Scholarship Winner: Kaj Hansen
Kaj Hansen is our youngest Gear.com Scholarship recipient at age 14, but that doesn’t mean he’s short on passion. He was first introduced to rock climbing at age 6, and he’s been hooked ever since.
Today he climbs with Team Edgeworks out of Tacoma, Washington and spends a minimum of nine hours a week at the gym training for competitions as well as 15 hours a month climbing outside. His training and passion have paid off—he placed sixth at the Pacific Northwest Divisional Championship, qualifying for national championships. His current goal is to qualify for Bouldering Nationals in Bend, Oregon.
Kaj also brings his climbing passion to the classroom. For his eighth grade project, he planned and executed a stewardship event in conjunction with the Access Fund and the Edgeworks climbing community. The event raised funds and awareness for the Access Fund and Washington Climbing Coalition. He also designed a climbing wall for his school, created a budget and pitched it to the school board. The board approved the project, and Kaj is currently working with a contractor to build the wall. Passion in action!
Kaj looks forward to the opportunity to mentor younger team climbers and “help their progression in the way I have been mentored by friends and coaches.” You can follow Kaj’s adventures here at Gear.com or on Instagram at @kaj.magnus. Help fuel Kaj’s adventures by allocating your 10% Give-A-Buck proceeds to him at checkout. He’ll be one step closer to fulfilling his Gear.com wishlist and empowered to pay it forward.
Being outside makes me feel: Free. The reason I’m so passionate about rock climbing and basically any outdoor activity is because I like being outside. I spend every moment I can in the outdoors, whether it be backpacking for miles to sleep at a lake or simply walking the dog to the local dog park. Being outside gives me a sense of freedom and well-being that is really important to me.
My hero: I think my hero would be Joel Campbell. He is the climber who did most of the development in the North Cascades and is an all-around chill and cool guy. I think that I’ve really followed in his footsteps and have taken up some of the developing that he did not finish.
Can’t-live-without outdoor gear item: Being logical I think I would be dead without a crash pad under my butt.
What kinds of adventures will the gear on your wishlist make possible? I want to explore unclimbed boulders and establish new routes around the state of Washington. I already have three unique areas that I am working on with several friends and I hope to open them to the public in a few years. Developing new project areas requires some specific climbing gear. In our case, we need another crash pad, good approach shoes, a 40-meter rope and Petzel GriGri for short rappels, plus a greater assortment of brushes. The gear will accelerate the process towards this goal.
How will you pay it forward to your community? I am particularly passionate about climbing access and the environment. I plan to continue working with the Washington Climbing Coalition and the Access Fund as an ambassador for Edgework and the youth community that climbs there. In addition, I am committed to executing the climbing wall project at my former middle school and plan to set the wall and coach clinics after the wall is built.
In five years, I want to be: Living out of my van in the middle of The Cascades looking for boulders.
Bagels or Donuts: That's a tough one, but I think a plain bagel toasted with butter would be the best.
Ocean or mountains: Definitely mountains—I can't hold my breath that long and the ocean is cold.
Three things on your bucket list:
1. Take a year off and go traveling around the western US in my van with my dog
2. Go to Japan
3. Climb the Nose
Three words my friends would use to describe me:
Favorite book: Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner
Favorite movie: Men In Black II
Favorite cause: Access Fund
Outdoor misadventure story, and what did you learn from the experience? My dad and I were going to hike a mountain to find some boulders, but I had never seen this mountain before in person—only from Google Maps. We were driving down Highway 2, and I suddenly see it pop into view. It's huge, I had never climbed a mountain in my life, and Gunn Peak is the tallest peak in the Wild Sky Wilderness Area at 6,200 feet. We had no trail and no guide. I had completely underestimated the mountain and underestimated nature—it was a very humbling experience.
If I’m not at school or outside, I am: Either hanging out with my friends or doing homework. It's all I seem to do these days
Anything else? Thank you, Gear.com!