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Strength through sobriety: SCV man sets rock climbing record 

Brian Witmer lays on the ground after breaking the record for flights of rock walls climbed in an hour, doing so at Top Out Climbing last month. Courtesy photo.
Brian Witmer lays on the ground after breaking the record for flights of rock walls climbed in an hour, doing so at Top Out Climbing last month. Courtesy photo.
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It was a dark moment in Brian Witmer’s life. 

Originally from Colorado, Witmer and his girlfriend moved to Southern California nearly two years ago. Shortly after, his girlfriend kicked him out of their residence and told him to get sober, providing no ultimatum. 

Brian Witmer attempts to break the record for most rock wall flights climbed in one hour at Top Out Climbing last month. Courtesy photo.
Brian Witmer attempts to break the record for most rock wall flights climbed in one hour at Top Out Climbing last month. Courtesy photo.

“It wasn’t like, you know, ‘Get help and we’ll see what happens,’” Witmer said in a phone interview. “It was, ‘I wish you the best. I hope you get the help that you need and deserve. But at the same time, if you don’t want to and you want to keep doing what you’re doing and essentially burning every relationship to the ground, either way, you’re not my problem anymore.’” 

Witmer has now been sober for 21 months after moving to Santa Clarita. During that time, he became an avid rock climber at Top Out Climbing, where he was last month to break the world record for greatest vertical distance climbed in one hour. 

At the end of the hour, Witmer had climbed 3,648 feet, or the equivalent of 144 laps up and down the rock wall, 12 more than he thought he would need to break the record. 

“My emotions, feelings, the build-up, the anticipation, everything — it was just very overwhelming and I just lost it,” Witmer said. 

The previous record was held by Alexander Pruss, who climbed 3,325 feet, 8 inches on Dec. 3, 2022, in Waco, Texas. 

There were two reasons that Witmer wanted to go for this record. One was that he wanted to bring attention to Dry Rock, a sober community group that he recently started. 

A rock climber for more than 15 years since he was a pharmacy student in college, Witmer said climbing was one of the ways that he was able to get sober. 

“Rock climbing was freely given to me by a guy I met in pharmacy school,” Witmer said. “He took me under his wing. He taught me everything he knew. And that’s the beauty of having something is being able to give it away.” 

The other reason Witmer had for chasing the record is another record that he was looking at breaking, one that was also set at Top Out. 

In 2016, Tim Klein set the world record for the fastest climbing of Mt. Everest using the equivalent distance of a rock wall, a total of 29,029 feet. Klein broke the record by four hours, finishing in nine hours, 26 minutes. 

In the end, Witmer decided to go for the goal that would be more attainable, though he thinks if he tried to break Klein’s record in his honor, and not just to do it, he may decide to go for it. 

Brian Witmer holds up a Dry Rock sweatshirt at Top Out Climbing last month. Courtesy photo.
Brian Witmer holds up a Dry Rock sweatshirt at Top Out Climbing last month. Courtesy photo.
Brian Witmer was promoting his sober community group, Dry Rock, while attempting to break the record for flights of rock wall climbed in one hour at Top Out Climbing last month. Courtesy photo.
Brian Witmer was promoting his sober community group, Dry Rock, while attempting to break the record for flights of rock wall climbed in one hour at Top Out Climbing last month. Courtesy photo.

The two climbers never got to meet, as Klein died in June 2018 while attempting to climb El Capitan at Yosemite National Park. 

“I want to do it to commemorate and to honor him and use it as inspiration,” Witmer said. “He did it for one of his students because he was a teacher, and it’s just the most profound thing and it’s amazing what people can do to help other people.” 

That is now Witmer’s goal in life, helping people to overcome addiction and teaching them about one of his passions in the process. 

“The challenge for me for this last event and this last record, I didn’t care if I got the record, but it’s more to show what you can do in sobriety,” Witmer said. “Sobriety doesn’t have to be horrible. And in my sobriety, if I can climb the most vertical feet in an hour, absolutely. Those are things that can be done. You don’t have to just be miserable sitting at home. And then using it as a launch event to start a nonprofit to get people who are either new in recovery or in long-term recovery and are just looking to try something new, a new outlet and release … It’s all about building the community and the fellowship.” 

Brian Witmer wanted to use his challenge of breaking the record for flights of rock wall climbed in one hour to promote his sober community group, Dry Rock. Courtesy photo.
Brian Witmer wanted to use his challenge of breaking the record for flights of rock wall climbed in one hour to promote his sober community group, Dry Rock. Courtesy photo.

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