“There Will Be No Summit Photo” by Parker Onufer

This blog post is about Parker and his friend’s attempt to summit El Pico de Orizaba in Mexico, and how the significance of the feat was found not in reaching the peak , but in the little wins against a big volcano.


Four and a half years ago I met a climber at Mesa Rim who spoke of a volcano just outside of Mexico City tall enough to dwarf a 14’er. At 18,491’, El Pico de Orizaba is the highest mountain in Mexico, third largest in North America.

This past October, I decided that I was going south to check it out. My partner Mike and I took the first flight out of San Diego Sunday morning. We had a layover in Phoenix before landing in Mexico City, followed by a four hour bus ride through Puebla to Tlachichuca. Resting at a little over 8,000’, this would be our home for the next week. We utilized a local guiding company for lodging at their home and four wheel drive transportation up to base camp, we were treated like family but received little other help.

Day 2
We hitched a ride up to base camp to drop off a guided group. We spent two hours at 14,000’ doing our best to acclimate, which meant doing nothing but drinking and snacking. Frosty breath and slightly hungry with a headache, I didn’t move much. Mike went higher than I on a short walk outside basecamp and we drove back down to sleep at 8,000’.

Day 3
We left with all our gear at 10am headed back to the Piedre Grande Hut (Basecamp, 14,000’). Today was an acclimatization day too, no real hiking or activity. Ambitious, we had been convinced to do the entire route in one day from this hut. I was a little concerned for how fast this was and my concerns were later realized as the group we dropped off the day before got sick over night and decided to go down with the car that brought us up. By the end of day, we decided to extend the trip back to our longer itinerary leaving more time for acclimatization. Indecisiveness was my worst enemy on this day filled with nothing but thought. Regardless, spirits were high and we felt strong, as we should.

Often times in climbing there is a certain motivation to reach the top, the summit, the ridge, the spot higher than where you were last time, or whatever other locations of success you may desire. I’ll be the first to admit that sometimes I get confused on my own motivation, am I doing this for my own personal growth and achievement? Or am I doing this to put a photo online and let everyone else know of what I achieved? Both feel good, yet the former is clearly the healthy motivation I want. All of this confusion aside, my motivation to be there did not matter anymore. The fact was I was in Mexico, I was at the base of an 18,600 foot volcano and although I was armed with a camera I felt I was there for only my partner and me.

Day 4
When we woke up at 14,000’ Mike was sick and unable to eat or drink, yet I felt fine. We immediately hiked down 1000 feet and napped for a few hours before returning to the hut. Mike was now good to go but in the course of an hour I deteriorated to nausea, headache, and the inability to eat or drink. Our ride was not coming back until 3pm the following day, we had too much gear to carry it all down, and we knew we would not be able to recover for the hike tomorrow at this altitude. We decided to grab enough of our camping gear for the one night it would take us to walk back to town (what would be a 2 hour car ride). We left all our bulky and heavy snow equipment at the Piedre Grande hut hoping we could intercept our guide picking us up tomorrow morning and retrieve the gear.

As we retreated the feelings of failure set in, we tried to justify every way we could, that it was too dangerous to go up, that the itinerary was too fast, that the Jeep was late, we did not have enough food to stay the amount of days needed, or that we weren’t ready. What were we going to tell our friends and family? Our coworkers? How could we travel all the way down here and not even start the route? At this time the 20 minute walk Mike took outside the Piedre Grande hut on day two was going to be the high point of the trip and I didn’t even go with him, I was not ready to accept this!

Day 4
As we hiked through the sickness we had dropped to 11,000’ and started feeling strong like I wanted, like I expected to feel. We realized if we could make it back to the hotel and sleep well at 8,000’ there may be a chance we could still make it. We ended up hitchhiking for 500 Pesos from Hildalgo, a town 3 hours hike away. We got back to surprise our guides and let them know we needed yet another ride back to the Hut the following morning.

Day 5
It’s my birthday today, and although I planned to be on the summit, I was happy enough to be redelivered to the Piedre Grande Hut for the day. Based on our flight home to San Diego we only had one day of climbing left, tomorrow. It would have to be a long push from 14,000’ to 18,500’ and still be back by 3pm for our ride off the volcano. All day long we sorted gear and got food ready for the next day. We felt great but I was unable to sleep, either excitement or altitude, I was hoping for the former but it didn’t matter at this point.

Taking advantage of our second chance we started at 12:30 am with a stove, energy gu’s, a few of my favorite bars, crampons and axe, all the clothing I had, two liters of water, and we returned by 2:30 pm. It was slow, steep and bitter cold in the morning. I remember wearing my ski goggles in the morning darkness to keep my eyes warm. There was fresh snow on the ground through some tricky to navigate gullies. The sun was nowhere close to rising when we started on the 2,500 feet of glacier. We had reached the crater at the top in 8 hours and 41 minutes. Ironically, this crater was not completely level, there was a ridge to the South highpoint on the crater about 25 minutes away and we chose to not go to the true summit. We were tired, a storm was coming in, but more importantly, we were satisfied.

The trip only cost $1100 a climber and I will gladly help answer any questions if you are interested in going.


Parker Onufer – Assistant Operations Manager

Jamapa Glacier in Mexico

Second Location News: Mesa Rim Mission Valley Groundbreaking!

Check out the video and photos below from the Mesa Rim Mission Valley groundbreaking ceremony on January 15th, 2015! The partial demolition of the old Bally’s Gym building on Camino Del Rio South represents the beginning of Mesa Rim Mission Valley. We are excited to move forward in the building process and eagerly anticipate the Grand Opening Event this winter.

A special thanks to Richard & Richard Construction, NOAA Group Architects, Entre-Prises, USA Inc. (EP), and HTK Structural Engineering.

Be part of the journey during the construction of Mesa Rim in Mission Valley by viewing monthly video updates and pictures posted to our blog and social media.

Bouldering at Stoney Point by Mimi Alameddin

This blog post is about the history of and bouldering at Stoney Point.


As we rode north away from the bustling streets of Los Angeles, things were slowly becoming just the slightest bit less urban, with more trees, less concrete and steel, and more dirt when suddenly huge towering rocks sprang into our path. Big Spencer had been telling me about this dirty, painted little spot for a while, and my friends and I finally made the time to get out. Just a few miles from the Hollywood sign, the 65 million year old pile of sandstone boulders have been climbed on and developed by some of the most prominent and brilliant climbers.

Stoney Point in Los Angeles
Stoney Point present day

Glen Dawson had a number of first ascents throughout the Sierra, including the east face of Mt. Whitney in 1931. He led the Sierra Club in many outings to the Point to refine the modern roped climbing and belaying techniques. “One of my most pleasant experiences was climbing and jumping and rappelling at Stoney Point. It was a beautiful location, and we had lots of good times out there. It was easy to get to, was used year-round, and a lot of the early climbers began their climbing there.”

Glen Dawson
Glen Dawson hovers between boulders sometime in the 30’s

Then in the 1950s, before he became one of the country’s most prolific and influential rock climbers, 15-year-old Royal Robbins was hopping freight trains and looking for adventure. One day, when the train slowed down on a curve next to Stoney Point, he couldn’t help but jump off and take a look. With its easy access, tall walls and near perfect weather year round, Stoney Point became the place where Robbins would develop his strength and skills.

Royal Robbins
Royal Robbins boulders in some serious sending boots

Yvon Chouinard soon joined Robins there, originally just to learn to rappel into falcons nests, but was fascinated by the climbers he came across. He went on the create a handful of unique boulder problems, including Chouinard’s Hole (V2) a deceptively hard 3 move problem that dumps you into a little literal hole in the wall, where Chouinard was often found just sitting in, most likely dreaming up the equipment that he would later develop and sell to Black Diamond.

Yvon Chouinard
Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard rappels at Stoney Point in the 1950s

Later in the 70s the Stonemasters including John Long, Lynn Hill, and John “Yabo” Yablonski spent their fair share of time bouldering at the Point. They were featured in this goofy dated climbing segment for KABC TV for their TV Magazine “Eye on LA.”

After 80+ years of being climbed on, and being right off a busy road in LA county, it is beautifully bleak, in all its grime and gristle. Tiny glass fragments almost hide the dirt and the rocks are stained with graffiti. The stone can be slightly chossy at times and climbs often morph from over use. Many climbers are turned off by the grittiness of the area, but the rich history is so inspiring to me, and climbing here is challenging and never dull, as there are hundreds of boulder problems, all with interesting features and movements. Huge jugs and flakes, perfect finger cracks and some amazing off widths can all be found in this dingy little city park in the North Valley. We didn’t have a guide book, but most of the climbs are easy to read, and often there are a ton of regulars here that are usually more then happy to show a newbie what to climb.


– Mimi Alameddin • Mesa Rim Team Member

Mimi Alameddin

Million Dollar Challenge – “More Than a Ride” by Bob Kain

This blog post is about Mesa Rim Co-owner Bob Kain’s epic 7-day cycle journey down the California coast for the Challenged Athletes Foundation Million Dollar Challenge.


As an avid road cyclist for over a decade, I knew about the Challenged Athletes Foundation Million Dollar Challenge (MDC). For most of that decade I dreamed of doing the ride. Who would not be seduced by a fully supported ride down the California coast from San Francisco to San Diego? Even before I was a road cyclist, when I mainly road mountain bikes on trails, the romantic draw of riding through Monterey, Big Sur, and Santa Barbara appealed to me. The California coast is one of the most beautiful coastlines in the world. With a full time Biotech job at Illumina, partial ownership of a rock climbing gym, and a family to consider, taking a week off to ride the coast wasn’t in the cards.

During the last few years my goals switched to climbing goals. My thoughts about epic adventures took me in other directions. I wanted to climb Half Dome in a day, to find long moderate multi-pitch routes in the Sierras and other climbing meccas around the world. Thought of traveling to Italy and climbing in the Dolomites excited my imagination.

This past year though my life took an interesting turn. I left Illumina and jettisoned the weekly travel schedule. No surprise that I then had time to fit a week long ride into my life. One question remained, could I do it? Could I ride 620 miles in 7 days? It was time to find out. I signed up and started training.

Training 5 years ago would have entailed 10 – 14 hours a week in the saddle. Riding 4 days and 10 hours a week initially, working up to 5 days and 14 hours a week as the date grew near. However, as a climber who wasn’t going to give up climbing, training became a compromise. Near the ride date I was riding 4 days and 10 hours a week, however I was climbing and doing Yoga 9 hours a week. My legs might not have been finely tuned spinning machines, but the body was ready to go for it.

CAF Million Dollar Challenge

Rider check-in was Friday October 10th at the Embarcadero in San Francisco. As it turned out I needed to be in Boston on Thursday. To add to the drama, I took a redeye flight to Boston Wednesday night, worked Thursday, and then flew to San Francisco to check-in. After 2 days of hectic airline and auto travel, I was ready to spend a week on the bike.

Saturday November 11th we woke to a hearty breakfast and some encouraging words from our supporters at CAF. At just past 7:30 am one hundred riders took off with police escort through San Francisco, under the Golden Gate bridge and down the coast to Santa Cruz. The riders broke into 4 main groups outside of SF and made their way down the coast at different speeds. It was to be an adrenaline filled ride for me! With the help of a head wind, we reached speeds of 28 mph on the flats and arrived in Santa Cruz by early afternoon.

CAF Million Dollar Challenge

At our hotel mechanics took our bikes, support crew handed out room keys, bags were delivered to our rooms, massage therapists worked out legs, then food and drink awaited us. Each day 4 groups started from the hotel. Group 1 was the fastest and often started 30 minutes later than the rest. Group 4 would take their time and stop to shoot many pictures, finishing late in the afternoon. Mostly I finished between group 1 and group 2, group 1 ½ we called ourselves.

Ok here are the stats for those who want to know what is involved with riding the California coast from San Francisco to San Diego. The total ride is about 627 miles spread over 7 days. Every day was a new and different experience. The list below includes hyperlinks connected to topo maps and charts for the day.

CAF Million Dollar Challenge

DAY 1: SAN FRANCISCO TO SANTA CRUZ – 89 miles
DAY 2: SANTA CRUZ TO BIG SUR- 86 miles
DAY 3: BIG SUR TO PISMO BEACH – 114 miles
DAY 4: PISMO BEACH TO SANTA BARBARA- 121 miles
DAY 5: SANTA BARBARA TO SANTA MONICA – 86 miles
DAY 6: SANTA MONICA TO DANA POINT – 72 miles
DAY 7: DANA POINT TO LA JOLLA SHORES – 55 miles

I’ve completed many long single day rides in the past, with the longest being 217 miles through the Angeles Crest and the Los Padres mountains. However, up until this year, I’ve avoided riding two long days in a row. Leading up the event, I was worried about waking up and getting back on the bike on day two and day three. I figured that if you can ride three days in a row, you can do 7. My strategy was simple, ride at my own pace and enjoy the scenery.

Every day was challenging, exciting, and scenic in a very unique way. As with all starts during the ride, Santa Cruz to Big Sur begun with an easy ride out of the hotel with Group 2. When group 1 passed just before lunch, my friends and I decided to abandon our group and go for it. We jumped on the train. The next hour was spent speeding through 17 Mile Drive, barely able to keep up as over 20 cyclists would break and then accelerate through the many turns. It was a crazy with little opportunity to enjoy the world class views. What fun. Lunch was on the beach in Carmel by the Sea. We quickly ate and mounted our bikes for the final couple of hours to the Big Sur Lodge.

CAF Million Dollar Challenge

Day three was 112 miles and 7500 feet vertical for the day. We cruised along the best coastline in the world as Big Sur was put behind us and we headed for Pismo Beach. As we pedaled the better part of the day, we couldn’t help but wonder what Day 4 would be like given the 121 miles distance from Pismo to Santa Barbara. I took my time and road from 7am to 4pm. Big Sur morphed into San Simeon (Hearst Castle), Morro Bay, SLO, Solvang, and finally Santa Barbara. The legs felt good, as long as we didn’t get too anaerobic. This was not a day that many of the hundred riders wanted to attack on.

CAF Million Dollar Challenge

Pismo Beach to Santa Barbara was 121 miles, more importantly though, it was a physiological turning point in the ride. So many of us were focused on the 112 mile and 122 mile days coming after two already challenging days in the saddle. Yes it was hard, yes the day was long, and yes our legs were tired, but we made it.

The days following were going to get progressively easier. For many of us we were also approaching home territory. I had ridden many miles on the Central Coast over the years, including a three day weekend in Santa Barbara just a month earlier. We were home. We had conquered what we thought of as the two toughest days. The road ahead was all going to be all downhill, or at least it was headed south anyway.

Part of my plan was to get hour long massages every other night. They were calculated to help the legs rest and recover. In fact, every muscle in the body was thankful for the attention. Massages also are also a welcome luxury that balanced out the hard riding. The whole week was a balance of riding for hours on the bike, and nothing but pampering off the bike. It is hard to calculate the importance of having almost no stress in our day. We wake up and food is there. The bike is handed to us before the ride. Rest stations along the route provide plenty of good food and drink. They also address most medical needs including ibuprofen. Food, beer, wine, are there at the end of the ride, along with a key to a hotel room that already contains our luggage. No stress. Just eat, ride, and sleep.

The last few days went by fast. Ventura, Malibu, Santa Monica, LA, Orange County, Camp Pendleton, San Diego. Did I mention Malibu… Did I mention Santa Monica? We stayed near the pier. In fact my riding friends from the Bay Area, and I, arrived at our hotel first. For many reasons, including a minor crash, three of us finished 15 minutes ahead of the next riders. It’s not a race, on the other hand it does feel good to finish first.

We had plenty of time to enjoy the hotel and the beach. While friends took a dip in the water, I hungered for some climbing. The beach has a series of permanent workout structures, including rings, ropes, pull-up bars, and slacklines. Against my better judgment, I couldn’t help but climb the ropes. At 18 feet, I started to think “bad idea. Wouldn’t want to fall, twist and ankle, and abandon the ride.” Couldn’t resist topping out though. Needless to say, I didn’t fall and finished the ride. (That’s not me by the way, but I did finish the climb.)

CAF Million Dollar Challenge

We woke up the last morning in Dana Point. A mere 55 miles from our finish point at La Jolla Shores. The pace was casual and the mood was mixed. Like the final pitch on a 5 day multi-pitch project, we were excited to finish, elevated by a beautiful ride down the coast, and honestly a bit disappointed that it was ending. The 100 plus riders rode at their own pace toward our meet-up point at 12:30 a mile before the formal finish. Most stopped for lunch or coffee along the way. My friends and I decided to have lunch in La Jolla Shores. As a result we crossed the finish line an hour early and ride on to a celebratory Mexican feast.

CAF Million Dollar Challenge

CAF puts on a great ride in support of a very worthy cause. Riding with the challenged athletes and hearing their stories was inspiring. It helped us hold back our minor complaints and view the ride from a different perspective. I’m thankful for having the opportunity to do the ride and to finish it.

CAF Million Dollar Challenge


Bob Kain • Founder + Co-Owner of Mesa Rim

CAF Million Dollar Challenge

Trekking Utah by Keegan Dimmick

Heading to Zion National Park is a rock climbers dream. You’re surrounded by 2,000 foot, navajo sandstone walls, with approaches that rival walking across the street. Apparently the weeks that I spent daydreaming about climbing in Zion, didn’t make it important enough for me to pack the climbing rope. So for the week, we became hikers.

Day 1
Once we accepted that we were going to be hikers we grabbed a hiking guide from the visitor’s center and began to choose our destiny for the next 6 days. According to everyone we “have to do Angel’s Landing first thing!”, so we did Angel’s Landing first thing! Angel’s Landing rewards you with steep hiking, loads of exposure, and a towering 360 degree overlook. After descending Angel’s Landing we hiked a short loop to check out the Emerald Pools. We really enjoyed the pools, and were taken back to the waterfalls of the Red River Gorge. Day one set a great trend of hiking immediately followed by me wanting some ice cream, and then relaxing at the campsite.

Day 2
Day two arrived much as day one had. There was lots of strong wind and me just waiting for the sun to stretch its arms over the red walls, and grace the campsite with warmth. It always bothers me a little bit that the sunlight takes 8 minutes to reach me from the sun. I really could use that 8 minutes for something more useful than waiting, but I digress. Motivation was a little lower today so we decided to hike the Hidden Canyon trail. A very short hike brings you to a intimidating traverse around sheer cliffs and you end at the mouth of a small canyon. Thus ends the hike and you can venture deep into the canyon. Get ready for some 3rd class moves and viewing a truly beautiful, hidden ecosystem. This was a pretty short hike that left us time to head to Zion Outfitters and pick up our canyoneering shoes and a walking stick.

Day 3
I recommend that everyone get the canyoneering shoes and a walking stick when hiking The Narrows. I just can’t believe how amazing day three was. When you step into the chilly Virgin River and see the enormous walls, it really hits you that you are about to partake in a memorable adventure. We sloshed, trudged, waded, and smiled between the slot canyon for nine miles. We hiked as far as you can go without a permit, which ended us at Big Spring. I recommend that everyone do this hike at some point in their life.

Day 4
Day four started with a drive through the Tunnels and over towards the East Entrance. Lots of really cool scrambling and steep hiking littered the East side of the park. We ended up seeing fearless mountain goats and having a really enjoyable day. This side of the park was a lot quieter and it was nice being able to drive your own car around, and not wait for the park shuttles.

Day 5
We spent our last day of the trip hiking to the Kolob Arch. The Kolob Arch is a 14 mile round trip that takes you through some more amazing scenery. Once you get to the arch you are blessed with the sight of the second largest freestanding arch in the world. This hike is downhill on the way in, and uphill on the way out which makes it a pretty tough hike, and a very rewarding day. Sore feet took us back to the campsite for a pleasant ramen noodle dinner and our final sunset in Zion.


– Keegan Dimmick • Team Member Supervisor

Mesa Rim Progresses Toward New Facility With Climbing Walls by Entre-Prises.

We are excited to announce our partnership with Entre-Prises Climbing Walls for our second location! Read the full Press Release at www.epusa.com. Check out a sneak peak of the design below.

 

Mesa Rim Progresses Toward New Facility With Climbing Walls by Entre-Prises.

 

 

How Earnestly We Strive, Moments in Squamish B.C. by Rosie Bates

Thank you to Rosie Bates and Jonathan Finch for choosing to re-publish this post to Mesa Rim’s blog.

Through vignettes and photographs Rosie, with the help of photographer, Jonathan Finch, recollects adventures that her and Connell had in Squamish, BC this past August. 


I’m going to try something new here. Since i’ve been bad at keeping a journal and extra bad at keeping up with my blog, pictures have served as a filler for the details that naturally fade. I don’t know if this is a good replacement because pictures only capture one moment and leave a lot for debate–but that is a topic for a different time.

For the last half of our trip in Squamish, Connell and I were greeted by our good friend Jonathan Finch. We met Jonathan while studying at the University of San Diego. Since then he has he returned to Montana to pursue a career in photography–no surprise since he has a great eye for capturing beauty. Long story short, we all met up again in Canada to climb, photograph and explore. Jonathan expressed that he wanted to start writing little vignettes along with the photos he took. I immediately latched on to this idea and asked him if I could take some of the photos he took of us and write–clearly he said “yes”.

A good picture should tell a story and a good story should paint a picture–and the combination of two should… create a symphony? On that note (pun intended) I will try my best to create short symphonies with the words that Jonathan has already written with his photos.

“The time we spend waiting”

Squamish B.C. by Photographer Jonathan Finch

The mist burns my lungs. My imagination fills in the blanks–faces behind the fog. I remember weekends spent like this–“dad, why do you think this is fun?” Trudging aimlessly, impatiently–lost through the evergreens. But he knew. You don’t have to close your eyes out here–dreaming with your eyes wide open, the canvas is half painted. It’s hard to appreciate the process if you don’t wait, patiently. Patiently I hike, forward moving towards the big reveal. Sometimes not long enough. The wet moss soaks through my beaten boots and I wonder the worth of the time we spend waiting.

“That smile”

Squamish B.C. • Connell Ford by Photographer Jonathan Finch

That smile. Un-provoked, no punch-line. The moment when memory blurs the line between past and present. Frozen, like a picture he smiles. Long after the picture is taken he smiles. Looking at everything and nothing he smiles. The time we spend waiting for memories that paint lines on our faces.

“Peace”

Squamish B.C. • Rosie Bates by Photographer Jonathan Finch

Eternally frozen we focus on the familiarities that distract us from the goal–I have seen that tree before, used this gear before, tasted that cool, cool water before. I find peace in knowing that my shoes are tied the same way, the left and then the right. There is peace in knowing that close up, granite crystals shine in the same way–black valleys sprinkled with white snow. The final peace is knowing that the fear will come, but not yet. Created by rituals we find solace in habit–comforted by the details we find silence in chaos.

“How earnestly”

Squamish B.C. Rock Climbing by Photographer Jonathan Finch

The wall hangs heavy overhead. The route seldom changes–years of movement trace the hidden cracks–suffocating the pores, draining down the face. Standing at the base I am trapped by the notion that every person is the same–every move mapped out. A puppet directed by anger and fear the wall spits me off and chalk coughs in my face. I search for gratitude and no words come–half hearted smiles fill the gap between us. It is when all expectations fade that I am left, stripped-free–the rope directed decisively by MY hands. The clarity comes in waves, washing clean, calloused limbs. “How earnestly should we strive”–Petrarch lamented to himself, “not to stand on mountain-tops, but to trample beneath us those appetites which spring from earthly impulses”.

“I can tell the way you hang your head”

Squamish B.C. by Photographer Jonathan Finch

Assuming the position you march the well-traveled path. Like the end of a vacation, you reflect–the gait and order so dependent on success. You create your own realities. The mind spinning with “what ifs” and “why nots”. How can one succeed while the other does not? As a unit you find gratitude– their strength is your strength, their weakness yours. Together you wander–often lost.

“The Life”

Squamish B.C. by Photographer Jonathan Finch

We are dangerously perched on the edge of materialism. We laugh at ignorance and proudly walk through the masses–they don’t even know the life they are missing. Pride masks the noise that keeps us up at night–haunts us during the starless nights. We laugh at them, but they laugh at us. How foolish they are, to never live this life.

“Warming up”

Squamish B.C. • Rosie Bates by Photographer Jonathan Finch

Overshadowed by what you will regret is what you will not. Sometimes warming up is the best part of the day and that is okay. I spent so many years just enjoying the view–when did that become not enough? The lines that create our life are filled with moments that fade because they felt so easy. To err is to assume they are insignificant.


-Rosie Bates • Head Coach at Mesa Rim
Find the original blog post and follow Rosie blog at www.rosaliebates.com

All photographs courtesy of Jonathan Finch.
Website: jonathanfinchphoto.com
Instagram: www.instagram.com/jonathanwfinch
Facebook: www.facebook.com/JonathanFinchPhoto

Adaptive Rock Climbing: Competing at Nationals by Jillian Bukoski

This blog post is about Jillian’s experience competing at a national adaptive climbing competition which is open to select individuals with disabilities, and how this competition provides hope, motivation, inspiration, and the feeling of accomplishment for not only Jillian, but others personally affected by disabilities that strive to live beyond setbacks.


As a young child growing up in a very small town in the mountains of New Jersey I was very active. I danced, climbed, hiked, skied, ran you name it and I probably did it. Moving to California where you could be outside all year long was perfect for me. I was excited to have the opportunity to learn to surf, go snorkeling, and all the other fun things San Diego had to offer, but shortly after moving here my plans changed a bit.

In August 2013 I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, a degenerative autoimmune disorder that leads to a host of issues with no known cure and very unreliable treatment options. To make things worse, in January 2014 I learned that I had begun the process of losing my vision due to a condition called Optic Neuritis, a common ailment that often accompanies MS, but one I did not expect to experience for at least ten to fifteen years. Thousands of miles from home, and overwhelmed with everything going on I threw myself into climbing as a way to stay sane.

A few months later, I was helping run an adaptive climbing clinic in Santa Ana when I began talking with adaptive athlete Ronnie Dickson about a national adaptive climbing competition taking place during the summer in Atlanta, Georgia. The competition would be open to any climber with a disability ranging from amputations, to blindness, to neurological diseases like MS. The competition immediately piqued my interest and I quickly consulted Mesa Rim’s head coach Rosie Bates for some mental and physical training tips.

The competition was about more than just climbing to all the athletes involved. It meant overcoming obstacles, showing the world that having a disability doesn’t make you disabled, and proving to our families, doctors, friends, and most importantly ourselves that we are strong, passionate climbers.

After months of finding any time I could to train I boarded my flight to Atlanta to meet up with my mom who had driven all the way down from northern New Jersey to watch me compete. The anxiety was really beginning to set in, but my amazing husband, Taylor, did his best to ease that when he surprised me by showing up the day of the competition. I was also super stoked that Mesa Rim adaptive athlete Trent Smith was competing with me in the amputee category. Dozens of athletes showed up at Stone Summit Climbing Gym to show off their skills. The groups were broken up into arm amputee, leg amputee, blind, neurological, and seated. We had three hours to log our best climbs.

When the timer started, I hopped on one of the lower point climbs I thought might be easy only to get half way up and take my first fall. This definitely did not start my mental game off on a good note. After coming down I started wondering what I was even doing here if I couldn’t even make it up a warm up route. Taylor grabbed me by the shoulders, gave me a shake, and said “You are a climber. This is what you do, now shut up and go kill it.”

The next three hours was the most inspirational time in my life. I was surrounded by climbers from all over the United States with all these insane problems going on, but were here to give their disability a slap in the face. Nobody felt bad for themselves, nobody was limiting themselves, and nobody was giving up. We fought hard to be there and we were going to fight hard to finish the best we could. Throughout the competition we climbed, and we fell, and we screamed, and we got up and did it all again. Albert Einstein once said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” On that day we were all insane, but we weren’t stopping until we finished that route.

By the end of the competition everyone was completely exhausted. We all gathered together to talk while the results were being tallied up. Most people seemed very relaxed and happy it was over, but as a naturally competitive person I just couldn’t wait to hear how I did. An hour later the scores were posted and I had received third place. Getting third means I qualified to be a part of the United States Paraclimbing Team and that I would be eligible to compete at the World Cup in Gijon, Spain. I turned around to see my mom in tears and Taylor with the biggest smile I’ve seen. I was so excited that I actually felt strangely numb for the next few days.

All of my doctors had told me my condition would get in the way of my climbing, but I was able to prove to myself that nothing could be more wrong. It’s hard to be twenty one and be faced with a diagnosis like this, but knowing I will always have the support of the climbing community makes it a thousand times easier. This journey taught me that life isn’t about what you can and can’t do, but more about setting goals for yourself and fighting like hell through everything to reach them. I hope this story will inspire someone dealing with their own problems that when life hands you a bag of lemons all you have to do is drink that lemonade and go climb.

I find it really important to thank all of the people who helped me get to that competition:
• The undying support of my amazing mother throughout my life.
• My husband Taylor for never allowing me to use my disability as an excuse for anything other than the occasional nap.
• The Mesa Rim adaptive athletes for encouraging me to compete and being the most inspirational group of people I have ever met.
• Ian Mcintosh for supporting the adaptive climbing program at Mesa Rim allowing Trent and I to become a part of this community.
• Scott Parlett and the crew at Crossfit 760 for starting my training program off right and giving me the knowledge and skills to continue training on my own.
• My Mesa Rim family for always being supportive and motivating.
• All the United States Marines at the 15th MEU for keeping my psyche super high throughout training.
• Alison Botsford for the super sweet hotel room I had all my panic attacks in pre-competition.
• Everyone who ever told me I couldn’t do it.

Are you or someone you know interested in Mesa Rim’s Adaptive Climbing Program?
Email Jillian at AdaptiveClimbing@mesarim.com


– Jillian Bukoski • Team Member and Adaptive Climbing Coordinator at Mesa Rim

Mesa Rim is Climbing Higher with a New Location!

Mesa Rim is Climbing Higher with a New Location

We are very excited to announce that Mesa Rim is opening our second location near the heart of San Diego in late 2015! While the planning process and key decisions are still underway, there are some key points that we are able to share with the community now:


• We have secured what we consider to be the perfect site located near the
 heart of San Diego Metro area

• We are actively working with the city to ensure smooth permitting and construction process
• The facility size and scope of services will be complementary to our first
 location
• We are very excited to share more information once we break ground later this fall

• Your Mesa Rim Membership will be valid at both locations!


Thank you for your continued support. You, our loyal customer, have helped us come a long way. We are extremely excited to grow the Mesa Rim community at this new location!

Marathon Magic by Debbie Fischer aka BOSS-MOM

This blog post is about Mesa Rim Team Member Debbie Fischer’s determination and journey to run the Boston Marathon this year and the goodness and strength of human spirit that is #bostonstrong.


Two days after the Boston marathon bombings last year I said to my running buddies, “we have to try and qualify for the 2014 marathon and show our support to the people of Boston and for our love of running”. This would be no easy feat because I had to find a race that was a certified Boston qualifier, still had room, close to San Diego and was before September 15th, which was the last date you could run and qualify for Boston.

Luckily I found one in Ventura on September 8th, 2013. My last marathon was eight years ago. Usually I need about six months of training to run one successfully. The marathon has it’s way of letting you be a victor or a victim. I had a little over four months to train.

Fast forward to September 8th, 2013. Ventura, perfect weather, flat course, I was ready.

Not having ran a marathon in eight years, you forget how difficult it is. The pain you put your body through is rough, especially when you make all the rookie mistakes I made. I went out too fast, had poor nutrition along the course, and didn’t drink enough water and electrolytes. By mile 18, I was tripping over myself and was tempted by the sag wagon for a lonely eight mile ride back to the finish line. But I reminded myself of why I was doing this, and pushed to finish within my qualifying time so I could be in Boston on April 21st, 2014. I did finish. The moment I crossed the line my legs could not take another step and I had to be carried to the medical tent and packed in ice. I qualified, I won my age group, I am Boston bound!

Fast forward April 2014 Boston marathon weekend.

Magic! Marathon magic! The city was ready, the race staff was ready, I was ready, and so were 36,000 runners. This was my first time in Boston for the marathon. The pre-race activities were very emotional and I will always remember my time there. Walking down Boylston Street, the finish line and the site of the first bomb, brought me to tears. Seeing the flowers and little momentos at the site was quite moving. There were people at the Old South Church, also at the finish line, where they were giving out hand made scarves in the blue and yellow colors of the marathon.

They were expecting people to knit 2000 scarves, they received over 8,000! Each scarf had a hand written note with a blessing and the name of the person who knitted the scarf. Again, I cried as they placed the scarf around my neck. Then there was the one mile run for the first responders and survivors of the bombing. Some ran, some walked, some used crutches or wheelchairs for their memorial mile down Boylston Street. I cheered and cried again as they crossed the finish line. I couldn’t wait until Monday, race day!

Race Day!

It was clearly the biggest and boisterous Boston Marathon, and the crowds were everything I heard about and more. The cheering and the signage were wonderful. Every step of the way they were yelling “Boston Strong”, “You’re amazing”, and “Thank you for running”! I made sure to take it all in. I high-fived the kids. I smiled! I danced/ran when I ran past the music. I smiled. I kissed a Wellsey college girl along the way (its tradition)! I smiled! And I finished! And I qualified for 2015! Next year’s room is already booked, I’m Boston
bound, again!


– Debbie Fischer aka BOSS-MOM • Mesa Rim Front Desk Team Member