The Blind Ascent



The sport of rock climbing has only been part of my life since November of 2015, and it has forever changed me for the better.  My name is Shawn Sturges and I have been totally blind since the age of eighteen, and prior to the loss of my sight athletics has always been a staple throughout my youth.  This simple fact of my athleticism is probably why I grew to love climbing and why I have already been successful at such a point in my young climbing career.

Rock climbing came at a point in my life when I needed it the most, and I was introduced to the sport by a friend who is visually impaired herself.  She told me that I should come to the Adaptive Climbing Group’s session where I can learn more about the sport along with the ability to have more experienced climbers work with me on the wall.  That very first session was quite hard with me being able to reach the top of the easiest route only once. However, that was all I needed to be hooked to this physically demanding sport, and what kept me coming back for more. Over the next several months I continued to attend the weekly session with ACG which were held at the Brooklyn Boulders Chicago location, and I soon signed up for a membership so that I could climb five days a week.

Rock climbing routes are graded in the U.S. by using the Yosemite decimal system, and this system allows the gym to rate climbs on their difficulty which helps climbers track their progress.  The very first climb I ever completed at Brooklyn Boulders was a 5.7+ which I found nearly impossible for me to complete, but after only a few sessions I got the job done.  Most recently I climbed my first 5.10c which is considered in the intermediate ability range.  The rapid growth as a climber along with quick improvement in grade landed me a spot on the ACG team to compete at the 2016 U.S. Adaptive National Championships which took place in Kennesaw, Georgia, back in July of this year.  This was my first competition in climbing, and I was thoroughly overwhelmed when I took home the silver medal in the male visually impaired category.  The result of my outstanding performance landed me a place on the U.S. team to compete in Paris, France, at the 2016 IFSC World Para climbing Championships which took place September 14-18.  This was a great opportunity and a great step forward in my climbing competition career, and I was quite thrilled with my seventh place finish in the male visually impaired category.

The journey into rock climbing is just beginning for me, and one that has already been filled with success.  I will train hard in order to continue my growth as a climber both personally and professionally.  There are so many goals that I plan on achieving in climbing, and I look forward to sharing my adventures with all of you!

Important links to learn more:

Yosemite Decimal System

Brooklyn Boulders Chicago

Adaptive Climbing Group

International Federation of Sport Climbing


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