disabilities to climbing as possible. I have been very successful in this, introducing hundreds of people with disabilities to climbing through various indoor clinics around the country.
Indoor climbing is cool, but the only thing cooler than indoor climbing is outdoor climbing. I wanted this clinic to be in a scenic place where participants could enjoy the beauty of the outdoors and spend a day pushing their limits and making new connections at the same time.
On April 9th, 2011 we gathered in the southern California desert in Joshua Tree National Park to host the first annual Adaptive Climbing Clinic. We were able to introduce thirteen people with disabilities to their first outdoor climbing experience. Eleven of those persons had amputations of various types, one participant with Trevor’s Disease, and another that was a stroke victim, ages ranging from ages eleven to fifty-six.
Matt Walker and Inner Passage Guiding Service helped us get the event set up and the climbing to a start that morning. We had three different climbs available on pristine pieces of granite slab that were about 50 feet tall. My friend Jeff Erenstone, also a Mountain Khakis aficionado, was able to help get everybody fit with adaptive climbing feet and equipment.
The day went off exactly how I had imagined. All of the participants made it to the top of the walls and had a great time making new connections and sharing their stories with one another. The weather was wild throughout the day, ranging from warm, back to cold, with even a small ten minute bout of snow! As I had been told the desert can flip its weather switch at any time.
With all the crazy weather in the days leading up to and the day of the clinic I was happy to be wearing some pants that were Built for the Mountain Life! They allowed me the versatility to stay warm while climbing but at the same time stay comfortable and move lightly
There were several of our participants who had some really inspiring stories!
Murray used to be an avid climber at Joshua Tree National park on a regular basis before suffering a stroke about five years ago. After seeing the flier for our clinic he decided to come out and try it again, despite not being able to use the left side of his body because of his injury. Although things were clearly more difficult for him this time around, it was awesome to see how he was able to use his previous climbing skills to position his body in different ways to make it to the top of the wall, he gave it his all and found his way at the top!
Rob lost both of his legs below the knee because of an accident several years ago. He has not let any of these challenges stop him over the years and he proved to be quite an adept climber his very first time as well.
I also managed to get some climbing in myself, trying to take down one of my dream boulders, White Rastafarian V3 R, on my flash attempt. I managed to keep it cool at the top twenty feet off deck and make the send.
The event went exactly how I imagined and I can’t wait until next year already! Thanks to Mountain Khakis for sending out gift cards to ever participant. Keep a lookout for a write up in Urban Climber Magazine by Damon Corso and video to be released by Louder Than 11.
Thanks to our sponsors Athletes with Disabilities Network, Inner Passage Guiding Service, Evolv, Black Diamond, Sterling Rope, Prana, Sanuk, Mountain Khakis, and TRS Prosthetics. I would also like to send a special thanks to Tracii Haynes, Bill Haynes, Buck Branson, Damon Corso, Ben Hirschfeld, Jordan Shipman, Jon Glassberg, Jeff Erenstone, Mason Daly, and Pete Davis for coming and helping out at the event.
Remember, the one who gets to the top is the one who never stops trying. Keep a positive attitude, try hard, and you can overcome any obstacle!