July 2022 AOTM: Ryan Barr | Climbing Mt. Denali Edition

Ryan found CrossFit St. Charles about six years ago through an old friend and has been with us ever since.

While he’s a father & husband, business owner, and regular coach at our gym he always finds a way to utilize his fitness experience and knowledge to pursue adventures and activities that push him out of his comfort zone.

CrossFit has given me the opportunity to better my skills, stay active, set goals, be competitive, and share some wonderful and amazing experiences with friends and family.

In his most recent experience, on May 19th, Ryan Barr took to the challenge of climbing Mt. Denali, a feat so incredible that we feel it was only right to showcase his story and make him our Athlete of the Month.

Today, we’re honored and excited to share Ryan’s story through our interview about how he utilized fitness to climb the highest point in North America.


What made you want to climb a mountain?

I have a bucket list a mile long and climbing a technical mountain has always been one of the items on that list. I have always been intrigued by climbing and how to be part of an expedition team to move up a mountain over a period of weeks.  To be more specific Denali was at the top of the mountain list due to its self-supportive nature of climbing (i.e. no porters or sherpas to move your gear and supplies up the mountain for you).

What was training for the climb like?

To be honest it sucked, wasn’t very enjoyable and was a lot of work.  I had to give up CrossFit for a period of 8 months, miss the CrossFit Open, and completely change my training program.  However, my training partner, Vic and I, knew what was required for us to be prepared for Denali and its method of climbing.   Denali is one of the only mountains where you utilize sleds to move your 120-150 pounds of gear and supplies up the lower sections of the glacier.  We started 8 months out from our expedition date with a 45 pound pack for 90 minutes which at the time we wondered how we would ever be ready for 120# for 6-7 hours.  Over the 8 months we worked up to 5+ hour hikes up hilly terrain with 92 pound packs and then 1-1/2 hour climbs with the pack and 60# Rogue pull sled.  We supplemented our climbing with cardio such as hour long runs on the Assault Runner with a 9K altitude mask and 3-6 hour bike rides.  I can tell you I missed the gym and was excited to get back.

What were the biggest challenges on the mountain?

I would say it was getting used to always being uncomfortable.  You are either freezing cold, sweating, burning up from the UV, exhausted, hungry, hot spots on the feet, pack rubbing wrong, sled whacking you in the back of the legs, snowshoes aren’t tight enough, crampons catching the rope, etc.  Sounds fun doesn’t it?  Seriously though, all those things are what make the experience of climbing a big mountain what it is: Unforgettable. 

Did you learn anything about yourself or learn any lessons while climbing?

Great question.  I knew I would walk away with a different perspective on life, family, climbing, and principles but had no idea where it would lead.  During the three weeks on the mountain, you have a lot of time to reflect and think about what is important and valuable to you.  I believe it solidified and grounded 3 of my 5 main core belief statements:  1)  Health and family are true blessings are important above all else 2)  Experience and travel are more precious than material items.  3) You make your own path and create your own luck in life; you really can do almost anything you put your focus and attention to in order to achieve that goal.  I also realized I don’t have the desire to be away from my family and friends for months at a time.  I love my people.

On June 1st, Ryan reached the summit of Mt. Denali. He, his friend Vic, and their team were the highest people in North America for 3 minutes.

What advice would you give, to someone wanting to achieve a long-term goal?

The most important is:  “You have to start with the end in mind.”  You need to determine what is the end goal and work your way backwards on what it would take to get there, how long it will take, what training or studies are required, and what is the required dedication, cost, and personal and professional sacrifice.  Once you have the data, commit and start.  If you truly want to achieve something you have to have a specific goal and timeline.

What is your next goal in CrossFit or otherwise?

With my focus on Denali for the past year, I hadn’t focused on setting any other fixed goals, and I have been enjoying being able to focus more time on the family.  I am getting back to a few of my hobbies that I put on the back burner such as CrossFit, rock climbing, skydiving, scuba diving, and flying.

My son Brynden (BP) has been getting into and excelling at rock climbing, and one of my bucket list goals is to climb a big wall such as Half Dome in Yosemite.  So to experience a big wall with BP could be next on the list.


To keep up to date with everything going on at CrossFit St. Charles make sure to follow us on Facebook & Instagram. You can follow Ryan and his adventures by keeping up with him on his Facebook.

Congrats to Ryan not only for being our Athlete of the Month but for his amazing feat! From the challenges of training for 8 months to reaching the Summit of Mt. Denali, your whole story is truly inspiring.

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