Amputee Climbing Duo Aims for Inspiring 1,600-Foot Nevada Route First

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With its endless expanse of towering sandstone walls, Red Rock National Conservation Area outside Las Vegas is one of the top climbing destinations in the U.S. Teams line up for the classic 5.9 route Epinephrine, a 1,600-foot line that Alex Honnold and the late Brad Gobright used to speed solo. Gobright sprinted the line in 59 minutes; Honnold in 39. But most everyone else requires at least eight hours.

Epinephrine has physical and thuggish climbing, where you have to stuff your entire body in chimney-width cracks. The complicated descent adds another few hours to the day, through a steep nondescript climber’s trail marked by rock cairns. Many teams go down in the dark, and often get lost.

This spring, two above-the-knee amputees, Ronnie Dickson, a prosthetist from Chattanooga, Tenn., and Adrien Costa, a former semi-professional cyclist and college student in Bend, Ore., are hoping to become the first above-the-knee amputees to climb the route.

Dickson, hiking to a bouldering problem deep in Rocky Mountain National Park. Courtesy Ronnie Dickson. Photo: Andrew Chao

Dickson is a sponsored climber with Evolv, who specializes in overhanging boulders and bolted face routes. He’s the only above-the-knee amputee to boulder V10, which is a difficulty reached by only the top echelon of climbers. Costa seeks out multipitch 5.10 (and harder) routes at the top climbing areas in the U.S., including Smith Rock in Oregon and Yosemite in California.