Bliss has the greatest members in the world. That fact alone made choosing a member of the year for 2016 so insanely difficult, as there were literally dozens of people in the running. However, Zach’s name kept coming up time and time again.
He has been involved with us from the very start, having followed our FaceBook page even in the years before we opened. Zach told me that he first heard that a climbing gym might be opening in Wichita from a Boy Scout leader he had. The gentleman had noticed how much Zach loved climbing at a scout event and encouraged him to seek us out. Following our Facebook posts also allowed him to be one of the first to notice that Bliss was hiring our initial staff members. Zach immediately applied, and his passion for climbing secured his job as our very first general staff member.
Zach recalls that time, “I was coming off a pretty serious injury and was actually kinda depressed as I realized that my swimming career (his sport passion at the time) was probably over as a result of the injury. However, it was as I became more involved with climbing that I realized that I had discovered a new passion.”
And what a passion it became for him. His technique was definitely a bit green when he started climbing at Bliss. I personally remember Zach commenting to me how he loved watching me climb and wondered if he would ever be that good.🙄🤔 Now Zach can climb circles around me! (Damn kids!) I knew my reign of awesomeness in his eyes was quickly coming to an end about six months ago as I watched him working on this one particular route on our lead wall (a red 5.10d) that he says was one of his proudest moments when he finally finished it clean (these days, that route would be a warm up for him).
Last summer, Zach resigned his position with us to pursue his other passion, outdoor adventure photography. He has already done shoots for the likes of Patagonia, Black Diamond, and Arc’Teryx among others.
However that didn’t end his support and commitment to Bliss Bouldering and Climbing Complex. Even though he was no longer on payroll, he continued to promote our gym and community, offer belays to whoever was in need of one, volunteer every single time we had any event, and is even covering for us now once every week so our entire team can get away for a team meeting.
Asked what is it about climbing that really fires him up, he says it is the pushing himself beyond his personal limits despite fears and risks (surprisingly, despite his impressive skill on the sharp end of a rope, Zach says he still regularly gets terrified at the top of our forty foot routes). That is also why he encourages pretty much everyone he meets to give climbing a try. Zach says that this pushing of yourself and the encouragement of others to try hard is what creates such a fun, close knit community in the climbing world.
We’ve created an acronym from our B.L.I.S.S. name that highlights our values: Believe, Lead, Inspire, Serve and Smile. Zach Petersen lives those as much as any one we know. That is why Zach is our member of the year.
So next time you see Zach roaming Bliss, offer him a belay and thank him for representing your gym so well.
Live like Zach and Follow Your Bliss,