Moab, UT

Colorado off-width athlete climbs cracks to support sober youth programs

Morgan Tilton

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Mike Largent crack climbing in Indian Creek in May 2021Photo by Travis Perkins

Durango-based professional off-width instructor and actor Mike Largent dedicated October to climb two miles of vertical cracks in Indian Creek and Moab, Utah, to raise money to support sober activities for local youth.

Off-width is a segment of rock climbing entailing ascending a crack in a rock face.

The technique uses body parts inside the crack to leverage one’s way up the climb.

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Off-width climber and instructor Mike Largent at the bottom of a crack climb with a rack of pros on his harness.Photo by Suzie Blacker

The size of the cracks varies between ones large enough to fit the entire body or narrow enough to jam a fist, contorted hand, or pro: that’s short for protection, a piece of metal gear that can be placed in rock to assist the climber.

Events organized around this subcategory of the sport are rare.

“Off-width climbers and climbing fundraisers are rare, but the main defining feature of what makes this fundraiser unique is the style of climbing,” said Largent.

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Climber Mike Largent teaching kids at The Hive how to sport climb.Phot by Cece Charrette

Among his crew, Largent will be supported on-site by off-width master Pamela Shanti Pack as the drive launches Saturday.

Donations will be funneled to The Hive, a youth space that provides substance-free mentorship and resources to pursue recreation, skateboarding, art, and music.

“Mike is not only raising money for an important cause, but he’s also teaching these kids resilience by undertaking such a mentally and physically grueling endeavor,” said Pamela Shanti Pack, who is a professional athlete and founder of the Art of Offwidth Clinics.

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Off-width climber Mike Largent jams two fists side-by-side as he climbs a crack in Indian Creek, UtahPhoto by Travis Perkins

She added, “And believe me, this is one of the most grueling endeavors I’ve heard on anyone. Undertaking this is physically like running back-to-back ultramarathons for a month.”

How to get involved with the fundraiser

During October, Largent will climb two miles of off-width to raise at least $10,560—a dollar per foot climbed—for The Hive.

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Off-width climber Mike Largent is climbing cracks to fundraise for The Hive this OctoberPhoto provided by Mike Largent

The elite crack climber aims to double the efforts of his inaugural crack climbing fundraiser. In May 2021, Largent climbed one mile of cracks and received $2,140 in donations for The Hive.

“New partnerships were formed. New friendships made. People learned this otherwise impossible technique. All in a sober space,” said Largent.

The fundraiser page on The Hive website will remain open through January 31, 2023, to accept donations for the project.

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Off-width climber Mike Largent at the base of a crack climbPhot by Cece Charrette

While the priority is the fundraiser, the donation page offers several ways for supporters to get involved and help with the cause:

  • Donate
  • Share the link to the fundraiser page on social media
  • Donate climbing gear, which quickly deteriorates from this type of climbing to Largent to help support the effort
  • Volunteer at The Hive

All proceeds support resources and programs at The Hive.

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Climber Mike Largent on sighting ‘De-Birth’ at Sabbatical Wall in Indian Creek, UtahPhoto by Devin King

The Hive Durango and success through soberness

“This [fundraiser and my crack climbing] would definitely not be possible if I still drank. I want that to stick with Durango youth who hear about this. I’ve lost friends to addiction. I’ve squandered years of my life to addiction. This is my best chance at breaking that cycle,” said Largent.

Largent added, “If I had mentors, I looked up to who didn’t wear alcoholism as a badge of masculinity and maturity, I might not have spent 14 years backpedaling…I’m providing an opportunity for people to invest in, embrace, and champion the young ones.”

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Off-width climber Mike Largent climbs a vertical crack in Indian Creek, MoabPhoto by Devin Kinf

The Hive youth programs include skateboard lessons, screen printing, pottery workshops, and Spanish lessons in addition to community events.

The nonprofit organization also provides public transportation called the Buzz Bus to help eliminate drunk driving and support safer roadways.

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Off-width climber Mike Largent flashing ‘Elbow Vice’ at Battle of the Bulge in Indian Creek, UtahPhoto provided by Mike Largent

Pamela Shanti Pack said, “By climbing two miles of off-width in a month, Mike is proving that, ‘The difficult takes a long time and the impossible a little longer.’ He is showing these kids that the impossible is possible with determination, courage, commitment and passion, which is just as important as raising money for them. Mike truly is bringing grace to the grovel and is an inspiration to us all.”

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Adventure journalist Morgan Tilton covers the outdoors with a focus on travel, industry news and human endurance. Featured in more than 70 publications, she’s a recipient of more than a dozen North American Travel Journalists Association awards.

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