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Paradox Sports, The North Face Helping Adaptive Climbers Reach New Heights

Image Credit: Paradox Sports

Athletes previously inactive in the climbing community are now looking at more widespread climbing and adventure opportunities, thanks to new sponsorship from The North Face. The outdoor apparel retailer has teamed up with the non-profit Paradox Sports to expand access to indoor climbing facilities for para-athletes across the United States.

Branded as the Adaptive Climbing Initiative, the program was launched in January of this year to empower local climbing gyms across the U.S. to become both physically and socially accessible to climbers with atypical abilities or unique physical needs. This program caters to a certain niche in the climbing community, which had previously been essentially unavailable to people with physical disabilities. 

There had been a gap in the adaptive climbing industry due to a negative feedback loop. The number of disabled people interested in the sport was low because they didn’t know where or how their style of climbing could be supported, and the places and services to support them were few because they couldn’t find a substantial number of adaptive climbers to validate the cost and effort. Enter Paradox Sports, the ten-year-old Boulder, CO-based non-profit whose mission is to grow and empower the adaptive climbing community through organizing athletic trips and climbing adventures for disabled athletes. With The North Face as a sponsor of various Paradox Sports outdoor excursions through its Explore Fund for the past four years, the new 2017 partnership for the Adaptive Climbing Initiative was a natural progression.

At a kick-off event at San Francisco’s Planet Granite climbing gym earlier this month, Mike Neustedter, Executive Director of Paradox Sports, explained that this partnership is changing the game for folks on both sides of the climbing-gym experience.

“When a customer in a wheelchair comes in, those people working the front desk have not typically been prepared” at the average climbing gym, Neustedter said. Most facilities generally can’t afford to equip or train their venues and staff to readily enable adaptive climbers, but with The North Face providing necessary equipment and gear tailored to suit adaptive climbers, Paradox Sports can step in to provide the training for gym staff as far as equipment functions, as well as etiquette for working with adaptive climbers.

“Paradox Sports is a really cool organization,” shared adaptive climber Enock Glidden, an ambassador for Paradox Sports. “I find it personally inspiring.”

Glidden, a Maine native born with Spina Bifida and paralyzed from the waist down since birth, has been an avid athlete for 30 years; he took up adaptive climbing four years ago after discovering Paradox Sports. An accomplished adaptive climber, Glidden successfully climbed a face of Yosemite’s El Capitan in 2016 (one of the first people with disabilities to do so), and has traveled with Paradox Sports this summer to help garner enthusiasm for the various informative courses set up through the Adaptive Climbing Initiative. With already over half a dozen weekend-long training courses successfully completed at climbing gyms around the country this summer, Paradox Sports continues to add new course dates and locations for the Adaptive Climbing Initiative.

This partnership is far from out-of-character for The North Face, which believes that “enabling and inspiring outdoor exploration is important for everyone.” Through its Explore Fund, it supports various organizations that facilitate athletics and outdoor initiatives for people with disabilities. Furthering its efforts to spread interest in climbing, it just announced its “Walls Are Meant For Climbing” campaign, which features a $1M donation to the Trust for Public Land to support more public climbing walls, particularly in underserved regions. To even further highlight these recent climbing-focused initiatives, on August 19, 2017 – Global Climbing Day – The North Face will donate $5 to Paradox Sports for every customer that enters a participating gym.

Christine enjoyed a role on the Sustainable Brands crew from 2015-2017 as Office Manager. With a B.A. in Environmental Studies from New York University, she has strong interests in sustainable business practices. With her latest day job keeping her busy… [Read more about Christine Kehner]

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