Can you tell readers a little bit more about yourself?
I’m Crystan and I am an Army Veteran and a fairly recent convert to the sport of climbing. I used to be a triathlete back before my eyes decided to misbehave, which is also what brought me to Colorado, to be closer to family. My eyes going crazy brought me here, not the triathlon stuff obviously. I moved to Colorado right at the start of the pandemic, which was a very inconvenient time to move somewhere where you only know your family members. I picked up climbing thanks to Paradox. Otherwise in my free time I am an auntie and I hang out with my really cool dog. I like to go for walks and hikes and run and swim and that’s about it.
How long have you been involved with Paradox?
My first Paradox event was the Veterans trip that happened in September of 2021, so just over 2 years ago. That was the trip that was celebrating the 20th anniversary of 9/11 and a group of us Veterans went to Wyoming to climb the Grand Teton.
Which other trips have you been on?
I have been on several. Every opportunity I get to go on a Paradox trip I try to take it. So I have done the Tetons trip which was an alpine trip. I’ve done Shelf Road twice and I’ve gone to Ouray twice to ice climb and then I’ve been to Staunton State Park with the group and lots of local stuff.
Could you tell us a little bit more about what each trip type looks like and maybe some highlights of each and how they’re different?
One of the things that I think is really cool about Paradox is that there’s the opportunity to try a bunch of different disciplines within the climbing world. Some of which I had a little experience in and many of which I had no experience in.
So I started out with the Tetons trip which is alpine trip and for me, the alpine trips are kind of like marathons in that you have to have a lot of endurance and there’s a lot of opportunities to celebrate little victories along the way as you’re trying to reach your ultimate goal which is the summit of whatever peak you’re trying to climb. I really like that because I’m an endurance athlete by nature and so they are a lot of fun for me. I love being outside so I like the fact that I get to spend all day pushing myself and ultimately accomplishing a goal. With alpine climbing, I think there’s something to be said about being comfortable with being uncomfortable for a long period of time but not focusing on the discomfort but rather what that’s offering you. Like in the Tetons, the place where you camp at the saddle has this toilet setup that has the most amazing view of any toilet in the entire world I think. And you’re like “Wow! I get to go to the bathroom in this magical place!” (*insert laughter here)
The rock trips have been really cool. I had done a tiny bit of outdoor rock climbing over 20 years ago. I think every rock trip is a little bit different because you’re climbing on different types of rocks and it’s been a lot of fun to explore what types of rock are better suited to my skill sets and just learn more about climbing in general.
And then the ice trips are my favorite, I didn’t even know that ice climbing was a thing until I got involved with Paradox and Ouray introduced me to the sport and I’ve decided that I love it. One of the challenges that I’ve experienced in rock climbing is I often feel like if I were just like three inches taller it would be so much easier and with ice climbing when a hold is not where I need it to be I just put it there! That’s awesome, so I’m a big fan.
What would you tell somebody who is considering coming on a trip but is hesitant to sign up?
That’s how I felt before I joined my first trip. I think that one of the great things about going with people who have a lot of different levels of experience is that they are patient with you and they will help you be patient with yourself. I think there’s a lot of encouragement in the trips in general and people want you to be successful so they try to set you up for success and they’ll celebrate your successes with you. And if you’re not as successful as you expected to be, that’s ok, and you’ll be celebrated for what you were able to accomplish in that moment. I think that’s one of things that I like about climbing; you have to be present in the moment to be successful and letting go of some of the expectations that maybe you’ve placed on yourself or you feel like other people have placed on you to be present and try to figure out what you’re going to do and how you’re going to make your next move is a skill set that comes with practice. The more opportunities you have to do it the easier it becomes, but it’s also just as easy to get lost in your own doubts or fears. Do it, that’s my advice.
Have you learned any new skills through Paradox?
I mean obviously I learned to climb, especially ice climbing! That’s a good skill set but I think more than the technical climbing skills that I have begun to acquire it’s learning to be patient with myself and meet myself wherever I am on that given day. Being patient with myself is not something that comes naturally or easily to me, so I appreciate that this is an opportunity to practice that and practice failing and being ok with failing and bouncing back and trying again. That is how you see progress, especially in climbing. I think a lot about how far I’ve come in the two years since I started climbing, where at the beginning I was climbing 5.8’s and patting myself on the back because I made it to the top and now I’m trying harder and harder grades. I fall a lot on 5.11’s but I keep trying them – and someday, I hope to warm up on them (ha)! So I think that there’s something to be said about being ok with not being successful 100% of the time.
I also can now put on crampons, that’s an accomplishment. Also wielding an ice axe is pretty cool! There are things that now come so much easier to me than they did 2 years ago. Like now I can tie a figure 8 blindfolded – thanks to Addie having me practice climbing blind and practice feeling the knot to know it’s correct by doing it both by sight and by feel. I think that I also have more opportunities to develop technical climbing skills like how to climb outside, how to build anchors, how to lead climb or lead belay; all those things. I don’t know all of those things yet, but I’ve gotten the exposure to them and I didn’t have that before. Right now, I’m just trying to continue to figure out how to move my body when the holds feel like they’re not in the right places.
Do you have any climbing goals, either short or long term?
Yes, I do. I want to get better. I want to learn how to lead climb and lead belay. Right now, most of my climbing is done inside because I don’t have the skill set to do it outside by myself or with people that I go with most often. So I’d love to learn how to lead climb and lead belay and hopefully transfer those skills into learning how to build anchors and being able to climb on my own outside someday. But more immediately, I just want to continue to get better at what I’m doing in the gym because, I mentioned this before, but seeing the progress I’ve made so far in the time that I’ve been climbing is really rewarding at it’s cool to go from thinking a 10a is really hard to warming up on that grade and then trying even harder routes. It feels so cool, I get to see the progress that I’m making and that feels really good. In a lot of other sports it feels harder to see the progress that you’re making unless you’re in a race or a competition.
You’re also a monthly donor, what made you choose Paradox for your donations?
When I developed my autoimmune disease that affected my vision, I lost the ability to do a lot of the things that I had loved in the past. Things that came easy to me in a previous life were much more difficult and I was really struggling with figuring out my place in the world and what I could do differently to find the same joys that I had experienced with other activities prior to my vision being all wonky.
It was really delightful timing that DJ called me to do the September Tetons trip because I had lived in Colorado for about a year and a half at that point and I still pretty much only knew my brother and his wife. I had major surgery right before I moved here, so I had been isolated for a while. Additionally, it was the pandemic, so none of us had done much but I really felt like I hadn’t gotten out of my house or my own head for a really long time. The trip opened doors that I didn’t even know existed for me and I feel like the value that you get in finding an organization that meets you where you are and allows you to explore activities that you may be super great at or you may be really bad at like I was. Having those opportunities to challenge yourself and to participate in activities like climbing and ice climbing and build community, most importantly, is something that really resonated with me. The bulk of the community that I have in Colorado is people that I’ve met through Paradox and I’m really grateful for that because this community is awesome. I hope to continue to give those opportunities to others and I’m really lucky to be able to have the means to be a donor with Paradox. I’m happy to give back.
Do you have any other organizations that you’re involved with that you’d like to share about?
Not necessarily organizations but I’m going to take this opportunity to plug blood donations because it’s so important. Every 2 seconds someone in the United States needs blood or a blood product and there’s a severe shortage of blood and blood products in the United States. So if you are eligible to give blood, I would encourage you to do it. They actually just changed the rules across the board so if you have previously been unable to donate I would encourage you to check to see if you’re eligible today because a lot of the things that made it so that you couldn’t give blood in the past have shifted.
There’s more opportunity than ever and there’s so many different ways that you can donate; you can give whole blood which is very quick, it takes less than an hour to give a whole blood donation and that blood is typically used for traumas. As someone whose mom almost died on the operating table and only survived because she was able to get 3 units of blood after a surgeon made a mistake in her surgery, I’m really grateful for the donors who gave her the opportunity to live. If you have more time, you can give platelets or plasma which are donations that are typically used for cancer treatments. These are often used for leukemia patients who need platelets and plasma and it’s also often used for burn patients. So again, if you have the ability to give, I would urge you to do so. You can donate fairly often depending on what you’re giving – as often as multiple times a week to every six weeks. You can give multiple times throughout the year and it can save a whole lot of lives.
Photo 1: Crystan is smiling at the camera with her arms streched out on the approach to the climb for the Grand Teton. It’s not yet light outside and in the background is a dimly lit sky and several other jagged peaks in the Tetons and a glacier in the valley below. Crystan has a coiled rope that she has slung across her to carry. She is wearing a gray helmet with a head lamp on it, a blue long sleeve shirt and braids.
Photo 2: Crystan is at the top of an ice climbing route in the Ouray Ice Park, CO. She is looking up at the camera and fist bumping Sam whose arm and hand can be seen in the side of the frame. She is holding two ice axes and a group of climbers can be seen below near the base of the climbs. Crystan is wearing glasses, a white climbing helmet and a black jacket.
Photo 3: Crystan is hiking with Paradox participant Shane to a crag at Shelf Road in CO. They are on a wide dirt path and Crystan is carrying her backpack on her back and another backpack with a helmet, harness and shoes strapped to it on her front. She is smiling as Shane looks in her direction and smiles. Crystan is wearing a blue jacket with the hood up and blue pants. Shane is wearing a bright green sun hoody also with his hood up and a ball cap over the hood, he has on khaki pants and is hiking with trekking poles. There are a lot of juniper trees in the background.
Photo 4: Crystan on the approach to the saddle campground in Grand Teton National Park. She is scrambling up a steep portion of the trail that has a fixed rope she is holding with her right hand while she reaches for a rock with her left. There is a rock face in the background. She is wearing a light blue sun hoody, blue pants, a gray helmet and a climbing harness and has a pack on her back.
Photo 5: A group photo in Staunton State Park, CO for the costume climb Hauntin’ Staunton day in 2022. The group is standing in front of a rock wall and everyone is smiling at the camera while wearing Halloween costumes. Crystan is wearing a penguin onesie and some other costumes inclue a bumble bee, the cookie monster, Wayne and Garth from Wayne’s World and more.
Photo 6: A top down image of Crystan ice climbing in the Ouray Ice Park, CO. She has both of her ice axes embedded into the ice and is looking up at the route.
Photo 7: Crystan is lowering off of a climbing route at Shelf Road. The picture is taken from above and Crystan is looking up at the camera smiling and doing the “hang loose” sign with her hand. Several other participants can be seen on the ground below as well as some juniper trees and others that haven’t budded yet for the season. Crystan is wearing a purple sun hoody, blue pants and a white climbing helmet.
Photo 8: Crystan and Paradox volunteer Amanda pose side by side for a picture in the Ouray Ice Park. The background is snowy. Crystan has on a white helmet with the hood of her black jacket pulled over top. Amanda is wearing a bright yellow jacket with a black jacket over top and has on a blue helmet and is wearing sunglasses.