Eric Crosby: Leading youth to new heights, challenges

Published 12:31 am Saturday, April 25, 2015

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By Mark Schmerling



When Eric Crosby was growing up in Polk County, hiking and other outdoor activities were not part of his world. However, before graduating from Polk County High School in 2007, he became involved (“very little,” he modestly claimed) with the school’s Outdoor Leadership program, which included rock-climbing, which he liked.


He and friends also began the PCHS snowboarding program, which continues today.


Shortly after graduating from PCHS, Crosby experienced a three-month semester at the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) in Wyoming. His activities there, including backpacking, backcountry skiing, rock climbing and kayaking, ignited a passion that has fueled his life’s purpose, which involves mountaineering and exploring, as well as teaching those skills, and leadership skills, to young people who would otherwise not have the opportunity.


“I don’t think I ever went camping before I went to NOLS. Then I went camping for three straight months. It just totally changed my life.”


That concentrated curriculum earned Crosby 16 college credits.


In May, Crosby will be on his way to Alaska’s Denali National Park on a fundraising team expedition for Paradox Sports to climb some of the world’s most rugged terrain.


Crosby and his fellow climbers have partnered with Paradox Sports, a Boulder, Colo., based non-profit organization that “seeks to recognize and foster an individual’s potential and strength, defying the assumption that people with a physical disability can’t lead a life of excellence.”


An example of defying that assumption is inspirational speaker Eric Wehmeyer, the first blind person to summit Mount Everest. He also reached the pinnacles of all the world’s Seven Summits, the highest peaks on each of the seven continents.


After a small plane drops off Crosby and his two partners on Ruth’s Glacier, the trio will camp at the Denali (Mt. McKinley) base camp, and spend May climbing Mt. Hunter and other area peaks in the park.


Among other accomplishments, Crosby, the son of Bob and Krista Crosby, will begin his fourth year as the lead guide and instructor of the Seattle, Wash. YMCA’s Boys’ Outdoor Leadership Development (BOLD) program. He’s the rock guide for the Arizona Climbing School, and has guided numerous trips to southeast Utah canyons. Crosby is also an American Mountain Guide Assn. (AMGA) certified single-pitch (climbing, not baseball) instructor, and has been training other instructors in the rock climbing realm “so they perform safely.”


Crosby also graduated from the Colorado Mountain College, Leadville, in 2010, with a degree in outdoor recreation leadership. Courses included land management, rock rescue, avalanche safety and ice climbing. He is certified as a wilderness first responder and is level II certified in avalanche research and education.


After graduating from CMC in 2010, Crosby spent four years skiing, climbing, chasing snow and rocks. Then he moved to Seattle, known as a jumping-off point for wilderness and mountain exploration in the Cascades and beyond. Crosby has climbed in nine states.


Last fall, Crosby and his climbing partner, Ryan Edwards, climbed the west face of Yosemite National Park’s famed El Capitan in 23 hours. That adventure began at 4 a.m. with a three-mile hike to “El Cap’s” base, climbing over 2,200 vertical feet of rock face up to the grade of 5.11c. The Yosemite Decimal Rating System is used to measure the difficulty of walks, hikes and climbs.


Crosby and Edwards reached the summit just as the sun was setting, scrambling down the back side of the mountain for 12 miles, and returned to their car. They completed the “car-to-car” trip in 23 hours, achieving their goal of under 24 hours.


If all of these many accomplishments were set in a vacuum, they’d be rather impressive. However, Crosby would not operate in a vacuum. Rather, he’s using these accomplishments to mentor young men ages 13 through 18, from both disadvantaged and privileged backgrounds.


“Our main goal,” he said of his position at BOLD, “is transferring these things into the real world, and improving their lives. It’s a very rewarding job and I really like it.”

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As Crosby helps mentor young men, he has his own mentors. One is Kip Davis, who taught, and who still teaches, at CMC. “He’s continually educating me and my friend Ryan,” Crosby acknowledged. “He’s still a huge mentor.”


Chris Hagen, program director at BOLD is another mentor of Crosby’s. “He works so hard for this non-profit (the YMCA). He really believes in the work we do. He’s taught me how to connect with these kids,” said Crosby.


“The skills,” Crosby noted, “are just a vehicle. There’s so much to learn from being out of your comfort zone.”


The outdoors, said this young man who did no camping until after high school, “is a classroom where I’ve learned a lot.”


A fundraising campaign through Go Fund Me is active to raise awareness and support for Paradox Sports. Crosby and his team will provide updates through a blog during their expedition. Paradox Sports will film a video to be presented in Boulder at a date to be announced later.


Those who wish to help with fundraising of the expedition and help advance the cause of Paradox Sports, may donate through the account on


Along with Ryan Edwards, Michael Elges is another of Crosby’s climbing partners who is part of the Alaska expedition.


It might seem that Eric Crosby’s life of adventure and giving came from nowhere, but that would not be correct.


He shared that his mom Krista had advised him, ‘It’s all about passion. Find your passion, and find a way to make a living doing it.’


Now that Eric Crosby has found that passion, “It’s my life blood.”


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