Picture of MAXIM athlete Justin Salas


The blind ascensionist

Justin Salas lost his vision at age 14, 7 years later Justin would be introduced to climbing and it changed his life forever. “I was unsure of what direction life would take me after I lost my sight” says Justin. “ I had a preconceived idea of what I wanted out of life, all of that came crashing down, and I felt lost. Climbing gave me back something that I had been missing. Passion, direction, and goals to work toward again.” Justin’s style is that of the Iron sloth, strong as nails, also slow and controlled. It takes a lot of strength and focus to climb at a high level, now add in the lack of eyesight and one must be truly exceptional in order to preform at that kind of level. 

“My vision presents as reverse tunnel vision. Simply put, I have almost no central vision. But, I have functional peripheral vision so I can identify where I am in space and get around fairly well but I cannot identify things when I look at them directly. So, I might be able to identify where a hold could be based on contrast and light, but when I turn my attention to that area it vanishes. Every time I grab a hand hold or place my foot it is pure exploration. I never know what the hold is going to be like until my hands are on it."

Birthday: March 17, 1993
Home town: Tulsa, Oklahoma
Current home: Las Vegas, Nevada
Favorite MAXIM rope: Airliner

“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”

Frank Herbert, Dune

"Maxim ropes was the first rope company I was ever introduced to. So for years Maxim was the definition of climbing ropes for me. It’s so wild to think that I am apart of the company that lit my stoke when I was first getting into climbing, I am so thankful for that". 

"The Airliner is one of the best feeling ropes I’ve ever climbed on, It’s ultralight at 9.1mm and feels better in the hands then any other rope I have used. Always feels secure when I’m in weird and exposed positions. It’s one less thing I have to think about when I’m searching for the next hold. As a blind individual tactile feedback is important to me. And the Airliner has the perfect blend of sturdiness and silky smooth glide through your draws or belay device." 

Justin Salas

Get to know Justin ...

Tell us how and when you got into climbing?
February 2015. A friend I grew up with watched me go through the dramatic life change of losing my sight. He started climbing around the same time. He invited to me to try climbing with him, saying “you don’t need to be able to see to climb. Joking I told him, of all the things, climbing seems like something you need your sight for. But, he was persistent and knew how impactful the lifestyle could have on me. I decided to go with him one day. And that day changed my life forever. 

What do you think was the highlight of your climbing career (so far)?
Perhaps one of the most important things to me was winning the Paraclimbing world championships. Beyond this I feel extremely grateful to have been able to be apart of the wall and training space design at one of the largest climbing gyms in the country, Oso Climbing gyms in Dallas Texas.

What are you doing when you are not climbing? 
I have been playing a lot of chess lately, as well as Kendama. These games have been helpful with memory, proprioception, and tactics useful for everyday life.

What is the soundtrack of your life (favorite song)?
Right now, my go to for the good vibes has been “Plain Clothes”, by Mick Jenkins.

What stokes you the most?
Pushing myself to be better everyday. Whether that’s on the rock, in the gym, or in daily life. Each day is a chance to be better than we were yesterday.  

If you could choose a super power, what would it be?
Well, I’m already DareDevil. So I guess if I could trade powers for the day it would be with nightcrawler. That way if I were free soloing, I could just teleport to the ground if I fell. 

What was your favorite climbing adventure?
In 2018 me and my best friend/climbing partner traveled to Europe for a little over a month to compete in the world championships and traveled through Austria and France exploring some of the best climbing these areas had to offer. It was such a special trip because it was our first time to Europe, it was a spectacular trip with new and exciting places to explore and new people to meet. But it wouldn’t have been an adventure without so many things going wrong. I still have vivid flash backs to sprinting through train stations, airports, and getting stuck on the on the wrong train. Imagine two dudes running through the airport, one of them behind the other with a blind cane trying to keep up. What a hilarious sight that must have been. Matt and I were able to secure first place that year, and we were the only Americans to claim a gold. It was such an honor to make the USA proud!

What would you be doing if you weren’t a pro climber? 
I would still be climbing. But, I would be way more broke then I already am.

Find out more about Justin here:
Instagram: @vengasalas

Career Highlights

Crab Louse

Country/City: Horseshow Canyon Ranch
Grade: 5.12b
Length: 45 ft

This was my first ever 5.12 outside, it really set the tone for what sport climbing was going to be like for me as a blind climber. The challenge is real but the reward lasting.


Country/City: Indian Creek, Utah
Grade: V7
Length: 25 ft

Airwolf has always been on of those mystical blocs that seems too good to be true. A giant wolf’s head sticking up out of the ground rising up 25 feet into the air. A perfect squeeze pillar that was and still is one of my all time favorite assents I’ve done. 

Worm Turns

Country/City: Joe's Valley, Utah
Grade: V11
Lenght: 15 ft

My ascent of Worm turns became the first time in history a paraclimber had achieved the grade of V11/8A, but this was more than just a grade for me. At the time I had only climbed up to V9 and was looking for a worthy challenge to set my focus on. This boulder suited my style to a T and honestly didn’t take me long to take it down. At the time I had only been climbing for 3 years, and was surprised by my performance on something I thought might be out of my reach. I remember standing on top of the boulder and freaking out because I didn’t think it should have even been possible, but somehow I proved to myself that I am capable of way more then I ever thought possible.

© Justin Salas

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