#WHYoming: Rhett Burroughs

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Welcome to our series, #WHYoming, brought to you in partnership by Kaumo Law.

We are highlighting people from around our communities and asking them a few questions. We want to learn a little about them and see why they chose this great state to raise their families, start their businesses, or simply to ask — Why Wyoming?

This week, I had a chance to sit down with Rhett Burroughs, System Administrator – Information Technology at Western Wyoming Community College.

When Rhett isn’t working at a computer, he’s spending all his spare time outside, walking on a rope, or flying (falling) through the air…


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Rhett, how did you end up in Rock Springs?

I came from South Georgia with dreams of climbing and flying as a kid. The moth to the flame mentality. I started climbing when I got insurance and learned the ropes in the mountains of N. GA and N. Carolina. I got certified to skydive in Tallahassee, FL around age 28. Fast forward ten plus years and one divorce later. I managed to make a bad decision and do a BASE jump I was not prepared for and shattered my heels and broke a few other things. I laid in a hospital bed for 5 plus months.

Six more months later I was walking again. I decided if I could walk again I could live again so I started applying for jobs out west. I knew I wanted to live in this region since I was a kid but things just did not ever pan out. Well this time I made it pan out and got a job here at the community college. The job and people I work with have provided me so much. I have been able to accomplish every dream I have ever had. I can not think the institution enough.

I have climbed over ten big balls, learned to BASE jump again, fly wingsuits off cliffs, and become a better climber than I ever was before I was hurt. I have a lot of friends in SLC and around the world. They have mentored me and made me who I am. I can never repay them for what they have done and am truly grateful for every breath I take and every sunrise I get.

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What is something unique about you?

I am the only person in the world who has climbed El Capitan with my injury. View Rhett’s blog about the injury and a video showing the moment of the accident here. (Watch with caution)

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What do you appreciate most about our community?

The fact that the college is here. It is a community in itself and the people I work with are top notch.
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If you could give one brief piece of advice, what would it be?


Focus on your dreams. Be stubborn and hard headed. Set goals and you never know how far you can go. They said I would never run again, but never said I couldn’t fly. Never settle.

~ Rhett Burroughs


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Where is your favorite place to hang out in Sweetwater County?

Rock climbing around after work in Green River to train for big mountain objectives.
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Would you rather walk, ride a bike, take a horse or drive a car (or your truck)?

Bikes!

It’s the simplest form of transportation for one besides walking. I have been riding bikes for close to two decades and I still love it. Nothing like ripping down a good trail after a few hours of pedaling with your friends. It never gets old.

One rule, friends don’t let friends ride junk.
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What would you sing at karaoke night?

Senses Fail – Rum is for Drinking
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How would your friends describe you?

Passionate.
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Life is finite and everything is tentative. I treat life like Bugs Bunny once said, “Don’t take life to seriously, no one gets out alive.”

~Rhett Burroughs

 

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What is your proudest accomplishment?

Wingsuit BASE Jumping.

It is a culmination of all the disciplines of the sky sports. I am a climber first and a jumper second. Flying does not compare to anything I have done in my life. You have to learn to crawl before you walk and this is a great representation.
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First, you have to learn to skydive and skydive well. Learning to fly and land a parachute is critical. Once you get a few hundred skydives you can start learning to fly a wing suit. Then after that you have to learn to track and then BASE jump. A few hundred BASE jumps later with constant skydive practice if you want you can make the progression to Wingsuit BASE jumping.
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Rhett’s virgin Wingsuit jump four years ago.

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There are approximately 4000 active BASE jumpers and around 1500 WS BASE jumpers in the entire world. We are a very tight community and things do happen. I have lost friends and every hit is hard. I do not know how long I will do this but I will know when I am done. I will just wipe my hands clean and walk away. That is the plan anyways.

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It is one of the most beautiful feelings in the world to actually fly. No words can describe it. It is worth the risk but only with proper training. We are not some crazy people who jump off cliffs for fun. We are generally adults with real jobs and retirement plans. We have spent countless hours practicing and oh the money. The money to get to this level is pretty heavy.
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If you want something bad enough you will sacrifice for it. I might not have a boat, big house, three four-wheelers, or a huge truck. But what I do have is experience, life experience, a innate ability to deal with fear, and I feel I am following my childhood dream. It has made me who I am and no one can take that away from me.

~ Rhett Burroughs
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Who would you want to play you in a movie about your life?

I would say Travis Pastrana, Anthony Keidis (RHCP), or Dean Potter (RIP), who was an American free climber, alpinist, BASE jumper, BASEliner, and highliner. I have been told I look a lot like those guys. I don’t see it but others do.
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Celebrityb look alike Travis Pastrana
Rhett Burroughs

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Why do you continue to live in Wyoming?

Access to the best places to enjoy nature.

It is a great strategic location but not the only one in the west to some of the best spots. We are 3 hours from Jackson, 6 from Devils tower, 13 to Yosemite, 2.5 to SLC. I just have to say that within a few hours you are in one of the best places in the world. A few more hours and your in other places.
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I am not sure if I will retire here, but if I ever leave then I will forever remember the opportunities that this region has provided.

~ Rhett Burroughs
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If you’d like us to interview yourself or someone you know for #WHYoming, please send us suggestions to Lillian@sweetwaternow.com