October 4, 2016
Alyse is a woman with a story; she has gone from being paralyzed to crushing climbs that were out of reach before her accident. There is a certain finality when we hear the word paralyzed, but Alyse never let that stop her from doing everything in her power to reach a full recovery- she is an inspiration to anyone who has gone through any type of physical setback. When I first heard about Alyse I was, in all honesty, in complete awe. With any feel-good piece, there is always a part of me that wonders if the story became longer in the retelling. After interviewing Alyse it was obvious that the hype doesn’t even come close to what she has overcome; her story is one of understated resolve in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles.
How were you able to overcome your injuries with such determination that you are now climbing harder than ever?
I was able to overcome my injuries and climb harder than before because I tried. Really, really hard. You only get one life, and I wasn’t about to let this injury stop me from doing what I love most. It just wasn’t going to happen. It was never a question of whether or not I would recover; it was how soon I could do it. I’ve always been pretty stubborn and hard on myself, which in this case were the perfect qualities for my recovery process. I also drew a lot of inspiration from my mom. When my mom was in her early twenties, she and a friend were lost at sea in the Indian Ocean for twenty three days. They survived off a few peanuts a day, toothpaste, and morning dew. The National Guard gave up on the search and rescue effort after three days, stating that they were almost certainly dead. It’s an incredible story of perseverance, determination, and survival. My mom’s strength during her ordeal at sea motivated me to keep going and to maintain the warrior spirit that she passed down to me.
Tell us about some of the biggest obstacles that you battled during your recovery period.
Although I was in constant pain and was paralyzed from the waist down, most of my biggest obstacles were internal. I had horrific nightmares of falling every night, and eventually became a full time insomniac. I countered this by getting really into my art. I drew into the morning hours, oblivious to everything but the minute details of my drawing. Another obstacle was loneliness and boredom. My mom, who I was staying with during my recovery, had just gotten remarried and moved to a new city. She and her new husband, Rafe, did everything they could to make me feel at home, but I didn’t know anyone and couldn’t go anywhere on my own. It was easy to feel lonely and bored and to lapse into an unmotivated depression. This was one reason I spent almost all my time doing my physical therapy exercises. The exercises distracted me, and I had nothing better to do. So although my solitude seemed bad at the time, it probably played a key role in my quick recovery.
What first got you into climbing?
I was raised in an extremely outdoorsy family. Both my parents mountain bike, ski, windsurf, hike, backpack, and started climbing when I did. They hauled me up half dome at seven months old, and we were always camping and hiking. My thing was trees. I loved to be in them. When we got to our campsite, the first thing I would always do was find the best climbing tree and clamber up it. My mom used to say, “if you can’t find Alyse, look up”. Eventually this got old and they brought me to a climbing gym so that I would at least be attached to a rope. I was hooked, and the coach at the gym asked if I wanted to join their climbing team. I was a gym rat and competed Nationally for eight years, only climbing outside occasionally, as the nearest crag was four hours away. When I came to Flagstaff, where the nearest crag was ten minutes away, I mainly climbed outside and learned a lot. Both my parents still climb; last year my dad and I did Cathedral peak, a seven hundred foot route in Tuolumne, and my mom and I climbed Snake Dike on half dome for her fiftieth birthday, and she’s eyeing the Northwest face for her sixtieth.
Do you have a favorite crag?
Currently my favorite crag is Sedona, AZ. It’s less a crag and more like a giant, gorgeous playground full of unique multipitches, towering spires, and desert beauty. Sedona is where I first learned to trad climb and have had many exciting outings. The best thing about Sedona is that it’s impossible to not have an adventure. Whether you get lost on the approach, climb the wrong route, or get to moon a few tour helicopters, it’s never a dull day in Sedona!
What’s in store for your next big climbing adventure?
For my next big climbing adventure, my boyfriend Tim (@summitsender on Instagram) and I will be traveling the country in our camper van, hitting all the best crags and climbs along the way. We’ll be everywhere from Yosemite to the Red River Gorge. We’re both very excited to dirtbag it for three months and see new places and meet new people! While on the road, I’ll be climbing and writing about our adventures for Five Ten.
Name some of your favorite outdoor hobbies, aside from climbing.
I absolutely love to explore new places. I’ve always had a very adventurous spirit, and I’ll do pretty much anything to see around the next bend in the river. When I was little my mom used to say, “if you’re not muddy or bloody, then you’re not having fun”. This has become my mantra (which my mom isn’t always super happy about). If I can’t climb, you can find me hiking, backpacking, or attempting to not die trail running. I used to mountain bike a lot, but a shattered pelvis will do a pretty good job of making you dislike bike seats. I also ski, but only when someone offers to pay for my lift ticket. Also, I don’t do this outside much, but I draw and paint a lot, usually pictures of mountains and things so that sort of counts as an outdoor hobby. Maybe not.
Is there a climb that holds a special place in your heart?
One climb that will always be special to me is No Joke, a 5.13b sport route at The Pit in Flagstaff, AZ. This amazing route is full of awesome movement and a really unique crux. It is special to me because the day of my accident, I was looking it over and hoping to get on it. It ended up being way out of my league at the time. After my accident, I vowed that sending No Joke would be the capstone of my recovery. It took me a few months of projecting, but three years after my accident I sent. I was almost in tears as I lowered off the chains, finally feeling that my recovery process was complete. You can read about No Joke: Recovery Complete on my blog at seelyseeclimb.wordpress.com. Another route that means a lot to me is Starlord, Tim and my new multipitch trad route that we developed and made the first ascent of in Sedona. This is an incredible route with each pitch more stunning than the last. The crux is a six foot perfectly horizontal roof with a splitter tight hand crack leading to a steep splitter perfect hand crack on the face. We’re very excited about this route and it took many long days and very hard work to make it a reality.
My name is Alyse Dietel, I’m a 23 year old rock climber and artist from San Jose, CA. I have been climbing for about fifteen years now and was introduced to trad climbing about a year ago. Since then, I have been doing mostly trad multipitch routes, which has brought me to many beautiful, amazing places. About four years ago I was hiking and fell off a cliff, breaking my spine, pelvis, and other bones and paralyzing me from the waist down. I was told I might never walk again and didn’t accept that for a second. It was a lot of work, but now I’m climbing stronger than ever and recently signed a contract with Five Ten. Soon my boyfriend and I will be traveling around the country in our camper van, stopping at all the best crags. If you see us, say hey!