2015 No Barriers Summit Stories

We just finished our 7th No Barriers Summit in Park City, Utah. This 4-day event has become the world’s premier gathering of technologists, innovators and end-users all with the aim of helping people with challenges break through barriers and live the life they imagine.  For many, breaking through barriers means being active and getting outside. So, the Summit is always hosted in beautiful outdoor venues that provide opportunities and access to wild experiences to test people’s potential. I’m deeply inspired by the countless stories of participants searching for new ways forward to experience life more fully. This isn’t a conference for extreme athletes. In fact, one attendee approached me to say that his Everest was to simply walk down a trail in the sunshine again after losing both legs. Below are three people I met this year who are struggling and striving to live a No Barriers Life.

At age 13, Sarah Doherty was struck by a drunk driver, losing her leg at the scene of the accident. Hobbled by an above-the-knee amputation, Sarah was relegated to using primitive forearm crutches that hardly facilitated daily mobility. But she wanted to get off the pavement to enjoy life outside. Sarah developed a set of crutches called “SideStix,” which have revolutionized backcountry access with a durable, ergonomic and shock absorbing system. Using SideStix, she became the first woman amputee to climb Mount Rainier and Denali. On recent No Barriers Warriors expeditions, SideStix have enabled vets like Matt Nyman and Ryan Garza to reach tremendous summits in Nepal and Peru.

Sarah Doherty with her SideStix.

Photo Credit: No Barriers

Matt Nyman using SideStix to climb on the Lobuche expedition - Nepal 2010.

Kevin Cherilla (right).

Photo Credit: Didrik Johnck

Ryan Garza on a No Barriers Warriors expedition -  Peru 2013.

Photo Credit: No Barriers

Sarah Chung has been legally blind since birth; cloudy shapes and inky figures is all that she has ever known. But Sarah has not let her challenges push her to the sidelines of life. She is currently training with the hope of competing in judo at the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio. At this year’s Summit, Sarah wanted to climb a mountain, something she had never done. Led by her loyal (and eager) guide dog “W,” Sarah worked her way over sharp and uneven rocks and steep precipices to the 12,000-foot summit. “Other people may climb mountains all the time, but it was my first time and it was terrifying;  reaching the summit was one of the hardest and most rewarding things I’ve ever done.” 

Sarah at the Summit with Kathleen Weinstein and "W". Photo Credits: Skyler Williams

When Jake O’Connor was paralyzed in a construction accident more than a decade ago, he thought his life in the outdoors was over. He would never hike, mountain bike or camp with friends again. But after years of tinkering, Jake's company, ReActive Adaptations, is now the pre-eminent builder of off-road handcycles, catering to elite athletes as well as first-time users, like many at the No Barriers Summit. The experience of off-road handcycling represents the freedom to get away from the confines of a wheelchair and explore the outdoors. Jake’s innovations, featured at several No Barriers Summits, are the cutting edge of technology for handcycles in performance, comfort and durability. 

Jake O'Connor demonstrating his Bomber Offroad Handcycle. 

Photo Credit: No Barriers

From world renowned experts to garage innovators and first timers, the No Barriers Summit is a powerful venue for igniting the potential of the human spirit.  We all face challenges. Some can be seen; Others are invisible. So don’t mistake No Barriers as the realm of those who can’t walk or can’t see. No Barriers exists in all of us, as a mindset to confront our barriers head-on and struggle forward to live with purpose. Join our movement!

www.nobarriersusa.org