• Posted on May 20, 2014

Marmot’s Lead Tour – HIGHLIGHTS

Marmot‘s Lead Now Tour has come to an end but we are still celebrating the tour and the hard work we did that paid off in the form of over $18,000 raised for women and children around the world.  Paige Claassen climbed her heart out in 9 countries over 280 days in 2 hemispheres on 5 continents!  Here are some raw stats from our journey:

Countries visited: 11 (South Africa, Lesotho, Italy, Switzerland, Russia, Japan, China, India, Turkey, Ecuador, Chile)
Oceans visited: South Atlantic Ocean, Indian Ocean, South Pacific, North Pacific, Mediteranean Sea, Baltic Sea, Arabian Sea, East China Sea, Sea of Japan
Number of flights taken: 35 (Including connecting flights)
Number of photos taken: 68,540
Amount of video shot: 8 TB
Number of times poisoned by food: 5 (China x1, India x2, Ecuador x1, Chile x1)
Number of climbing areas visited: 27
Number of days spent climbing: 120 (Estimate)
Paige Claassen climbing tick list:
5.14b Second Ascent FFA – Art Attack – Val Masino (Italy)
5.14b FFA – China Climb – Yangshuo (China)
5.14a FA – Digital Warfare – WOW Prow (South Africa)
5.14a FFA – Rodan – Waterval Boven (South Africa)
5.14a FFA – Sea of Tranquility – Yangshuo (China)
5.14a FFA – Ganesh – Badami (India)
5.14a – Sarpedon – Geyikbayiri (Turkey)
5.13d – Rolihlahla – Waterval Boven (South Africa)
5.13d – Jabberwocky – Waterval Boven (South Africa)
5.13d – Solitary Men – Val Masino (Italy)
5.13d FA – Middle Earth – Cajas National Park (Ecuador)
5.13d FFA – Gecko – El Arrayán (Chile)
5.13c/d  FFA – Por Belenos, El Arrayán (Chile)
5.13c – The Beast – Waterval Boven (South Africa)
5.13c – Vorpal Sword – Waterval Boven (South Africa)
5.13c – Guarian Angel – Val Massino (Italy)
5.13b/c Flash – Gin and Tonic – Yangshuo (China)
5.13b Flash – Turkish Airways – Geyik Bayiri (Turkey)
5.13b – Fossil Fuel – Chosspile (South Africa)
5.13b – Niente Oetre L’Cielo – Strombix (Italy)
5.13b – Esino – Esino (Italy)
5.13b Onsight – Jack of All Trades – Waterval Boven (South Africa)
5.13b – Stone Haven – Umgeni Valley (South Africa)
5.13b – Cinco Ocho – El Acantilado (Ecuador)
5.13a – Parallel Universe – Geyik Bayiri (Turkey)
5.13a – Pumping on Big Mother’s Breast – Geyik Bayiri (Turkey)
5.13a – Leon – Geyik Bayiri (Turkey)
5.13a – Tower of Power – Umgeni Valley (South Africa)
5.13a Flash – Oceans of Orange – Umgeni Valley (South Africa)
5.13a Flash – Snapdragon – Waterval Boven (South Africa)
5.13a – Unknown Name – Cajas National Park (Ecuador)
V9 – Isaman – Triangular Lake (Russia)
V9 – Fifth Element – Triangular Lake (Russia)
V9 – Goodwin – Triangular Lake (Russia)
V9 – Unknown Name – ENA (Japan)

My climbing tick list:
V13 FA – Candy Crush – Shoshenkyo (Japan)
V11 FA – Dobroy Nochi, Triangular Lake (Russia)
V10 FA – Made in America, Triangular Lake (Russia)
V10 FA – Oh Brotahn, Triangular Lake (Russia)
V9 FA – Biscuits and Blasting Caps, Umgeni Valley (South Africa)
5.14a – Ganesh, Badami (India) – First 5.14 for Jon
5.13d – Middle Earth – Cajas National Park (Ecuador) 2nd ascent
5.13d – Losing my Religeon – GeyikBayiri (Turkey)
5.13d – Olympos Games, Geyik Bayiri (Turkey)
5.13d – Solitary Man, Sasso Remeno (Italy)
5.13d – Godzilla, Waterval Boven (South Africa)
5.13d FA – Sprit Bird, WOW Prow (South Africa)
5.13c FLASH – Pit Fighter, Waterval Boven (South Africa)
5.13c FA – Future Life, WOW Prow (South Africa)
5.13b FA – Death Camp, WOW Prow (South Africa)
5.13a FA – Rage Against the Machine, WOW Prow (South Africa)
5.12d FA – The Cat’s Meow, Laoshan (China)

Number of first ascents: 12
Number of first female ascents: 10
Number of 5.14s climbed by Paige: 7
Number of 5.13s climbed by Paige:  24
Number of 2nd ascents: 1
Amount of money raised for non-profit partners: $18,800
Number of people that donated to Lead Now: 78 people from 10 countries

  • Posted on May 06, 2014

Marmot’s Lead Now Tour – Stop 9 – Chile

Chile marks the 9th and final stop of Marmot‘s Lead Now Tour, a global tour to inspire people through rock climbing and raise $10,000 a month for eleven different non-profit organizations.

Paige Claassen and I spent nearly 300 consecutive travel days touring the world and seeking out unique climbing areas while simultaneously raising money for Lead Now non-profit partners.  We finished our world tour strong in Santiago, Chile with hard rock climbing, an amazing non-profit, a competition, and a 40th birthday celebration.  Check out this short photo journal of our month in Chile.

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We moved into our new apartment in downtown Santiago.  It’s one of those smaller buildings to the right of the impressive tall glass one.

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We had a rooftop pool with a solid view of the glass tower, life was good.

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We got to know our surroundings and found it pretty easy to get used to the Santiago lifestyle.  It’s basically like Europe or even places in the US except the pollution can get really bad and by the end of our 3 weeks in Chile we all had sore throats.

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Horrible traffic forced us underground and we spent a good amount of time riding the subway around town.

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We spent the majority of our time climbing at a local crag called El Arrayán.  Paige managed to tick two 5.13+ routes called Gecko and Por Belenos, pictured above (an old Alex Honnold route).  Vertical faces with micro crimps lined this small canyon and was the perfect style for Paige.  She sent everything, everywhere.

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We were climbing every day in the desert and it was nice to finally escape the humidity that had plagued us for months on end.

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There was a super sleepy owl at the cliff one day.  That was cool.

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Our trusty guide and climbing partner was Matías Meyerholz seen here warming up on a nice 5.11+ arete at El Arrayán.  Without him and his knowledge of Chile we would have still been wandering the desert to this day, in search of good sport climbing.  He delivered us right to the good stuff and had all the beta…

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Matías took us to a cool cobble stone area called Las Chilcas which is home to many hard routes up to 8c.  Matías ran some training laps on Escaramujo (7c+) while Paige and I worked a very hard 8b+ to the left.

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Despite how rad this climb was, we couldn’t make any progress and it turns out that steep cobble climbing is VERY hard.

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Another major drawback to Las Chilcas is the massive construction site only 100 yards from the climbing.  Rock crushers, dump trucks, and graders blast around all day while truck traffic screams by.  Not exactly what we expected…

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The driving force behind our time in Chile was to spend time with the girls supported by VE Global.  VE Global helps kids who are affected by child abuse in Santiago.  We visited a VE Global supported foster home and got to spend some time with the girls.  Our goal was to film with them and tell their story so that VE Global could use that marketing material to fundraise through Lead Now and through their own channels.

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The kids were amazing and it was so much fun to hang out with them and play.

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I handed off my camera a few times for photos.  They were very interested in shooting us anyway…

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These kids has intense energy so we decided to take them to the climbing gym for the day to tire them out…

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Unlike most kids, these girls just went for it with zero fear and 100% commitment to the top of the wall.

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Our most exciting adventure in Chile was a two day trip to Cajón del Maipo for some sport climbing at La Mina at the base of a massive volcano.

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Unreal rock features lined the canyons and created some unique features to climb on.

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The San Jose volcano guards the back of the canyon.

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It was very very windy but we went for it at La Mina and had a blast on the gently overhanging sport routes there.

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This place is huge and just hanging out in the environment here is intense…

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Near the end of our time in Santiago we attended the 2014 Master De Bouldering in a downtown park.  Our friends Emily Harrington and Matt Segal came in from the US and we all climbed our hearts our in while some of the girls from VE Global came to support us!

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Paige managed to come away with a 4th place finish and I ended up in 9th overall.

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Akiyo won, as usual…

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To end the Lead Now Tour and our time in Chile, Marmot threw a huge 40th birthday party in town.  I got to see some of my photos in print in the local magazines and Paige delivered a half spanish half english presentation.

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It was great to see people turn out for the event and Marmot Chile really knows how to throw a party!

Marmots Lead Now Tour is officially over but the fundraising and videos aren’t done yet.  We will be putting together a few final short videos about the trip as well as a feature film documenting our journey.  Stay tuned!

VE Global (ve-global.org/) fosters the development of children at social risk in Santiago by empowering volunteers to serve as positive role models, educators and advocates of social justice. Learn more and help Lead Now reach a $10,000 fundraising goal for VE Global by visiting crowdrise.com/leadnowtourchile

 

  • Posted on April 07, 2014

Marmot’s Lead Now Tour – Stop 8 – Ecuador

Ecuador marks stop #8 of Marmot‘s Lead Now Tour, a global tour to inspire people through rock climbing and raise $10,000 a month for eleven different non-profit organizations.

I spent the month of February exploring the wild diversity of Ecuador.  Paige and I took our piece-of-crap rental car across what felt like every inch of Ecuadorian soil, from the Amazon Jungle to the tops of 4000 meter peaks and all the way down to the Pacific Ocean.  The landscape in Ecuador is about as diverse as it gets and by the end of it all, our heads were spinning from the journey.

Our time spent on the equator was jam packed with rock climbing, road tripping, and working directly with one of our favorite Lead Now Tour non-profit partners, Heifer International.  Heifer works to eradicate poverty and hunger through sustainable, values-based holistic community development and we spent time with a family that raises alpacas and visited a farm that sustainably grows products that are sold in local markets.

I put together a collection of images from our trip that tell the story best so take a look and if you ever get the chance to visit the most bio diverse country on earth, don’t hesitate, you will never forget it.

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We started out in Quito, the capital of Ecuador.

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The locals loved having their photos taken…

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We visited the equator and saw some shrunken heads.

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Paige did a slideshow and video night with Tattoo, a local gear shop in South America.

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We made a quick stop into the local radio station for a chat and then hit the road in search of world class rocks to climb on.

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First thing we saw was this lamb.  Awww.

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Then we got to sample some amazing, high quality granite at the entrance to the Amazon Jungle.  La Guerica has lots of problems established already and piles of projects on every wall.  Here, our friend David Gomez works on a nice v10 ish project.

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Crux gaston thumb press to slab dyno.

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I snagged the 2nd ascent of “Pachinko” (v8) and we hit the road, looking for sport climbing projects.

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We met up with our road trip tour guide Christian Medina and he took us straight to a nice limestone mini cliff to work some projects.  Just before any sending went down, the Ecuador mist rolled in and we were soaked.

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Paige going for it on the project.

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The team made a pit stop at the Tungurahua volcano to watch an eruption and capture some lava on film.

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It was as rad as this photo makes it look.  Ground shaking, ash spewing, growling mountain awesomeness.

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Next stop was El Acantilado at the base of Chimboraso, the largest active volcano and mountain in Ecuador.  We were blown away by the rock quality, the landscape and the routes!  Here, Christian warms up on one of many classic 5.12s.  The potential here is mind blowing with enough room for hundreds of high quality routes up and down the canyon.

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Spectacular colors in the valley.

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Paige made quick work of “Cinco Ocho” (5.13b) at nearly 13,000 ft.

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We made our way to Cuenca to meet up with friends and check out some more projects at Cajas National Park.  This is the view from our porch and you can see up into Cajas behind the C-Tres climbing gym!

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We teamed up with Ecuadorian superstar, Margarita Cardoso to get to work on some projects.  She is seen here working out the moves on what would become “Middle Earth” (5.13+).

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Paige went to battle with the Middle Earth project for a few days and pulled off a heroic first ascent.  This route sits right at 4000 meters elevation (13,000 ft).  Technical 5.13 crimping leads to a hard credit card crimp face of 5.13+ with a 40 foot section of gently overhanging 5.13 at the top.  Full value diverse climbing all the way to a powerful v5 exit boulder problem at the chains.

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Check the video for all the action!

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One of the main reasons we were in Ecuador was to work with Heifer and the farmers who benefit from their support.  This woman shows off her guinea pig mamma, ready to give birth.

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Guinea pig, called “cuy” in Ecuador, is a delicacy and we were invited to cook and eat a feast of the little guys.  Paige and Marga cooked with the women and got the full experience.

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Paige about to dig into a cuy leg for dinner.

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We spent a day filming with a family that raises alpaca for wool which is spun into yarn to make clothing and other products to sell in local markets.

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We got a full demo of spinning techniques from a master…

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Our time spent in Ecuador was unforgettable and we made so many new friends that helped us on our journey.  Working with Heifer was really special and it was a great way to connect directly with local families and experience the real side of Ecuador.  To support Lead Now’s $10,000 fundraising goal for Heifer, visit crowdrise.com/leadnowtourecuador

  • Posted on March 05, 2014

Marmot’s Lead Now Tour – Stop 7 – Turkey

Six weeks in Turkey went by faster then expected.  I experienced many “firsts” on this section of Marmot‘s Lead Now Tour and I’m excited to share some photos and video from the voyage.

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Paige and I left India with some flower garlands and a giant plate of fruit?!  Pretty great way to say goodbye…

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We arrived in Antalya, Turkey only to find that we were there on the off season so the beaches were deserted, the town was empty, and ocean looked sad.

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Destroyed buildings and an old shipping channel provided us with little inspiration in a typically busy European hot spot.

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But at least we had a pool.  With no water…

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The view from our porch was pretty alright but we were one of maybe 2 tenants in the whole place.  It was quiet and erie and the only time we saw our neighbors was when an earthquake shook our top floor apartment and we went running into the hall confused about what to do in an earthquake.  Apparently duck and cover, not run through the halls…

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We spent less then a week climbing at a relatively unknown spot called Olympos.  Vertical limestone guarded by this ruined castle.  Pretty cool.  Paige sent a really nice 5.13d called “Gangster” but people don’t seems to care about 5.13 anymore…

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We met some new friends at a hill that was on fire…  It’s called Chimaera and there was natural gas fueled fire spitting out from the ground.

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I was pretty stoked for the fire mountain.  Beside myself even.

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We stayed in a tree house that was VERY cold and small, ate dinner in a common meal hall with the other tourists…  It was pretty nice to escape for a week and not talk to anyone and just climb and eat cheese.

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But we didnt come to Turkey for Olympos or the sad town of Antalya.  We were there to climb limestone overhangs and clip bolts.

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We met up with our friends Heather Weidner

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and Chris Weidner…

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and we went to war with some rock climbs in the classic Geyik Bayiri zone of Trebenna.

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Here Chris works out the lower moves on a climb he later sent called “Happy Ending” (8b).

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Heather worked on the area test piece, “Sarpedon” (8b+), which Chris and Paige sent quickly.

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Chris on “Happy Ending”.

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Heather on “Sarpedon”, nearing the first crux.

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Chris, warming up on a nice 7c at Trebenna.  This route climbs up a pillar, through a hole, and out a stalactite roof.  Pretty rad and pretty typical of Turkish limestone.  Lots of roofs, lots of tufas, lots of 3d climbing.

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Paige sent “Sarpedon” like it was her job.  Made it look easy!  Seems like 8b+ is not her limit… or even close. Check the video for the send footage!

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Chris working out the beta on the upper mono crux of “Sarpedon”.

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Heather sent the ultra classic “Ikarus” (8a/+) right next to “Sarpadon”.

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We went rug shopping…

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Chris sent a nice 7c+ called “Leon”.

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And that was about it.

Honestly I was pretty disappointed that we didn’t get to spend more time climbing at the biggest cliff at Geyikbayiri called Sarkit.  It’s home to some massive sweeping walls with amazing lines all the way to the top, but the unseasonably warm winter and the south facing orientation of the wall kept us chasing shade and climbing at Trebenna.

If you are planning to climb in Turkey at Geyik Bayiri with a group, I highly suggest renting an apartment in Antalya and driving up to the crag each day.  It’s only 20 minutes and the quality of life in Antalya is comfortable and inexpensive.  Camping or renting a cabin at one of the many campgrounds at Geyik Bayiri gets expensive fast, especially when you have to eat at the local restaurants for 8-12 Euro a meal.  If you climb 7c+ to around 8b, there are TONS of great routes to work and more then enough climbing for a months worth of fun.

Turkey turned out to be significantly more progressive then India (the other muslim country I have visited) and was a comfortable place for a winter vacation.  It was very similar to the rest of Europe despite sharing a boarder with Syria.  If you are planning a sport climbing vacation, consider checking out Geyik Bayiyi if you are looking for something other then Spanish and French limestone, it’s a pretty isolated spot and it can be as comfortable as home.

Did you know that women and girls make up 70% of the world’s 1 billion poorest people? Or that a child born to a literate mother is 50% more likely to survive past the age of 5? These are statistics from CARE, a Lead Now supported organization that helps the poorest communities in the world unleash their full potential. Help Lead Now support CARE by donating online at www.crowdrise.com/leadnowtourturkey. Contribute $27 or more for a chance to win a Marmot 2 person tent!

  • Posted on February 24, 2014

Dr. Heather Weidner – Life in Reverse

Every now and then I get a good idea for an athlete profile piece and every now and then the athlete I work with is equally motivated to help me create the best possible story.  When you have a cool concept for a film and a character that will go to the end of the earth to help you pull it off, thats when the magic happens.

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I met prAna ambassador Heather Weidner for the first time in Antalya, Turkey.  We had a few conversations before our trip to get organized but it was in Turkey that we became friends and I was able to help tell her story.  Heather has taken a slightly backwards approach to climbing full time.  Instead of dirt bagging it through high school and college, living out of a van and eating stale pop-tarts for breakfast, she dove right into her education with 100% commitment.  Only after getting her veterinary degree and practicing for 4 years did she stop to reevaluate her life.  Rather then keep the 9-5 with good pay in a rewarding job, she decided to take a break from her busy life and focus on her true passion, rock climbing.

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With rock superstar husband Chris Weidner in tow, they hit the road on a 5 month round the world tour to climb every day like it was their last.  As a result, Heather has been living a life in reverse.

“Life is short and fragile, go out and get it now.”

Music by – VVV