Timmy O'Neill

Osprey Sponsored Athlete and Rock Climber
The small blue dot of the Wildebeest ascending the penultimate pitch with the glorious expanse of Chasm View wall and its pink pegmatite striations framing the background. When Wayne arrived at 1:30am, prior to the climb, to the south rim pullout he surprisingly parked his car behind the handicap reserved space saying, "I'll leave that for someone who may need it." This beautiful, unexpected response set the tone for the next 24 hours of slow motion exertion. Wayne's unique and powerful perspective imbued the the day with a feeling akin to the sensation that affects you prior to the onset of illness or that intuitive tingling just before a momentous occurrence, tremors of sudden change. Fast forward to 9pm, and as Wayne inched towards the perch from which I snapped this image, I delivered a litany of jokes over the radio to the members of our party, who were strung out hundreds of feet above and below. After releasing the transmission button following a particularly effective zinger the sound of laughter would echo off the surrounding granite features and dissipate into the night sky. I've always found that the release of tension, via ridiculous humor and off-color observation, amongst such toil and uncertainty, helps to preserve the sanity by embracing the absurdity. We topped out hours later and sorted trash and gear over cracked beers. Later, in a sleep deprived exhausted stupor, I repeatedly opened and closed the doors to the car looking for something I never found, and eventually passed out aside coiled ropes as a slight wind tossed my hair and chilled my worn body. #joymerchant #powerofthepossible #yesiprocity #waynesworld @sensichew @mplantz @patagonia_climb @ospreypacks @lasportivana @petzl_official @clifbarcompany @nativeeyewear
On the second to last rappel, as we made our way down to the bottom of the Black Canyon, Wayne started to wretch and vomit. As he balanced his helmet onto the rock in front of him and recovered he whispered, "I'm so glad they developed a vaccine to prevent others from experiencing polio." Wayne contracted airborne polio as an infant while passing through a TN town on a road trip with his parents, almost 63 yrs ago. By the age of 7 he began to deal with the debilitating effects of post polio syndrome. This was his first foray to the Black Canyon and his 35th overall ascent of a big wall. His slow, methodical pace up the 2,000 feet of granite was other worldly. He ascended a fixed line that @sensichew and I trailed as we climbed the cracks and face holds of Astro Dog. The day slowed, as if we were using an atomic clock that measured time via the waves of nausea and the frequency of painful pauses. I felt visited by an extra terrestrial being whose understanding of discomfort and suffering utilized different almost opposite meaning in it's symbols. Wayne would immediately wake from short power naps, like the one here on the Two Boulder bivy ledge, and declare himself ready to go with an unexpected joy and excitement, "Ok ok, let's do this." He would then prop himself upright, arrange his ascending system and then wretch, squeezing his entire body with a startling intensity, that seemed to embody the same profound fierceness with which he grabs onto life, thriving on his terms, utilizing his normal. Jack, Steven, Chewy and I would exchange glances as Wayne dealt with such great difficulty, with an even greater clam acceptance. We knew we were in the presence of a gifted teacher, one demonstrating the beautiful paradox of fragility and strength, and living with a breakable invincibility. #powerofthepossible #yesiprocity #joymerchant
A rope, rack and the pack on your back are the essentials for life on the wall. @sensichew high up on Astro Dog, a formidable 5.11+ on the north-facing south rim, making it look not only easy but enjoyable and enlivening. I always say that when you're going into the mountains to attempt something difficult, objectively hazardous and of a massive scale that it's advantageous and wise to choose a partner who is stronger, younger, and of equal or greater stoke for the mission. Triple check with Chewy. This particular pitch was a mix of medium boldness runout, devious though unlock-able cruxes and steep yet not wickedly overhanging climbing. A mid level intro to the Black Canyon "thinking man's" requisites of placing gear when it presents, staying calm amidst the cross traffic of ledges and loose choss, and taking in the grandeur and epic beauty of such an improbable locale while pushing the rope up with your belly button. The @blackcanyonnps delivers and Wayne Willoughby completed the first one day ascent of the wall jugging lines and overcoming the conventionally perceived deficits of polio. He's an elective challenge master and impressed us all with his unlikely and powerful combination of fragility and tenacity. #waynesworld @ospreypacks @patagonia_climb @lasportivana @nativeeyewear @clifbarcompany @petzl_official
OMG we're shattered. Dave "Chewy" Chew, TRide denizen on the left and Wayne "wildebeest" Willoughby out of the PNW on the right. The Gunnison River, constricted and angry, provided the droning soundtrack of roaring freeway traffic for our 24-hour ascent in the @blackcanyonnps National Parks are America's #bestidea Wayne at 63 years young dug incredibly deep for this vertical adventure. And Chewy and #familyplantz @mplantz crushed it. And huge thanks out to Steven Van Sickle for rappelling in 1,000 feet and working and telling jokes with us until 1am. These places united with these people for the purpose of overcoming adversity, immersing in wilderness and wildness and simply having a birds eye view of this whole improbable planet, is the best approximation for the answer to "Why are we here?" Utterly wasted, awake for thirty hours, the blackness interrupted via a slim beam of light on the wall above, I finally ascended to the canyon rim to feel deep relief and profound connection to humans being. See you all at @mountainfilm this weekend. @amandasalzman
To awake bright in mind and early in hour is the way of the of the first ascent. When recently in Namibia climbing at Spitzkoppe @garrett__jwg I would rise at four am into a darkness that suggested a chill made more of stillness than temperature. Soon enough the desert would being it's preheat. The sun appears over inselberg formations with a dusting of cirrocumulus topping the rasta spiked crown of a Quiver tree (aloe dichotoma.) It seems that whenever I wake at unusual times I am involved in unusual circumstances with unusual people. Tomorrow, May 25th at 2am, we rappel over the edge of the south rim of the Black Canyon National Park in southwestern Colorado. After descending 2,000 feet of striated granite to the edge of bewildering whitewater sieving through chaotic jumbles of mammoth boulders, we rerack, restack, rewire and fire to the top. Dave Chewy and I will join the perpetually stoked Wayne Willoughby, who contracted airborne paralytic polio as an infant, while passing through TN on a road trip with his parents over 60 years ago. Wayne guides his withered, delicate body up some of the world's most fierce big walls, with 18 ascents of El Cap and many more in Zion and Squamish. He is the embodiment of celebrating our fragile human existence within the most cataclysmic beautiful places. We go to know. @ospreypacks @patagonia_climb @petzl_official @nativeeyewear @clifbarcompany @lasportivana
Finally home in Colorado. First flatiron solo, travel bookend. All ages wilderness, plenty of parties. Springing towards summer. Aspens and lodgepoles well greened. #getoutside #informationisnavigation #whosatthehelm #americagreening #seasonsgreening
I'm enthralled with event horizon landscapes, locations that seem to possess their own gravitational force which suggest the properly timed opportunity to flap virgin wings, to communicate in new language. To be immersed in nature's programming, within the high definition of actually being there, is to become a pixel, a part of the whole. Saturated within the mountains of serrated granite teeth that gnash the sky as the earth exhales grey broken heaps of stratocumuli. Indiscriminately pushed across wind swept planes that witness the rise and fall of motionless creatures amongst fractured rock. Ragged thorny Acacia trees that seem eager to open your skin to water the desert, to crucify soles of sandaled feet. These are the global dimensions of width embraced by the capacity of my peripheral vision and of heights obtained only limited by my curiosity. These are the fountain landscapes, sought by 'conquisting' dreamers and adventurers questing immortality. They are the lands that although they may not rewind your age, they do rewire your mind. In their presence I am 'reminded' of child joy, amazement and the fierce desire of exploration. If the journey is the question than my footfall is the answer. I go to know. An average day in the outskirts of Spitzkoppe Namibia. w/ @garrett__jwg @ospreypacks @patagonia_climb @lasportivana @petzl_official @clifbarcompany @nativeeyewear
I have probably climbed the First Flatiron, above Boulder CO over 600 times. I bookend my travels with an ascent on either end of each trip. It's 1,000 feet of slab climbing on impeccable sandstone that I usually do rope-less and alone. Most of the time I simply look down at my feet, not needing to position my hands, as it's all about smearing my toes onto dishes and nubbins. It's a familiar logic based in the coefficient of friction plus getting my ass out over my heels, repeated thousands of times. If you've read the wonderful John Irving classic, A Prayer for Owen Meany, than you'll be familiar with the plot twist that explodes in the denouement. Tiny Owen of the wrecked vocal cords, the lovable hapless protagonist, utilizes a certain presumably useless skill that he's developed for years, to both life saving and devastating results. On the final pitch of BEYOND, 5.10x, that @garrett__jwg and I established on Pontok Three in Spitzkoppe Namibia last week, I had an #owenmeanymoment I was padding my way between well spaced bolts, needing to preserve the battery to ensure I could drill anchors, and each foot placement had to stick, could not slip, and often could be placed only once, due to a slight pre-layer of quartz crumble. Belief was paramount, as was an ability to stay calm, focused and in control. Add in the sun, the sweat running down my face and legs and the most apocalyptic flies buzzing in my ears and you have to wonder "why?" And I will leave that answer to Owen who opined, "Logic is relative." I thought back to my feet at home on the 1st Flattie, knowing that I had a deep reserve of #slabsheriff talent and that my best friend at this moment was myself, a self that believed. That is the beauty and horror of the sharp end, pushing that rope up with your belly button, a kernmantel umbilical cord connected to your climbing partner that telegraphs support but ultimately it's your move in this high stakes chess game. I reached the safety of a large hollow, an obvious belay stance, and let out a huge celebratory war cry and then I heard the staccato of James's tension relieving laughter rising up from far below.
Reflecting on the journey ahead, up Pontok Three, after a grocery run to Usakos. @garrett__jwg and I decided to make the hour+ drive over corrugated dirt roads in search of cornflakes, Pringles and Internet. On the edge of town we gulped cold carbonated water after topping our two tanks of diesel. At the Tree House restaurant, a thick walled haven from the broiling sun, we traded laughs with the manager Valencia, a Namibian tribal woman whose sizable frame was surprisingly dwarfed by an even larger laugh emitted from a smile just shy of a full set. Her kitchen cohorts were equally playful and as exuberantly expressive in sound and shape and due to James's incessant penchant for playful questioning we even received a cultural lingual exchange in the use of tongue clicking to produce the clock like tick-tocking phonemes, akin to the enumerating singsong of a-e-i-o-u. On the way back to Spitzkoppe, I popped ibu's and iced my bruised and knotted calf injured the previous day. I slipped from a boulder on the approach with a heavy haul bag on my back and augured it into a cleaving rock. Instead of retreating I opted for the horse remount and led the first three pitches. The next day, swollen and limping, was a forced rest and a chance to geographically zoom out on the big picture to better understand the inset we would be navigating. (Pontok Three is the dome seated second from right, and our line ascends left of center.) @ospreypacks @patagonia_climb @nativeeyewear @petzl_official @lasportivana @clifbarcompany
I left camp under headlamp, uncertain of the path ahead, even though many had already been, and I even had a guide book stuffed in my back pocket. The first ascent in 1947 took multiple attempts over many months with various team members. They even resorted to chopping steps, hewn with chisel and hammer, out of the quartz-monzonite granite, which some may consider the 'murdering of the impossible.' I've always felt that the rock doesn't care, only we do and that the continuum of accepted practices matures as the edge of the possible is surpassed. Past transgressions provide the framework to avoid future sins, the basis of wisdom. After I finally reached the ledge where I traded approach tennies for sticky rubber, high performance rock shoes I still wasn't sure if I'd reach the summit. I was suddenly startled by the sound and appearance of small rocks dropping into the void from a streaked overhanging crack. As the rubble arrested it's free fall and took flight, I turned my head slightly and did the mental math realizing they were swifts taking wing in search of insects. I smiled as even more dropped like stones before sailing east on new born thermals. Not knowing until you compare what is happening to what has happened - the intellectual calculus of where you're from and where you're at, again the roots of wisdom. This is why I go in the first place, as there are no guarantees, expect sweaty scratched skin, burrs and gravel under heel and toe and the free workout of uphill scrambling through rough terrain. And of course all those other life forms you may encounter along the way. As I chalked my hands and exhaled a purposeful peaceful breath I toed into the slopers to the side of the chopped original holds, pulled onto the crystals above and pushed higher into the unknown. A summit selfie with my first non iPhone camera, thanks for the beta @andy_mann Thanks again to @ospreypacks for helping me get to Ethiopia to work with @cureblindness and @geoffreytabin @garrett__jwg and team. Tonight at midnight I head to #istanbul to spend a mini stop-over on the way back to @amandasalzman and #chosenfamily in #bouldercolorado @patagonia_climb @petzl_official
Rain drops startled me awake in the darkness of early morning and in the distance lightning flashed. On my way to solo the Normal route on Gross Spitzkoppe I startled a lone klipspringer, a tawny furred antelope, that streaked across the desert, bounding past silhouetted acacia trees and over thorny bushes. It disappeared just as suddenly as it appeared and I was alone again. Both our hearts raced from the chance encounter. As I threaded the coarse granite boulders leading up to the northeast ridge the sky was imbued with the rationed hues of the coming light, heralding the birth of a new day. To all conceivers of ideas and action and especially to the mothers of humans beings and our fellow biotic creatures, happy Mother's Day from Mother Earth. The answer to 'why are we here' may be best approximated via procreation. #iamprocreative #iamtheartistinresidence #thanksforgestationmom #bloodfamilyleadstochosenfamily @amandasalzman
Summit register from the top of Pontok Three, looking north-west from the southern hemisphere. The lid was already missing, the paper sun crisped and water warped, and the cover entry was from '83. The most recent recorded ascent was a March 2016 party who carved their names and date with a sharp rock, since there was no writing implement. As I always have pen and paper on me, especially on summits (ask @danny_gi0 and @republicofdoom ) we signed in after establishing a new seven pitch, ground up, 5.10 face climb. I led the pitches placing bolts on lead with a #HiltiFourA under the tutelage of my #firstascentsensei @garrett__jwg He seconded each #slabsherrif pitch w/ an assuring "great placements, solid lead TO." We called the line 'BYOND' due to the runouts between bolts and the back-o-beyond primordial essence of Spitzkoppe. (It's an acronym: Bachar-Yerian Of Namibia Dude - in the 10a range.) #spitzkoppe #africaascents #climbinglife @ospreypacks @patagonia_climb @clifbarcompany @petzl_official @lasportivana @nativeeyewear
First ascent master @garrett__jwg aka James Garrulous, in search of more uncharted terrain. Blue jeans and white button down may not make the man but they definitely add to the mystique. Post Ethiopia eye care camp with @cureblindness ,we travelled far south to the deserts of sparsely populated Namibia. We are establishing new lines up coarse granite formations that tower above a relatively flat lifeless plane. The Great Spizzkoppe range is named for it's resemblance to conical grass huts; these Inselbergs were formed over millions of years of erosion via wind and water. Sun baked days, that have us praying for shade, mercifully give way to star filled skies that find us fireside astonished at the beauty of this earth. @patagonia_climb @ospreypacks @petzl_official @clifbarcompany @lasportivana @nativeeyewear #travaltruism #adventurephilanthropy #planetgranite
Every person plays a part in supporting the whole. Each member of the team is joined to the one behind and the one in front and the sum of all the connections creates something greater than the tally of the parts. That something greater is renewed sight. And those parts are @cureblindness This is an impromptu portrait of the laundry ladies at Axum hospital. They washed the drapes used to cover the patients heads and chests during cataract surgery and also provided the gowns worn to cover the bodies and arms. Each day they would remove the used drapes and shuttle the cleaned ones back to be sterilized. The patient is healed by the surgeon who is assisted by the nurse, who in turn is fortified by the tech. The patient learns of the outreach from their community health care worker, who is supported by the govt and in this case NGOs. Each touch is crucial, from pre-surgical biometry to post operative care, from the doc with decades of schooling and application to every person who provides prayers and donations. #curenexus #locusofbelief #bethechange #joymerchant #yesiprocity #donatenow @geoffreytabin @garrett_jwg Thanks family @ospreypacks for the #travtruism support Happy birthday @amandasalzman from Africa
She arrived in Axum at the @cureblindness eye camp, as a monoscopic little girl, with one eye completely occluded with a massive cataract. The next day following surgery, @geoffreytabin peeled the #G157 patch (the G signifying his patient, and the number her place in his series of cataract surgeries.) She was immediately counting fingers, holding up the same configuration that Geoff displayed, from one meter, then two. As Geoff moved on to the next post-op he gently patted her head and said "Surgery looks great, she should be seeing really well." Her father beamed as she buried her face into his side. Later that day doc JWells watched her take a visual acuity exam. She sat on a rough wooden bench, her good eye blocked with her right hand, looking towards the chart tacked to a tree. As she correctly replied with a wave of her hand, indicating the direction of each E, the crowd of fellow patients and accompanying family members smiled joyously. With each descending font size and flick of her fingers their collective amazement and happiness rose, and as she hit the 20/20 mark a crescendo of ululation and clapping erupted. She traded the flatness of one-eyed life for the width, length and depth of vision and life in stereo. Restored sight bringing renewed life. #G157 is now an indicator on the @Cureblindness joy index - and it's off the charts. #bethechange #sparesomechange & #donate at the #linkinmyprofile thanks @ospreypacks @garrett__jwg
A unilaterally blind, elderly patient holding her henna stained hands in praise of the work of @cureblindness We are back into Addis Ababa, Ethiopia from Axum in the northern Tigray region after a successful and amazing cataract outreach with a US and Ethiopian team of surgeons, nurses and techs. Over four days we treated 475 patients, with 500 surgeries incl bilateral cases, ranging from 8 years old to 90 years young - restoring sight and renewing life. This cultural and medical exchange is the embodiment of joyous meaning, and exemplifies #travaltruism - my brand of #adventurephilanthropy At lunch today @geoffreytabin introduced us to tireless, medical polymath @rickhodesmd (see his work now at www.rickhodes.org) who has lived and cured in Addis Ababa for decades. He shared his stunningly powerful story and images table side. And though the shock and awe of human malady and suffering slightly suppressed my appetite, his patients needs, their treatment and his commitment to them was beyond nourishing. It was #profoundOMG We were hypnotized and edified through his stories and faith, his belief in the unknown, and via his beautiful calculus of vulnerability plus courage equalling the power of the possible. This equation propels all difficult and hazardous adventures, be it the physical journey of the mountain climber, the scientific-intellectual pursuit of the doctor, the spiritual path of the shaman or an amalgamation of the above. If it were known and easy it would simply require a TV guide to reach the destination. The works of @cureblindness and rickhodes.org are the apotheosis of goodness and care and represent the best qualities of humanity, inspiring all of us to apply ourselves to this single life, now. Donate now, get involved, be the change you want to see and feel in this world. Thanks for @ospreypacks for powering my #travaltruism
A nine yr old Tigray girl, blind in her left eye, entered the operating theater wearing a gown far too long and underfoot. Her head was shaved to create a narrow braided cruciform, a spiritually inspired cultural cut, that appeared to be an avant-garde hair style, I coined a #crucihawk Nervous and unsure of what was to occur, yet told that we could help her, she bravely laid down on a blanketed bench and received an immobilizing retro bulbar anesthetic via a needle inserted through her lower lid, under her eye. On the OR table during the preparatory stages of the cataract surgery she began to move, and we brought in her father to calm and assure her. He held her hands and whispered words of encouragement. And as @geoffreytabin made the initial surgical opening with a diamond bladed scalpel, I crouched beside the microscope softly shushing and held her head with both hands from below a sterile drape. The father lowered his face and began uttering soft prayers. They were answered, as she regained sight and renewed her life. This work and medical exchange embodies the components of joy. @cureblindness #donatenow @ the link in my bio Thanks to my friends and family at @ospreypacks for supporting my #travaltruism journey
That hat does say #cowboy. That is a goat hair fly swatter. And yes, that is septuagenarian Ethiopian gentleman from Axum, attending the @cureblindness #cataractsurgery clinic, flanked by two twenty-something Utah girls who joined us for two days of assisting with drops, lash trimming, patient placement and wonderful, joyous cultural and medical exchange. We are 230 surgeries deep and several days left to exchange #problemacknowledgement and #solutionapplication #tigraytigers #JohannaWell$ #Liss @ospreypacks @geoffreytabin
I almost always climb in the Flatirons above Boulder, CO before and after my travels. They are the bookends of leaving from and retuning to my home. I am already psyched on clambering on that sandstone again. I'm currently at a stop over in Istanbul, Turkey before another leg of the trip to Addis Ababa. And since I just experienced an all nighter I had some time to consider some phlight filosophy questions: 1st - Is it still today if you never go to sleep? 2nd - Should long flights segments be called butts instead of legs? 3rd - Is there less regret when watching bad movies in fast forward? I arrive at midnight to my penultimate destination, with the final one being my head at rest in the Harmony Hotel. Onward and upward. @cureblindness @ospreypacks @geoffreytabin
Heading east to Ethiopia, currently @ 35K ft absl - #planestocameltrains Denver•Chicago•Istanbul•Addis Ababa I am fortunate to assist with the global mission of @cureblindness & @geoffreytabin #ophthalmicalchemist Our team is headed to an area outside of the ancient city of Axum, in the northern Tigray province, the one time capital of the Axumite kingdom, from the first to sixth centuries AD. It will be an incredible cultural experience and an even more powerful medical exchange, w/ approx 500 patients receiving cataract surgery w/ many bi-lateral cases. In a nation of almost 100 million, the eye care need is immense, and Cureblindess is steadily creating and implementing systemic programs to provide treatment. #yesiprocity The partnership between @cureblindness and Ethiopian national, ophthalmic care is based on a legacy of successful results, training, infrastructure and equipment, developed over the past 10+ years and moving far into the future. #curingblindnessnow Our clinic is coming on the heels of a mid-April, massive 1,000+ surgery outreach in the Harar region with #mattolivia #ophthalmicwizzard and the Cureblindness team, partnered with Ethiopian eye surgeons and their teams of techs. Thanks to my friends and family at @ospreypacks for powering my journey. I will capture the story in pen and camera (just got a #sonyrxIII) and share after my return May 11th. Also tagging on a visit to #nambia to climb with #registeredbadass #jamesgarrett at #spitzkoppe granite domes post opening eyes = #travaltruism #adventurephilanthropy Go to link in my profile to donate. Give the gift of sight - #wow Image of #nielstietze rappelling from the summit of Moses earlier this month. The vast geological and technical aspects of climbing have opened my mind, body and soul - no doubt - and as meaningful, climbing has continually provided multiple doors leading to incredible opportunity - I just have to open them and go forward #climbingwellbeingsymbiosis