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To many non-climbers, rock climbing seems like a curious life choice. We spend our free time learning how to scale blank faces of rock… to what end? To prove our strength? To find self-worth? To push our limits?

Some might say there’s no point to any of the madness, but I think the value of climbing is mostly intrinsic. As many climbers can attest, climbing teaches dedication, perseverance, confidence, humility, gratitude, passion, and individuality – characteristics from which anyone could benefit, especially children and adolescents.

I always find it encouraging when people find a way to use their passions to benefit others, so this week I wanted to shine a spotlight on what a handful of climbers are doing in Mexico. Find out how you can get involved and help these fellow climbers make a significant impact in young children’s lives… but only if you care about that kind of thing.


What is Escalando Fronteras?

Escalando Fronteras is a climbing program that seeks to save at-risk youth in Mexico from a life as a criminal, child soldier, or gang member.

The program was conceived by Rory Smith and Javier Hernandez after the two extensively studied the factors driving youth to join gangs and organized crime groups in Monterrey, Mexico.

Two of the founders are passionate climbers, who wanted to explore how sports, specifically climbing, could be used as a tool for positive change for youth in underdeveloped areas of the world.

According to the founders:

“Results from in-depth research in Mexico show that at-risk youth share many similar characteristics that propel them into gangs and organized crime.

They live according to a system of perverse values (inherited from the perverse social and familial conditions in which they live), suffer extremely low levels of self-esteem and confidence, have high rates of school dropout, engage in risky behavior like drug and alcohol consumption as well as unprotected sex, harbor little plans for the future, and suffer from a feeling of having no control in their lives.

Research on the positive effects of climbing demonstrate that the sport is a potent path to reversing and remedying all of the aforementioned negative factors as it encourages discipline, increased self-esteem and confidence, trust in others, positive values, humility, feelings of control, and mitigate the negative effects of depression and stress.”


The volunteers at Escalando Fronteras believe:

“Where someone is born and consequently the borders (class, race, sex, nationality, etc…) that separate, surround, and often define individuals are random and arbitrary and should not decide the opportunities and fate of anyone in this life.

We see at-risk youth populations not as a threat or an incurable and lost group of youngsters, but as a boundless and potent source of ideas, creativity, multiculturalism, and promise. Born into extremely unfavorable conditions, these youth have been denied any real chance to realize their full potential. In this highly globalized world, they are the future of the world.”

Why Climbing?

“Climbing means health, culture, community, and conquering your own borders.

The positive effects of sports on youth development have been well established empirically. Sports are directly correlated to increased school participation and achievement as well as improved focus and self-esteem.

We are an international collective of academics, entrepreneurs, social development specialists, and climbers that see the potential for the sport in youth development. Climbing improves self-esteem, discipline, focus, and trust, in addition to reducing stress. It encourages individuals to seek the outdoors, whose positive benefits on mental health are myriad.”

What Can You Do?

While it may not be practical for you to quit your job, move to Mexico, and physically be a part of the Escalando Fronteras program, you can still help in other ways. If you’d like to help, you can:

  • Share this post or the Escalando Fronteras website with your friends
  • Donate to the program directly
  • Back the Kick Starter project and donate indirectly by pre-ordering a copy of the Van, Life, Food cookbook from Tiffany Hensley (90% of proceeds go toward the program)