In life we all face challenges. I consider my loss of sight a challenge, but trying to earn a degree, find a job or purchase a home are all challenges as well. So why do some people seek out physical challenges, like climbing a rock tower in the middle of the wilderness? For me it is a way to escape and be adventurous. Climbing allows me to use all of my senses and forces me to concentrate on the objective of navigating and summitting an obstacle.
Rock climbing is somewhat frustrating to me, and this is not because of my blindness, but because of nerve and vascular damage in my left arm. The damage in my left arm has caused a lot of muscle atrophy and fine motor skill problems in my left hand and fingers, making some hand holds virtually impossible. My complaints and frustrations don’t really mean that much though, because I know a number of amputees who climb difficult rock formations all over the world. So what do I do? Give up on rock climbing… Never, I just search for a new way to climb and crack climbing might be my savior. Crack climbing requires the climber to insert his or her hand into the crack and flex, thereby creating friction and a secure hand or foot hold to allow upward movement. So this style of climbing makes my left arm & hand problem less challenging.
Here I am climbing the 350 foot Bastille Crack in Eldorado Springs Canyon near Boulder, Colorado. Crack climbing is very new to me and I am very much a novice at the activity, but fell in love with the sport after this climb.
A friend named Skiy, who I was hanging out with at a Paradox Sports event in Boulder asked me if I was interested in going climbing. He explained to me that we would be trad climbing, putting in protection in the rocks as we moved up the face. His girlfriend Amanda would lead, I would follow and Skiy would pick up the rear, providing me with commands and direction if necessary.
Climbing is truly tactual and I believe very fun for a blind person. All one needs to do is scan the rock face and secure good foot and hand holds. Finding the hand & foot holds can be challenging at times, but that is where your guide comes into play. A guide climber, who usually climbs below the blind climber will give simple commands to the blind climber, guiding his hands or feet to the necessary hold. Developing a good relationship, communication and a plan of attack with your guide is essential and important. My left arm created a problem and challenge for overcoming this obstacle, but having a great friend, teamwork and a never give up attitude, pushed me to the top.
For more information about the Bastille Crack, check out:
Special Thanks to Skiy and Amanda for leading the way!
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