Announcing: Climbathon 2018

By: Riley “Chumscobar” Chumm, FDHQ Programs Coordinator

Announcing: First Descents Climbathon 2018

First Descents Climbathon is back and bigger than ever, thanks to our two incredible sponsors, Aetna and Healthline Media.  Climbathon 2018 will take place nationwide in our 15 local adventure communities as well as some special participating cities like Hartford, CT! Individuals who don’t live near a partnering gym can still get out there and DIY climb for FD by registering for FD Climbathon and hitting the gym on July 14th.  If there is one thing we know for sure, any and everyone can #ClimbOn with a few tips, and the motivation of supporting a meaningful cause.  That’s why we sat down with Riley “Chumscobar” Chumm to share her personal climbing story and offer some climbing pro-tips to help everyone get sendy for the FD cause.



I was first introduced to climbing by my best friend in high school. Growing up in Denver and always having a passion for the outdoors and trying new things, I jumped on the invitation to try another new sport that would make my mom nervous. What I didn’t know at the time is how meditative and absorbing climbing is. My dad was sick with cancer during high school, and I was dealing with constant fear and anxiety in my classes, sports, and with my friends. My mind was always somewhere else from where I was, and somehow the days flew by without really feeling like I was a part of them. Climbing helped to bring me back. When I am on the wall, I am more present and aware than I ever was in classes or with friends. Climbing helped me to calm my thoughts, and focus on body, breath, and the next move on the wall–not the challenges we were facing at home. Climbing became an outlet for me to calm my thoughts and focus on one thing at a time, and it still helps me do so today when life gets a little hectic.

Without knowing it at the time, this is why I fell in love with the sport of climbing. I continued to carry my love for climbing with me to college, taking climbing classes, competing in competitions with other colleges, and even started coaching the youth clubs at the local gym. After falling in love with the sport myself, I found my true passion lies in sharing it with others.  Because of climbing I have made lifelong friendships that are founded on trust, encouragement, and a love of adventure.

I am not only grateful for climbing because it allows me to slow my mind and become present, but also because of the places it has taken me. I have had the privilege of climbing in Clear Creek Canyon, Moab, Smith Rock, and even places in Canada and throughout the Northwest. My favorite climb of all time is a 7-pitch sport route in Leavenworth, WA.  These seven, smooth pitches on the massive granite walls that tower above Icicle Creek were some of the most fun and intimidating routes I have ever climbed. There is an exhilarating yet humbling fear I get when I am on the wall, and to be 7 pitches up after already hiking a 1,200 foot approach to the start of the climb, I have never felt more insignificant to the power and beauty of nature. To make the climb even more awesome, a mountain goat decided to show its climbing skills by scurrying the rocks to the right of the climb in about half the time it took us to climb the route, and joined us at the top for lunch.

But my history with climbing hasn’t always been so glorious.  Like many climbers, I am constantly working through my fears and some injuries, and I hope to eventually rock climb without hesitation or timidness. Being a part of the First Descents community has reminded me that standing below a wall of fears has no reward. Ascending the wall, and facing my apprehensions head on has allowed me to reach new heights and gain perspective along the way.  In climbing, my fears are like cracks in the wall.  They may look challenging, but I can engage with them and use them as points to push off from, propelling me towards new growth.  My FD family has reminded me that the emotional power of my fears is no match for the passionate spirit of Out Living It.

As I continue to try and navigate my challenges with the sport, most of my time is now spent coaching and climbing with friends. As Climbathon training ramps up and the warmer weather is on its way, I know it’s time to get back out there.  So, in preparation for an incredible Spring leading up to Climbathon 2018, here’s a few tips that I always try to keep in mind:

  • Always warm up! It doesn’t take much time, and will make for a better day in the long run. A warm up should include some full body stretching, particularly your hands, shoulders, back and core.  Be sure to also incorporate some light cardio, to get your legs and hips loose. Jump roping is a great way to get warm. Then, climb a few easy routes to get your muscles warm before jumping on harder routes. 


  • Read the route. It’s so exciting to see new routes at the gym or to be at the bottom of a new climb and get on the rock, but make sure to take a pause and look up at the route so you know what to expect when you’re on the wall. This will help you climb more smoothly, and not waste energy reading the route in the middle of your climb.


  • Use chalk. I definitely struggled with this when I first started climbing, and it’s something the kids I coach neglect all the time. When I first started climbing I felt like I didn’t need chalk, and that it really didn’t help me climb at all. Even though it may not seem like this miracle powder helps you send hard routes, it does help protect your skin from getting raw, and can give you that extra boost on cruxy moves when your hands may otherwise slip right off.


  • Follow a few competitive female and male climbers on social media. I am constantly inspired by the success and dedication that these athletes have to the sport. They give me inspiration to get back out there and try new things, and oftentimes have some great training and recovery suggestions you might find helpful.


  • Have a project, and try a flash challenge every once and a while. Having a route to work on or a goal to reach is always important. It helps you stay motivated, and challenges you to continually improve. Try a flash challenge as well! Find a route that you have never done before, and give it a shot. If you fall, come down, and make it a project. It’s a great way to start the day after you have completely warmed up, and to test yourself on harder routes. You never know when you’ll surprise yourself with what you can do.


Most of all, find your own reason to love climbing; the sport has something special to offer to everyone! I can’t wait to see the power and passion of everyone at the First Descents’ 2018 Climbathon!  Climb On!



On July 14th, First Descents alumni, supporters, and friends nation-wide will come together to climb for young adults impacted by cancer. 100% of funds raised on this day of courage, community, and charity will support First Descents adventure programs. Register for Climbathon 2018 to help FD bring the healing power of adventure to more participants than ever before. 

Climbathon 2018 is sponsored by Aetna and Healthline Media.



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