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Opening up Pandora’s Box

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In the fading light of chilly autumn days, professional climber Marcus Garcia ticked off another first ascent at his home crags in Durango, Colorado. This time, a daunting two pitch 5.12 that he calls Pandora.

“It comes from the process of putting up routes, that’s how I come up with the names,” he said. “I kept opening up different experiments or different movement with every bolt placement or every move. It’s like you’re opening Pandora’s box – you never know what you’re going to get.”

Garcia, a rock and ice climber and climbing coach, is on a relentless pursuit of first ascents, and while exploring the walls above the Animas Valley where generations of climbers have passed before him, he searches the windy sandstone faces for new opportunity.

While he may pause where others moved on, with the new vision of a modern climber he develops his routes with the same ethics as those that came before him: from the ground up. Exploring a vertical world one move at a time, he adheres to a set of values – almost a code of honor – of the region’s pioneer climbers.

“I’ve been walking by this cliff area for years and I kind of recognized these movements,” he said about Pandora. “The reason I did this ground up is I really feel connected with East Animas and those guys who put up routes in that style. East Animas is a mixture of traditional and sport climbing, so I put routes up in good fashion, I keep with the ethic values, but provide a good adventure that’s still safe.”

Garcia hopes to pass on his hunger for adventure to others. As a mentor, he instills the same appreciation of climbing’s freedoms in his students as his mentor installed in him.

“A pathway,” he calls it. “They have to have their own values of what climbing means to them. Getting them to recognize their own confidence.”

To Garcia, there is excitement in new discoveries. Seeing what’s out there. And he wants others to do the same. “I like that sense of adventure,” he said. “Not knowing what you’re getting into. To me, that’s what adventure is. Not knowing the outcome. Just going for it.”

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