Becoming a Mentor

Kevin Lindlau Apr 25th 2024

In my mind, a mentor is someone with deep knowledge of their area, someone who always has “the answer” to every question. They are someone with wisdom, truth and years of experience. They know the how and the why to all the intricacies of their practice.


In my mind, a mentor is someone with deep knowledge of their area, someone who always has “the answer” to every question. They are someone with wisdom, truth and years of experience. They know the how and the why to all the intricacies of their practice.

How then could I become something that sounds so much like a mythical creature? The answer is not so mystifying after all. When we are taught from a great mentor, it only becomes natural for us to one day continue this cycle and create the full circle of mentor/mentee relationship. I never sought out to become a mentor. I simply had a drive to soak up all the knowledge I could of my sport. Here is my story on how I unknowingly, yet so naturally, stumbled into the role.

My story begins with a great mentor. I would not be where I am today without the help and mentorship of Marcus Garcia. Years ago, in Durango Colorado, Marcus took me under his wing and put his own pursuits aside to help me realize my own potential. He dedicated his time towards the goals I had in the sport of ice and mixed climbing.

Cascade Canyon Durango, Me on Marcus's new route

City Rock Comp Marcus, me and Georgia

With Marcus as my guide, I was able to reach many personal achievements along my own journey as a climber. I became a member of the USA Ice Climbing team and began to compete on the UIAA World Cup Circuit. With Marcus as my coach, I held the title of North American lead and speed Champion at various times and became the first American to make finals in a World Cup in the lead discipline.

2022 North American Championships

To this day, I still turn to Marcus for advice. Most recently, I shifted my attention to difficult outdoor drytooling. As the vision of returning to Italy to work on an unfinished project began to form, the first thing I did was call Marcus. He was there with encouragement and the willingness to help me make, yet another, training plan to go after my goals. This past winter, I became the first American, and second in the world, to climb the grade D16 on the route “Aletheia” in the Italian Dolomites. Through Marcus’s patience and guidance, the sport of dry tooling now has a new hardest confirmed grade. This really shows the ripple effect of what one person’s dedication to the sport can do for an entire community.

I have always admired his desire to share the wisdom he has gained with others. As I find myself moving into the role of mentor, I hope to follow in his footsteps to continue to pass down all the knowledge and experiences he has shared with me over the years. I want to be a positive steward for our sport and the next generation of crushers.

This leads me to my first step of unknowingly following Marcus’s own path to becoming a mentor. In 2018, after returning with lots of newfound experience from the World Cup Circuit, I joined Marcus and the Youth USA Ice Climbing Team as an assistant coach at the World Championships in France. It was amazing to help coach the next generation of climbers with what I had learned from my experiences over the years. That trip the kids found a lot of success and I realized that I really enjoyed being a part of it. What I didn’t realize at the time was that I was paving the path to complete the circle of mentorship.

The Youth USA Ice Climbing Team at the Youth World Championships in France

    Since this first taste of mentorship, I have had the opportunity to travel to ice festivals around the US to teach ice and mixed climbing courses. My interest in teaching and sharing my own knowledge continued to grow the more I did it. Being able to take on a role as a mentor to the participants I was teaching made me realize that this was what I wanted to do with my life. Similar to Marcus, I want to share my love of this sport with others in any way I can. It has become a running joke that anytime someone asks me a question while I am at the gym training I easily get derailed into a whole lesson.

In the summer of 2018, I moved to Bozeman, MT still focused on competition climbing. I built a small dry tooling cave at a local gym in Bozeman called the Mountain Project where I found myself taking on the role that Marcus had taken on with me years ago, teaching community members about the sport I love!

This is how I met Wilson Whitley, one of the athletes I have been so proud to mentor. Wilson approached me and mentioned he was interested in learning how to mix climb. Of course, I took him up on the opportunity to have someone to share my knowledge with. His stoke after our first few sessions was contagious, and it made me all the more eager to teach and share my experiences with him. We continued to train together. This was the beginning of our mentor/mentee relationship that has now grown into an amazing friendship.

Wilson’s dedication and motivation to continue to pursue drytooling at an upper level led him to earn a spot on the USA Youth Ice Climbing team. The following winter, Wilson and I traveled together to the Youth World Championships held in Oulu, Finland where he got his first taste of upper level climbing competitions. I could see the excitement and desire in Wilson that reminded me much of how I felt after my first international competition. We left Finland with a plan to continue his training and go back the following season to show what he was capable of doing!

We returned to the Youth World Championships this past winter held in Champagny-en-Vanoise, France where Wilson showcased everything he had learned since his last World Championships! It was a truly special experience for me as his mentor and coach to see the maturity and composure he showed throughout the competition. This led him to a third place finish in the speed ice climbing discipline, and a fourth place in lead at only his second World Championships ever!

Along with his outstanding competition achievements this past season, Wilson also had huge success in the outdoor climbing scene in Hyalite Canyon. We spent portions of this fall and winter working together on several routes located in the Bingo Cave in Hyalite Canyon. Wilson was able to put all of his skills that we have worked on to the test, and complete the third ascent of one of my routes called “Groggy on the Bering Strait” D13+, as well as the Second ascent of my newest route called “Bellissimo” M14-! He is now the youngest American to climb this grade. Having the opportunity to be a mentor for Wilson has been such a privilege and I am beyond grateful for the friendship that we have formed.

The opportunity I have to be a mentor to Wilson has been so special to me and has helped me to learn so much about myself and my own relationship with the sport. Being a mentor is not only a one way path of knowledge, but a relationship that is formed and can grow into some of the most meaningful, lasting friendships someone could have.

I still find it funny to think of myself as being a mentor. It's hard to see yourself as that “mythical mentor” through your own eyes. Even now, as I find myself in the role of a mentor, I still rely on my own mentor to guide me on life’s path. He's someone I can always count on to answer my questions and help me become my best self.

A mentor is someone you can rely on for life. Even though you may find yourself one day too taking on this role, it is okay to need your own guidance every now and again. There are no templates for what makes a good mentor. For me, it was having something to share and the driving passion to teach it to others. A mentor is someone who is willing to share their knowledge with the world, and expect nothing in return . Someone whose goal is to help grow the community while putting their own goals and dreams aside, in order to help others realize their own potential.

A mentor is that mythical figure, but we must also understand that everyone is human, and we all have something to offer and learn from each other. I could not be more grateful or excited to find myself in this beautiful position of both mentor and mentee. It allows me to share my passion and knowledge with the world, while continuing to learn and grow from the teachings of my own mentor along the way. Thank you Marcus for all of the positive ripples you have created in the world!