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On Ice, Rock, or Indoors, Paradox Says Climbing Is for Everyone


Editor’s Note: This year, Wheel:Life is partnering with Paradox Sports, a nonprofit dedicated to adaptive climbing. Throughout 2020, we’re excited to bring you interviews with Paradox ambassadors, adaptive ice climbers, and more. This month, we talked to Paradox development manager Becky Lindstrom about their upcoming climbing trips, educating gyms across the country on adaptive techniques, and providing a safe environment for people with disabilities to push their limits.

The Paradox Community

Before coming to Paradox, I didn’t have any connections with the disability community. But Paradox has been around for 13 years now, so I stepped into a close-knit and welcoming community. It’s been so much fun, and I’m very grateful to be here.

A group of climbers with and without disabilities wearing safety helmets in front of a cliff smiling at the camera.

For people like myself without disabilities, we often live in our own little bubble. It’s so nice for me to know that my daughter is growing up with an expanded bubble because she comes to Paradox events with me. She sees people of all abilities doing different things with their bodies. As a kid, I didn’t experience that, so I had an internal bias as well as curiosity.

“It’s incredible to know that Paradox is helping normalize climbing as an option for people with disabilities.”

 

That’s the way it should have always been, but it’s great that we’re finally getting there.

Ice Climbing in Ouray and North Conway

A snowmobile pulls a sled holding a man in a yellow snowsuit and orange helmet.

The Ouray ice climbing trip typically takes place in mid-February, and we’ve been doing it since the beginning of Paradox Sports. It’s a three-day trip. The first day is to welcome everyone and get to know each other. The next day, we climb from morning to evening and follow that with our Got Stump fundraiser. During the fundraiser, one of the climbers on the trip gets the Got Stump award. The recipient is someone who is a leader, mentor, advocate, and friend to everyone in the Paradox and greater adaptive climbing community. It is voted upon by the previous Got Stump award winners. On the final day, we climb in the morning and then go to the hot springs for the afternoon.

Two men carry another man up a snowy hill.

Ouray is my favorite trip because everyone is so excited to be there. It’s a warm, welcoming, happy weekend of people, both disabled and not, trying things they never thought were possible. Ice climbing is hard, and everyone needs some form of equipment to do it.

Last year was my first time going to Ouray. I had seen thousands of gorgeous pictures, but it’s even more beautiful in person. There’s a wonderful woman who lives in Ouray named Katharina Papenbrock who drops down burritos and hot chocolate for the climbers in the middle of the day. It’s like raining magic. It’s just an awesome, awe-inspiring trip.

“You don’t even get that cold because you’re so energized and excited. It’s a surreal experience.”

 

A person zips down an icy mountain with the help of a rope and pulley system.

We do another ice climbing trip in mid-January in North Conway, New Hampshire. Since the Ouray trip fills up so quickly, and a lot of our climbers come from the East Coast, we decided to open a program out there around eight years ago.

Camping and Climbing

In May, we do a camping trip at Shelf Road near Canon City, Colorado. It’s so much fun because there’s a lot of storytelling and joking around the campfire. People come from all around and reunite there each year. We’ve had so much interest in the past that we decided to add a second trip.  This year, we’ll be holding one trip in May to kick off the outdoor climbing season and another in October to end it.

A Trip for Veterans and First Responders

Over the September 11th weekend, we climb in Yosemite. Initially, it was a trip exclusively for Veterans and first responders, but we recently decided to open it up for everyone. We do encourage Veterans and first responders to join us on the trip, and it is entirely free of charge thanks to some great sponsors.

A man wearing a "Yosemite Climbing Patrol" t-shirt helps a man in a wheelchair prepare to climb the cliff in front of them.

Rock Climbing in the Northeast

At the beginning of October, we go to the Gunks in New York. It’s another awesome climbing trip run by our Northeastern guides.

Hopes for Expansion

All of our trips have quite a following. It’s both a blessing and a curse.

“Since they fill up so fast, we would like to add more trips to our schedule.”

 

Eventually, we’re hoping to go to the Tetons and Red River Gorge and continue to expand our program. It’s just a matter of bandwidth, staffing, and funding.

Three men wearing climbing equipment carry a smiling girl in her wheelchair up a set of wooden stairs in the forest.

Bringing Adaptive Climbing Programs to Gyms Nationwide

We run our Adaptive Climbing Initiative at gyms across the country. The program is currently sponsored by the North Face. The purpose is to help climbing gyms accommodate anybody who walks through their doors. In 2019, we carried out 19 ACI courses. The program is exceptionally popular, and we get calls about it incredibly regularly. There’s so much passion for adaptive climbing. Gyms are realizing that we’re not asking them to offer special treatment or discounted rates; we’re just asking them to allow more people to participate.

“We want to give them the tools and education to accommodate people with disabilities.”

 

Part of that is teaching disability etiquette and how to talk to everybody who walks into their gym.

Our end game is like most nonprofits. If we go out of business, it’s a good thing. If all of a sudden, you don’t need us anymore, that’s great. It means we did something right.

A woman outstretches her arms and leans back in her climbing chair as if to celebrate making it up the indoor wall.

The Appeal of Climbing

Because there’s an inherent risk to climbing, it’s intimidating and scary to a lot of people, but it also appeals to the thrill-seeking crowd. I love to exercise, but I’m almost exclusively a runner, which for the most part, is pretty safe. I don’t put myself into risky situations that push my boundaries. Climbing involves risk for every single person.

“At Paradox, we want you to be part of a community you feel safe and comfortable in where you’re able to push your limits and do things you didn’t think you could do before.”

 

All adaptive sports are great and important, but I do think there’s something about climbing that’s irreverent. You are really putting yourself out there and trying something different, challenging, and rewarding. It’s difficult for every single person.

A woman single-leg amputee in a wheelchair wearing a helmet looks up toward the mountain and smiles. In the background, people prepare their climbing equipment.

Editor’s Note: To find out how you can get involved in adaptive climbing, visit ParadoxSports.org. For more photos, follow @ParadoxSports on Instagram.

This article was extracted from an interview and email communication with Becky Lindstrom. It has been lightly edited for clarity and length. 

A blue circle with the outline of a mountain in white with "Paradox Sports" written in white.

Paradox offers accessible climbing experiences for people with disabilities, defying the perception that people with a disability cannot lead a life of adventure. Challenges include both indoor and outdoor rock climbing, ice climbing, and mountaineering.

About the Author

betsy-bailey-headshot

Betsy Bailey has a diverse background that includes experience in travel and culinary writing, business operations, marketing research, and playing volleyball professionally overseas.

Betsy has been writing for Wheel:Life since January of 2017 and thoroughly enjoys the process of getting to know her interviewees. She also enjoys a good vegan brunch, practices parkour, speaks French fluently, and travels any chance she gets!

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