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Outdoor Destinations

Climbing to the Top of Life

January 20, 2015
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It rises from the walls of Yosemite National Park like a volcanic formation that never quite finished itself that way, a mass of mighty rock which has a nearly vertical rock face on one side. Called the Dawn Wall because it receives the morning light, it was recently and finally conquered by a pair of free climbers who used ropes only to prevent a tragic fall. The climbing itself was accomplished by the power of the climbers’ arms, legs and iron-strong fingers.

The famous rock formation known as El Capitan has attracted climbers throughout the ages – including our founder, Royal Robbins, who is credited among other accomplishments with the first solo ascent of El Capitan as well as the first ascent of the Northwest Face of Half Dome, which is also in Yosemite. Almost everyone who has a climbing passion dreams of making it to the top of Yosemite’s famous formations – simply because, as the old saying suggests, they are there.

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Half Dome, Yosemite National Park. Royal Robbins made the first ascent up the Northwest face of the rock in 1957.

 

In recent years, a local climber has decided to do more than add to his legacy of setting world speed records and making first ascents.

Instead, Timmy O’Neill decided to found a nonprofit sports organization that is devoted to helping those with disabilities get out into the outdoors and rise above their own, personal challenges. As he mentioned in a recent interview, one of his motivations for getting involved with people with disabilities is deeply personal:

“As a result of my brother Sean becoming paralyzed,” he says. “He jumped off a bridge into the water and it was so high—a hundred feet—so ballsy, and his trajectory was off when he hit the water. He broke his spine and became a T12 paraplegic, which is right at your belly button. And with crisis comes opportunity. He became a climber as a result of not being able to use his legs. Within the first year we went and climbed Devil’s Tower, he became the first paraplegic to get to the top. And I figured the way to understand his paralysis was to integrate it into my climbing life.”

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Devil’s Tower, Bear Lodge Mountains, Northeastern Wyoming.

“We went on to climb El Capitan three times together, and we climbed in Alaska. People started hearing about it and getting in touch, saying, ‘my brother’ or ‘my friend,’ or ‘myself,’ and ‘can you help me?’”

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The rest is more than history. It is a compelling, moving story that continues to evolve with each passing day.

For more information about O’Neill’s story and company, click here.

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