Living the Semi-Rad Life: Brendan Leonard

2014 May 19
by David Schlichter

Brendan Leonard outside the Refuge Sorellier while on a climbing trip to the Aiguille Dibona in France.

How great would it be to make your living by going on adventures and writing about them?  Denver-based Brendan Leonard is doing it.

I say “Denver-based” in spite of the fact that Brendan has been living on the road out of his van for the last three years–rock climbing, blogging, and self-publishing a book called The New American Road Trip Mixtape from some of the most beautiful parts of the country and the world.  Whether it’s a function of his success as a writer, fatigue from living for three years out of a van, or maybe just his girlfriend wanting him to take a few more showers, Brendan decided it was time to get an apartment again in Denver.  But just because he turned in the keys to his van for the keys to an apartment doesn’t mean that he is going to go back to the corporate 9-5.  If anything, he has become more focused and more determined to continue living his “semi-rad” lifestyle.

Brendan is the everyman’s outdoor adventure writer.  Here’s how he describes himself:

I have not been featured in a climbing video, or a ski film, and I will likely never win a bike or foot race.  I have a creaky knee, a stiff hip, and two fragile shoulders.  But I LOVE the mountains, and being outside.  I’m probably a lot like you.  I like rock climbing, but start to flail when it gets vertical.  I like bicycles, but not racing against other people on them.  I like running and trail running, but I probably like ice cream more.  I mostly avoid avalanches by not being a good enough skier to get on slopes steep enough to slide.  But I sure like to get out there.

Brendan may not be the world’s best rock climber, but he’s certainly not bad either.  I grabbed coffee with him two weeks ago as he was contemplating one of his next adventures: climbing all of the 5.9 rated sport climbs in Clear Creek Canyon…in a day.  5.9 is not a beginner’s climbing difficulty level; it takes years to get skilled enough to climb comfortably at that rating, and it can take anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour and a half for a climber and his/her partner to do just one pitch of climbing–and that’s after hiking to it.  Brendan was contemplating getting to and successfully climbing 31 pitches dispersed throughout an entire canyon in 24 hours.  Just because.

Brendan writes a blog called Semi-Rad.  Every Thursday he posts an article–on topics ranging from living life to the fullest, to a sobering account of a life-threatening accident, to amusing stories about the trials and tribulations of dating climbers, to a poignant tribute to his mother.  His writing is fantastic: well-crafted, entertaining, captivating, amusing, inspiring–and most notably–relatable.  And people are beginning to notice: he’s now got a regular column in Climbing Magazine, and he has been featured in Backpacker, the Denver Post, Adventure Journal and more.

If you’re into reading stories from the outdoors, I strongly recommend adding a visit to to your calendar every Thursday, and you might also consider buying a copy of The New American Road Trip Mixtape while you’re at it.

The Good Life Denver is written by David Schlichter. To stay in the loop, like The Good Life Denver on Facebook and follow @thegoodlifeden on Twitter!

In addition to writing for The Good Life Denver, David works full-time as a Denver real estate agent with Keller Williams Realty Downtown, LLC. David helps his clients (ranging from first-time home buyers, to sellers, to seasoned investors) achieve their real estate goals. Contact David today for all of your Denver real estate needs. Direct: 7/440-2340, Office: 3/539-5700

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