COLUMBUS (WSYX/WTTE) — How does Keith Warrick find freedom? Simple: he attaches ropes, clips and a harness to himself.
The 25-year-old spends every free minute in that kind of rig, scaling the 50-foot high walls at Vertical Adventures in Columbus.
In just a couple of years since his first climb, he's risen to be the top American in the neuro-physical division of adaptive climbing. His mother, Ina Jean Warrick says, "he's not about to let his disabilities define him"
In many ways, Keith has been climbing his entire life. Hours after birth he had to undergo open heart surgery. He also has issues with his skeletal system, brain and heart. Still, his parents weren't about to let his body be a prison.
"We never knew there was a box. We were so far outside the box, we were like, 'What, there's a box we're supposed to be in?" his mom said.
They always noticed Keith liked to climb, especially at Boy Scout Camp. So when they heard about the quarterly free events to introduce the disabled to climbing at Vertical Adventures, they were quick to try it out.
That first day, Keith climbed for hours and never looked back. Only up.
Now, each week he works with coach Jordan Kessler and the two have formed a solid bond. Keith describes Jordan as, "my family, my community. He challenges me to not give in--don't quit--don't quit!"
On the wall, Keith Warrick doesn't know the infant who had a heart operation. He's not the boy with one leg shorter than the other, the messed up back, the neurological challenges. On the wall, he glides from hold to hold, strong, toned, and irrepressibly determined.
As Jordan puts it, "he just never gives up" and pointing to Keith he adds, "You're constantly surprising me."
Never more so than at the recent National Adaptive Climbing Championships, where, in his first competition, Keith placed second in his division. Now he has his sights set even higher.
"Yeh, gonna take the whole world down," he said.
It would be hard to bet against him After all, for a guy who's been climbing since birth, there seems to be no ceiling for Keith Warrick.
If you know someone with disabilities who is interested in trying climbing, Next Adaptive Climbing offers adult and youth programs. The next adult program is November 18, and the kid programs are on Tuesday nights.