PROVO (AP) — For all intents and purposes, Devin Stratton shouldn't be alive.
On a cold day this January, while skiing in the Mount Timpanogos backcountry north of Provo, Stratton accidentally went off a roughly 100-foot cliff. His chances of walking away from a fall like that without an injury were slim.
But he did. He walked away, unscathed.
But Stratton and friend Matt Reeves aren't much for statistics. Both men have been invited to compete in the "American Ninja Warrior" competition, which pits competitors against one of the hardest obstacle courses known to man.
On May 22, Reeves and Stratton will make their way to the preliminary rounds, or qualifiers, in Denver. If they can make their way through the course in the allotted time, they'll be invited to the championship rounds in Las Vegas later this year.
"I applied (to be in the competition) awhile back, and didn't even get a look," Stratton said. "But this year I'm headed out. It's pretty exciting."
Reeves, who was with Stratton on the day he took the 100-foot fall, doesn't seem to carry the weight of nervousness about him either. During training sessions, he mostly smiles and laughs.
"The wall run is what gets most people," Reeves says as he lifts his arms in the air, demonstrating a technique for an obstacle used in the show. "You gotta run hard, with short approach, and get those arms up there."
Both men are training for the event, but they've mostly been doing what they usually do in their spare time: climb, hike and the occasional workout.
"Climbers have a big advantage when it comes to '(American) Ninja Warrior,'" said Aaron White, a friend of Stratton and Reeves. "You see a lot of endurance people and strong people, but you'd be amazed at the finger strength it takes to do some of these obstacles."
White, who knows others who have tried out for "American Ninja Warrior," has his own obstacle course of sorts set up in his backyard. The setup consists of differently shaped holds, much like rock climbing holds, suspended by rope, and other swinging obstacles that one needs to hold on to, with their legs suspended, as they swing through the course. After that, the person then grabs hold of the salmon ladder.
A salmon ladder is much like a normal pullup bar, except when one is through with a single pullup, they bring the bar, in the air, to another rung that is above the previous rung.
It's obstacles such as these that pepper the "American Ninja Warrior" course, which changes every year and is largely kept a mystery until competitors are on the course.
"So we don't know what the course is going to look like," Reeves said. "We just have to train for everything, sort of."
"American Ninja Warrior" stemmed from the wildly popular Japanese show "Ninja Warrior," or "Sasuke" as it is known in Japan. Both shows are notorious for being nearly impossible to win, with four stages of obstacles that the majority of contestants fail to complete.
In the U.S. show's eight seasons, few have even made it past stage three of four, let alone completed all four stages. To put that into perspective on how rare it is for someone to win the competition, there wasn't a crowned winner of the show until season seven, after thousands of competitors had entered and failed.
Despite the odds stacked against them, failure was not something discussed by the duo while they trained. Instead, Reeves and Stratton were more focused on the individual obstacles themselves, where they were going to camp in Colorado during the qualifiers, and planning their next climbing trip.
"I'm just going to have fun," Stratton said.