Although Jared Lenahan grew up playing a wide gamut of team sports like basketball, baseball, soccer, he made a switch in high school. “I I delved more into the counter culture sports like skateboarding, snowboarding, skateboarding, and skiing,” he said.
Lenahan has always been an active person. After high school, he decided to join the U.S. Navy. “I wanted to get out of my small town, to travel and see the world at a young age, and I wasn’t ready for college right away. The military was a good stepping stone until I was ready.”
His grandfather also served our country. “He used to take me to his barbershop, where he and some other vets would tell me some of their stories. I bet that played a small role in that as well”
His main job in the Navy was as a field/combat medic for the Marines, but every duty station he also always had his camera with him, so he often took on some public affairs roles in addition to his primary role. Lenahan’s interest in photography began when he was 12 or 13 years old. “My uncle noticed that I would always use my mom’s tiny point and shoot camera, so he convinced her to get me my own.” Lenahan would shoot a lot of concert photography and skateboarding.
Photography is an important form of self-expression. “It allows me to show the world exactly how I am looking at something. There are a lot of things we can’t control, but this is something I can control. It allows me to be me.” Taking photographs is still an important part of Lenahan’s life. “It is part of my regiment. It is something I do almost every day because it makes me happy.”
While on active duty, he volunteered for deployment and was part of a Provincial Reconstruction Team, a multi-national joint task force to Afghanistan. “I felt like it was my duty and I wanted to leave the military with at least one deployment.
Luckily, the climbing crew was near a road and someone was able to flag down a driver, who called EMS. He was put on a helicopter and sent to a trauma hospital in Sicilia. He spent five days there before being sent to a hospital in Germany where he spent another two weeks. “I don’t remember any of that.”
He would end up at Walter Reed in Bethesda and spent 4 ½ years recovering from that fall. That is how Lenahan was introduced to adaptive sports. “We’re just looking to get back to a physical spot that we used to know,” he said of his physical and occupational therapy there. That is also where he connected with Move United’s Warfighters program.
The first 2 ½ years of his recovery was spent time in an electric wheelchair. “I had to fight my way out of that thing multiple times.” He would have to wear five different external fixators on his leg, almost losing his leg each time he had a new one put on. Near the end of 2017, he got the last fixator off. In January 2018, Lenahan learned of Earth Trek Rockville’s first-ever adaptive bouldering competition. “This is something I can do. I will go and compete and see what happens.”
What happened? Well, he ended up taking first place and was encouraged to train for the National Adaptive Championships that were coming up less than six months later. “I love climbing, and I’m just finding out about this adaptive thing, so I’ll give it a try,” he thought. So he started training for it.
Lenahan went to out Ohio with a friend and both competed in the same category. He would take third place and his friend took second. As a result, both would make the USA Climbing Team. “We thought we’d just go compete and have a good time. We didn’t expect to make the national team. Things got nuts from there.”
In September 2018, he would have the opportunity to compete at the International Federation of Sport Climbing (IFSC) Para Climbing World Championship in Austria. “It was surreal to be representing for the United States. I’d like to thank Move United for giving me a grant to support that particular event.” He would finish in 8th place. “Coming from where I was to where I got to was amazing.”
2019 saw a repeat of the year before. Both would go back out to Ohio for the adaptive national championships and both placed third and second respectively. Both would make the national team again. That year’s IFSC Para Climbing World Championship took place in France. Right now, Lenahan is ranked as the 7th best adaptive climber in world in his category.
Although competitions have been put on hold due to the pandemic, Lenahan has been able to figure out ways to climb the whole time. “I built a contraption on the outside of my garage to climb. The climbing gym has fortunately been open as well.” Climbing outside is also one of those activities you can do and still remain socially distant and adhere to CDC or other guidelines.
“If you have never been climbing before, go!” Lenahan said. “Climbing ticks off so many boxes for me. You have the physical aspect, but you also have a huge mental aspect. When you’re climbing, you are getting over some of your fears. But you also have to do some problem solving with your body, because if you make a wrong move you won’t get up the climb. You have to think about where your hands are going or which foot is going where and focus on where your center of gravity is.”
Climbing also provides you with a unique experience every time. “When you go to a different gym, chances are you won’t climb the same route twice. You could potentially never get bored. You will always find something different.” Venturing outside, it’s a whole different world. “You do some hiking, get to enjoy the scenery, and get connected to nature.”
Lenahan is currently working to open up a climbing gym. This will be the world’s first tailored to the disabled community. It will be for adaptive athletes, wounded warriors, but open to everyone.” He recently participated in a fellowship program through Dog Tag Bakery, which helped give him the tools he needed to open up his business. “Sports have been a huge part of my life. As I get older, I find myself more involved in the sports world.” You can follow or connect with him on Instagram at @shutterslaps.