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Timmy O’neill

June 24, 2021
Bill Kimball

You up to need to have a stringent process of risk assessment before putting people into remote, high-pressure scenarios. For example, the Grand Teton—it’s 13,775 feet. It’s not easy, and not only do you have the altitude, but it requires rock climbing skills. That’s a different process for example than floating down the river, where it doesn’t necessarily need as much mobility or cognition for problem solving.

How do you feel about the direction of climbing? Are we raising young climbers to be a new generation of environmentally conscious rock jocks? Do you think the climbing community as a whole is doing loads of good? Climbing is one of the many activities that I participate in, and that goes for the vast majority of those that call themselves climbers, either inside or outside. Climbing is one of my interests and it is a personal and obscure venture that serves my needs to commune with mama nature and challenge myself physically and mentally in a non-conventional manner.

In September, he joined blind athletes Erik Weihenmayer and Lonnie Bedwell on 278 mile-long kayak of the Grand Canyon and will speak about his experience at this event. Forget the “gnarly man vs. gnarly mountain” approach to climbing shows. Prepare yourself for stomach cramps and watery eyes as climber, comedian, and “Urban Ape” Timmy O’Neill gives his own Monty Python-inspired approach to a major climbing expedition. During the past several years, Timmy has been exploring the world’s great mountain ranges, climbing from Pakistan to Patagonia. His most recent adventures include scaling massive granite monoliths in Greenland, leading a four-day ascent of El Cap with Warren McDonald, a double above-the-knee leg amputee, and climbing limestone cliffs in Cuba.

For me, the initial seed came from my brother Sean, who transformed the crisis of his paraplegia into the challenge of climbing. Eventually, I co-founded Paradox Sports, a non proft dedicated to bringing accessible climbing experiences to people with disabilities. I harvested the hard-earned wisdom of blindness via Himalayan ascents with the brilliant, blind adventure athlete Erik Weihenmayer. I have spent a decade volunteering with Cure Blindness and the indefatigable Dr. Geoff Tabin in sub-Saharan Africa, curing preventable blindness via high-volume cataract campaigns. These deep roots continue to bear the fruits of meaning, compassion, and love in my life.

Professional Rock Climber Timmy O’neill Shares His Journey In Adaptive Sports At Trail Creek Outfitters

We just received a $25,000 grant from The North Face this year to create adaptive climbing clubs nationwide. At the time he was the most injured soldier to return to combat. to work with the Walter Reed Medical Center, we did a climbing clinic with heavily injured folks. He became a climber as a result of not being able to use his legs. Within the first year we went and climbed Devil’s Tower, he became the first paraplegic to get to the top. And I figured the way to understand his paralysis was to integrate it into my climbing life. Timmy O’Neill is an outrageously fast and funny climber, a world-class slackliner and class 5+ kayaker.

  • At age nineteen, he moved to Yellowstone National Park, beginning a seven-year traveling stint through America’s pristine wilderness.
  • It’s not easy, and not only do you have the altitude, but it requires rock climbing skills.
  • O’Neill’s countless accomplishments and experiences as a professional athlete have helped him share his passion with people who struggle to access the outdoors.
  • Or did we mention that he is Co-founder of Paradox Sports, a non-profit dedicated to providing people with physical disabilities the opportunity to pursue and be successful at any and all human powered sports?
  • We have no time limit on returns and accept both current and past-season products.

And I think that part of climbing is problem-solving in risky scenarios, it makes it engaging, it makes it real. Hailing from Philadelphia, Timmy O’Neill left after one semester of college to head out and design a life for himself. He quickly became known as the “Urban Ape,” scaling buildings around the country, like the Chicago Tribune Tower, without any ropes. Now, he’s a seasoned Patagonia-sponsored climber with a lengthy and impressive resume that includes setting world speed climbing records in Yosemite, and first ascents around the world in Venezuela, Patagonia, Pakistan and Greenland. Timmy is also a world class slack liner, mountain biker, and kayaker, and recently guided completely blind kayaker, Lonnie Bedwell, down the Zambezi, a class V River. O’Neill has gone above and beyond his Executive Director duties to support adaptive sports communities.

Climbing With Charley

O’Neill’s countless accomplishments and experiences as a professional athlete have helped him share his passion with people who struggle to access the outdoors. His adaptive sports journey began when he worked with his brother Sean O’Neill to overcome paraplegia to climb. After gaining experience with adaptive climbing, he met Major D.J. Skelton who was working with veterans to use outdoor adventure to heal. The two shared a common goal to create community in adaptive sports and founded Paradox Sports together in 2007. Timmy O’Neill spent the last two years as Executive Director of Paradox Sports and now acts as Chairman of the Board of Directors.

We started on the 2,000 ft northwest face of Half Dome, then a run over over to the east face of Mount Watkins, 2,000 ft then ran out to the road and drove down to El Capitan to climb the 3,000 ft Nose route. One of my best moments of community work is the release the 175 page, Paradox Sports Adaptive Climbing manual.

A Journey To The Middle East: Climbing And Culture In The Cradle Of Humanity

Outside of his athletic achievements, Timmy is always giving back. Timmy’s vitality and zest for life continues to inspire others as he pushes on to live a life of meaning. One of my most difficult and audacious climbing days was climbing three Grade VI big wall in Yosemite National Park in a 24 hour period.

And among those following it all along, Timmy O’Neill is a legend. As a professional climber, he’s set world speed climbing records, gnarled his way through first ascents, and, according to his bio, lived in a cave for two months. While impressive, none of the physical accomplishments earned him legend status—it’s his personality, and, as an offshoot of that, his heart. By the time Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson had finally clawed and scraped their way to the top of El Capitan’s Dawn Wall in Yosemite National Park last week, the eyes of the world were on them. But while the public’s interest is just recently being piqued, the sport itself has had a stalwart, courageous, and compassionate following for decades. After the worst events of his life, Timmy O’Neill decided to pay it forward. “It’s so loud and dirty and noxious,” he says, noting how starkly contrasted auto racing is to the environments he’s accustomed to climbing in.

An accomplished comedian, musician, and outdoorsman, Timmy is equally at home summiting some of the world’s most techinical climbs as he is embracing the often daunting internal journey of self-realization. Did we mention that Timmy, along with his late climbing partner Dean Potter, was the first to connect three grade VI climbs in Yosemite Valley in a 24-hour period and has established first ascents on famous big walls around the world? Did we mention Timmy is a world-class kayaker with multiple first descents? Or did we mention that he is Co-founder of Paradox Sports, a non-profit dedicated to providing people with physical disabilities the opportunity to pursue and be successful at any and all human powered sports?

If the kid’s injured, his brother’s coming, and mom’s coming. That’s a big part of our product—our educational curriculum. By the end of that night, I was like, “Hey man, you’re special.” And he goes “Hey, you’re special.” And I’m like, “All right. Mutually beneficial special people.” Then we formed Paradox Sports. And it just so happened that less than a week before that, I was climbing an ice climb in Utah, and my partner fell the entire length of a pitch and exploded on the ledge I was standing on. So I started climbing with other leading athletes who were either congenitally—meaning since they were born—or they had some kind of disease or accident that caused them to need to reconfigure. As a world-class dirtbag athlete, O’Neill could be living a relatively comfortable life, traveling the world and having adventures without a care in the world.

A couple of days ago, I showered, shaved and put on this Paradox Sports t-shirt and I felt like I fit into my body again, as if I suddenly landed back inside myself. Each day I recover physically allows more time and space for the mental and emotional healing, to accept my new abnormal, and move forward. So much of medicine, as well as life, is the unknown. Sometimes it seems the only certainty is death, so if things feel uncertain it must mean that you’re still alive. I have spent a good amount of my life climbinig not just rock faces but also urban structures and statues.

But more than that, he’s incredibly smart, kind and passionate about his life and the lives of others. Wild Love illustrates his dedication to helping people, to exploring and learning and his insatiable love for living this life, right now—before it’s gone. I can’t imagine having that busy of a schedule.

Timmy O’Neill lives to change lives and share his unconditional love for adventure with everyone. To inspire active participation in the world outside through award-winning coverage of the sports, people, places, adventure, discoveries, health and fitness, gear and apparel, trends and events that make up an active lifestyle. It seems you have plenty of time to climb though, which I suppose is an important thing, if not THE important thing.What I do is interact with humanity through myriad forms of communication both real/in-person and virtual. It’s climber/kayaker/mountain biker, meets life-coach, plays mad rock and roll drums, and changes lives through climbing.

Timmy continues to work on film projects, and is also receiving acclaim for his outrageously funny climbing slideshows. O’Neill is one of the fastest climbers in the world. He has set many speed records in Yosemite National Park on several of its formations, including a world-record ascent, with Dean Potter, of the famed Nose on El Capitan in 3 hours 24 minutes.

Paradox Sports is a Colorado-based non-profit founded in 2007 by Tim O’Neill and D.J. Skelton to improve people’s lives by creating physical adaptive sport communities built to inspire. For more information, visit paradoxsports.org. We do 12 programs in eight states, and it’s growing. We work in ice climbing, rock climbing—both outdoors and indoors.

We do wilderness trips, backpacking, and whitewater and stand-up paddling trips. I raised the money to write a 165-page manual on how to adaptive climb for climbers, meaning people dealing with disability, and for instructors. That means people who want to instruct, and how to create adaptive climbing clubs.

Race car driving “has parallels with climbing and with expedition,” says O’Neill as he reflects back on the experience. The two were introduced by mutual friends in 2012 when Ray, who had never been rock climbing, expressed interest in summiting Yosemite’s El Capitan. In February I was in southern Chile in the Patagonia region climbing with Yvonne Chounaird and others and making a film. I am off to the Valley to climb for the next 5-weeks. You’re a fairly prominent figure in the climbing community. We see you in Patagonia ads and Peter Mortimer films and we all think you’re great, but I have no idea what you actually do. I wake up each day, scrub my teeth with nylon bristles, pull pants over my legs, a shirt over my torso and slip my feet into sandals, then I drink coffee.

I DID MY FIRST show 10 years ago, at Neptune Mountaineering. There were probably 100 people, and everyone laughed a ton and said it was the best show they’d ever seen.

That same Yosemite season, O’Neill and Potter became the first to ever link-up, in a continuous push, three massive Grade VI walls, climbing over 80 pitches and 9,000 vertical feet in less than 24 hours. Timmy O’Neill’s adventurous spirit was fostered in the urban open spaces surrounding his childhood home in Philadelphia. He learned to kayak at the age of five, and later explored the boundaries of Fernwood cemetery and the banks of Cob’s Creek in search of excitement—which usually involved burned-out cars and run ins with the cops. At age nineteen, he moved to Yellowstone National Park, beginning a seven-year traveling stint through America’s pristine wilderness. He soon discovered rock climbing in Yosemite National Park and decided that this would be the road to his dreams. It’s life and death when you’re on the side of the mountain, because you can make a bad decision and die. It’s unlikely, of course, and you’re guided, but nonetheless it feels very close, that decision, the life-death ratio.

He recently won the Outdoor Inspiration Award in recognition of the record participation and fundraising at Paradox Sports during his time as Executive Director. Climbing and adventuring are through lines that connect me to new ideas, places and especially new people in my life. The inherent nature of problem solving within climbing, whitewater kayaking and the other elective adventure sports I participate in makes me more able to help others and deal with conventional problems and adaptive needs.

When I was a kid, I was allowed, and even encouraged to climb up high with no safety, so as soon as I see something interesting I think how can I get to the top that? Seeing a classic national monument, the stoic hero atop his horse in Plaza Italia, which has been the hub for the class riots, instantly piqued my interest. In February, my friend Timmy O’Neill suffered a terrible stroke while on a climbing trip in Patagonia. He described it as a “thunderclap” in his head. An hour later he was in a nearby regional hospital, and the next afternoon airlifted to Santiago, where he battled through weeks of physical and emotional anguish before returning to the States. Timmy O’Neill tells an epic story about his and Dean Potter climbing in Yosemite many years ago when they free-soloed a big route and had a close call.