Well Worth the Climb

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“I’m a rock star,” said Matt Sears as he fastened himself into his climbing harness at Vertical Adventures in Columbus. “My arms and my shoulders look so good.”

   A member of the Adaptive Climbing Club for Adults, Sears has been scaling indoor climbing walls for over a year, something his mother Colleen never thought she’d see her son do.

   “We didn’t know he could climb,” she said. “ I honestly didn’t think he was capable because there is so much problem-solving involved.”

   According to his mother, Matt, who has Down Syndrome, has difficulty with what she calls abstract thinking.

   “He has trouble figuring out steps, what to do next. He struggles with concepts of time. If you show him necessary steps, he can complete tasks but he does not typically figure those steps out for himself.”

   However, when it comes to climbing, that simply is not the case for Matt.

   Each climbing route at Vertical Adventures has a unique difficulty rating and is mapped out on the wall by a series of like-colored holds. Climbers must follow the route of green holds, for example, to make their way to the top of the wall—which may be 45 feet high.

   “He doesn’t quit,“ said his instructor and co-coordinator of Adaptive Ascents Christine Kessler. “He may get halfway up the wall and then stop while he assesses his next move. But that’s great. He does figure it out and he won’t come down until he’s reached the top and is ready to repel.”

   The Sears credit Fairfield DD Individual Support Coordinator Dawn Busser with suggesting that Matt give climbing a try. Knowing that Matt enjoyed sports and socializing, she thought it would be a good fit.


   Kessler, along with husband Jordan, work with children and adults of all ages and abilities in nine-week sessions and say the sport is not only rewarding for athletes, but safe.

   “It’s a lot safer that most sports because we mitigate risk by removing factors we can’t control. The climbing systems are all tested by coaches who have very broad climbing backgrounds. We have children climbing who are blind, adults climbing who have no use of their legs, and people with developmental disabilities climbing who are achieving personal successes they didn’t think possible.”

   Matt, for lack of a better terms, is truly hooked on climbing.

   “I like it so much,” he said. “I’m not scared of heights. It’s not scary to me. I always reach the top.”

   Mom Colleen agrees.

   “I don’t think he’ll ever be happy if he’s not climbing,” she said. “He just won’t quit.”

For information on Vertical Adventures, click here.