Matt Beck, aka The Peg Leg Dad describes himself as “Father, Husband, Cancer Survivor, Hemipelvectomy Amputee and Author”. He was kind enough to tell us a little about his story and his new climbing experience since discovering the sport relatively recently.
Could you tell us a bit about yourself?
I live in South Dakota with my wife, 4-year-old daughter, black lab, and 2 cats. We also have a second child on the way, due in March. I lost my leg and left half of my pelvis due to a rare form of cancer in February 2019 after 3 rounds of chemo and a limb salvage surgery in October 2018. Before my amputation, outside of spending time with my family, my time was spent homebrewing beer, playing softball, golfing, and multiple things outdoors like hunting and fishing. Now, I’m focused on what I can do to still be involved in those but also looking for new experiences and ways to show my daughter (and anyone else really) that anything is truly possible if you’re willing to adapt and have a great support system.
What lead you to try climbing and what was the experience was like?
When I saw that The Kirstie Ennis Foundation was putting on an amputee rock climbing clinic, I submitted my application on a whim.
It was putting myself out there for something I never expected to be chosen for but was a step outside of my comfort zone. I had never tried climbing prior and having a fear of heights; it was something I was always too afraid to try. As it turns out, I was selected as one of the 5 people fortunate enough to travel to Colorado and participate in the clinic. It was nothing at all like I expected. Over three days, I went through a range of emotions from excitement on day one to disappointment in myself on day 2 and, finally, a great sense of accomplishment on day 3. The way that I had to climb was totally different, but I think that is one thing that is great with climbing, there is no one way to do it. Even on the same climb, there are different holds that everyone will utilize. It was also a fantastic opportunity to bond with the others who were there as you rely on everyone, whether for a belay or pointing out possible holds that you may not see. To my surprise, I never once had a fear of heights creep in. I was so focused on what my next move was that nothing else mattered.
Finally, would you have any recommendations to anyone thinking about trying climbing? And will you be doing it again?
I will absolutely be climbing again. We have a couple of gyms locally that offer both bouldering and top roping and an outdoor area with multiple routes very close to home. The most significant recommendation that I could offer is to just get out and do it! Don’t put too much pressure on yourself or compare how you’re doing to anyone else. If you need to use an ascender, use one! If you make it halfway up the wall and you’re too tired to continue, that’s great! Most people never even make it off the ground! Just don’t limit yourself mentally, and you can do way more than you realize.
Interview with Rachel Briggs, from United We Climb.