Climb On: How Veterans Are Finding Calm & Confidence

Craig DeMartino

By Craig DeMartino

I’ve been a climber most of my life, which has taken me to great lengths crafting a life around a passion that fills my soul...

Being outside in the natural world has always been a healing, exciting, and breath-taking experience. Unfortunately, in 2002, my love for climbing almost took my life, after a 100-foot ground fall resulted in months in the hospital, a fused back and neck, and the amputation of my right leg.

Going back to my soul place was never in question, what was in question was how my life would be different after such heavy trauma.

Over the next few years I rebuilt my body and mind through climbing, working up to the levels prior to the accident was full of fearful moments, joyous surprises, and realization climbing could be more then just a sport I did

...not just a lifestyle, but a healing process that I wanted to share.

Craig DeMartino | Adaptive AdventuresThe vets run the gambit from PTSD to missing limbs, all searching for the person they were before, to be that person again or to be better. I began teaching adaptive climbing courses with Adaptive Adventures, a non-profit based in Denver, where I focused on teaching veterans in some of my clinics.

When we start the climbing process we teach the safety parts and the team building that comes with climbing.

These fit the model they are used to, and you can see the military similarities in the ways that I teach. There is a definitive way to stay safe and the simplicity of this can be a calming thing. As we progress, I watch the confidence grow in each climber and the we encourage them to cheer and support one another in both voice and touch. A slap on the back and some hearty ribbing also just come with the territory.

On the introduction courses I watch as the vets go from shells of former soldiers to the shimmer of light that is the new person coming out of the darkness. This can be powerful stuff not only for the climber but for the person teaching.

It reminds me each time that a sport, a lifestyle, can truly change a person.

Make them whole again and send them on a path that can’t erase the past, but blend it into a future that is rich with experiences and adventure. It is a healing thing.

Craig DeMartino | Adaptive Adventures

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: 

In 2002, Craig's life changed dramatically. He was accidentally dropped 100 feet while climbing in CO. He endured a three month stay in the hospital and later a rehab facility where he began to rebuild his life and body. After 18 months, Craig decided to amputate his leg below the knee to return to climbing, and the quality of life he once enjoyed.

Now, with 30 years of climbing experience under his belt, Craig has a new and exciting view of the world. He believes perspective is a great tool to motivate us, and the accident gave him true perspective. 

Once he returned to climbing, Craig pushed his body to learn and re-learn the art of climbing. His journey continues on and he now serves as a motivational speaker. 

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Mandy Stephenson
Mandy Stephenson

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