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Adaptive Ascents: First Time, Strong Climb

Climbing is about freaking whatchu got! Athletic and adaptive climbers reveal the challenges and thrills of scaling walls for the first time.


Adaptive Climbing Group & Outdoor Fest hosted both Delaney Miller and Julia Sikut in the Strong Climb competition this past weekend at Brooklyn Boulders.

The real stars, however, were scaling walls for the first time without capabilities that many of us take for granted (say, vision, full mastery of your legs and arms, having all four limbs in the first place). Adaptive Climbing Group provides great opportunities and mentorships within the Brooklyn Boulders community for disabled athletes to exercise and get into shape at their own pace.

Graham Norwood scaled the wall fearlessly in the face of his retinitis pigmentosa, a condition that leaves him without peripheral vision and difficulty seeing indoors or in low lighting.

“[Rock climbing] is pretty tactile…It’s not daunting because of the visual aspect, as long as someone’s there to say ‘Try this’,” Norwood says. What’s more challenging than visually impaired rock climbing?

“So much of basic human interaction is visualized– facial expressions, body language, gestures, if I want to go to a bar, how do I find the bar? How do I get the bartender’s attention?”, Norwood points out.

Atiba Clarke
Atiba Clarke scales a Brooklyn Boulders wall for the first time

It’s also Atiba Clarke’s first time climbing. Author of  “Unexpected Words of A Gifted Angel”, Clarke’s charisma shines beyond cerebral palsy.

“Why sit there? I’m the type of person that likes to motivate and tell people ‘Keep going!’ This was my first time. I’ve also started horseback riding a couple of weeks ago. I go a lot of places– movies, concerts, anywhere: I don’t sit around, I have to find something to do.”

Delaney Miller warms up for the strong climb competition on our 45 degree wall.

Peter Trojic, who also has cerebral palsy, is super stoked about getting back into shape.  “Climbing is great– it accepts you as you are, and you gotta find your own way. Everyone climbs their own way. I don’t have to worry about looking like an idiot.” Other sports, Trojic says, “don’t really treat me like an adult”. After six months of climbing, he introduced his other friends to adaptive climbing, encouraging them to conquer problems at their own pace: “It took me a month to get off the training wall!”.

Adaptive Climbing Delaney Miller
Adaptive Climbing Group founder Kareemah Batts throws a deuce up with Delaney Miller and Outdoorfest volunteers and climbers

Access is a big challenge for those with disabilities to find their comfort zones for physical empowerment. “It takes me two hours to get here,” Trojic says. “So I can’t wait for Queensbridge to open.” Both Trojic and his friend have earned their belay certifications, and are eager to show others the possibilities of adaptive climbing.

Adaptive Climbing Group meets at Brooklyn Boulders on Sundays and Thursdays at 6 pm. All ages and physical disabilities are welcome, as well as belay volunteer.

Outdoor Fest hosts 10 days of outdoor adventure in New York City.