At some point in our lives we may have asked the question, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” The bitter truth is that there’s no definite answer to that. We’ve all come down to the same conclusion that life just isn’t fair. However, in the midst of life throwing it’s unpredictable curveballs at us, we all have that one thing that keeps us going. For sophomore Ignacio Giganti, it’s rock climbing.
If we go back to kindergarten, Giganti’s first obsession was diving. “It’s actually how I learned to swim,” said Giganti. Giganti remembers seeing all of the divers jumping in, and thinking to himself, ‘Eh, that looks easy.’
“I pulled my little floaties off, got on the diving board and froze,” Giganti said. The divers and their coaches cheered Giganti on screaming, “You can do it! You can do it!”
“And I did it,” said Giganti. “My mom was full-on sprinting towards me, but I just popped up, got out and did it again.” The coaches ended up asking Giganti if he wanted to try diving seriously. Ever since that experience, he’s been in love with it. “Twelve years of my life it was 100 percent devoted to it,” Giganti said.
According to Giganti, he wasn’t planning on going directly to college. He hadn’t taken his ACT until the summer. “Originally I was going to join the military, Air Force,” said Giganti. His plan was to join the military for two or fours years and then use his G.I. bill to complete his education. “But then the dive team called me, so now I’m here,” said Giganti.
In high school, his injuries prevented him from diving for two and a half years. However, in college he resumed his diving career on the Maryville dive team. Giganti said his first two semesters of diving were his best, “I got along with my teammates and coach so well, it was great.”
Giganti no longer dives, although he hopes that he can continue his passion later on. Giganti has explored different interests. Now most of his life is 100 percent devoted to rock climbing.
Giganti’s journey to the top started on his birthday, Mar. 29. He had been watching triumph and disaster videos and documentaries of mountaineers climbing Mount Everest and he instantly became hooked. “After climbing a mountain and getting to the top, that’s like the number one rewarding challenge that a human body can face right now,” Giganti said about his goal. “And if I got to sit at the top, that’d be the most rewarding thing than any other physical challenge I’ve had to face.”
Through more research, Giganti found that mountaineers sometimes had to overcome 200-foot ice climbs. He realized then that if he wanted to become a mountaineer, he would eventually have to learn how to ice climb. “I found out ice climbers started off rock climbing,” said Giganti. He immediately began hunting down places where he could rock climb. St. Louis isn’t really known for having huge bluffs, so he found an indoor rock climbing gym, Upper Limits.
Giganti’s girlfriend, Julissa Castillo, said she didn’t even know he rock climbed until this semester. “Yeah, he told me, ‘I go to the gym, but my gym is different, I rock climb,’” said Castillo.
“My buddy Luther, and me and my brother said ‘Let’s do it!’” said Giganti. After trying it once, they couldn’t stop. According to Giganti, him and his friend Luther Isiche would climb three times a week, often using climbing as a way to unwind and relieve stress. Giganti said, “We’d do huge study binges for like 15 hours, then we would say ‘Well what do you want to do now?’” Most times, they went rock climbing. “Even after finals, we didn’t sleep, we went straight to rock climbing,” said Giganti.
Over the summer, tragedy struck when Isiche died while at Giganti’s house. This event was traumatic for Giganti. “I’m not going to lie, it put me in a real low place for a while,” he said.
Finding it hard to bare, Giganti stopped rock climbing for a long period of time. However, he found himself still looking at rock climbing videos. He said to himself, “Okay, I can’t let rock climbing have a negative connotation, because it was always a way for us to get away from stress.”
Taking his brother with him, Giganti went back to rock climbing and found that it felt the exact same as if Isiche was still there. This feeling pulled him out of the low place he was in. “I’m going to use this to help me get better,” Giganti said.
There’s a connection that Giganti feels toward rock climbing because no matter how he feels going in, he never fails to leave with his head clear and his heart full. Rock climbing has become a form of meditation to him. “It keeps me focused on school and living real life- not burying my face in the past,” Giganti said. When he’s elevated, he’s not thinking about the day’s sorrows, the only thing that’s on his mind is getting to the top. “I spend all my money on it now,” he said.
Giganti understands fully what rock climbing has done for him mentally and physically. Soon he hopes to give back and help others find the healing they need. Giganti is in the progress of creating his own rock climbing club here at Maryville and he hopes that students will give it a chance. His desire is to build a rock climbing community established on encouraging one another, especially those who feel they could never rock climb. “I’ve gotten a lot of people over their fears,” said Giganti. Whenever he introduces someone to rock climbing, he goes in with the intent of pushing mind over matter and really taking them past their own limitations they’ve already set for themselves. “There’s no set way to do it, everyone has to climb differently to suit their body,” Giganti said.
Castillo is very excited for Giganti’s club to be on its way. According to Castillo, everyone should try it at least once. She feels the club would eliminate any bias students may feel toward it, thinking ‘oh it’s easy, you just climb.’ “Yeah it’s not,” Castillo said.
She relates rock climbing to chess because of the critical thinking that comes along with it. “It’s not the typical, you just step on rocks,” Castillo said. Giganti wants students to know that rock climbing is much more than stepping from rock to rock. It’s strategic and there’s a certain pattern that you have to follow. Often times it takes a lot of willpower to continue because you’re the only one in control of whether you succeed or not.
“If you let go, it’s because you let go,” said Giganti.
In the end, whether it’s big or small, everyone’s obstacle is unique to them. It’s not really the obstacle that matters, but rather the way you overcome the obstacle. Giganti used rock climbing to overcome his obstacles. Now he advocates that anyone who is experiencing PTSD or any psychological issue come out and try rock climbing.
“There’s no way I would have gotten through the summer without it,” said Giganti.