Radical Recreation: Higher the climb, greater the scenery

Jackson Ursin training at the local indoor rock gym. Photo credit: Cade Bennett

When elementary education major Jackson Ursin started college, he also picked up rock climbing. Over the years, Ursin has participated in a wide variety of hobbies, but the ones that will stick around is photography and rock climbing, going hand in hand through his many adventures.

His interest in photography began in high school for fun with his friends or when he went on trips with family. It wasn’t until his sophomore year of high school that he was inspired to become a “hobby photographer.”

“I shot different things for a while but what really inspires me is landscapes, especially here in Alaska,” Ursin said. “Having your own perspective is what keeps me inspired with photography, it’s the idea that a landscape can be seen differently depending on the person and timing.”

Many of Ursin’s friends would say that his dedication to his shots and the value he places on each photo differ from that of many other photographers.

“Many photographers will charge people for portrait sessions. Jack doesn’t do that because he recognizes the value of a good portfolio over a short-term buyout,” said Jamison Rust, Ursin’s friend and roommate. “He and I have driven all over Alaska for landscape shots, portraits and whatever style of photography he feels he should be focusing on at the time.”

Ursin has spent most of his climbing career training indoors preparing to climb outdoors. This was his first summer rock climbing outdoors at places such as Turnagain Arm, Hatcher Pass and Anchor Point. After climbing this summer, Ursin has several goals he would like to fulfill next summer.

“My plan is to train [at the rock gym] for the winter to prepare for some big climbs this summer,” Ursin said. “I plan on climbing outside here in Alaska, but I want to make trips to Smith Rock in Oregon, Moab in Utah and Yosemite in California to get some epic climbs under my belt.”

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Ursin became hooked on rock climbing because of the challenge, but his favorite aspect that keeps him going is the community.

Ursin taking a break from rock climbing to capture his friend in action. Photo credit: Jackson Ursin.

“I have met so many cool people climbing and have made lasting friendships through the climbing community, Ursin said. “Without the community, a lot of the drive to push myself wouldn’t be there. A lot of climbers are really open, encouraging and equally psyched.”


Ursin’s go-to for climbing outside is his friend Tyler Bernier. Ursin and Bernier met at the local rock climbing gym, and as the weather got better they moved to the outdoors to continue their friendship and climbing.

“His abilities have definitely improved a lot, his footwork is more precise and you can tell he thinks about how he fits on the wall a lot more than he did before,” Bernier said. “His climbing is more powerful, fluid and aesthetic which creates an interesting style.”

Not only has Ursin’s climbing ability improved, but also his photography has seemed to take on another style during adventures.

“He’s always had a good eye for photography, there is no questioning the quality of his shots but I do think the type of photos have changed recently, Bernier said. “I feel like he’s kind of taken this approach of ‘let’s be in the moment,’ which I think is awesome. He’s spending less time worrying about getting the perfect shot and more about enjoying the adventure that’s unfolding.”

One of Jackson Ursin’s adventures took him to Yosemite National Park. One of Ursin’s goals is to climb El Capitan in the park. Photo credit: Jackson Ursin.

Although Ursin’s love for rock climbing is recent, he has made goals for the future that inspires him to make climbing a lifelong activity.

“I plan on making it a lifetime hobby for sure, my biggest goal is to climb Half Dome and El Capitan in Yosemite. I need to get on some bigger walls before doing this and definitely train for it,” Ursin said. “This goal is definitely many years out, but it does keep me going.”

The main goal behind Ursin’s career is to make a difference in the world.

“I struggled to find what I really wanted to do for my major for a while. I knew I wanted to make a difference in this world in any way I could,” Ursin said. “Being a teacher was the most obvious to me. Education is so important in today’s society, and will definitely make all the difference in the future.”

Ursin plans on moving at the beginning of his career to either Seattle or Bellingham to teach the third or fourth grade. He favored the idea of moving to Bellingham because of the rock climbing and scenery in the area.

“Persistence is key to both [activities]; if you want to take good photos, you have to use your camera every day. If you want to climb hard, you have to train hard. Work hard to better yourself,” Ursin said.