Climber Story : Arno Ilgner

October 25, 2021 3 min read

Climber Story : Arno Ilgner | Dynamite Starfish

To start, tell us a little bit about yourself

My name is Arno Ilgner, I'm 66, and founder of The Warrior's Way® mental training method. I've been climbing a long time and seen the sport of climbing change a lot. When I started in 1973, there was only trad climbing and the ethic was ""the leader doesn't fall."" With the ""invention"" of sport climbing, we were able to engage climbing more as performance. This meant incorporating falling into what we did. Now, performance is a big part of what it means to climb.

I feel my biggest contribution to this evolution of climbing is mental training. We address not only ways to incorporate falling, but also to address mental issues comprehensively. Commitment, motivation, self worth, and so much more are integral to performance. They're also integral to living meaningful lives.

Recently I'm been excited to build a team to help bring our training to the wider world. I think now, more than ever before, our world needs mental training. Our team is working with climbers, but also the general public. Viewing mental training as an important part of our training (whether climber or not) grounds our lives in ways to deal with the inevitable struggles, but also to find meaning and purpose. We want our lives to matter and The Warrior's Way® is one tool to help us do that.

How did you start climbing?

I was disillusioned at age 18, lost, and not knowing which direction to take my life. Then a fellow introduced me to climbing. This was in middle Tennessee, not exactly a center of climbing in the early 1970s. So, I was really fortunate. We went out to a small limestone bluff near Manchester along the Duck River. I instantly loved it and have been doing it regularly ever since. I love this sport.

What impact has climbing had on your life?

Climbing has given my life a continuous thread that has held it together. Initially it has helps me survive personal struggles in relationships. Later, it's given me a career that has helped me thrive in life. I feel more joy and engagement now, each and every day, as I navigate my challenges. 

What are some other things you do that you find most fulfilling?

I read a lot; a minimum of 2 hours daily. I love researching the human condition, which to me means mostly the mental and spiritual realms. Beyond that, I love being outside, working with my hands and body. My father still owns the farm on which I grew up. I enjoy going there and working on and with the land. It's quiet and I can really listen inwardly as I do the outward work.

You can find Arno on Instagram at @rockwarriorsway.
His program can be found at

Want to get to know more of the climbers in the amazing Dynamite Starfish community? Check out our archive of Climber Stories here.

We hope you have enjoyed these sneak peeks into climbers' lives. We're on a mission to share diverse stories about rock climbing. Let's push the boundaries of who we know as climbers. Let's use our energy and passion for the outdoors to love our environment and inspire one another.

Have someone you think we should feature? Send us a message and let us know!

Until next time!

Dynamite Starfish
Dynamite Starfish

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