Major Achievement on Kilimanjaro!

On January 15th, my friend Kyle Maynard made a historic ascent of the highest peak in Africa became the first man to crawl to the 19,340 ft. summit. In setting a world record for what is achievable, Kyle became a prime example of what I call the "No Barriers mindset."

Kili has been climbed countless times by people with barriers: some with prosthetics, some in wheelchairs, a seven-year-old boy, and I've made two blind ascents. My friend Neil Duncan climbed it after losing both legs to a bomb in Afghanistan. And Ray Edwards was the first quadruple amputee to climb Kili by using walking prosthetics.

What sets Kyle's ascent apart is the level of his disability and his drive. Born with arms that end at the elbows and legs that end at the knees, he has gone on to become a champion wrestler and now owns his own Crossfit gym. I first met Kyle and his friend Dan Adams last summer at the No Barriers Summit when they asked if they could join me the next day for a hike. With only hours to prepare, they fashioned prosthetics from bath towels and packing tape. Crude but effective for our ascent of a 12,000-foot peak!

That climb allowed Kyle and Dan to dream of bigger goals, which is what No Barriers is all about! Soon they were thinking about climbing Kili, so I hooked them up with another good friend, Kevin Cherilla, who was with me on Everest and guides around the world.

All last fall, Kyle and Dan and Kevin worked to assemble a team and figure out the logistics of this epic endeavor. One of the big tasks was devising a more sophisticated system that would allow Kyle to climb up and down over mud, rock, and, snow. They ended up with an amazing rig that included a harness to hold things in place, lugged rubber soles, and crampons.

Joined by injured US veterans Chris Hadsall and Sandra Ambotaite, it took 10 grueling days to reach the top of the mountain. Along the way, Kyle and the team decided to alter their path to the most challenging and treacherous route--the Western Breach. "I wasn't sure if my body could hold up with the mileage that was required for the original plan. Once Kevin proposed a route that was much more dangerous but shorter, I knew I had to discuss this option with the rest of the team," said Kyle. United behind Kevin's experience and Kyle's tenacity, the team unanimously decided to attempt the route that had resulted in three American deaths just a few years before. Climbing over boulders, through snowfields, and avoiding rock slides, the team made the successful climb through the Breach in just over 11 hours. "I have never been tested like this before," said Kyle after reaching the top.

In addition, the expedition accomplished several other goals, including having a ceremony on the summit and dispersing the ashes of John Corey Johnson, a member of the 10th Mountain Infantry who lost his life in Afghanistan in May 27th of this past year. The team also provided the Mwereni Integrated School for the Blind with much needed necessities for their 600 students and 84 orphans.

Dan wrote to me after their return. "Erik, you and your organization, No Barriers USA, served as the "spark" that enabled Mission Kilimanjaro to succeed this past January. In July of 2011, Kyle and I attended the 2011 No Barriers Summit which gave us the necessary confidence and resources to continue building upon our large scale dream. Through your insight and support, we were able to expand upon our vision and overcome all obstacles, embodying the "no barriers" lifestyle every step of the way. We are both very grateful to have met you and look forward to continuing our relationship as we confront future challenges."

Kyle told me, "I hope that this sends a message to our heroes in the veteran community, and to kids with disabilities around the world--regardless of any challenge we face, no obstacle is too great to be conquered."
What's in your way?!