Feb. 2, 2016

Christopher Gibson is doing his part to cure nature deficit disorder.  

The 48-year-old owner of the North Texas Outdoor Pursuit Center in Carrollton said he was inspired by the 2005 book The Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv, which laments that people today are spending too much time indoors.

Now he’s earning a living showing others the ropes about backpacking, hiking, rock climbing and scouting. 

The center, located in the historic grain silos of old Downtown Carrollton, has been a climbing gym since 1993. It was renovated by the original owners who were looking for a unique place to house a climbing gym in the area said Gibson.

Today, inside the renovated space is one of the tallest climbs in the country, as well as a map room, lounge area, classroom and strength and conditioning equipment.

The venue changed hands three times before Gibson opened the current incarnation in July 2011, drawing on his years of experience exploring nature.

Unlike the nature-starved youth talked about by Louv, Gibson grew up hiking in the woods, exploring streams and following animal tracks at his childhood home in Maryland. As an adult, he took a five-day backpacking trip to the Ouachita National Forest in Arkansas in 2006 that changed his life. That’s when he decided that he would start a company that specialized in guided outdoor backpacking and hiking trips “as a way to give youth and adults access to the back country and teach others how to organize and execute their own trips.” 

Gibson came to Dallas after graduating from University of Texas at El Paso when his wife enrolled in graduate school at UTD.

“I got involved in climbing when my first outdoor guide that I hired suggested that we should be providing rock climbing trips as well as backpacking trips.”

While the North Texas Outdoor Pursuit Center focuses on providing instruction on backpacking, hiking and rock climbing, Gibson said many other skills are taught along the way.

“Through that, we also teach outdoor skills such as land navigation, map reading, fire making, camp cooking  and other courses related to that.”

Gibson specializes in Big Wall Climbing, which he describes as “basically spending days on the big walls in places like Yosemite’s El Capitan when you sleep on the side of the mountain.”

As a single pitch instructor, he is certified but the American Mountain Guide Association.

“Outdoor climbing is an unregulated sport right now and the AMGA is the governing body that sets the standards for those that want to guide and instruct others. This is how people who want to hire a guide know the instructor has been through advanced training.”

Gibson said he’s an environmentalist in that he believes wild places should be conserved and protected for future generations. Gibson said he also incorporates the “leave no trace” principles into his courses.

As for the upcycled silos where his business is now housed, it was synchroncity.

“I didn’t really choose the silos, they chose me,” he said. “When I actually saw inside, I knew that this place had to be resurrected and was in desperate need of someone to breathe life into it and since I liked old things I decided it had to be me.” 

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