When I was a 19-year-old college student, I was fascinated by a documentary about the Outward Bound School. I really wanted to take a course because I wanted the challenge and adventure, but the course wasn’t accessible to me as a deaf person. Frustrated, I decided to wait on taking the class.
When I transferred to Gallaudet University, the only liberal arts university in the world for deaf people, I saw an advertisement for the same course. I knew the time was here, so I applied and received a scholarship from the Colorado Outward Bound School (COBS).
During my 23-day mountaineering course, my patrol/group consisted of minorities and people with different backgrounds. My instructor and I were chatting and I told her that my dream was to climb Mt. Everest. I asked, “What do you think? Can I do it?” For the first time in my life, I had a positive response from a hearing person. She said, “Why not? You can do it. Go for it.”
All of my life I had always received negative and biased responses from hearing people who thought I could not do this because I was deaf.
My instructor’s simple response changed my outlook and life.
The Journey to Seven Summits
I was the first Deaf woman to reach the top of Denali and Kilimanjaro and the first Deaf person to reach the top of Mt. Elbrus. With four summits to go, I may be the first Deaf/Deafblind person to reach all the Seven Summits. I am also on track to possibly becoming the first Deaf woman person and first Deafblind person to reach the highest point in all 50 states; I have eight high points remaining.
In addition to being Deaf, I was diagnosed late in life with Usher Syndrome, a progressive loss of vision. When I learned that, I finally understood why I always had poor balance. My poor balance has made the climbs even more challenging, especially with the loose rocks, talus, and steep climbs without snow. I always carry ski poles on my climbs to help with balance.
Currently, I am working on climbing Colorado’s 14ers, and have climbed 42 of the 14ers 58 peaks, 38 solo.