Come join me and my guide, Jeff Ulrich, at Sugarloaf Mountain in Maine a week from today at the New England Blind and Visually Impaired Ski Festival. We will be giving a clinic on the best method for guiding blind skiers and it’s open to anyone. I will also be giving a talk Sunday night on developing a No Barriers mindset.
Jeff and I have perfected a system that is far superior to the traditional technique of guiding from behind. Instead, Jeff leads and uses his voice to not only direct me but also give guidance on the shape of my turns. This allows me to ski more naturally and athletically instead of zigzagging down the slope. You can learn more about this pioneering system at Blind Skiers Edge.
The cost for the 4-day festival is between $365 and $535, which includes lift tickets and lodging. Sugarloaf is the second highest mountain in Maine and has over 400 acres and 80 trails open so there is something for everyone.
If you are in San Diego, Austin, Washington DC, Seattle, or Houston, then you have an opportunity to see the movie High Ground in the first week of October. If you aren’t in one of those areas or if you can’t make the date already set up, then you can arrange to host your own screening.
High Ground, featuring our first Soldiers to Summits project, is finally being released in theatres. I’ve watched, or should say, “heard,” a lot of films about our veterans, and none of them come close to portraying in such a powerful way the struggles and hurdles our military men and women experience as they try to make a life in the civilian world after life-changing injuries.
The setting is our dramatic climb of Lobuche, a 20,000-foot peak in the Himalayas. But this mountain only serves as a metaphor for the personal journeys these soldiers are embarking on as they make progress towards reclaiming their lives. their stories, both painful and deeply inspiring, carry this film and make it an experience which profoundly affects us as we consider our own barriers and breakthroughs. High Ground is directed by Michael Brown and produced by Don Hahn, who also produced such classics as Beauty and the Beast and Lion King, so the film has a beautiful soundtrack and I’ve heard, stunning imagery.
The High Ground screenings are organized through a new online service called Tugg.com. It’s a unique system where tickets are sold in advance and the movie then plays as long as they sell at least half the seats at the theater. If not enough tickets sell, you get your money back.
At present, San Diego will be October 1st, Austin will be October 3rd, Columbia MD and Lakewood WA will be October 4th, and Houston will be October 8th. None of these screenings are specific No Barriers screenings, but being hosted by local veterans organizations which in one way or another make the homecoming for veterans a more successful process. Also none of these screenings have reached their minimum ticket sales so please spread the word.
We’re now in the midst of our second Soldiers to Summits project, having recruited a new team of veterans. The project will end with a climb of Cotopaxi, a high volcano in Ecuador. Our mission is to provide returning veterans new tools and approaches, even a new mindset, to shatter barriers and continue to make an impact in the world.
Join me for the 2nd annual No Barriers What’s YOUR Everest? Challenge on June 2-3 for a climb of Mt. Elbert (14,400 feet), the tallest peak in Colorado. This fundraising event encourages you to embrace the No Barriers mindset and discover “what’s within you is stronger than what’s in your way.”
The trail to the summit of Elbert is 4.5 miles long, with 4,700 feet of elevation gain and over half of that is above treeline. For those worried they cannot reach the summit, you are welcome to join us for a picnic at treeline. Last year, despite heavy snow, 55 climbers reached the top of Quandary Peak (14,265 feet) and raised over $10,000 for No Barriers.
Our climbing team will include wounded soldiers from our 2012 Soldiers To Summits program as well as members of my Everest team. A kick-off dinner and reception on the evening of June 2nd in Leadville will inspire you to believe in the power of the human spirit to transcend all barriers.
The Elbert climb and dinner are open to anyone who donates $500 or more to No Barriers by May 30, 2012. If you’ve already donated that amount to No Barriers, Soldiers to Summits, or Global Explorers in 2012, you’re welcome to join us too! If $500 is out of your donation range, but you’d still like to participate, you can get pledges from your friends, family and colleagues. We’ve even set up a Crowdrise fundraising page for you to get started.
Come and push through your barriers! Register NOW online or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org for additional information.
I am a proud supporter of K2 Adventures and Mission Kilimanjaro. If you are in the Phoenix area, I highly recommend this event! It’s organized by my good friend Kevin Cherilla and his associates. Kevin will be leading my friend, Kyle Maynard, on his historic ascent of the highest peak in Africa this winter.
November 19th, K2 Adventures Foundation 2nd Annual Masquerade Ball
Time: 5:30pm Cocktails, 7pm Dinner
Location: Doubletree Resort, Scottsdale, AZ
Summary: On Saturday, November 19, 2011, K2 Adventures Foundation presents its second annual Masquerade Ball at the Paradise Valley Doubletree Resort in Scottsdale. For one evening the ballroom will be transformed into a whimsical, magical and mysterious setting. Come in disguise, costume or in your favorite cocktail attire along with your favorite mask.
Kevin Cherilla and Kristen Sandquist have graciously invited the Mission Kilimanjaro team to take part in their event and live auction. Please feel free to join our team and K2 Adventure Foundation at this special event!
We will be taking our Paradox Rocks program on the road the weekend of October 28-30. We plan to get out and defy gravity together on some of the premier limestone climbing in the country. We’ll also be exploring the local biking and hiking trails and seeing what we can catch fishing the Arkansas.
We’re excited to have new faces joining us to check out what a Paradox event is all about. From challenging climbs to hanging out by the campfire sharing stories, Paradox has an amazing weekend ahead. The athletes will even be testing out a few new climbing foot prototypes as well as having “gear time” with each other’s equipment. Ultimately, the weekend will serve as a great reminder that it’s up to each one of us to define life on our own terms, regardless of what people tell us what we can and can’t do.
For those who’d like to see the magic of Paradox firsthand, you will be happy to know that there are still a few spots available if you are interested in joining us. To register or learn about this event: Paradox Rocks Shelf Road.
Fall in the Rockies is a great time to get out and enjoy the last warm sunny days of Indian summer. Last weekend, we enjoyed a great day of climbing with my longtime climbing partner Jeff Evans, my colleague Skyler Williams, and new friends Nick Hemmert, Annette Jewell, and Victoria Jewell.
We climbed a true 5-star classic, the Kelso Ridge of Torreys Peak, which is only an hour west of Denver. After a short hike, the climb ascends 1,800 feet up a steep and narrow ridgeline and reaches a crux at a narrow knife-edge that has to be saddled up like a horse. It is a challenging Class 3 route with tremendous drop-offs to each side and is considered a training ground for climbers looking to tackle more technical routes.
After six hours of climbing, we celebrated another fantastic summit. Congratulations to Annette and Victoria on their first 14er! Additionally, we are excited to share that the climb raised over $6,000 for No Barriers! Special thanks to Nick and his Denver-based company, Ability To, for all of their efforts in fundraising.
We are lucky to be able to meet new friends and spend beautiful fall days in the Rockies climbing. It’s funny how the No Barriers spirit has a way of emerging everywhere. Only after the climb did we find out that Annette suffers from rheumatoid arthritis, and that a climb like this was something she always wanted to do, but wasn’t sure it was possible. It was great to have her with us and get to see the No Barriers mindset in action!
My friend Rob Raker designed the course and took these photos–a huge effort by a man with a huge heart! The competition involved similar activities seen on the ABC show: map reading, riddles and puzzles to solve, objects to find, and answering key questions about native flora and fauna (ospreys, lodgepole and ponderosa pine trees, frogs, etc.) We just couldn’t find camels or Arabian stallions. Instead, we had teams catching crawdads, feeding carrots to a rather large Percheron horse, biking, running, boating, and swimming. The final challenge was to dive down in search of a golf ball – the ticket to finish.
But the most thrilling part of the day was yet to come! You see, our ranch is haunted by a lady who lived at the turn of the century. I told everyone the full story about how there was an accident involving a horse. She died and her ghost now lives in the old barn guarding over her child. Then we all went for a peek inside through a little peephole, through the rays of the sunlight, and the dust, you find in the back, a crib – a baby crib. Freaky scary!
The winners are listed below.
1. Team Surf ‘N Turf (Becky Hall and Charley Mace)
2. Brainy Brunettes (Rebecca Archer and Pam Waltz)
3. Team Alt-i-Tude (Leslie and John Altman)
Mixed; Adult and Child
1. The Blonde Bombers (Julie and Sadie Grimm)
2. The Red Rockets (Cork and Sam Grimm)
3. Team Super Cool (Matt and Max Paolucci)
1. Team Drummer Boys (Jack Nasky and Julian Archer)
2. Small and Tall and Small (Kate Altman, Roxie Holmes, and Abby Waltz)
3. The Golden Girls (Emma Weihenmayer, Mara Coe, and Natalie Capaul)
And now for something completely different. You might recall that back in May, we celebrated the 10th anniversary of my Everest climb. To commemorate this life-changing event, my Everest team reassembled to lead a mini-expedition up one of Colorado’s 14ers, Quandary Peak. Together we took over 50 people, including disabled soldiers, to the summit of a beautiful mountain. In the process, we also raised over $10,000 for No Barriers and Soldiers To The Summit!
The Denver Post printed a great article about our climb. And here is a fantastic video put together by my friends at Serac Adventure Films:
Join Team No Limits to watch the final episode of Expedition Impossible and help support No Barriers! Jeff, Ike, and I are hosting a party at the Lazy Dog Lounge in Boulder, Colorado on Thursday, August 25th. The $20 cover ($10 for kids) will go to charity. We will have entertainment before the show, tales of adventure, and a live auction of memorabilia from the show. Plus special guests!
Please help spread the word about this fun event. The Lazy Dog is a kid-friendly sports grill on the Pearl Street Mall. We have reserved the entire restaurant, which holds about 400 people, from about 7 to 9 pm. More details coming. Mark your calendars now!
The 2011 No Barriers Summit was definitely our best yet! It had a big impact on everyone who attended. We had so many great participants who took advantage of their own adversities propelled themselves forward to new heights.
Over the four days, the opportunities for adventure were mind-boggling: whitewater rafting, canoeing, rock climbing, horseback riding, downhill mountain biking, skate boarding, and on and on. It didn’t matter if somebody was paralyzed, or missing a limb, or had post-traumatic stress, or was able-bodied and had never tried something. Everybody’s eyes were opened to new possibilities! My dad, a tough-as-nails retired Marine fighter pilot, had a blast peddling around in a handcycle just because it looked like fun.
The technology on display at the summit was truly amazing. Among the highlights of the scientific discussions was by Hugh Herr, a professor at MIT and a fellow No Barriers board member, who demonstrated his incredible bionic foot. Hugh is a bilateral below-the-knee amputee who, along with his students, developed a powered foot that attaches to a prosthetic and allows the wearer to walk with far greater efficiency than current feet. As amazing as that was, most of the kids were far more impressed by Kandu, the adorable little dog who was born without front legs and pushes himself around on a wheeled cart.
I loved meeting new people! There were so many wonderful stories at the Summit that are incredibly inspiring; far too many to recount them all here. Wherever you looked that weekend in Winter Park, you could see dozens of people in wheelchairs, or using crutches, or with a white cane. And it was all perfectly normal!
We had a lady named Melissa from Denver who has deteriorating arthritis so bad that she hasn’t driven, or even left the city, in a couple of years. Coming to No Barriers was a breakthrough for her: she climbed, she rafted, and she hiked with Leki poles. Melissa cried as she told me about her realization that she can still do amazing stuff and live a fulfilling, active life.
My friend Koba, who is an amazingly talented rock climber that happens to be blind, flew all the way from Japan to attend the Summit. We had another participant who came down from Anchorage, Alaska with her wheelchair so she could raft and bike and explore the outdoors.
And there was the remarkable Courtney Blasius, a beautiful young girl from Vermont who suffered a cardiac arrest shortly after graduating from college. It was nearly 30 minutes before she was resuscitated and the lack of oxygen to her brain left Courtney in a vegetative state from which doctors didn’t think she would recover. Shattering all expectations, Courtney came to the Summit and went off-road handcycling, and skateboarding, and did a 5-mile run, and hiked with us to over 11,000 feet! She says No Barriers was life changing for her and she is now planning to move to Colorado and work with others who have special needs.
Perhaps the person that best represents the spirit of No Barriers is my new friend Kyle Maynard, who was born without arms or legs. Now 25 years old, Kyle was a champion wrestler in high school (something common in our backgrounds) and now runs his own fitness gym (No Excuses Crossfit near Atlanta, Georgia, http://www.noexcusescrossfit.com/).
Kyle decided to attend the Summit, along with his friend Dan Adams, to see what all the excitement was about. On the last night of the event, I happened to bump into Kyle and Dan. They’d already had a great time and Kyle had tried kayaking for the first time but now he was wondering if he could join me on a hike to the top of Winter Park the next morning. Of course I said, “Yes.”
What I didn’t know at the time was neither Kyle nor Dan had been to high altitude before and they hadn’t planned to be on this hike so he didn’t have any prosthetics. After our impromptu conversation, they dashed off to the supermarket and bought some towels and several rolls of packing tape. As Dan put it later, “With no prosthetics on hand, Kyle and I would create our own solutions.”
On Sunday morning, forty of us drove up to the midway restaurant to begin our hike. Along with my family, our team included Jordan Romero (the youngest person to climb Everest) and his dad and stepmom.
We were fortunate to have a beautiful Colorado day and everyone hiked at their own pace up the service road to the halfway point at Lunch Rock. Here we took a break before the more challenging climb began. Up to here, Dan had pushed Kyle in a wheelchair but that would soon become impossible, even with the assistance of the Romero’s. So Dan wrapped a towel around each of Kyle’s arm stubs and taped it in place with a massive amount of packing tape. The rest of us were looking at this and wondering what on earth were they doing.
Well just a couple hundred yards later, we encountered the first section of trail that was too rugged for Kyle’s wheelchair. The next thing we know, Kyle rolls out of the chair and starts crab walking on his four stubs! And I’m not talking at a slow pace, he was moving along over steep, rocky terrain as fast as any of us could walk.
For the next two hours, Kyle crabbed along through mud, over rocks, and across snowfields until we reached 12,000 feet. While I’m used to hiking behind my friends who jingle bear bells, I could easily hear the crinkle of Kyle’s tape on his improvised prosthetics. We were quite the team, the gimp leading the blind while all the able-bodies struggled to keep up! As we were hiking, Kyle told me about his plan to become the first quadriplegic to climb Kilimanjaro under his own power—I have no doubt that he will make it.
Everyone reached his or her own summit that day. It was incredibly moving to witness so many people overcoming so many obstacles. I am sure that all of us will long remember not only their personal experience but also be motivated by the action of others.
People often tell me that I am their hero. But I want to tell you that my heroes are people like Melissa and Courtney and Kyle who demonstrate that No Barriers is all about everyday! These aren’t people who sit around waiting for something to be plopped in their lap. Instead they actively pursue the kind of life that they want and that entails 1) problem solving and innovating 2) exploring the possibilities in life 3) building your systems, your strategy, your team and 4) seeing physical or mental barriers and working tirelessly to shatter them into a million pieces.
It’s this pioneering mindset that permeates this amazing, powerful community that comes together to interact and build and grow. Thanks everyone for making this the best No Barriers Summit yet! Huge thanks to all of our sponsors, especially Alteryx and Lumber Liquidators. We are already getting amped to make the next one even better!!
PS all photos by Clyde Soles
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