As an aspiring climber, 13-year-old Pat Ament dreamed of scaling some of the most technical rock faces in the world. At a precocious 14, the 90-pound kid began teaching adults, some twice his age, rock climbing and safety techniques. Then in 1967, 20-year-old Ament conquered a well-known 5.11 free climb — a difficult, short pitch on El Capitan in Yosemite National Park.
And just last Saturday, Sept. 28, the now 67-year-old Fruita resident was honored for all his notable athletic achievements with an induction into the Boulder Sports Hall of Fame, for athletes who have excelled at individual sports like cycling, marathons, triathlons and more.
“It was really a pretty incredible event because it was attended by so many phenomenal athletes,” Ament said of the ceremony at the Avalon Ballroom in Boulder. “Often climbing has been thought of as something on the periphery. To be put among those people was a real change in consciousness, for people to realize that climbing is every bit the athletic endeavor that traditional sports are.”
In its third year, the Boulder Sports Hall of Fame is the pet project of a Colorado nonprofit — One World Running — to honor a variety of high-caliber athletes with ties to Boulder’s tight-knit sports community. The induction ceremony was also used as an occasion to fundraise for Front Range flood victims.
One World Running founder and journalist Mike Sandrock also noted that Ament was chosen to be inducted by a committee of his peers “for his significant climbs and contributions to society through his writing, art and music.”
“We’re proud of him down here in Boulder,” Sandrock added.
And though Ament climbs less now, it’s a sport he’ll be passionate about and connected to for the rest of his life.
“When I was a kid, every free waking moment I could get, I wanted to go climbing,” Ament said of his youth living in Boulder. “You never ever really quit climbing, and that’s a fact. It becomes so much part of your DNA — live it, breathe it, think it. There’s so much of climbing that gets inside of you; you never get away from it.”
“I had the mentality of wanting to climb with technique as much as strength,” Ament continued.
According to retired University of Colorado English professor and poet Reg Saner (who introduced Ament at the Boulder Sports Hall of Fame induction ceremony), “ ... as a climber Pat has been there and done that — all over the place, whether it’s pioneering 5.11 climbing in Eldorado Canyon with Royal Robbins, or scaling the Red Rock spires of Utah, ascending the Big Walls of Yosemite, or grappling with the sea cliffs of England, and on and on.”
Saner also stressed that as a writer, Ament is able to “see the humor of his various dilemmas. He’s not afraid to laugh at himself and what he writes, which I think is a very important quality.”
It was fitting that Saner introduced Ament at the induction ceremony because, after dropping out of college in the 1960s to climb rocks and write books, Ament returned to the University of Colorado to finish his degree as an adult 20 years later.
“They let me study individually with all the best writers,” Ament said. “It was a great experience; they really put me through the test and made me work hard.”
Besides being an accomplished rock climber, Ament is a highly published author with 38 books “and a couple hundred magazine articles” written over the years. He’s also a piano enthusiast and songwriter, a poet and a karate instructor in Fruita.
“For Pat, climbing is an art, and he takes that idea to everything he does,” Sandrock said. “He’s a real renaissance man.”
Ament is also father to two girls, who he likes to take climbing from time to time.
“We moved to Fruita about 15 years ago,” Ament said. “When I got married, we were looking for a smaller, family-oriented place to raise our kids.”
Plus, his grandparents met and married in Fruita once upon a time, after independently moving to the Grand Valley from Russia.
“I have a spiritual connection here,” he said.