IMPROBABLE ASCENT

March 21, 2023 Des Moines Civic Center
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MAUREEN BECK

Paraclimber


Maureen Beck loves to prove people wrong. Born with one hand, she tried rock climbing for the first time after a camp counselor told her she could skip it. Her love of the sport was instantaneous, but there was no guide for climbing with one hand. Unfazed, she decided to figure it out for herself through trial and error—one of her early adaptive climbing innovations even involved taping a metal ladle to her arm. Before long she was leading a crew of passionate adaptive climbers around the world, forging a path for a new generation. 

After tackling some of the hardest climbs by a one-handed athlete and securing two world paraclimbing championships, Beck yearned to push still further outside of her comfort zone. So when legendary adaptive climber Jim Ewing asked her to join his attempt to make the first adaptive ascent of one of North America’s classic, most wild towers—the Lotus Flower Tower in Canada’s Cirque of the Unclimbables—she didn’t hesitate. On their month-long expedition they dealt with rough weather, sudden illness, and a food shortage, yet Beck found herself growing addicted again to the thrills and challenges of the sport.

With her trademark humor and wit, this 2019 National Geographic Adventurer of the Year will share how a little creativity and a whole lot of grit and determination have propelled her to the top of her field.

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© Photos provided by Kris Ugarriza

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