Barreling Along

Skyler Weekes is best known for his record-breaking rock climbing feats, but his risky business venture might turn out to be what makes his name.
March 2014

The most memorable thing about Skyler Weekes isn’t his six-foot-five-inch frame, his lanky arms, or the way his shoulders curve into his chest—all assets for this rock climber who’s logged more hours scrambling for handholds than he’ll probably ever spend in a suit. No, the most memorable thing about the 29-year-old is his hands. Weekes’ fingers, tipped by impossibly short fingernails, are so long it’s as if they’ve been stretched, their knuckles bulging like they’re straining to keep his joints intact.

He’s made two careers with those hands: First, he was a professional “dyno” climber. Short for “dynamic,” the sport’s athletes lunge, sans ropes or safety net, from one handhold to the next. (Weekes holds a Guinness World Record for a leap that spanned 9.3 feet.) His second gig is as the owner of the Rocky Mountain Barrel Company (RMBC), one of a dozen or so businesses in the United States that deal in used liquor barrels. Weekes’ barrel company is, well, rolling. Thanks to Colorado’s burgeoning craft beer industry and its insatiable thirst for barrel-aged brews, in 2013 RMBC grew nearly 500 percent from 2012. 

Compared to his old pursuit, Weekes’ new one repurposing and “upcycling” wooden vessels for resale seems safe. Or it did until one October morning in 2011. Weekes was at his warehouse in northwest Denver using a chop saw to build a wooden wine rack when the saw hit a nail. The wood jerked his left hand into the blade, cutting through a joint and amputating all of one finger and most of another one. The torque was so intense it exploded the joint.

Weekes must have gone into shock, because at first he thought he could drive himself to the hospital. But by the time he got to his truck, he’d lost too much blood. He called 911, tied his hand to the truck with an old T-shirt to keep it elevated, and passed out. When the paramedics found him, he asked to be taken to the Presbyterian/St. Luke’s emergency room; he remembered the hospital had breakfast burritos he liked. After the surgeon reattached his fingers, everyone assumed Weekes’ climbing days were over. Everyone, that is, except Weekes.