climber

Category Archives: falling

How Craig DeMartino Became a Climber

When I started climbing 30 years ago, all I wanted was to BE a climber. I wanted to be strong in every climbing discipline: trad, sport, big wall, ice, and bouldering. I wanted to be able to move seamlessly between them and practice those arts at the highest level I could. After doing it for 15 years, I was pretty solid in the arts. Then one day I wasn’t.

They call them accidents for a reason. Not one person to really blame, really just a bunch of small, insignificant actions that resulted in a catastrophic failure that got me to a hospital bed clinging to life after a 100 foot ground fall. After surviving the fall and following days in the ICU and orthopedic care, my life went from one of action to one of reaction. My movement was stifled. For the next year I would react to what doctors told me and make a design on how to best “save” what I had left. They fused my spine in the Lumbar region, my neck at the C5/6 level, and finally, I found myself back in the hospital to amputate my right leg. A reaction to the fact I couldn’t walk without a cast. The reality was that climbing and my life would never be the same with the limb I had left. After the surgery, I fought to find out what was left of my former self. I loved my wife and kids and that would never change, but being a climber was a huge part of WHO I was and it seemed I was back to square one.

I was back to wanting to BE a climber, so that’s what I put my mind to. With the help of my wife and friends, I began to build back the climber and person I was before. The setbacks and fear were huge. Most times I climbed I wanted to quit and find something new. But if you climb for a while it becomes part of who you are and what you are. It’s very hard to ignore. For me it was like denying my DNA.

The first climbs were small, but I kept moving. Movement was what felt best. Even 15 years later, sitting still makes me stiffen and have trouble moving. As the climbs got harder, so did my adjustment to my new body. My windows of opportunity were small, so I pushed hard and tried to capitalize on them. This left me completely destroyed and needing rest and recovery. Improvements came slowly, but four years after the accident I found myself climbing El Cap in under a day and actually feeling like a climber again.

As with any journey, this one was not without its setbacks. Stump infections from a shower fall kept me in and out of the hospital for months last year. It cut into my crag time as you can imagine, but through it all, my wife Cyn and I would load the van, hit the road, and keep moving.

I’ve been really lucky to climb some amazing routes first as a disabled climber, to team up with other adaptive athletes and climb El Cap unsupported, and have strong finishes in the adaptive competition scene over the years. Through it all, the idea of being a climber is what keeps me going. Today, I remember my friends and partners much more than I do the routes and comp results. To be honest, I remember very few of my podium finishes, they are fleeting moments in time. Cyn keeps a record of her proud sends, and I often don’t even remember if I DID a route. But I DO remember the climbers I’m with. The connections I’ve made over the years with other climbers and places are what drives me forward. It’s the act of being in a space where everyone understands what you are talking about, where living in a car for a period of time is normal, where being a climber is what everyone is trying to do.

Getting hurt so badly ended up being one of the best things to ever happen to me. It’s changed how I live, work, and play. In short, I wouldn’t trade it or give it back for anything. It has taught me that there is more than me in this world. It has taught me to help others and stay humble. Its shown me the depth a relationship can have. It’s made me a better human by crushing the old one.

It’s what made me a climber.

How to be a Great Belayer

There’s a whole host of resources available online and in print aimed at how to successfully climb harder, stronger, higher.  However, there’s only a fraction of information available for another crucial, yet often overlooked skill that is vital to every good send: the art of belaying.  Sure, most climbers, even newbies, have a basic knowledge of how the belay system works, and understand how to use a belay device of their choosing.  They can most likely pass a belay test at their local gym and can handle the number one priority for a belayer – keep the climber off the ground.  That’s good. …Read the rest of this entry →

Integration

I love climbing.

Central Park this fall
I enjoy moving in the mountains for hours at a time.  
I love a good glass of wine and laughter filling the room.  
I love falling in love, playing the piano, learning, teaching, and a full breathe filling my lungs.
The list could go on.    
This fall was filled with some unbelievably good times along with some heartbreaking ridiculousness.  
I haven’t slept in the same bed for more than 3 nights since September 1st.  This in part to–too much travel, a break-up turned sour, and two residential moves.   
2nd Meat Wall -Indian Creek (Photo Nathan Welton)
We have had two fires in the town of Estes Park.  The first one, in June, saw KMAC evacuated and the boys running around to save Harry’s house and property.  As I write, the Fern Lake fire continues to smoulder over Eagle Cliff –closing in on the 66 corridor.    
Top Sirloin — Nathan Welton
In early November, I took a 25 foot fall in Zion, thinking I broke my hand and my femur.  Fortunately, my helmet-less-ego-hurt body faced only minor injuries considering the rock broke, my blue Alien popped and I fell upside-down below my belayer and the ledge he was standing on.  Andrew caught me abruptly.  The only other piece I had placed was a .03 Black Diamond Cam and it was only 4 feet above our belay.  I limped noticeably for 2 weeks with a giant softball muscle wad in my left thigh and a purple thumb/palm that still refuses to hold a plate or zip my fly without pain.  
We also elected, as a Nation, to keep our current president.  I am happy about that.  I had an amazing 80’s prom themed birthday party and I have made some moves towards forwarding my company Dovetail Mountain Endeavors.

Lightening Bolt Crack-North Sixth Shooter (Nathan Welton)
All of these events have thrust me into a whirlwind of thoughts and actions.  Learning to trust myself, my instincts.  More importantly, to ask for help and take it when it is given selflessly. 
  
I am learning to place less value on the things in my life.  I am thankful for the people within the moments and the moments as they happen–good or bad.    
The gang atop the N.Sixth Shooter– Nathan, Quinn, Dustin, Prairie, and Matty.  

I continue to climb because it is ingrained in my soul to move, to explore with a sweaty brow, to push through my fears with tears welled in the corner of my eyes.

I continue to teach, to learn, to grow.  I feel a little slow in my attempts towards integration…but better than not at all….Right?

Taking in the vast Canyonlands vista


“Think of the state of mind you were in before you began reading.  It was a fresh mind.  With no ideas, you came with a fresh mind to look at this book (blog).  If we can maintain that state in our daily lives, that is known as integration.  To be fully integrated means to integrate oneself totally from the body to the self and also to live in integration with one’s neighbours and surroundings….. In this way we remain ever fresh, ever peaceful, and with ever growing intelligence.”

BKS Iyengar–The Tree of Yoga

  
Lungs filled, hearts sighing.  

The vision for the Trango athlete team is to find climbers who embody our brand’s values and support them in their climbing endeavors. We focus on the character of the climber, their passion for the sport, and their desire to contribute to the community.

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