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CAF climbing and camping clinic breaking down barriers for adaptive athletes

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Posted at 2:30 PM, Oct 13, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-13 19:20:29-04

IDAHO — Idaho offers unlimited outdoor recreation opportunities, from camping on a hillside to bouldering a rock slab, and everything in between.

But, for people with disabilities experiencing The Great Outdoors isn't always accessible. But, the Challenged Athletes Foundation of Idaho is working to change that with their first-ever rock climbing and camping clinic.

"This was a chance to get out there and be with other people with disabilities and not be overcoming something, but to just be one of the others, one of the gang," Sarah Pederson, who attended the clinic said.

CAF coaches and rock climbing professionals took a group of adaptive climbers with a wide range of disabilities to the City of Rocks for a couple days of climbing, a first for many of the athletes.

"There was a sense of adventure, and pushing yourself further than you thought you could go or trying something new," Pedersen said. "There was this sort of adrenaline rush where it was like I dare you to do that and then there was this great rush when you really did it."

Because of the extra equipment needed, activities like rock climbing and camping aren't always accessible or affordable for people with disabilities, but CAF is breaking down that barrier.

"The outdoor community is such a powerful group of people. The best experiences of my life have all happened on the tops of mountains, on trails, and rivers, and things like that," Wilson Dippo, CAF Coach and Mentor said. "So opening this community up to those groups of people as well was really important."

It's opportunities and sports like these that Dippo said gives adaptive athletes the confidence to conquer anything in life, especially as a group.

"At the beginning, there were a lot of apprehensions. It was kind of like, 'oh why don’t you go first,' and by the end of the camp they definitely built that confidence and wanted to be the next one to go up," he said.

But, for Sarah Pedersen, the clinic meant more than just learning a new outdoor sport she was once too intimidated to do.

"If it hadn’t been such a supportive group or supportive atmosphere I'm not sure I ever would have done it," she said. "And I might have wandered around for another year and a half until I found something I was passionate about."

Now, it's very likely you'll see Pedersen at a local climbing gym, or outside bouldering next summer enjoying her newfound passion.

"I realized this summer that I didn’t have any goals for myself cause everything ever since the kids were born it was all about them, and prior to them being born it was all about overcoming my disability," she said. "For me, this was a chance to define what is going to be my next focus and I enjoyed it so much I am going to join the gym."

For more information on CAF-Idaho's events and clinics, click here, or join their Facebook group here.