Blowing the mind, becoming a legend, and other musings of an eleven-year-old rock climber

John Paul wants to be a legend in the climbing community.  He’s 11 years old and started climbing about 2 years ago.

Kevin Jorgeson is a legend in the climbing community.  He’s 33 years old, started climbing when he was about John Paul’s age, and in 2015 became the first person in history, together with his climbing partner, Tommy Caldwell, to free climb the dawn wall. 

This past weekend they both met face-to-face for the first time at Bliss Bouldering and Climbing Complex.   To quote John Paul, “It was mind blowing!”

In early 2016, John Paul’s mom was at a charity auction that had a couple of day-passes for auction that Bliss had donated.   She knew her son couldn’t keep away from climbing the chimney in their home (and he had said he wanted to climb Mt Everest) so thought it might be a good fit for him.  Man, was she right!

The young legend-to-be took to climbing like a fish takes to water. Within just a few months and with almost daily visits to Bliss, John Paul became a mini-legend right here in Wichita.  He was quickly climbing with more accomplished athletes in our sport.  As fortune would have it, we were also just starting our youth climbing team.  And of course, John Paul became one of the stars, competing in the national American Bouldering Series. 

I sat down with the young eleven-year-old a few days ago to find out what makes him tic.

D: “What is your favorite thing about climbing, John Paul?”

JP: “I really like the challenge and the way you have to think in different ways [to get up the wall], you can’t just think one way.”

D: “How has climbing benefited you?”

JP: “It has definitely made me mentally and physically stronger.  It’s also taught me to train and work hard which has even helped in school.”

D: “What do you like about Bliss Bouldering and Climbing Complex?”

JP: “I love the interactions with all the other climbers and how everyone helps everyone else out.”

D: “Do you have any climbing goals?”

JP: “I want to climb the Dawn Wall like Kevin and become a World Cup Rock Climbing Champion.”

Wow!  Talk about goals! 

Kevin Jorgeson did a slide show/talk about his own experience on the Dawn Wall while here.  To say it was inspirational would sound to cliché and would way undersell what was truly communicated.  Kevin shared his challenges, fears, frustrations, and all those things that go with trying something that is way bigger than you and that reeks of certain defeat.

It was such a great message for young climbers like John Paul.

It was such a great message for 50-year-old guys like me too.  

That’s one of the things that I absolutely love about climbing. Climbing speaks to all of us.  It speaks of those doubts and fears that you and I have: that question of ‘Am I going to get through this’, or ‘Am I strong enough to accomplish this’, or ‘Do I have what it takes.’  It teaches us that failure is just a natural part of the process, that pain can be something to be embraced, that fear needs not define us, and that goals are worth the effort.  Rock climbing allows us to get our feet wet in a microcosm that is a very real representation of all of life.  

As the owner of Bliss Bouldering and Climbing Complex, that is why I get out of bed every morning: to have the opportunity to help others experience all that is inside of them.

I finished by asking John Paul what he would say to someone who was thinking about trying rock climbing?

JP: “Go for it.  You will enjoy it.  It is a mind-blowing and wonderful experience.”

And that’s how legends are made.

Follow YOUR Bliss,


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