This year’s Color the Crag at Horsepens 40 in Steele, Alabama was bigger than ever. Offering an incredible array of climbing clinics, panels, and breakout sessions ranging from how to project outside to positive masculinity (not to mention some truly powerful events like a keynote delivered by James Mills, a performance by Deqn Sue, and a silent disco!) CtC was a beautiful opportunity to support climbers of color and have hard conversations about equity in the outdoors; but most importantly, it was a chance to celebrate the diversity and strength of our climbing community.
Touchstone was proud to return as a sponsor to the event, and even prouder to see one of our Team kids at the festival—Nathan Navarro, who recently joined our Intermediate Team at Dogpatch Boulders! We caught up with Nathan to hear about his experience at CtC 2018 and what he’ll be carrying with him from it into his climbing career.
First, can you tell us a little bit about your climbing background?
I started in 2017. I got started through Instagram, where I followed Ashima Shiraishi. (She is kind of my celebrity crush.) And there is a climbing gym by my house. I did a bunch of sports like boxing, but climbing fits with me and my values way more. So I went to the gym and I climbed and I fell in love with it. This Latino guy was interested in me and told me that he wanted me to climb there because I had heart. I had to wait until the end of last year (in May) to start. I wanted to get good at something; there were things I was kind of good at but nothing I loved.
What’s it like on the Intermediate Team at Dogpatch?
It’s pretty great being on the Dogpatch Team. Climbing is the one thing that relieves all my stress and anxiety, and it’s great getting to hang out with other middle schoolers. I skipped the Recreational Team and went straight to the Intermediate Team. I get to be around other kids that want to pursue climbing and I can learn from them. Being the only person of color there, I learn a lot about myself. I’m so young, so I’ve got time.
How did you hear about Color the Crag?
From Instagram. I first heard about The Brown Ascenders through Summer, one of their founders. A few months into meetups with The Brown Ascenders, they told me about Color the Crag. It sounded amazing to me. The first thing I thought was, “I’m about to get woke.”
What was your favorite part about Color the Crag? What did the event mean to you?
I went to a bouldering competition in Sacramento and I was the only brown person there. A man there thought he knew my name before I told him. Going to Color the Crag meant everything to me.
The panels were the best, because climbing is so much more than climbing. Its more about the analytical aspect of it. They had a panel of professional climbers, and I got to meet the founders of Brothers of Climbing Crew and Brown Girls Climb. Being neither Black nor a woman, I wondered where I would fall…People have a lot of hardships and I am grateful I don’t have to experience those things, but what role do I play in this?
I got to meet my first two professional climbers, Sam Elias and Nina Williams. I’m young and driven so they took interest in me and gave me advice and made me feel good about myself. I don’t have to go through this alone. Sam even sent me the care package of North Face stuff. After the event and I realized that it was on Cherokee land and it’s owned by white people with confederate flags and caricatures in their windows…It made me think about how I had never experienced something like that before.
What did you get from the experience that you will take into your climbing career moving forward?
What I have is special. I’m not your average climber. I’m not white. I had to find climbing on my own. The hardest part about being a POC in climbing is finding it. It can be hard because POC don’t feel comfortable in the sport yet and I’m lucky to feel that comfort already. I want to make the most out of the years I’ll be doing it in some way shape or form, as either a competitive climber or maybe a journalist. I want to do the most that I can because it’s hard work and it’s something I enjoy.
Thank you, Nathan! We can’t wait to see what you’ll accomplish. Good luck in all of your endeavors.
Join us for meetups with The Brown Ascenders at Berkeley Ironworks, Dogpatch Boulders, and Great Western Power Co. and Soul Ascension Crew at Sacramento Pipeworks for a monthly boost of that Color the Crag energy!