No Barriers Summit 2016
Copper Mountain, Colorado
By Shirley Johnson
I had the best opportunity—to get a scholarship to hang out with people with various physical challenges from all over the country, to explore the outdoors. This was a dream vacation for me, expenses paid for, fresh air, totally wheelchair accessible.
On the day I opened my email and saw the summit announcement miracles happened. I couldn’t afford to go so I applied for a scholarship, BINGO they awarded me an all-expense paid trip to Copper Mountain, Colorado! I was very excited because I hadn’t attended a No Barriers summit since it was at Squaw Valley back in 2007, its debut summit in the United States. I had such a good time at the first summit but couldn’t afford to attend any others around the country. I know how lucky I am to go!
The accommodations were absolutely lovely, they made sure the bathrooms were accessible. How refreshing is that? I can’t count the times I was assured a bathroom was accessible only to find out getting in the shower would risk injury. The Rocky Mountains are gorgeous although the elevation was around 9000 feet so one has drink lots of water to avoid headaches.
The guest speakers were phenomenal, folks with all sorts of different abilities. The outdoor activities were excellent, no horseback…sob. But there was kayaking, canoeing, scuba, hiking handcycling, yoga, and self-defense classes. My favorite was testing all the different outdoors equipment that the vendors had for test drives. The handcycle mountain bike took 2 feet drops off rocks like they were nothing. I didn’t feel jolted or unsafe, what fun! Then came the electric bike that weighs less than 150 lbs. and goes up mountains with over 100 mile range on one charge. Then there was the push mountain bike where you use the same muscles for cross country skiing. Very refreshing, to use a whole set of different muscles to push a chair. If I had my wish I’d buy them all!! Nonetheless, to take a test drive was a thrill in itself. These are not mainstream sports equipment.
Background on the No Barriers Summit
These three men inspire the inspirational—Mark Wellman, Erik Weihenmayer, and Hugh Herr!!! These climbers who have physical challenges wanted to share their love with the outdoors. Mark Wellman who was a ranger at Yosemite, got paralyzed in a climbing accident, and became the first paraplegic to climb El Capitan. Erik Weihenmayer lost his vision at 13 years old, and in May 25, 2001, became the first blind climber in history to reach the summit of the world’s highest mountain, Mount Everest. Hugh Herr, was caught in a blizzard while climbing in 1982, by the time he was rescued, he had suffered severe frostbite. Both of Herr’s legs had to be amputated below the knees. He later designed a specialized prosthesis that he uses for climbing.