Last weekend, the MODL team hiked the tallest mountain in Colorado. Mt. Elbert stands at 14,439 ft and towers over the beautiful Twin Lakes in Leadville. It is one of the most well-known hikes in Colorado because of its size, but what most people don’t know is that it’s also the first 14er that any adaptive hiker has ever summited.
The view from the top of Mt. Elbert.
An adaptive hiker is a hiker with physical disabilities, and because of their steep and rocky terrain, 14ers are not usually an option for these individuals. The Lockwood Foundation, however, is challenging this idea and redefining what is possible for people with disabilities.
2022 marks the 3rd time The Lockwood Foundation has summited Mt. Elbert with an adaptive hiker and the founder, Jeffrey Lockwood, believes this year proves this accomplishment can be normalized. While people initially told him it was reckless and impossible, he had faith that with an incredible group of volunteers and a committed trailrider, it was doable. And he was right!
We hiked with people from all over Colorado who were excited and dedicated to getting our trail rider, Bev, to the top of Mt. Elbert. Bev lives an incredibly adventurous life, getting outdoors camping, hiking, boating and even kayaking on Lake Powell. She lives with MS and has very limited physical mobility in her legs but is constantly challenging herself to try new things that get her out of her comfort zone (her next goal is to try wheelchair archery!).
Mt. Elbert was something she had been preparing for all summer, but the adversity we faced was much higher than we, Bev, and anyone else expected. This was one of the longest and most strenuous hikes we’d done in a long time. We essentially hiked for 12 hours straight, finishing in the dark, to get Bev to the summit.
We moved slower than expected, needed more breaks, and were absolutely exhausted before we were even halfway done. Bev was struggling too, as she was being carried and pushed over bumpy rocks for hours on end. But the team stayed positive and committed, so there was never a question we would finish it.
When we made it to the top, Bev was able to walk the last few steps to the summit proper! You could see and hear the emotion coming out of her- she knew she had just accomplished something that so few people, disabled or not, ever do. Standing on top of Mt. Elbert, we could see deep into the Rocky Mountains and down over the vast distance our feet had carried us. It was a surreal feeling to be up there with Bev and the incredible team of volunteers. Jeffrey described it best when he said that this shows the power of people when we come together.
After a few summit speeches and photos, we began the very long journey down to the parking lot, knowing that we would finish the hike under headlamps. For the very final push, someone put on “We Are the Champions,” and we all sang it with exhausted excitement. Thank you so much to the Lockwood Foundation and all the volunteers for making adventure more accessible, and we can't wait to see the 4th summit happen next year!