Apr 282004
Authors: Joshua Pilkington

Presentations of climbing expeditions often appear more like

grandma and grandpa’s slide show of their RV adventure through

Wyoming; that is, unless the show is Timmy O’Neill’s traveling

production, “Outside University.”

Tuesday night CSU students and guests from the Front Range got

the opportunity to see what a show based on climbing experiences

should be: fun, entertaining and full of surprises.

“For me climbing is an individualistic sport,” O’Neill said

prior to the show. “I do it for myself, so I find it difficult to

talk about climbing and not exclude people. And when you talk about

yourself, it’s boring and you lose the audience. My show is all

about inviting the audience in.”

O’Neill achieved that in his production, held in the Lory

Student Center North Ballroom, through clips of his climbing

adventures and urban climbing films, slides of his expeditions in

Greenland and Yosemite National Park and dozens of prizes that

allowed attendees to show off their own urban climbing abilities.

Oh yeah, he also integrated comedy … in a big way.

“I use comedy as a way to get on the same level as everyone

else,” O’Neill said. “It’s easy when you talk about things everyone

can relate to, like waiting.”

O’Neill elaborated on waiting in his show in a hysterical

comparison to waiting in line and waiting for the weather to

cooperate for a climb. He also integrated emotional aspects into

the show, especially in the case of Warren McDonald.

As a double-leg amputee above the knee, McDonald did not seem

the perfect candidate to scale anything, let alone a massive

structure like Yosemite National Park’s El Capitan, but he and

O’Neill achieved the climb.

“We met at a mountain film festival,” O’Neill said of his first

encounter with McDonald. “He was there for a film he had done (‘The

Second Step’) and he approached me with the concept of climbing El


O’Neill added that he used the story of McDonald to further

emphasize the purpose of “Outside University,” which is to motivate

people to get outside.

“People see him and wonder, ‘How does he do that?’ He’s a

double-leg amputee and climbed El Capitan,” O’Neill said. “We want

people to see that and get motivated to use the resources that

surround them.”

On the cusp of the Rocky Mountains, Fort Collins is the perfect

area for those unassociated with the outdoors to get to know them

and for those already active with the outdoors to further their

activity in them.

“The reason Outside Magazine is doing this is we want people to

know that there are a lot of things to do outside,” said Hilary

Maitland of Red Point Creative, the show’s sponsoring magazine.

“The point of the tour is to instill students with wonderment and

enthusiasm to go rock climbing, kayaking, hiking … just take

advantage of the natural resources here and integrate it to an

active lifestyle.”

Those motivating tactics worked, at least temporarily.

“It left me wanting to hit the trails now,” said Jen Anderson, a

26-year-old resident of Berthoud. “It was funny and informative, I

had a great time.”

Those who missed the chance to see O’Neill on campus, have

another shot as the tour concludes May 19 at the University of


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