On Friday October 18th over 45 people descended on New Paltz, NY and the home of Barb Treadway and Steve Chardon for a historic adaptive climbing weekend. 17 differently abled individuals made the trip from as far away as Chicago and Colorado to climb with a unique group of like-minded and bodied people in what may be the largest outdoor adaptive climbing event in East Coast history.
For many people, this weekend would be a first experience both camping and rock climbing so there were many breakthroughs made on different levels. After tents were set up and people were settled and introductions were made we scarfed down a tasty meal provided by Main St. Bistro of New Paltz. Directly after dinner we headed into town for a presentation at the store Rock and Snow given by Kareemah Batts, Jon Sedor, Tim O’Neill, Sean O’Neill and myself. The house was packed at Rock and Snow and Rich Gottlieb the owner began by making a generous donation to Paradox Sports, thank you Rich! Kareemah took the floor and gave us her story of being a cancer survivor and how trying something totally improbable for her (climbing) started her on a life’s mission to get other’s with challenges out on the rock through her organization NYC Adaptive Climbing. Jon Sedor was next up, he had to change his life after losing his hand and he went from thinking he would never climb again to winning a gold medal at the World Cup Para-climbing competition in London this fall. I spoke about my experiences climbing with one arm for over 20 years and why I have always felt a kinship to Paradox Sports. Sean O’Neill introduced the audience to the new world of unsupported aid leading for the sit-climber! Breakthrough! Tim O’Neill brought down the house as usual showing us his adventures on the road of life and how it has brought him to the position of Executive Director of Paradox Sports.
After a challenge for anyone in the audience to stand and give their story about overcoming obstacles Adam Payne rose to the occasion giving us his story of living with Ataxia and for this was awarded an Osprey backpack in return. Then we reached into the pile of membership forms to pull out Arthur Torreys name and award him a new rope graciously donated by Mammut. Arthur is a new sit aid climber and so undoubtedly he can’t wait to use the rope and feed his stoke! Afterwards over 25 people from the audience came up to sign up as members of Paradox Sports, apparently our message was well received and a huge thank you to all those people who believe in the power that adaptive sports can have on people’s lives.
The next morning people motivated despite the chill and eagerly jumped into breakfast provided by Main St. Bistro again. Gear was distributed and the cats were hearded into vehicles to take us to Minnewaska State Park where the real fun happens. At the Peterskill area we had a safety talk then proceeded to walk, crutch and roll to the crag. Getting the wheelchair users to the base of the crag was the first challenge but luckily we had 9 strapping West Point cadets volunteering to do the heavy lifting, so it proved to be no problem. Ropes were rigged, harnesses were donned and off we went! Peterskill tends to have a lot of low angle and ledgey terrain separated by some large overhanging sections so there was something for everyone. The low-angle terrain was good for the sit climbers that wanted to try to climb the rock using their hands or using the new aid techniques, while the overhanging terrain was great for the rope ascension systems. The amputees also used the varied terrain to their advantage, the leg amps found numerous routes to climb and the arm amps found challenging terrain too. Some of the group split off to go try some bouldering that sounded like it was a tough challenge on overhanging rock.
Daniel Aliberti our visually impaired participant used thoughtful measured movements to get him to the top of several climbs. He taught everyone about how to be present within yourself and how simple acceptance of one’s situation can sometimes be the most gratifying thing. Thank you Daniel! Adam Payne made a strong showing on the rock, he was clearly in tune with his body and knows what he can do with it. Adam attacked the rock with a no-holds-barred kind of gusto and obviously was triumphant, how could you not be with that attitude! Wendy Ong was in great form and was fresh off her first lead climbs in California since her injury. She climbed with grace and composure, showing us all how it is done. Scott Stoveken has a long history climbing at the Gunks and so was right at home though Peterskill may not have provided quite enough challenge for this experienced climber disability or not.
The group was jiving together like a well-oiled machine, the way it happens organically at all Paradox Sports gatherings. If there is a need to be met with someone, immediately 3 people are there to meet that need. The love flowed freely. It was great fun to see Erik Kondo ascend a tricky stepped wall while his 3 kids watched and cheered. When Erik reached the top he decided to hang out on the ledge and bring up his daughter Halena to sit on his lap and admire the beautiful view of the tree tops in their fall colors, it was a sweet moment for them both. Enock Glidden got to try sit climbing for his first time, using a mini 3:1 mechanical advantage system. He had a challenging climb ahead of him, with ledges to get over and some vertical bushwhacking to fight through. All of this Enock dispensed with patience, strength and style!
We were fortunate enough to have two veterans join us for the event, Nick Colgin and Gonzalo Duran. Nick came to the Paradox Gunks event last year and as a result he has been mentoring other soldiers ever since like his friend Gonzalo who had never tried climbing before. We were also fortunate enough to have Bob Crowley with CNN there to do a story on Nick for a Veterans Day segment about how he uses climbing as a means to reintegrate into society and overcome his injuries from war. Here is a link to the CNN piece http://edition.cnn.com/video/?/video/bestoftv/2013/11/04/reaching-peak-potential.cnn
Veterans are a crucial part of the Paradox Sports mission and we want to honor them and give something back after they have committed so much of themselves to this country. Thank you Nick and Gonzo!
Things began to wind down after a frenetic day and our attentions shifted towards dinner. The group divided and conquered the tasks of cooking dinner for 45+ and a great burrito meal was created and enjoyed around the bonfire. Soon we went around the circle asking everyone in the group to tell why they are there or what they have gained from the weekend so far. This turned into an outpouring of stoke and love and inspiration for everyone and really solidified the reasons that we all were there, to make the world a better place, one person and one climb at a time. Then we got into the s’mores and I believe I was last seen that night falling asleep in my chair five s’mores deep and with marshmallow all over my face….
The next day had us back at Peterskill though at a different wall than the day before. Some members of the group were looking for more challenge and so headed over to the Trapps area of the Gunks. Adam Payne got taken up his first multi-pitch climb by a friend and local climbing guide, which was monumental for him. Meanwhile the rest of the group started tackling the day’s climbs. For the sit climbers the goal for most of them was to start learning the techniques of aid climbing. After some proper anchor placing instruction we watched Sean use whittled sticks from the forest that he shoved into cracks to aid off of, unconventional to be sure but as Sean puts it, “don’t let common sense get in your way”! Before long, we had four sit climbers aiding their way up two different routes, certainly something that has never been done before ever in the world! It was clear that this technique Sean developed is the future of sit climbing. The person is actually climbing the rock now rather than just ascending a rope and everyone who experienced this seemed to gain a much greater sense of accomplishment.
After climbing all day again we eventually had to say our goodbyes exchange contacts and make our ways home. It was non-stop action all weekend and every person that attended was left buzzing with excitement and awe for the human spirit and how it triumphs over any adversity. We all served as inspirations to each other, we all exchanged ideas, encouragement, smiles, laughter and challenge. It was overcoming that challenge and a common bond that brought us together and bonded us tightly and inspires us to wake up each day to conquer the world! Paradox Rocks!