Interview with Cesar Melendez, Panama’s First Rock Climber

📢 We declared a 🚨 CLIMATE AND ECOLOGICAL EMERGENCY. ⏳ LEARN WHY HERE...

SYSTEM ERROR!!!

🙃 Get up to a 60% DISCOUNT OFF ONLINE PRIVATE LESSONS or up to a 40% OFF ONLINE GROUP LESSONS when you submit your payment by "UNKNOWN DATE, SYSTEM ERROR".

CLAIM HERE!

Or find out more about ONLINE SPANISH LESSONS HERE...

JUMP TO blog post titled:
"Interview with Cesar Melendez, Panama’s First Rock Climber".

Search our blog about all things Panama! From must dos, where to party or eat, to which beaches and hiking trails you shouldn't miss, in our blog you'll find great insider info about Bocas del Toro, Panama City and Boquete, as well as Panamanian culture, customs and traditions, and certainly tips and advice for learning Spanish! We've been writing about all things Panama for over 15 years and nothing beats local knowledge from the locals themselves.


SYSTEM ERROR!!!

🙃 Get up to a 60% DISCOUNT OFF ONLINE PRIVATE LESSONS or up to a 40% OFF ONLINE GROUP LESSONS when you submit your payment by "UNKNOWN DATE, SYSTEM ERROR".

CLAIM HERE!

Or find out more about ONLINE SPANISH LESSONS HERE...

🦠 Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic we're currently only offering ✅ Online Spanish Lessons and ✅ Spanish classes in a TRAVELING CLASSROOM instead of at the school, delivering a teacher directly to you in a COVID safe way wherever you are, be it your hotel, home, park, on tour, at the beach or in any other place where social distancing is comfortably and safely possible. CONTACT US TODAY!

🌎 FOR THE LOVE OF OUR BLUE PLANET AND ALL LIVING THINGS:
🙏 PLEASE 🛑 DON'T ✈ FLY TO LEARN SPANISH... LEARN SPANISH ONLINE!


🚨 On October 7th 2020 we declared a CLIMATE AND ECOLOGICAL EMERGENCY because we're facing an 😱 existential threat as Planet Earth is on track for a 🌡4°C increase in average global temperatures by the end of this century, which means 💀 BILLIONS OF HUMANS DYING along the way if we don't CHANGE COURSE NOW!

🌱 LEARN WHY HERE...

🤔 So instead of 🛫 flying to learn Spanish 🛬 — it's not really essential travel, specially in the midst of the ongoing 😷 COVID-19 PANDEMIC — pumping even more C02 into the atmosphere that will end up crashing our common home, impacting countries in the tropics first, 🎧 LEARN SPANISH ONLINE 💻 from the comfort, convenience and safety of your office or home!

📍 If you do find yourself in the vicinity of any of our locations — 🌄 Boquete, ⛱ Bocas del Toro and 🌇 Panama City — we'd love to have your as our student. CONTACT US AND MAKE IT HAPPEN...
Travel to us in eco-friendly ways and get automatic access to a 👯 50% DISCOUNT!!!

🚦 Now... do you want to do something about the Climate and Ecological Crisis?
GO HERE FOR INSPIRATION...

🙏 And finally one last plea to help us ensure a just transition for our staff and Spanish teachers: please don't fly to learn Spanish because you can do it online without destroying our future as there's no Planet B regardless of what Elon Musk wants you to believe; besides dreaming of Mars, he also wants you to buy electrical cars as if that's the solution to this Planetary Crisis... spoiler alert: it's not!

💚 SIGN UP AND REGISTER FOR ONLINE SPANISH LESSONS!

Interview with Cesar Melendez, Panama’s First Rock Climber

Posted by |


César Augusto Meléndez Castillo is one of the sweetest, most humble and genuine persons you will ever meet. His passion for rock climbing motivated him to leave a computer programming career to follow his dreams. Now, over ten years later, he is Panama’s first professional rock climber and his calm demeanor is a direct result of the lifestyle choice that he made 10 years ago.

As a child, César loved to climb trees and structures and explore his hometown of Boquete with his father. However, since rock climbing was unknown in Panama, César didn’t know how to develop his interest at the time. Like many Panamanian teens, César moved to Panama City to go to university and found a job in the city after he graduated.


This mini documentary video chronicles the life of the first Panamanian professional rock climber, Cesar Augusto Melendez Castillo.

He always felt a desire to do something more and climb mountains. Luckily after a few years of working in Panama City, he had the opportunity to move back to Boquete for a job-related assignment, and the timing couldn't have been more fortunate for him and for the sport of rock climbing in Panama.

While in Boquete, he chanced upon meeting Gary Henning, a professional Canadian rock climber, who was working on bolting routes in a rock formation that actually César first discovered with his dad back when he was a kid. Gary wanted someone to help him with this project, so César made the decision to leave his computer career and chase his rock climbing dream.

Gary Burton Henning, Rock Climbing Pioneer of Panama
Gary Burton Henning, Rock Climbing Pioneer of Panama

After a few years of perfecting his techniques and building many routes in Boquete, César opened his own business, Panama Rock Climbing, in 2005 to help promote the sport in Panama and especially in Boquete, where the best rock climbing in Panama is located.

I had some time recently to catch up with him to find out more about his past, present and future. Here is our interview.

What was the decision like to stop working a “normal” job and start climbing full-time?

It was difficult to make the decision at the beginning, but I also felt it was the right thing to do. Otherwise the opportunity to chase my dreams would have probably been lost.

Of course, living from climbing and doing it on a full time schedule was my ultimate goal, but I needed to figure out few things before getting to that point. Many people have abandoned their dreams in exchange for promising careers, but it is not very common to find people abandoning a career in exchange for a dream. It is obviously a great risk involved with a decision like that and I knew it very well.

I understood I would have to carry the consequences for my decisions if things worked or not so I needed a plan. Without any reference or guidance I made one, put my heart into it and then never looked back.

With time, all my fears and doubts faded under the satisfaction of doing what I truly loved. I was making less money in comparison to software development at first but also, for the first time in my life I was feeling alive, happy and attached to a real purpose for my existence. I wish I could have had the courage to start much earlier, but life is too short to regret and too beautiful to not continue risking for it.

Taking risks in life has certainly paid off for Cesar. Cesar climbing in The Black Forest, Germany.
Taking risks in life has certainly paid off for Cesar. Cesar climbing in The Black Forest, Germany.

Where have you traveled in the world for rock climbing?

I love every single location I have climbed in the last decade. From deep water soloing over the beautiful turquoise waters of Mallorca Island on the Mediterranean, or the difficult sport climbing of the mountains of France, Italy or United States, to ice climbing on frozen waterfalls of the Swiss Alps, stunning rock walls on deserts of Mexico, or bouldering on the streets of Germany... every location has been amazing.

I have had the opportunity to visit more than 10 countries for climbing and every place has its own magic, its own challenges making it always a great and unique experience.

I definitely feel very fortunate to follow my dream and also very privileged to be able to do it on an international scale.

Cesar water soloing in Mallorca, Spain.
Cesar water soloing in Mallorca, Spain.

Who are your Rock Climbing Role Models?

I feel inspired by the work of Patrick Berhault, Patrick Edlinger, Alain Robert, Dean Potter, Alexander Huber, Adam Ondra, Chris Sharma, Lynn Hill, Peter Croft, and of course my mentor Gary Henning.

Are most people who come to climb with you in Boquete beginners or experienced?

Most people who visit Boquete to climb on guided tours are inexperienced climbers, beginners or intermediate climbers.

Experienced climbers also visit Boquete occasionally and they always get very surprised about the level of the climbing routes. Visitors spread the word about the potential of Panama in relation to climbing and share their experiences on their websites or blogs. Sport routes such ‘Stairway to Heaven 5.12a’, ‘Icarus 5.13a’, ‘La Septima cruzada 5.13a/b’ or ‘Inertia’ V7 deep water solo, are just a few examples of Panama’s elite level of climbing, which is competitive with some of the most popular destinations of climbing in the world.

Boquete certainly does not offer a huge number of routes (approximately 59 sport routes and 50 deep water solo routes right now), but the quality of our routes is excellent. All routes are very well equipped and together with my local climbing colleagues we have put lot of effort cleaning and developing to ensure the creation of only excellent routes. Due to that, the reputation of climbing in Panama is growing fast internationally and I personally can see it when traveling to other countries.

We continue to share the passion for the sport with different climbers regardless of their level and we also enjoy helping people to try the sport for the first time. Often I receive emails from clients who felt inspired by their experience in Panama and decided to continue practicing the sport at their home countries after returning. Some of their words are truly encouraging and positive!

For me and my team, it is always a great happiness when people from different parts of the world come here to visit and discover rock climbing as a new passion. However, there is still a lot more that can be done.

Christian Schieffer worked with Gary and Cesar bolting the first rock climbing routes in Boquete, Panama
Christian Schieffer worked with Gary and Cesar bolting the first rock climbing routes in Boquete, Panama

Since you are a professional climber, how do you separate personal life from work? Do you get to go out and still enjoy it on your own or do you feel a lot of pressure to keep pushing professionally?

It is all about organization and it is not easy sometimes. I always dedicate the time required for my sport without forgetting that I also have a personal life too. Balance is the key.

When I first got the opportunity to climb in a professional level, I was much younger. My whole life changed drastically and suddenly I was traveling a lot for climbing, presenting conferences, participating in competitions, opening new routes on mountains never climbed, attending television interviews and shows, photo sessions, etc. I was also responsible for the Panama Rock Climbing Club and tours in my hometown. Mixing everything together can be catastrophic.

There was a lot of pressure and soon I realized I was moving into a new lifestyle in which time to do normal things, such going out to drink a beer with friends or watching a movie at cinema, was not there anymore.

Obviously that brought complications to my personal life and though my parents and friends have always been very supportive about my passion, they also encourage me to balance my professional life and personal life in a better way.

In the present, all those experiences have allowed me to grow more as a climber and individual. I continue to push hard professionally and keep growing in this vertical world I love so much. Pressure will always exist at the professional level so I have adapted myself to it and learned how to deal with it better. It is important to keep a clear direction of dreams and always enjoy it no matter the circumstances.

If you are able to handle the pressure at a professional and personal level, you end up becoming a better person, specially when you fail and are able to pick yourself up and try again. This photo is from a special place of my childhood, known as the Jaguata watarfalls, and nowadays I bring customers here to slackline over the water.
If you are able to handle the pressure at a professional and personal level, you end up becoming a better person, specially when you fail and are able to pick yourself up and try again. This photo is from a special place of my childhood, known as the Jaguata watarfalls, and nowadays I bring customers here to slackline over the water.

What’s your favorite part of climbing?

Sincerely I enjoy every aspect of climbing and also rope walking because all of it is exciting and beautiful.

There are moments when I feel like walking my rope at 3475 meters over the summit of Baru Volcano or just walking on it at 1 meter in a park. I also enjoy teaching climbing very much and developing new routes is always a great adventure.

I have tried sport climbing, ice climbing, traditional climbing, and bouldering and never get bored. In the last few years, I have developed a lot of interest for deep water solo since I find this form of climbing very pure. So I spend a lot of time doing it now.

This last year, thanks to one of my sponsors, Keeper Energy Drink, I had the opportunity to ice climb in Switzerland. This photo is from Engstligenalp at 1964m in Adelboden.
This last year, thanks to one of my sponsors, Keeper Energy Drink, I had the opportunity to ice climb in Switzerland. This photo is from Engstligenalp at 1964m in Adelboden.

Have you ever been seriously injured from a rock climbing fall?

I have had some minor injuries while climbing, but nothing serious. Also I have had some super long falls and I remember being very scared at certain situations, but that´s all part of it and helps me grow as a climber.

How do you mentally prepare for rock climbing?

Climbing is a sport that can be very frustrating so it requires a good level of motivation and concentration.

I listen to my mind, body and to the mountain. Once I find the right connection, I get completely immersed in my world. It is like being in a “Zen” state.

Rock climbing is, in my opinion, one of the greatest, most incredible sports in the world because it will test every ounce of courage, determination and concentration. Mental strength is fundamental. I practice meditation, yoga, and usually make a pre-visualization of the route I am going to attempt to climb.

Safety is always paramount when preparing for any climb. Although I free solo many of the routes in Panama, safety comes from skill, training and confidence.
Safety is always paramount when preparing for any climb. Although I free solo many of the routes in Panama, safety comes from skill, training and confidence. Photo by Christian Schriefer.

Do you get nervous? How do you deal with that?

Sometimes it is easy to get nervous and forget the beauty of the journey. I try to take it not too seriously and enjoy the moment fully.

Getting nervous is part of the whole experience when climbing and represents an opportunity to confront your fears. I believe that by confronting a fear, it is possible to extend my human experience in life.

But it is important to feel safe first, so before climbing or walking my rope I make sure I cover all aspects of safety. Behind every project there is a whole world of thinking; I am very analytical about every detail.

Once the safety part is covered, then I can fully go out there and focus on the mental game.

What are your future plans?

Continuing to live a life on the edge of my dreams and continue to explore all new possibilities that my sponsors are bringing to my career. There are many places to visit, many projects and great ideas that I would love to be a part of.

I also plan to continue developing the sport as I have been trying to do for the last decade, sharing my knowledge and talent with actual and next generations so the sport can continue in the future.

It has been ten years for me in this beautiful journey already but it truly feels like it is just the beginning.

It's always important to have exciting plans for the future, but to also remain open to whatever life throws at you. Here I am at the top of a mountain in Shuteye, Sierras - California, USA.
It's always important to have exciting plans for the future, but to also remain open to whatever life throws at you. Here I am at the top of a mountain in Shuteye, Sierras - California, USA.

What about coming to Boquete to learn Spanish and rock climb?

For sure! There are loads of routes and lots of different levels, that will keep you busy whether you're new to the sport or already have some experience. I've been working closely with Habla Ya and its students for many years (since 2005) through their Rock Climbing and Spanish Learning Program.

Thank you so much, César, for taking the time to answer my questions! We wish you the very best and all the success in the world! You can visit Cesar's official rock climbing site here...

LEARN MORE ABOUT ROCK CLIMBING IN BOQUETE, PANAMA... »

Comments






BE THE FIRST to get updates about Contests, News and Discounts!



Search our blog if you're visiting Panama! From must do's, where to party or eat, to which beaches and hiking trails you shouldn't miss, you'll find great insider info about Bocas del Toro, Panama City and Boquete, as well as Panamanian culture, customs and traditions, and certainly tips and advice for learning Spanish while in our country! We've been writing about all things Panama for over 10 years and nothing beats local knowledge from the locals themselves.


You can follow any responses to this entry through the. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


About You
 
 
 
 
Your comment
 
 
Please put a check mark before hitting submit to confirm you're a human (and wait for green tick to appear).