Rocking Around The World For Charity
By Chris Weidner
Photos by Jon Glassberg
I go crazy if all I’m doing is climbing,” 22-year-old Paige Claassen said last June, sipping coffee outside the Basemar Brewing Market. It was a funny thing to hear from someone about to embark on a 10-month world rock-climbing tour to exotic places like Chile, China, Ecuador and India. “I need something else to work toward that provides more long-term value.”
On June 17 Claassen, a professional rock climber, and Jon Glassberg, a 29-year-old filmmaker and climber, began the global adventure they call Lead Now. The Boulder-based couple plans to visit 10 different countries, one per month, on six continents. In each country Claassen will face a challenging climbing objective (it is, after all, a climbing trip) that Glassberg will film and share with viewers. But the deeper purpose of their unique expedition is to raise money—$10,000, to be exact—for each of 10 nonprofits.
So far, five months in as of Thanksgiving, the Lead Now tour has been a huge success. In South Africa Claassen made the first ascent of “Digital Warfare” (5.14a), an extreme climb that had eluded all previous attempts. In Val di Mello, Italy, Claassen made the second (and first female) ascent of “Art Attack” (5.14b), one of the world’s most difficult granite slabs. Next, she and Glassberg bouldered in Japan, with hopes of doing more first ascents.
More importantly, Claassen says, they’ve raised thousands of dollars for causes like child literacy in South Africa, child welfare in Italy, and business loans for women in Russia. The charities that Lead Now supports aim to improve the lives of women and children worldwide.
Except for two. During September’s Front Range flooding, the travelers were halfway around the world, feeling “helpless” and far away. “So we changed a couple of our nonprofit partners to help support flood relief back home,” says Claassen.
Claassen, who claims she wasn’t any good at conventional sports, was introduced to climbing at 9 years old. She excelled right away, eventually earning National and Continental Championship titles in competitions. She also became one of the first American women to climb the lofty grade of 5.14b. In climbing, Claassen found more than just her passion—she found personal meaning and a friendly community. “I honestly don’t know what I would have done without climbing.”
Yet, as she said, climbing isn’t enough for her. While the 10-month trip was Glassberg’s idea, Claassen added the philanthropic twist when she learned about fundraising via CrowdRise, an online fundraising platform. “All these different pieces started tying in,” says Claassen, who graduated from CU in December 2012 with a marketing degree.
Before starting their journey Claassen blogged, “I’m sure between traveling, trying to climb at my limit, and raising $100,000 for women and children around the world, I’m in over my head.”
But if the last five months say anything about Claassen, it’s that she’s exactly where she thrives. Dreaming big always seems to pay off for this talented young climber, whose globe-trotting goals for charity are as down-to-earth as they come.
Chris Weidner is a climber and freelance writer who lives in Boulder with his wife, Heather. Chris writes “Wicked Gravity,” a bi-weekly climbing column in the Daily Camera. In January the Weidners plan to climb in Turkey with Paige and Jon as part of the Lead Now tour.
To learn more about Lead Now destinations and nonprofits, visit Claassen’s website at paigeclaassen.com. Donations can be made online at crowdrise.com/leadnowtour. Any amount is helpful.