Bouldering in Joshua Tree

Bouldering in Joshua Tree
Ronnie 15 feet off deck on the classic White Rastafarian.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Training for 2012 World Paraclimbing Championships

For those unfamiliar with my story, I elected to have my left leg amputated above the knee seven years ago. I had Trevor’s disease, a congenital disorder with my growth plates that left me with a disfigured and short leg. I played varsity soccer in high school, and it got to the point where I would get home from practice and be in so much pain that I would not be able to walk until the next morning. That is when I knew I could have a better quality of life by amputating my leg.

I found climbing by chance in college, and have committed myself to it since I started six years ago. I was drawn to the community of individuals that always pushed each other to be their best, and the challenges posed by climbing and the means of overcoming them through strength and movement.  Everybody has to learn how their body moves in climbing, and it did not matter that I had one leg.

One of the things I love most about climbing is the diversity of the experience you can have. Since the start of my climbing six years ago, I have always excelled at and enjoyed the process of bouldering.

Climbing in Bishop, CA. Damon Corso Photography

Outdoor climbing has always been my favorite aspect of the sport, with indoor climbing only serving as a vessel to climb strong outside. Competition is side of the sport that I have tried in the past a few times, but that has never quite intrigued me as much until recently.

Next week my friend Craig Demartino, below the knee amputee and I, will be heading to Paris, France to compete in the World Paraclimbing Championships. This is the second year of the event and we will have the opportunity to compete against other adaptive climbers from Spain, Japan, Germany among other countries.

German climber from last years world championships

We will be the first two athletes to represent the United States in this competition. The only disciplines offered are lead and speed, so for the past four months I have been strictly climbing with the sole focus of converting myself from a boulderer into a sport climber.

The transition from bouldering to sport climbing has been a really interesting process. Where bouldering is a much shorter burst of power and energy, sport climbing requires a much more sustained and focused effort and technically challenges me more with my prosthesis. I did not expect the training to be easy by any means, but it has certainly been a challenge. I always assumed that seasoned sport climbers just did not get pumped while climbing, but while I know that endurance is not one of my strong suits, sport climbing is almost the acquired skill of learning how to effectively manage a climb when you are fatigued.

Photo courtesy of Aubrey Wingo

Being a climber in Florida, the biggest challenge is keeping things fresh and the routine constantly changing. I have been able to rotate between three different walls, one at work, the local climbing gym, and a home woody on my coach's porch. The training has been grueling at times, with the hundred degree temperatures making laps on my coaches horizontal roof an absolute sweat fest! 

Wall at my coaches porch

Sloper training

The awesome wall at work! 

Coming from a good strength background from my years of bouldering my coach, Eugene Hoberg, and I have been focusing on doing intense endurance work. The local climbing gym, Aiguille, is not very tall, clocking in at about 35 feet, so this has involved going up-down-up on routes and stringing together multiple climbs in a row with only five minutes rest in between burns to start training my forearms to climb while fatigued and to recover quickly. We have been also doing intervals on the systems wall on all tiny holds, to force recovery in not so ideal rest positions. The emphasis on tactics has been huge as well, that would almost be a whole post in itself.

Focused on pulling the last hard moves. Photo courtesy of Aubrey Wingo

I have to say that I am excited for this opportunity to represent our country that has given me so much to be thankful for. I have never had more fun with my climbing and I feel good about all the work that I have put in leading up to the competition. I am really excited to share experiences with all the climbers from other countries who have overcome obstacles to excel at the sport. 

Eugene and I after our last training session before worlds..

Thanks to Evolv, Sterling Rope, Prana, Black Diamond, and Sanuk for their continued support of my endeavors.